In Conversation: Anthony Christou

 

During AVCon 2018, I had the pleasure of meeting fantasy artist, Anthony Christou. He had a wide variety of work on sale: all his original art, as well as his comic series, Luminous Ages, and card games in addition to the series. Recently, I was able to catch up with Christou to talk about his work and extensive successes as a working artist and illustrator.

Christou is a very driven person with a vibrant creative spark. He started off with a Bachelor of Visual Art before going on to do a Masters in Illustration at Uni SA. Christou soon after decided to follow his passion in game art and illustration. Christou began freelance work in the games industry and in 2012 decided to fully devote himself to this career. Christou worked with mentors such as Rob C. Richardson and Simon Scales, who encouraged him to further develop his work. Through exhibiting with Adelaide Illustrators, Christou secured enough freelance work to support himself.

In 2013, Christou worked on a New Zealand Kickstarter game called Path of Exile. It was here that he learned more about the games industry. For Path of Exile Christou worked on a number of aspects including illustration, 3D modelling, concept art, assets, and in-game artwork.  It was during this year that Christou began his convention work, attended Adelaide Supernova for the first time, and achieved insane sales for his original fantasy art. Christou now attends up to eighteen conventions a year, earning a profit large enough to make a comfortable living. Since then he has given talks at both Supanova and Comic-Con. The best part about conventions, he says, is that you get to leave the house and make new friends.

While much of his work is digital, Christou still works with traditional mediums as well. His piece ‘Dangerous Seas’ became the cover art for The Path Less Travelled’s album ‘Cast Out the Crowds’. Christou spoke about being approached by a lady who told him that every time she feels sad she looks at ‘Dangerous Seas’ and it reminds her she can make it through the storm. He was surprised to find that his work could have such an impact on people.

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Anthony Christou, ‘Dangerous Seas’

In 2014, Christou decided to explore his interest in making a comic series. Luminous Ages is now four issues in and remains the second highest funded comic Kickstarter in Australia with only 180 backers and a pledge of around $17,000. Thanks to this funding, Christou is able to hire freelance artists and editors to help bring his project to life. Rob C Richardson, Anthony Earl, Elena Lukina, and Christy Butt worked closely with Christou on this project.

Luminous Ages itself is a series set in a surreal world where dreams can become reality. Thirteen dragon gods are fighting for control of both the dream and real world plane. It is up to the main character, Thrakos, and a cast of dream mages to keep them at bay. The series blends cultures and mythologies together to create a multi-cultural fantasy which addresses environmental issues.

A mixture of cultures and mythologies, Luminous Ages presents a story which heralds both multiculturalism and environmentalism. The series gives Christou not only the opportunity to explore his interests but his artistic potential. Contrary to the American style comics which we are most familiar with, Christou works in a style which is very similar to French or Italian, providing richly detailed illustrations in a comic format.

As well as game design and illustration, Christou has also worked with a number of film companies including Disney, Two-tone Studios, and Wolf Creek Productions.

Christou recommends exploring your artistic freedom and not to work for free too much. He says, ‘creativity can be blocked when you work with the wrong people.’ He notes that there are lots of opportunities within Australia, plenty more than when he started out. He also stresses the importance of taking a break, saying he usually gives himself one day off a week and a couple of weeks each year. Without breaks you can’t generate new ideas.

Being an artist is an endurance race. You need to spend a lot of time developing your work and looking after yourself. And it needs to be sustainable.

He reminds us that artists and writers are a business, and you need to understand creative business. You can’t have everything for nothing and you can’t expect it to be easy. We don’t live in an age like DaVinci and Michaelangelo whose artistic development was sponsored by the church and the military respectively.

When asked about the most difficult aspects of being a working artist, Christou said it was the financial side, business, and the sacrifices you have to make for your passion. His favourite things about working full time as an artist are, of course, sleeping and travelling, but also creating images from his mind, he loves being able to “bring his imagination to life.”

Christou’s next major project is a Kickstarer for theme decks of his card game Dragon Dreams. The Kickstarter is due to launch at 5:30pm Adelaide time today. That’s in just a few hours! You can find it here: https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/luminousages/

Christou is also on Youtube and Patreon.

Check out his website here!

 


Words by Kayla Gaskell

Images property of Anthony Christou

AVCon 2018

AVCon is a three-day festival that runs during July and signals the end to both the school and uni break. In 2017 it attracted over 20,000 visitors and this year I suspect that record was broken. It is a place where avid lovers of video games, cosplay, pop-culture, and anime come together to share that passion. Run entirely by volunteers, AVCon is an example of a small community coming together in real life as opposed to the forums many visitors undoubtedly frequent to discuss the latest in games, cosplay, and anime.

