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The time of the wolf is upon us! Art, rpgs and albums come together for this awesome project!

Wolf Ref Study Jan 8bWolfspell, a project I’m illustrating, is on Kickstarter right now, but only until the evening of February 3rd! I want to share a little of what makes this project feel special to me.

Wolfspell is a tabletop roleplaying game by Epidiah Ravachol, whose name you might know from the epic storytelling game Swords Without Master, or the Jenga-powered horror game Dread. Epidiah’s Wolfspell is a game where you tell the stories of rogues, adventurers, warriors and travelers who have been turned into wolves and must achieve their vengeance, source their treasure, or escape their fate as wolves before they can return to their human forms.

As a player in Wolfspell, you are torn between your wolf side and your human side, pitting a wolf die against a blood die on every roll. Working as a pack will keep you safest; a lone wolf might not survive to tell their tale.

As the GM in Wolfspell you are called Winter, and you bring your wrath down on those who have earned it through failed rolls and dangerous choices, while you add challenges, magic and snow to your players’ story.

This game feels epic and haunting to play; communicating through the language and senses of wolves adds a flavour of strangeness and surprise to already solid sword and sorcery tales. As a sword and sorcery fan, and a person who is deeply interested in animal intelligence and communication, this game would have my number no matter what!

Wolf Ref Study Jan 2

But it’s not just that I’m excited for it to exist – it’s not even just that I’m excited that I get to illustrate the cover! It’s extra, extra special because Epidiah had decided that we are going to publish this game as a tri-fold LP case.Wolfspell Work in Progress Mockup

(the art is not finished, stay tuned to see the polished final image!)

You know, the sort of thing you might find holding a double album, back in the days of vinyl. Specifically, the format that gave us some of the most definitive examples of epic magical realism in illustration. The sort of enormous canvas given to folks like Roger Dean and Rodney Matthews. I’m going to be painting one of those!

I’m a sucker for finding musical parallels to other things I enjoy, so using the format to draw a line between this wonderful RPG and the experience of an epic double album just gives me goosebumps!

If all this has you intrigued, don’t delay – check out the Wolfspell kickstarter right here!

And if you’re already a fan of wolves and epic music, let me know below what songs or albums you’ll put on when you play Wolfspell!

Annihilation and David Altmejd – an aesthetic of evolution, transformation, horror and beauty (TW: body horror)

I adored Annihilation’s visual approach (among so much of it, gosh I just adored it overall really!) but as we walked out of the theatre, Matt and I realized we’d seen a similar visual theme at work elsewhere: at the MAC (Musée d’Art Contemporain in Montreal) when we caught a career-spanning solo show of David Altmejd’s work. I’m going to share here with you some images from both, because I think the interplay is really neat!

For the record, the images below are going to flirt with body horror in a big way.

First off, let’s look at some key scenes of Annihilation (click to see the source file larger):

Now, let’s admire some of David Altmejd’s work:

Let’s take a good look at some of his figurative stuff:

And for one final comparison, let me share with you the close-up concepts of the horrifying bear’s head in Annihilation:

And a few final pieces of Altmejd’s that really heck me up:

I’m not crying theft here – I’m just always delighted to find themes, and for anyone who loved the visuals of Annihilation, the art world does actually hold interesting and relevant art for you!

Thanks for your time! Comments are open!

What I’ve Learned About Teaching Art

(photo of me in my natural environment taken by Craig Morrison at the Oasis Skateboard Factory)

I’ve had the privilege of teaching art in a variety of environments – from still life oil painting at the college level, to combining art with science and history in a museum setting, to guiding highschool students through creating a comics anthology. Through these very different settings, I’ve found a list of constants that, when I keep them in mind, help me deliver the most enjoyable and effective art education for my students.

One of my core beliefs is that art is, at the heart of it all, something a student must teach themself, and that a classroom, workshop, or camp that wants to teach art is actually responsible for creating an environment and offering projects that facilitate that self-driven learning.

With that on the table, here is the pantheon of truths that, if I can hold on to all of them, help me create that learning environment:

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Gaming at the Museum – Combining Gaming with Crafts, Museum Collections and Storytelling

So in addition to running tabletop games twice a day for the kids’ summer camp I ran at the Aga Khan Museum, we supplemented gameplay with a few different things: firstly, we spent time every day in the museum’s collection and travelling exhibits; we read aloud stories from the Shahnameh; and we did hands on creative exercises that fed into both learning about the museum collection and enhancing the gaming experience.

