Friday, December 13, 2013

Son of MonsterPalooza – Post Mortem

It’s been a couple months since I did the Son of Monsterpalooza show in Burbank, CA. and I thought I’d tell you a little bit about it.  It was a blast!  So much creativity and artistry at the show, mostly in an area I don’t explore: sculpture.  Many of the top names in make-up special effects were at the show and it was amazing to see their work up close.  Very impressive.

There were some painters like myself there as well, which I was glad to see.  I had a good spot on the floor and the booth 6 feet wide with pipe and drape.  I brought my new set up that I’ve been using lately.  Let me tell you, trying to make everything fit on a 6ft table is not easy.

The key is to make use of as much vertical space as you can. This particular set up is a little busy, but I had a lot of stuff to show and sell. (All of which is available at my website:, except the animal skulls).

Son of Monsterpalooza is the second show each year, and is a bit less attended than Monsterpalooza proper for some reason even though it is just before Halloween.  But I had a great time and I think the fan base at this show really responded well to my dark work.  I want to keep doing more creepy stuff and this was a great place to show it.

My booth was close to a stage set up by a make-up company and they were doing make-up demos all day long.  Awesome to watch.  Those poor actors though, they’re sitting in that chair for 4-6 hours!  Brutal.  The results are really cool though.  Here’s some photos from the show for you to enjoy!

Btw, I already have my space for Monsterpalooza March 28 - 30, 2014. Stay tuned for more details as the date approaches. -- Tom


Monday, October 7, 2013

MonsterPalooza - New Art for the Show

This weekend is Son of MonsterPalooza, a fantastic monster con in Burbank, CA, the town where many of the special effects make-up houses resides here in the greater Los Angeles area.  MonsterPalooza is held twice a year and I walked the show for the first time in March and had a blast, so I decided to sign up and get a table to show my artwork.  Check out the artwork below!!


I’m actually quite excited about this show.  Here’s why…these are my peeps!  I’ve been doing dark fantasy art for a long time, with an emphasis on dark.  I love the gruesome stuff and the gritty underbelly of the human psyche.  Is it any surprise I love a good monster movie?

I must admit, I’m not a huge horror groupie, because a lot of “horror” movies just aren’t all that great.  Most horror films, especially slasher films, and the now popular, torture horror has very little going on in the story department.  There are some classics though and some really good movies out there as well.
Like so many of us, I grew up watching the Universal monster movies and loved every minute, so I have a soft spot in my heart for them.  I have a great book that I spent my youth pouring over all the great inventive make-ups and creature designs from the classic horror movies.  It’s called A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford and you can get copies at Amazon.  It covers from Chaney and the silent era, Universal, to Hammer and is loaded with (b+w) photos.  It’s a fun book and was a huge influence for me during my formative years as an artist.

New Paintings:

With Halloween around the corner and Monsterpalooza this weekend, I decided to get in the spirit and do some new paintings for the show.  If you don’t live in the Los Angeles area and can’t make the show, you can check out the paintings at my website  The originals are currently listed for sale, but I’m taking them to the show this weekend, so they’ll likely be gone by Monday.  But you can always buy prints too: .  Here’s the new paintings for your viewing pleasure !

Show Details:
I hope you can make it out to the show.  My booth is number 98 in the main dealer's room.  The show hours are Friday Oct. 11, 2013: 6pm-11pm; Sat Oct. 12, 2013: 11-6pm; Sun. Oct. 13, 2013: 11-6pm.  You can get more details at:
My Set Up
Here's basically what my set up will look like and all the cool stuff I'll have for sale.  And yes, those are REAL animal skulls I'll have for sale!!  See you there!  Tom 

Tags:, Baxa, Tom Baxa, Thomas M. Baxa, Blood Rituals: The Art of Tom Baxa, BAA, BaxaArt Academy, Dark Sun, Wizards of the Coast, Magic the Gathering, mtg, Dungeons & Dragons, Monsterpalooza, Universal Monsters, Halloween, Frankenstein, London After Midnight, Karloff, Lon Chaney, Nosferatu, Skulls, Horror, Leatherface, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Kiss, Gene Simmons,  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

DarkSun ThriKreen Drawing

As most of you guys know, I did the majority of the black and white interior art for the 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting known as Dark Sun.  It was a great setting created by Tim Brown and Troy Denning with cover art by Brom and line drawings by me. 
Brom and I created the look and flavor of Dark Sun, a gritty post-apocalyptic feeling desert world wrought with tyrannical villains and lotsa awesome creatures.