Walking through AVCon, where-ever you might be, it’s not unusual to hear someone gasp over a cosplayer, artwork, or piece of merchandise they’ve been coveting all year. Adelaide has a lot of amazing talent and, for me, that is where AVCon shines. Not only do we have a strong community surrounding anime and videogames, but we have a range of talented artists with varying art styles who converge to sell their wares and display their skill.

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CDW Stall at AVCon 2018, photography by Cameron Lowe

Each year the convention begins with the opening ceremony on the Friday evening—generally characterised by weekend and gold-pass holders gathering in the foyer of the Convention Centre for up to a couple of hours before the doors open. This year was the first year I attended the opening ceremony. We were introduced to the organisers, volunteers, special guests, and the spirit of AVCon with a skit which blurred the lines of dream and reality. The special guests for 2018 included Major Sam, Spike Spencer, Vera Chimera, Neil Kaplan, Beke, and Knitemaya who were all involved in panels across the weekend. The ceremony was followed by a screening of Ready Player One in conjunction with Hybrid World Adelaide.

With Saturday morning came a rush of people flocking in to enjoy the weekend. In the gaming hall there was a mixture of free-play and indie games, as well as some of the weekend’s gaming tournaments (which were also held on the Sunday). In the Exhibitors Hall there was a selection of stalls selling official merchandise as well as stalls promoting Marion and City Libraries, HIDIVE streaming service, and CDW Studios. Beyond the hall was the chaos of Artist Alley. Downstairs you could find panels, special guests, and anime screenings from both HIDIVE and Madman.

With the evening came the ever-popular quiz night with forty-nine tables competing for the prize and privilege of first place. Unfortunately, this year the quiz wasn’t as enjoyable as it has been in previous years with challenging questions and barely anything accessible to your non-gamer. Unfortunately, the winning team disappeared before they could claim their prize and their prize was passed on. I can only hope that next year’s questions will be better and more specific to avoid confusion and that next year’s winners will remain present.

The cosplay competition on Sunday was a wonderful display of talent from local and interstate cosplayers who cosplayed a range of people from games, anime, and pop-culture. Some had spent months on their costumes and others just a few sleepless days. One thing was consistent however, the attention to detail each cosplayer had for their costume, all doing a fantastic job of portraying their chosen character and their personalities. One highlight of the competition was seeing a Xenomorph come onto stage and break out into dance.

My highlight was, predictably, Artist Alley. I’ve always loved the scattering of stalls, the friendly faces, and familiar fan-art portraying characters I knew and didn’t, as well as those I’d long since forgotten. Artist Alley isn’t just fan art; Decay Comics, indie author Matt J. Pike (whose self-published book series Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor is set in Adelaide), and Anthony Christou (a full time visual artist) stood out from the crowd by providing their own unique work. Artist Alley had a wide variety of products on offer ranging from prints and badges all the way to socks and scarves printed with original designs.

I’ve always found that AVCon is what you make of it. It is a wonderful place to engage with the gaming, cosplay, Lolita, and anime communities here in Adelaide. It’s also a place to meet new people and form life-long friendships. It offers a sense of belonging for people of all ages and celebrates the talents of video game enthusiasts. Overall I’ve always found it a friendly environment and would recommend getting a friend or two and heading in next year if you can afford it.


Words by Kayla Gaskell

AVCon and Artist Alley: In conversation with Avery Andruszkiewicz and Ella Guildea

Ahead of AVCon cosplayers and vendors are preparing like mad for the three days a year when avid fans of anime, video-games, and general pop-culture converge on the Adelaide Convention Centre. AVCon is fast approaching (20-22nd July) and, as per tradition, it marks the end to both Uni and school break.

If you haven’t attended the convention before, it is, quite simply, a place where people of similar interests come together to celebrate anime, video-games, and the exciting work of a number of talented cosplayers and vendors.

Some of these vendors are local artists and can be found in Artist Alley and have provided both encouragement and inspiration to a number of artists and other creatives for many years. It’s not unusual to see people clutching their own sketch books or settled in a corner drawing throughout the weekend—I know that’s been me a few times!

In order to prepare for this year’s AVCon I sat down with Ella Guildea and Avery Andruszkiewicz, both of whom have attended a number of AVCons. Guildea even met her partner, Connor Madden, at the 2011 event, and he tables with her along with Sophie Ladd.

