It was truly a great privilege to be the Guest of Honor for this year's 25th anniversary of CopperCon, Arizona's annual literary oriented science fiction and fantasy convention. The event was held on September 9-11 at the Embassy Suites in Phoenix. I had a blast soaking up the notoriety, but it was actually a lot of work preparing for the event. In the paragraphs below I detail several of the components involved in being the GoH including the creation of the picture for the program cover, the entry of artwork in the art gallery, and of course, pictures from the marathon body painting demonstration.
Before all of that however, I would like to thank the late Ray Gish who was instrumental in making me the Guest of Honor this year. I had gotten to know Ray who was in charge of the art shows for all of the recent CopperCons and LepreCons that I have attended. The CopperCon 25 committee asked Ray if he had any suggestions for the artist guest of honor and he recommended me to Lee Whitside, the convention's guest liaison. I did have the opportunity to thank Ray at this year's LepreCon convention before he passed away later in July. Ray will be missed and I am so glad that I had an opportunity to meet him.
As Guest of Honor I was treated like royalty and enjoyed getting the chance to meet the other GoH's and the CopperCon committee members at the GoH luncheon (the steak was awesome). I had recently started reading The Briar King by Greg Keyes and was thrilled to chat with him about the selection of book covers and where he had lived. Next to me sat Robert Sawyer and his wife and we discussed everything from him hosting the L. Ron Hubbard Future Writers awards to things to do while in Phoenix. He was gracious enough to sign my hardback copy of his book "Calculating God". Of course I had everyone sign my program book.
Another author's autograph that I collected was from Yvonne Navarro. She had set up shop in the dealer's room and as I passed by I picked up a copy of Elektra, the novelization of the recent movie. I had spent the past month working on an Elektra lifecast (see below) so I had researched the character to the nth degree. Interested, but I decided to put it back down when Yvonne said it was better than the movie and offered to sign it. I didn't realize that she was the author. I'm now a proud owner of a signed copy of Elektra (which is better than the movie by the way).
I volunteered to be a judge this year for the masquerade much to the dismay of my kids who wanted to be contestants. I had been part of the team that won best of show for the LepreCon masquerade so I felt it was only fair to share the wealth. Besides that I didn't think that it would be very cool for the GoH to enter their work into the competition. My fellow judges included Kyo, who will be the masquerade director at the upcoming Anizona Anime Convention, and Janeen O'Kerry, who is an author based here in Phoenix that writes romance novels with a fair amount of fantasy characterization. We had a lot of fun judging and coming up with names for all of the prizes. The top awards went to two Anime Characters, a swashbuckler, and a construction worker storm trooper. Many of the costumes were first rate and a good time was had by all.
I was involved in several panels including the bodypainting panels detailed below. My first panel, however, was to premiere the horror movie that I had recently completed with Webb Pickersgill called Second Chances. You can check out the short 3-minute version of the movie at https://youtu.be/60uXyhal98k , but at this panel, attendees were treated to the new "directors cut" version which is approximately 7 minutes long. We had a pretty good turn out of attendees from the convention and the entire cast and crew were on-hand with the exception of the beautiful actress Kayla Rei who had come down with the flu that weekend. Actors Kevin O'Connor and Shane Stevens fielded questions from the audience and all of the participants were provided with Second Chances posters.
Speaking of posters, Elaine Carlyle did a wonderful job creating the sci-fi convention ambiance by displaying posters of all sizes including some of the program cover of Courtney Black in bodypaint (see below). My jaw dropped, however, when I saw the beautifully vibrant blow-up of the cover image on a glossy 24"X36" photograph. I'd love to get a copy of one of these myself but this one was earmarked for the charity auction. I donated a print of the Cheetah bodypainting and a signed copy of a Boris Vallejo CD Rom to the charity auction which benefited the Challenger Space Center (which is a building that my engineering firm designed coincidentally).
My room at the resort was first class too! I was glad that my wife and kids were able to stay one night and take in a little bit of the convention. We all went to the 501st's panel to hear what they have coming up (sponsor a Stormtrooper for the upcoming walk-a-thon at http://www.az501st.com/ ). While I went off to do the artshow walkthrough, my family went off to play Sci-Fi Jeopardy. They were paired up with the writer Guest of Honor Rob Sawyer and ended up winning the game. The kids were elated with a Sci-fi Channel T-shirt and keychain!
That only touches the surface of setting the scene, but it's time to move on to the detailed info from the art show, the program cover image, and the all-important body art. So, without further adieu...