One of the races that you could play as a player character was the ThriKreen.  They were an insectoid race based on characteristics of a praying mantis.  If memory serves, Brom did the original design of the ThriKreen and I built off of that, making them more insectoid and leaner with a long abdomen.  This is the drawing I did of them for the original Dark Sun Boxed Set way back in 1991.

ThriKreen Warrior Copyright Thomas M. Baxa 2010
Since I was the one doing the majority of the illustrations for Dark Sun, many of them containing ThriKreen, this became the established look for the race in the first version of Dark Sun.

To this day, people still love Dark Sun and are inspired by the work that Brom and I did on the series. I wanted to share this pencil drawing of a ThriKreen warrior with you that I did a couple years back as a private commission. Dark Sun forever!

ThriKreen Warrior Copyright Thomas M. Baxa 2010

Tags:, Baxa, Tom Baxa, Thomas M. Baxa, Blood Rituals: The Art of Tom Baxa, BAA, BaxaArt Academy, Dark Sun, Wizards of the Coast, Magic the Gathering, mtg, Dungeons & Dragons

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Old School BAXA D&D Art

Recently, a collector of older Dungeons and Dragons art bought some pieces from me from way back in the day.  It’s great to see the fondness and nostalgia people still have for the early days of D&D.  I myself played D&D in high school and loved it.  And I love doing artwork for it still.

Since I got the art photographed, I thought I’d post the two paintings here and share some thoughts about them with you.  Luckily, I keep pretty good records of all the jobs I do (which is just smart when you are running a freelance business), so I know the approximate dates the paintings were done.  I also date my paintings next to my signature, so that helps too.


The first painting this collector owns (which he actually bought from another collector) was used for the cover of a 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons adventure module called Swamplight.  I don’t think there was much of an art description with this assignment other than show a lizardman shaman in the swamp with a magic effect happening.

Now, bear in mind, this painting was done early in my career in 1993!  I actually hadn’t done all that much painting other than some painting in high school and maybe a job or two prior to this, so my experience with it was limited.  I was heavily focused on pen and ink work at the time, so this isn’t exactly the best painting in the world, but I still kinda like it – at least what I was trying to accomplish.

With the module being named Swamplight, I wanted to hit home the idea of some kind of glowy light happening in the swamp.  In typical Baxa fashion, I wanted to come up with something dramatic.  And drama comes from putting your hero in imminent danger and having the viewer feel the emotions from the predicament.  So I focused the scene on the lizardman, our hero, instead of some long shot landscape of the swamp. 

I created drama several ways.  First of all I created an implied threat in the form of an unnatural glow (the “swamplight”) and bubbling coming from under the water in close proximity and behind the main character, as if something was sneaking up on him. 

I brought the “camera” low to emphasize the vantage point of the light (attacker).  A worm’s eye view of this sort and a one point perspective pointing skyward, highlighted by the lines of the tree trunks, adds movement and drama to a scene.  It also “points” from the threat directly to the victim’s reaction on his face. 

As you can see, none of this is by accident; it’s by design.  That’s what a good illustrator does: he tells a story in an image.  Sometimes I think about this stuff very intentionally, and sometimes it comes to me more intuitively.

Emotion comes mostly from the viewer relating to what’s happening for the hero.  So I decided to have the lizardman facing away from the viewer, but twisting around at the moment he notices the threat.  This creates movement and a sense of action with the figure’s pose, and his look of surprise hits home the story.

I love, love, love designing characters, so I wanted to come up with my own type of lizardman, so I made his head more like a real lizard and added a cool dorsal fin like that of the dinosaur dimetrodon.

When I do a sketch, I seldom do a ton of roughs.  I usually visualize the scene and pose in my head until I see something I like then start drawing.  I might do a one rough if it’s a tough pose, and sometimes I do a color comp for myself to work out the main color scheme.  Sometimes I’ll pull some reference; sometimes I won’t (usually to my disadvantage).   Here’s the sketch, pretty much the way I did it on the first pass.  There’s just enough detail to get it approved and for me to know where I’m going with things.
At this time in my career, I was painting in acrylics, which is the medium I used for Swamplight.  The painting is 18” x 24” on illustration board.  Here’s the cover of the module:


In January of 1995 I became a staff artist for the Chicago based game company Fasa; the guys responsible for Battletech, Shadowrun and Earthdawn.  I was given a lot of freedom to work in different styles and it afforded me the opportunity to experiment with painting in oils. 

I had always loved the look of oil paintings and tried to achieve it a bit in acrylics, but felt it was nearly impossible, so it was time to switch.  I never had any training in oils in college or elsewhere, so I was on my own.  I asked a few friends about it and some of the sticky points like oil mediums, drying times, “lean over fat”, etc. and dove in.

