Meet the Artist: Paul Bielaczyc

Paul Bielaczyc is well known within the convention circuit, within the art community, among Wheel of Time fans, and, of course, at JordanCon, where he is the Dealer Hall director, as well as a co-conspirator for the Art Show. You could recite his long list of accomplishments — including winning a prestigious Chesley Award for his art, co-founding Aradani Studios with his brother artist Michael Bielaczyc, his cosplays of Rand al’Thor, or his licensed art for The Wheel of Time®, which was featured in The Wheel of Time Companion — as reasons for his being so well-known. But the honest reason is his friendly nature and his prowess (no lie) as the DJ for the annual (and very well attended) JordanCon dance party. So when you come to JordanCon, go say hello.

How long have you considered yourself an artist?

I think the first time I truly thought of myself as an artist was the summer after I graduated high school. While in high school I took art classes, and I drew incessantly, but I never felt like it was something that was defining for me. I applied to the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts and was rejected, and so I just didn’t have much confidence in my abilities. I remember my family was on summer vacation in Michigan, and my brother was showing his sketchbook to our uncles. I remember thinking that I wished I could draw like my brother did. I pulled out a charcoal pencil and tried drawing some characters from the book I was reading at the time, The Scions of Shannara by Terry Brooks. The charcoal drawings were awful. The lines were so thick and crude. Later that night, I pulled out a .5 mm mechanical pencil, and started working. Every day, I would work a little more on the piece, and when I finished, I had spent about 24 hours working on a single piece of art, 12″x18″. It was the longest amount of time I had ever spent working on a single piece, and when I finished that piece, that was the moment for me.

What’s one of the things you have learned about yourself as an artist?

I find it amusing that my initial reaction to charcoal was that I disliked it and thought it was crude, with no possibility for detail, but now I use it almost exclusively for all my work. Discovering the potential of charcoal started in college. During a drawing class my sophomore year, we did one project in charcoal, and I liked how it flowed across the page. Our next assignment was in graphite, and it frustrated me how slow graphite was to work with compared to charcoal. When I took Drawing 2, I worked almost entirely in charcoal, learning how to achieve the fine detail, while still being able to quickly and easily move the medium across the page.

If you could create your masterpiece, what would it look like?

Over the years I have played around with pastels in order to complete a few color pieces. I enjoy pastels because they work similarly to charcoal, but I prefer working in black and white. That being said, there are a few pieces I have completed that would not have been successful without color. Counter This was a piece that I had planned to complete for years, and only started on it once I had a firm grasp on how to use pastels and a better understanding of color theory. And right now I am partially done with what could become “my masterpiece,” and it is another piece done in pastel.

But before I start working on that piece again, I do have a couple of others that must be completed first. I am working on a new piece in my Dark Creatures series, a sort of “Choose Your Own Adventure” style piece of art involving a kid being sent into a dark basement by his parents. And I’m working on my next Wheel of Time piece which I think will involve Shaidar Haran. I find it amusing that I am so talkative and goofy, yet I love to draw such dark, creepy stuff. Maybe I am affected by the Taint.

If you’d like to find out more about the authors and artists who share their work at JordanCon, check out our other “Meet the Artist” blogs.

Meet the Artist: Michael Bielaczyc

From the many talented artists who show their work at JordanCon, Michael Bielaczyc’s body of work is among the most diverse. Michael works in many different media — sometimes all at once — but his favorites are oil paints and video. He himself would tell you that he is happiest when he is in the middle of twenty different projects, and his studio is often littered with the starts of illustrations, masks and paintings, manuscripts and sculptures. Ideas. At JordanCon, you can usually find him at the Charity Art Jam cranking out art for the Charity Auction, or hard at work in the Aradani Studios booth. Go by and say hello.

How long have you considered yourself an artist?

I have been making stuff as far back as I can remember, (you know, the standard answer for any creative person, right?). But I have been selling my art professionally since 2002. Paul (my brother) and I started traveling to Renaissance festivals and Fandom conventions; we’ve been showing our work for over 15 years!

What was the subject and title of the first piece of art you ever sold?

The first piece I ever sold was a drawing of a little imp in colored pencil, but the first art my studio (Aradani) ever sold was a fairy drawing my sister did when we first started. She was only 13!

Which artist do you find most inspirational? Why?