The Art Show
Every year the art show displays some of the finest sci-fi and fantasy artwork from artists all over the country. This year it was one of my assigned duties as Guest of Honor to do a walk-through of the gallery and comment on all of the works. I was a little worried about finding the right words to say as I walked through with a group of about 8 convention attendees, but I just started rambling and the time flew by and it turned out to be fun and conversational.
Another duty that I had was to select the GoH Artist's Choice award for the best in the show. There was little doubt in my mind once I saw that Sarah Clemens had entered her original painting St. Labia in the gallery. I had seen this picture previously at the Alwun House's annual Exotic Art Show and I was mesmerized by it. It is ironic how this piece was relatively tame in comparison to the other works at the Alwun House, but here at CopperCon it was very edgy due to the nudity and the implications. There were quite a few images that I absolutely loved, but this was my choice and it got the GoH ribbon. Here is a thumbnail version of the painting that links to Sarah's website which includes this image and some of the other prints that were entered in the gallery and took other prizes.
I had a tough time deciding which of my works I wanted to enter into the gallery so I kinda' cheated by setting up a laptop computer and LCD projector to have a continuously running slideshow of my works. With this I was able to include some progress shots and several alternate images of paintings done at previous conventions. In addition to the slideshow, I did display 13 pieces including two that were prepared specifically for the CopperCon 25 art gallery. The first was a pencil drawing that actually drew in high school that was supposed to be a self portrait. We were all given mirrors and told to draw ourselves and I got a little creative and made mine a cyborg creature. This was the only representative piece of work that I could think of that I had done in two dimensions that fit the sci-fi theme so I had it re-framed in a shadow box. I called the picture NM156 based on a song by Queensryche and here is an image of the pencil drawing:
The next item was created just for CopperCon 25 and it is a painted lifecast of the Marvel comics (and 20th Century Fox motion picture) character Elektra. I had started planning this project with Gullwing, the lifecasting guru of Arizona, several months before the event. I had a pose in mind that would simulate a swan dive with arms outstretched and the back arched. Gullwing warned me that this would be a very fragile lifecast and that although it would be difficult to cast, he was up for the challenge. I was really impressed with a casting Gullwing had done of a little girl's hand holding a real Christmas ball. The girl was able to pull her hand out of the mold while leaving the ball behind and this created a plaster cast of her hand with the actual Christmas ball trapped within. Expanding on this idea, I wanted to have the lifecast of Elektra include her sais (her short sword-like weapons) molded into the casting of her hands. I was able to buy some limited edition Elektra sais on E-bay that even sported her signature logo and matched her weapons used in the comicbooks. Next we set out to find the perfect model for the project and Gullwing discovered Andrea. She is a local fitness model and bodybuilder that proved to be perfect for the part. There were two casting sessions with her and I took some pictures of the first session, but wasn't able to attend the second session in which the actual Elektra casting was made. A significant amount of time was spent planning the session and building a platform to support her in the pose. Add to this the time Gullwing spent pouring the mold, cleaning up the rough edges once it had set, and then applying the primer paint. You can imagine his dismay after making all of this investment into the project when the arm broke off while he was carrying it into my garage to be painted. The lifecast had brushed up against a dolly and that was all that it took to break the arm into three pieces. Miraculously he was able to repair it and then I started the painting. For the painting, I scoured the internet looking for images of Jennifer Garner in the role of Elektra and I had planned to match as much of her outfit as possible. My search led me to several evocative paintings by artist Greg Horn and I decided that I wanted to incorporate some of his costuming in the casting also. I opted for his loin cloth and leg straps in lieu of the movie version's long pants. It also appears that the sais were designed based on Horn's artwork. Here are some chronological snapshots of the lifecast being painted.
You can see the finished Elektra at the top of this article. It is for sale and will soon be on display at a local comic book shop.
Also on display in the art gallery were two other lifecasts that Gullwing and I had previously collaborated on and a handful of framed photographs of some of my bodypaintings. Here are the pieces that I chose to display.
The Body Painting
I did the first live painting demonstration early on Saturday afternoon during a panel called "Meet Mark Greenawalt." During this hour and a half presentation, I ran a slideshow and talked about many of my past, present, and future projects and then ended the panel by recreating the bodypainting on the cover of the CopperCon 25 program. This time as I painted Courtney's face with the metallic copper, there was no fear of running out of paint. I had contacted Michael Benjamin at Temptu, the company that makes this metallic body paint for airbrushing, and he sponsored the convention by providing the product. This is great paint and it is the same stuff that was used to paint Mystique on the X-men movies. Courtney had also enhanced the costume for this painting by crafting and hand painting a leather belt and designing fantasy inspired leggings. This really added to the impact of the costume. When we were shooting the cover, there was no need to concentrate on the lower torso since most of the photos were intended to be from the waist up. At the convention, however, the attendees would be treated to the whole outfit and Courtney rose to the occasion. She also spruced up the staff by wrapping leather hand grips with copper wire. The painting was completed in about 45 minutes and then we were off to display the character now named Coppernica to the masses. Courtney was stopped every couple of minutes in the corridors of the resort to pose for pictures and sign program covers. She and I were both loving every minute of it!