If you’re an AVCon aficionado you might recognise Avery Andruszkiewicz’s name already. Their design was selected to be on the AVCon shirts and merchandise for 2018. When speaking to Andruszkiewicz, I asked how they felt about their design being chosen and whether they’d expected it:

“Not really, but I definitely had all my fingers crossed for it. I was rather proud of my design this year, so I was really hoping to place, but winning the whole thing was a surprise! The other entries are always so amazing, I’m glad my design was picked.”

 

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AVCon Announcement of Avery Andruszkiewicz’s design.

 

Both Andruszkiewicz and Guildea have previously been involved with Artist Alley, Andruszkiewicz just for the 2017 event while Guildea will be tabling for the third year running with The Bees Knees (together with Ladd and Madden).

Andruszkiewicz says working in Artist Alley is: “a really great opportunity to meet and support other artists. But of course, the chance to get your work out there, and having people actually want to buy what you create is an amazing feeling.”

Guildea’s involvement with Artist Alley began when a friend asked her to table with them in around 2014. While that didn’t end up happening, in 2015 Guildea and Madden bought a badge maker, although “the final push for me to invest in a table at Artist Alley was really heavily inspired by artists Jac and Emerson from the table, Gutgeist! (http://gutgeist.tumblr.com). They travel every year from Melbourne to table at AVCon and were super helpful with guiding me on how to run my first table! I’m really grateful for the support they gave me.”

Much like the event itself, Artist Alley provides participants with a strong sense of community. Some artists get together ahead of the convention to work together cutting out stickers and pressing badges, essentially keeping one another motivated ahead of the event.

When I asked about the community of Artist Alley, Andruszkiewicz said that while they are still fairly new to it, it’s been quite welcoming. “Group orders to save money on shipping/get bulk buy discounts is not uncommon, as well as groups getting together to cut out stickers and press badges and such before a con. Working in a group can be great for motivation!”

One of Guildea’s highlights of the con experience “is the compassion and empathy vendors have for each other. On one of the days last year someone brought Krispy Kremes around to all of the tables, I’m not throwing hints or anything!”

 

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Ella Guildea, 2018.

 

This sense of community is evident in the level of support that artists offer to first timers. Andruszkiewicz and Guildea both offered some advice for anyone looking at getting involved in the 2019 event.

 

 

Advice from Andruszkiewicz:

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Avery Andruszkiewicz 2018.

 

“I always say just go for it, but definitely take the time to prepare. Use your resources. Don’t be afraid to ask artists for advice. A fellow artist by the name Hawberries (Twitter: @hawberries_) has put together a fantastic guide to art stalls, which was honestly my lifesaver for my first time, and I still reference it now.
Don’t table alone, it’s absolutely soul crushing. Either find a friend to split a table with (you save money on the table that way too, and that makes it easier to break even), or if you have enough stock for your own table (I’ll be blunt, you won’t for your first-time tabling), make sure you have a table buddy so you’re not there on your own.
Don’t go in with the mindset of making a profit, go because you want to and because you love what you do. Unfortunately, a lot of artists tend to come up at a loss at their first con, which can be disheartening, but even more so if you go with the exclusive intention of making money. Go, make friends, make connections, and as you gain experience, a following, and improve your art, the profits will come.

And to be harsh for a moment, prepare yourself for disappointment. There’s only a set amount of tables at any one convention, and the harsh truth of that is that artists get declined as a result. If you get declined, don’t let that overshadow your passion for art. Gather your resources again, work hard, and try again next time! Don’t let disappointment overshadow your love of the craft.”

 

Advice from Guildea:

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Ella Guildea, 2018.

 

“There’s a lot of Facebook groups which can be a really great influence for first timers – Aussie Con Artists is probably my favourite. However, the best way I’ve found to find the community is by networking at the conventions that you attend! Talk to your neighbours! Talk to that person who has the art style that you’ve totally fallen in love with!

Tough it out, keep it up and find what inspires you. Your first con might not be phenomenal, but if you’re passionate about vending, please keep it up!

Our first convention involved less than two weeks’ worth of prep, had 15 items in total, and featured the previously mentioned corkboard-ruler-blu-tack scenario. We now prep for significantly more than 2 weeks, stock over 125 different items, and have a nice easel to put our display board on so it doesn’t come crashing down every 20 minutes.