Many artists have moved me down the path, but the 2nd edition TSR Dungeons & Dragons books are what shaped me. Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley made me want to learn to paint. Then 3rd edition came along and Todd Lockwood showed me how I should be painting action scenes.

What’s the one thing you most enjoy about attending conventions?

My favorite thing about conventions are the people. I have friend all over the United States because of cons. Everyone is so friendly and supportive.

What do you see as the primary link between writing and art? (If you think there is one.)

They are the same thing, right? One crafts a scene through words, and the other describes the words through a scene.

If you’d like to find out more about the authors and artists who share their work at JordanCon, check out our other “Meet the Artist” blogs.

Meet the Artist: Melissa Gay

I adore tales of mystery and imagination that send the adrenaline flowing and the heart racing, whether they be ancient folk tales, classic science fiction, or modern urban fantasy! I tend to gush and use a lot of exclamation points when excited, and illustrating the things I love excites me a lot!!! I feel I have so much more to learn, and my goal is to be a lifelong student, always observing, always pushing the boundaries of my artistic comfort zone (which is very small, so I tend to push it constantly).

Since first attending JordanCon in 2014, Melissa has become a mainstay of the JordanCon Art Show family. Stop by her booth and say hello!

How long have you considered yourself an artist?

All my life, really. I was always That Kid Who Can Draw to people at school– until high school, when I was sent to a really hard college prep school, and I had to take notes instead of drawing in class all the time!

It was a shock to the system, but I just could not let drawing slip out of my life. So between classes, I started drawing my roleplaying characters. The first one I drew at that school was an Elf Magic-User casting a Fireball spell, ’cause that’s just how I roll. Soon after that, I was drawing all the time again.

There was never a time in my life when I didn’t want to be an artist, though I did go through a long period where I thought I would never make money at it. (Does that ever stop?)

What was the subject and title of the first piece of art you ever sold?

Strictly speaking, it was an abstract-expressionist flower arrangement of refuse on Styrofoam that I made when my brother and I were “helping” at the family flower shop. I am fairly sure my mom threw it out as soon as my back was turned, but she spun a yarn about a lady coming in and inquiring about it. But my asking price was met — TEN CENTS!!!!!!!!! What a heady rush! (I was six.) Oh, the title? I’m positive it had one, and it was something like, “CRYSTAL PARADISE.”

How did you first discover art, or that you wanted to create art yourself?

I’m sure people come into it in different ways, but I was just wired that way. If I saw a ballpoint pen (my medium of choice), I would pick it up and ask for some paper. All kids draw, but there was never a time when I wanted *not* to draw. My brother grew up with the same influences, but he never cared to draw past childhood.

Which artist do you find most inspirational? Why?

JMW Turner. I have to do these literalistic, tight renderings or I can’t seem to sell the idea I’m trying to get across. But Turner just put down pure light, and it totally goes right into my heart and communicates. I feel like a proverbial toad in the well looking up at the moon when I see his work, and it makes me stretch higher.

Are you a fan of The Wheel of Time? If not, what is your favorite book or series?

I always seem to like the first book in any series the best, because I’m all wide-eyed with wonder and beset with possibilities!

What’s the one thing you most enjoy about attending conventions?

I love, love, love interacting with fans. It is so great to be around people who are as in love with fannish things as I am!

What do you see as the primary link between writing and art? (If you think there is one.)

The Dork Tower (on writing)

Thank you, John Kovalic, for putting it so succinctly. It’s about writing, but art is just exactly like that, for me. 😉

If you could create your masterpiece, what would it look like?

It would have my ideal perfect blend of golden atmospheric messiness and hyper-detailing. I kinda want to go paint something now… 🙂

If you’d like to find out more about the authors and artists who share their work at JordanCon, check out our other “Meet the Artist” blogs.

Meet the Artist: Amy Romanczuk

In spite of her diminutive physical stature, Amy Romanczuk is a huge part of the JordanCon art family, someone who packs a lot of warmth, humor and talent into a small package. As an artist, her work is intensely intricate, unique and personal, loaded with symbolic meaning — but also eminently collectible. In 2015, she was awarded JordanCon’s People’s Choice Award for Best 3D Art for a collection of her pysanky work titled “The White Tower Collection.” While Amy regards herself chiefly as a folk artist, she is also an illustrator and designer, with many exhibitions and accolades for her work. If you want to see a smile that can light up a room, seek her out and ask her about it.