I still had some hesitation around using oils, and I heard about “water soluble” oil paints, or alkyds, and thought that might be an easier transition from acrylic paints.  So I decided to paint with Grumacher’s MAX water mixable oil paints, and as it turns out, I still use them to this day, only now I use a typical oil medium instead of water for my medium!

The other painting the collector bought from me was painted in 1996 for a Dragon Magazine Issue #233 article call “On the Wings of Eagles”.  The paining, Flying Elves, is 16” x 21” on gessoed watercolor paper.  I’m really not sure why I painted on paper, I just did.

I was always in love with the buttery and fluid brushstrokes of painters like John Singer Sargent.  I thought the way to achieve that look was by painting thickly, with a lot of paint on the board.  So that’s how I began oil painting - I used stiff ox hair brushes and laid the paint on thick!  The MAX paints were perfect for this approach because alkyd oils dry much quicker than regular oils. 

Flying Elves was the perfect example of my “thick period”.  You can see, especially in the details below, how thick I laid on the paint.  I also deliberately focused on the direction of my strokes to add an almost sculptural element to the image.


I don’t paint nearly this thick anymore, but still enjoy letting those supple and energetic brush strokes show in my work.  Here’s the sketch and the article page:

It just so happens that I also painted the cover of Dragon #233 with a painting I call Forest Queen.  Not super fantastic, but I got across the idea of a forest queen surrounded by her animal friends in the forest.  I was trying hard to create a serene mood with a warm wash of sunlight through the trees.  This oil painting was pretty big, maybe 24” x 36” on masonite and was bought a couple years ago by another collector.

Tags:, Baxa, Tom Baxa, Thomas M. Baxa, Blood Rituals: The Art of Tom Baxa, BAA, BaxaArt Academy, Dark Sun, Wizards of the Coast, Magic the Gathering, mtg, Dungeons & Dragons

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Baxa at Wondercon 3/29/13 – 3/31/13

I wanted to let you know that I’ll be appearing at WonderCon Anaheim at the end of this month, Friday March 29th, 13 – Sunday March 31, 13.  The con is at the Anaheim Convention center Halls A+B, in Anaheim, California (right by Disneyland).  There’s all kinds of hotels and restaurants and stuff nearby.   I’ll have a table set up in Artist Alley (tbale #A173) with all the other talented comic and gaming artists. (see map below)

Good Clean Fun
Conventions are always a great time for many reasons.  As an artist and a writer, I spend a lot of time in my hovel doing what I love!  But it is a solitary existence sometimes, so it’s great fun to go to the cons and talk to people who are enjoying my artwork on their favorite games. 

It’s also a chance for me to meet some of my favorite artists and connect with old friends.  Seeing the latest projects artists are working on is totally inspiring, as is all the great art.  I have to work real hard not to blow any mone

I’ve Got the Goods
I always bring lotsa cool original art to look at and all kinds of stuff you can buy so you can have a little bit of Baxa’s warped mind invade your home – ha! 

Due to constraints on my time as I develop my own projects, I’m not signing Magic cards by mail, so it’s a great opportunity to come by and get your favorite Baxa Magic cards signed or buy artist proofs as well.  I’ll have all my classic APs as well as APs of Maelstrom Wanderer from the Planechase 2 boxed set and foils from the Commander’s Arsenal special edition.  You can’t get ‘em signed anywhere else.

I’ll have prints and artist proofs and all kinds of other stuff, including my Gnomon instructional dvd Dynamic Fantasy Painting with Tom Baxa and my 112 page artbook collecting all my best stuff over the years Blood Rituals: The Art of Tom Baxa.


If you don’t live in Cali and just can’t make the trip, you can always visit the BaxaArt Store on my website.

Hope to see you at the Con!!!  Tom


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Quori Spy Dragon Magazine #412

Last year I did a couple illos for Dragon Magazine, and I thought I’d share this one – The Quori Spy!  I painted this one digitally in Photoshop, and still did a lot of stroke for stroke painting to build form. 
Art description: This illo depicts a lightly armored male human fighter facing the viewer with sword drawn.  He has the Dragonmark of Sentinel visible somewhere on his skin.  He also has a stylized chimera visible on his armor.  A spectral image of a Tsucora Quori hangs over him, facing the reader in an aggressive pose.  The goal is to suggest that the human is possessed by the quori spirit.


I didn’t design the quori, but it was a pretty cool creature to draw.  I had a lot of fun working the translucency and used lighter tones to emphasized his face.  The Dragonmark of Sentinel is blue-purple in color, so that’s the color I made the mark on his chest, and the quori spirit.
Hope you dig it