More bodypainting was planned for my late night body painting panel which was intended to be for adults only. My model was to be the beautiful Kayla Rei, but unfortunately she came down with the flu and was not able to attend the convention. This left me with the task of finding another model that would be available and willing to be painted in front of a room full of sci-fi geeks like me. I contacted or tried to contact several of the models that I had worked with in the past, but to no avail. Courtney agreed to wash the Coppernica paint off and model for me and several other convention attendees said that they would volunteer also. So with no definite plan in mind and enough paint to cover anyone who wanted to be painted I began a body painting marathon, winging it from start to finish.
The panel started at 10:00pm on Saturday night. My first volunteer was an anime enthusiast that I had met during the masquerade show. Her name is Kyo and she and I were both judges for the masquerade, along with Janeen O'Kerry, so we had plenty of time to laugh, joke, and get to meet each other. She admitted to looking very young for her age and most of the attendees questioned whether she was even old enough to be in the room, let alone volunteer to be painted. She took it all in stride though and built up a great repoire with the audience. She chose to be painted as an anime character named Freya from the Chobits series. I had to have her draw out a picture of the character and find an image of her on a laptop computer for my own reference. Then with a sketchy idea of what the character looks like, Kyo disrobed and I started the painting. In an effort to showcase lots of different types of paints throughout the evening, I painted her with Deviant black liquid latex with a sponge brush. I also demonstrated the use of the stardust powder and Pam Cooking Spray to acheive certain looks with the latex. Here is one shot of Kyo taken by Tee Morris, a science fiction writer who attended the panel.
Next up was Courtney. Again I was trying to show some neat bodypainting techniques so I started with a space scene that included splattered star fields and sponged-on full moon. The painting transitioned down to a sunset scene with silhouetted palm trees that were applied with a fan brush. At this point, I considered the painting done until I overheard one of my friends in the 501st Stormtrooper legion asking the rhetorical question of what this painting had to do with science fiction. Not wanting to disappoint the masses, I quickly brainstormed the idea of turning the moon into an imperial logo and added the tag line "IMPERIAL DOMINATION" that was so eloquently written on Mike Kiselnik's t-shirt. It garnered a huge round of applause. Here are the before and after pictures (photos by Kurt Langholz, Don Crossland, and Wilgar).
The next volunteer from the audience from the audience was sporting a pregnant belly and requested a dragon belly painting. We looked at a few images online, but I finally opted to freehand one. The painting was of a sleeping baby dragon. Next up, I painted a volunteer with a concoction of baby oil and bronze powder by Mehron. Here are images of these two paintings.
My next volunteer was Joanne who I have known for the past couple of years and never dreamed that she would be interested in doing a bodypainting. Granted it was only her back that she bared for the live audience, but it was great getting her to do the bodypaint thing. I had joked with her boyfriend, Lance Dworshak, earlier in the day that since my model had canceled, I was going to have to paint her, but I didn't think that it would come to pass. Anyway, her request was to have a pirate themed painting and we settled on painting the Jolly Roger flag on her back. Keep in mind that by this time, I had been provided with a beer from the 501st for "giving them Courtney" and another beer from The Dark Ones for providing the entertainment, these in addition to the two that I had had before the panel began. With this in mind, you'll forgive the fact that I decided to turn the skull and cross bones into a tribute to Ghost Rider by adding the flames around his head. Later in the week I saw Joanne on the morning news in her roller derby attire skating around the rink and I recognized that signature plaid skirt and a jolly roger flag. Here is a shot that I took of her that I fondly call Ghost Roger.
Next up? Author Tee Morris was challenging me to paint a tiger on a ravaging redhead. I challenged him to find me the redhead and that I would find the paint. Enter the lovely Mrs. Evo Terra! I had actually done a quick painting with her years before at an Alwun House exotic art show, but this painting would be much more thorough. Her whole upper torso was transformed into a bengal tiger in about 45 minutes. So Tee had his tiger woman with the ravaged red hair. Here is a shot of her.
After that the flood gates opened and I started painting all comers. In fact, I didn't stop painting until it was daylight, approximately 6:00am. Below are some of the images of these other paintings. Some were my ideas, others came to me with an idea in hand that they wanted painted.
Here is a link to additional pictures from the bodypainting marathon:
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