Artist Amy Romanczuk holding the guitar she inscribed with Wheel of Time and pysanky symbols for the 2017 JordanCon Charity Auction.

Art and music, color and sound, have been a huge part in my life since childhood. I have a bit of synesthesia, where one sense triggers a response in another. For me, colors and patterns trigger music and vice versa. A print of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” hung in my childhood bedroom, and I used to stare at it, transfixed by the sounds that the colors and brush strokes created in my head. It wasn’t until years later, singing in a choir, that I realized, to me, “Starry Night” looks the way Mozart’s “Ave Verum” sounds. Patterns and repetition, colors and sound all work through me when I create. I have found inspiration in the patterns around me, both in nature and in human creations. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a physical need to find a way to express the designs that filter through my brain, and have done so using a multitude of mediums over the years.

The means of creative expression I may be most known for comes from the folk art of pysanky, the intricately decorated eggs often displayed at Easter-time. Pysanky (a word derived from the Ukrainian word “to write”) are created using a wax-and-dye resist process similar to batik, though on eggshell, instead of cloth. Though my family comes from Ukraine, writing pysanky was not part of my cultural heritage, although it was for my husband Alan’s family. I had long loved the patterns and intricacy of the designs but figured I was incapable of creating such beauty. With encouragement from a Master pysanky artist, I picked up the kistka (the tool used to apply the wax) in my 40’s, and have yet to stop. Writing pysanky is a form of meditation for me, the meanings behind the symbols and the music in my head becoming a sort of prayer as I work on each egg. Writing pysanky was a way for me to relieve stress after working long days with disabled children and their families as a clinical nurse specialist. And when I became ill myself, it was a huge part of my healing and acceptance of the changes one takes on with chronic illness. I only began to feel comfortable with the title “artist” after I had several of my pysanky accepted into the collection of the Kolomyia Museum in Ukraine. To this day, I am more likely to describe myself as a folk-artist.

Taking the pysanky art from eggshell to paper and ultimately to interactive art such as Patterns of the Wheel, a coloring book based on The Wheel of Time (Tor, 2016), is entirely due to the JordanCon family. Without the encouragement, enthusiasm, and a bit of nagging, I’d still be only working with eggshells. My art, in all its forms, reflects the wabi-sabi concept of Japanese art (before I became a nurse, I received a degree in history, anthropology, and Asian studies, and embraced some of the cultural ideas I encountered, particularly from the Far East). These ideas reinforce the folk versus formal aspect of my art. I also incorporate aspects from some of my favorite artists: the Impressionists, whose paintings color my memories from childhood visits to museums; Utagawa Hiroshige’s marvelous prints and drawings; Warli, Kalamkari, Mehndi, miniatures, and even the painted trucks of India; indigenous creations from all over the world; street art, local works, and artistic friends. Lately, the art of Nigerian-born Victor Ekpuk, both for his designs, and for his exploration of nsibidi (a traditional pictorial writing of his homeland) has been drawing me. The similarities between two arts using pictorial language and a transient format (chalk/eggshell) is a thrilling find, as are his artistic talents.

My Wheel of Time-inspired art ranges from elegant, elaborate fantasy creations to simple stick figures. Individual taste and perspective guide the way artists approach their craft and the way in which viewers assess the result. One can glory in the art of Michelangelo, whose realistic depictions of the human form captured every nuance precisely, yet also delight in Marc Chagall, whose folk-art style featured casually drawn people and cows seen floating in colorful skies. One artist was a genius whose technical skills were flawless; the other recreated the art of commoners for a totally different purpose and effect. Luckily for me, there is room among the extremely talented Official Wheel of Time artists for a folk artist to explore the world Robert Jordan created.

One of my most treasured memories is talking about pysanky with Jim Rigney, and his fascination with the symbols and language of pysanky. His interest in both the history and the art-form, and Harriet’s encouragement, is what led to my becoming one of the licensed Wheel of Time artists. I am still astonished and grateful that my folk-art is in the company of such amazing art and artists.

If you’d like to find out more about the authors and artists who share their work at JordanCon, check out our other “Meet the Artist” blogs.

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