You’ll constantly grow and learn from your mistakes, and a lot of reflection as to how you can improve. You’re not going to become some sort of professional by the time of your first convention. Just throw yourself into it and learn!”


 

You can follow Avery Andruszkiewicz on Twitter @matte_bat_ or check out their Redbubble store https://www.redbubble.com/people/matte-bat/portfolio.

To contact Ella Guildea and The Bees Knees about commission work, see where they’re headed next, and keep updated about upcoming item releases, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thekneesofthebees

If you can’t make it to the convention check out their Tictail here: https://tictail.com/thekneesofthebees

Both artists are tabling this year at AVCon and are always up for a chat so don’t be afraid to stop by and say hello. When you do, don’t forget to mention this article!


 

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Ordinary Objects: Percy the Puzzle Piece

Percy is the filler piece of the puzzle.

The plain blue patch of sky that gets popped aside while all the other more striking pieces get matched up. Forgotten as colourful patches of grass with glints of wildlife are pieced together and trees are built from the trunk up to the tips of their autumn leaves.

Lying patiently, Percy waits on a quiet corner of the table, eager to be placed amongst the other pieces. He is lost under coffee cups and couch cushions.

The puzzle is never completed, but “will have to do,” as Percy is nowhere to be found.

Years later, Percy is plucked from his spot wedged between two floorboards. The puzzle he belonged to has already been discarded. No one remembers where Percy came from, or where he’s meant to go.

Percy is discarded, never completing anything or reaching his potential as part of the bigger picture. Percy the patient puzzle piece.

 


Words and art by Lisa Vertudaches

14117837_1175055035900900_9161235252814084858_nLisa Vertudaches is an independent illustrator & animator, working from a studio in Adelaide, South Australia. Specialising in looping GIFs, Lisa really enjoys creating cute, silly and sometimes absurd animations and illustrations.

 

 

www.lisavertudaches.com

 

How to be Held

How to be Held

Maddie Godfrey

Burning Eye Books 2018


Maddie Godfrey is an Australian born poet from Western Australia who has moved on to spend time living and writing in both America and the UK. She has won poetry slams across two continents and her work has been featured on a number of international platforms. An astoundingly talented person, How to Be Held is Godfrey’s first book.

There were a number of standout poems in this collection, some being those I recognised from Godfrey’s Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/madfrey22) and ‘Kissing’ which was featured on Button Poetry last year.

Godfrey’s work deals with a myriad of issues including gender politics, self-love, trauma, and self-preservation. She shares with us a deeply personal journey through love, loss, heartbreak, and exploitation, constantly calling into question the expectations of society about gender, violence, and trauma.

Much of Godfrey’s poetry explores the difference between the binary, however ‘Labels are for Jars’ protests this, explaining that sometimes a person might not fit the binary or fit the binary comfortably. As she talks about her father, Godfrey reflects on her own ideas of not fitting the binary and how important that it is to be accepted for who you are.

With a mixture of the personal and political, Godfrey includes her 2016 response to a neo-masculine organisation called “Return of the Kings”. Reading ‘Birthday Parties’ was a pressing reminder of the dangers of being a woman—a reminder that women must think and act in a way that will constantly secure their safety whether they are consciously thinking of it or not.

Godfrey follows this poem with ‘Meeting with Mountains’, comparing the differences between women being taught to take up less space whereas men that they can take up all the space. As the book progresses the poems soften allowing the reader to embrace a sense of warmth and familiarity.

Self-love and self-acceptance is another important theme which is explored throughout this collection. A number of poems read like letters to a future self, a comfort and an acknowledgement that the person you will become is not necessarily the person you are today. In ‘For Days When my Feminism Does Not Include Myself’, Godfrey writes:

“you do not realise how capable you are

of growing into future versions of yourself”

Such a simple sentiment and touching reminder that you are not locked in as the person you are today, instead you, and everyone around you, are constantly evolving as different events and experiences shape you and your future.

Intimate and deeply moving, Godfrey’s poetry focuses on the need and the will to survive, to move on from past ordeals and fight back against the traumatic experiences. Her words hold you captive and at the same time make you feel safe and acknowledged. Godfrey guides you through her book gently while at the same time boldly and bluntly acknowledging her own traumatic experiences. Throughout her message remains clearly positive, reiterating that survival is key to negotiating both this world and her trauma.

How to Be Held was released July 1st and can be purchased online: https://www.howtobeheld.com/


Words by Kayla Gaskell

Photography by Kayla Gaskell