Monday, May 27, 2024
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Looking back over 20 years, I think it took a strange and wonderful combination to make me the professional fantasy artist I am today.
I remember going to the library and reading as many books about the gods and heroes as I could find. I'd pour over the weird stories and imagine wandering Greece with Odysseus and riding in the back of Thor's smelly goat-driven chariot. Playing outside with my sisters and brother was a huge part of my childhood. We were Star Trek geeks, Big Valley fans- sci-fi nerds to the core. So Sarah was either Kirk/Jared/our intrepid leader, I was Spock/Nick/second in command, Vicky was McCoy/Audra/Heath/heart of the team and Nate got to be either Scotty, an evil cattle baron or any bad guy we were currently escaping from. (Because that's what you do to younger brothers when you're three sisters with a lot of free time and only three channels of TV.) Roaming the neighborhoods, we'd weave stories out of long summer afternoons that influence the work I create today.
Every year our dad would have a two week vacation and we'd go camping. To the Thompson kids, this was the highlight of the year, better than birthdays and even Christmas! This was before the days of the ubiquitous Wal-Mart so it would take Mom and all of us weeks to pack and get ready. Off we'd ride, with our 70's station wagon, Jayco camper, 4 kids, 2 dogs and 2 very patient (and already exhausted) parents. Out in the woods of wherever, we'd canoe,swim,fish,explore,hike,ride horses and complain when all 4 kids were stuck in the camper during the summer storms. I'm sure Mom and Dad loved it as much as we did when it would finally stop raining and we could continue our rampage all over the state and national parks of the US.
In high school I discovered Dungeons & Dragons and the Dragonlance books by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman. I fell in love and to this day, in my 40's, I still play role-playing games. But the most important part was discovering the bookcovers of artist Larry Elmore. Oh wow, mythology that lived & breathed!
In college, after three long and grinding years, I realized that Biology was not for me and tried Classics. Ummmmm... Ancient Greek killed that idea after 2 semesters (it's a dead language for a reason).  I always liked drawing so I tried a few art classes and they stuck. But the art experience at the University of Alabama wasn't ready for dragon paintings so I played it safe and learned how to paint to "get the grades".  (For those of you looking to have art as a career, please don't do what I did! Don't play it safe! If I had more courage I would have transferred to a school that taught realistic painting. I would have learned how to paint instead of staying at U of Al and just getting the degree. So go find a school or Art Institute that will teach you what you want to be. Look at what the instructors are painting, that will indicate what you will be expected to learn.)
So, still playing it safe, I got married and started a career in the role-playing industry as an illustrator. Neither stuck, thank God! I think I learned that being safe is not for me. In 1994, I discovered how to squish my love of fantasy, art, camping and horses into a passion--Renaissance Festivals! I now have 7 shops in states all over the country. You can visit me and my work on the weekends at:


In 2007, at 40 years old, everything changed in my life and it's because of destiny, love and World of Warcraft. So, there I was in January, finally divorced, struggling with the business and finding bits of joy in the unreal world of MMORPG's. In the game I was wandering about and ran into a fella that was in the guild "Aussie Alliance". We got to talking about D&D, comics and Australia. I invited him to help our guild out on a run. By then I had ventrilo and was able to live-chat with people in the game. He asked if he could invite his roommate and I said sure.
"G'day love, how's it goin?" came this bouncy, lively Australian voice--I was totally charmed & giggled my way through the run! Alwyn Soden was his name, he was an Aussie Country Bloke (meaning he was a small-town boy), 28 (whooo hooo!), and loved D&D, comics and especially video games. He lived all over Australia, but snubbed the big cities as "up themselves." He worked and helped run the local bottle shop (a drive-thru liquor store). He and his mates were hardcore video gamers and he grew up with a joystick in his hand. So, I chatted him up and literally 3 days later I woke up in Ohio and thought "I am completely in love with a guy half-way around the world!" I'd dated a bit after the divorce, but, meh... no one special. In fact, I just wanted to be with my family, paint and fix my business. All of a sudden, I had to have this Aussie here with me! So the quest began...
We talked 24/7 on Gtalk as I was working, painting and even sleeping! He flew over to the US at the beginning of June and when I met him at the Cleveland Airport it was like I was coming home for the first time. I burst into tears and he laughed, snuggled me close, telling me "It's alright love, I'm here now."
I didn't really ASK him to marry me in July, it was more of a statement--
"I have decided I want to marry you. It's okay if you don't want to, I just want you to know what I want to do." He cocked his head to the side, pursed his lips and replied "Hmmmm, can I have a day to think about it?"
Yep, he said yes and the day before I was to fly out to San Diego Comic Con we got married at the Niles, OH courthouse to the accompaniement of Sarah & Vicky, my brother-in-law Allen Williams (amazing artist, check out his site & blog) and my nephew Duncan- with our wedding rings on his toy great white shark.
It's been five years of bliss and goofiness. Alwyn has helped me recreate the business -- RedRooArt. Named because he's an Aussie, my nickname growing up was "Roo" and we make art. Oh and I love the color red! With Sarah and my other brother-in-law, Joe Coviello, we are continuing to sell my art at Renaissance and Medieval Festivals, Sci-Fi and Comic Conventions, and Fine Art Shows across the U.S. and Canada. Sarah has created her own embroidery and t-shirt business with my art gracing her lovely creations. You can purchase her work here on my site  or on her etsy site at 
I believe I'm creating some of the best work yet, but I always hope for better. I can see that happiness in life and love translates into powerful artwork that I am proud to put my name on. I'm now excited every time I sit down in my messy studio or put a pencil to paper. We haven't gone to Australia yet, but I know I will soon! Alwyn will introduce me to the wonders of XXXX Queensland beer, meat pies and the vocal and brutally honest side of his family.
So, as an adopted Aussie Wifey and older but wiser fantasy artist--Aussie, Aussie, Aussie,...OI, OI, OI, now go live your dreams!