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Gaming at the Museum – Writing Campaigns following Rostam’s Seven Trials

For our Dungeon World in the Shahnameh summer camp at the Aga Khan Museum, one of the challenges in the prep was writing adventures for up to four groups of players that kept them all wrapped up in Rostam’s Seven Trials, without tripping over Rostam or changing his story, and didn’t have them competing with each other or deciding some groups or GMs were doing things “wrong”.

I initially considered writing a single adventure and sending each group down the path on their own, as if each was playing their own playthrough of a videogame, but that’s ignoring some of the best things about tabletop games – collaboration and spontaneity. In the end, after a great brainstorming session with Daniel Kwan (who runs a huge collaborative multi-group epic campaign for kids at the Royal Ontario Museum) I came upon a shared map solution.

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Gaming at the Museum – Building a Setting from the Shahnameh

(image “Rustam Kills a Dragon” – from the folio created by scribe Muhammad Mirak ibn Mir Muhammad al-Husayni al-Ustadi, courtesy of WikiMedia)

For the Aga Khan’s Dungeons and Dragons camp they wanted to go above and beyond a basic DnD game and take the kids into a very specific world – the world of the Shahnameh.

The Shahnameh is the longest epic poem (by a single author) known, written by the poet Ferdowsi about 1000 years ago. It tells the story of the mythic, legendary and historical past of the Persian Empire, from the creation of the world forward to the arrival of Islam in Persia in the 7th century, and introduces us to kings, demons, triumphant and tragic heroes throughout time. There is more than enough in the Shahnameh to create an incredible world for kids to game in, but what we were lacking, unfortunately, was time.

Because this was a pilot program, we had to focus in and be efficient in creating a world for a week’s worth of play, without spending time on things we weren’t going to get to. In the end, I had about two full days to prep things, so I really had to prioritize, and thankfully the museum staff had some great suggestions.

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Gaming at the Museum – Playing Dungeon World with 9-12y/os – Part 2

Gaming with kids was new to me – I’ve gamed with a lot of adults, and with folks who are new to gaming as well as experienced old hats, but kids was different, and not necessarily in a bad way! Firstly, I’d say that over half the kids were immediately ready to take the game seriously and get invested in the story, despite never having played something like this before. And by the end of the week’s 9 gaming sessions, I don’t think there was a single camper who didn’t care about their character, their quest and their teammates. Here’s an exploration of the challenges we faced as we ran the game and some of the greatest successes, as well:

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Gaming at the Museum – Playing Dungeon World with 9-12y/os – Part 1

(image above is the Dungeon World GM Screen, drawn by Nate Marcel)

TLDR: It was great! Highly recommended. Learn more about Dungeon World here!

The first thing I asked the kids was whether they were familiar with Dungeons and Dragons, and not a single one of them raised their hand. After digging around pop cultural references with them, the closest thing they could think of was the game Dungeons, Dungeons and More Dungeons, from Gravity Falls. I figured that was a fine starting point.

When I was choosing what system to use with the kids, I had a few things to weigh – first of all, what kind of game play would be fun for kids both 9 and 12 years old (or 8 or 13, as sometimes we have kids right on the cusp sneak in); secondly, what would be a reasonable game to expect three new GMs to learn in a few weeks, especially when their own gaming experience was varied; thirdly, what game was flexible enough to be edited and adjusted and warped to fit the setting I was creating based on the Shahnameh. Finally, we had a fixed budget for the program, and I couldn’t expect them to order a whole suite of $40 players’ guides, dungeon masters’ guides, bestiaries or such. We needed something lightweight, compact and flexible, and Dungeon World turned out to be just the trick!

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Gaming at the Museum – Introduction!

In July I spent a week running a Dungeon World campaign as part of summer camp for 16 kids, aged 9-12, at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. It was my first longer campaign that I’ve designed, and the three assistants I had (who were amazing, thank you all!) had never run any tabletop RPGs before whatsoever. I’d been recommended by the excellent Daniel Kwan, who runs Pathfinder and DnD 3.5 for kids 11-14 at the Royal Ontario Museumwhich you may have heard me raving about on Twitter in the past. It’s a really cool program, and it’s thanks to him that I got the chance to run this one at the Aga Khan Museum!

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