Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Salt Mines

I'm disappearing down the salt mines! Life has suddenly gotten busy. I'm coping, but mainly by burning midnight oil. Work must not slow on book 2 while I deal with the launch of SWORDS!

I get quite distracted by the growing tension and excitement of the countdown. 42 days left, by the way!!!

Despite this goofy excitement about book 1, I'm getting tons of ideas for the second book. I need to catch those on paper! Back to the mines!!!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I want to post more of my artwork but I cant! At least not yet.

I can't post any high quality pictures from my first book (SWORDS: An Artist's Devotion), at least nothing other than what is in the wild currently-- the cover picture and a few blurry thumbnails of of Kings and Samurai.

Book 2 is well underway, but is also under wraps. No luck there. Ooh, I'd love to show some of the paintings from book 2! It's looking really neat.

The work I did for Diablo 3 (between 2001-2004) was pretty cool, but it's also under wraps. Any work on older games like Diablo 2 is too dated for me to bear. Oh well. Only 46 days until SWORDS is out, and then there will be something to show.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Art Boos the Artist

I have clear childhood memories of Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke at my house, laughing with my father and watching him paint. My childhood hero -- just hanging out, telling jokes -- or just eating dinner, or playing ragtime on the piano...

Yep. Dad used to keep some interesting company. For a wanna-be Ninja-gunslinger-dragon-slaying ten year old, this was super-potent mojo, too. Clint Eastwood rocks, for God's sake! No punks were going to be feeling lucky around my house. Bam bam zing! Any punks would get hot lead, I was pretty sure.

My dad was an entertaining artist, among many other things, and that's how he attracted an amazing and diverse group of patrons. The King of Jordan and Jamie Wyeth (son of Andrew Wyeth) represent just a small sample of the kind of interesting souls who collected my dad's work. My father usually gave away everything he painted, but every now and then he'd have an art show in our backyard (as an excuse to throw a huge party, I suspect).

His Western Art drew folks from far and wide. On the day of the art show, there would be Ferraris, Lamborghinis, old beaters, and sundry pickup trucks, all mixed about on the street. The crowd couldn't have been more diverse. Top cops, and probably several wanted rapscallions, all taking a day off to enjoy my dad.

I remember mingling with the Assistant Director of Counter-terror; several Senior Special Agents in Charge of the FBI; a highly decorated CIA agent; a multi-starred Infantry General; fighter pilots; war heroes; frogmen; incredible musicians; captains of industry; various eccentric geniuses; and a thoroughly bizarre rogues gallery of other characters. It was all about nasty jokes, great BBQ, open-bar, and my dad doing his thing.

What memories... Those Art shows were something to behold.

Thanks to Frank Short for reminding me of these old times. :)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wild Man Boos

My old man is an interesting guy. He's now 80 years old, and it's amazing to listen to the stories he can tell. He ran away from home during WWII and joined the Merchant Marines (at age 15), and lived an incredible, adventurous life ever after. One part I find fascinating, along with the crashing of aircraft, the parachute jumping, and the world-wide wanderings, was his motorcycle racing phase. He raced Harleys, Motogucci's and even a Ducati at one point, blasting around Belmont and the San Jose Mile as "flying 95." They called also him Wild Man Boos.

I remember buying some motorcycle gloves with some friends in a little shop in San Mateo, and the old clerk asked me about my name. He said "are you related to Art Boos?" I told him I was, and he jumped into a story about how he was a fan of my dad, and how he grew up watching those races. Wow. That made me more than a little proud.

I just found some old pics of my dad on one of his bikes, and also, one of me on one of mine. By the way, I lost my brother to a motorcycle accident when I was eight (he was 18). So it was a strange thing to take up riding, but I took special care, despite a few wheelies here and there. I couldn't break my parent's hearts again. When I would come roaring up on my bike, I know it must have caused my dad some mixed emotions. Part of him was happy - I saw a nostalgic glint in his eye when he looked at my bike - and part of him was definitely sad. Here are those pics I found.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I was just thinking back to a crazy event I went to several years ago. It was an art workshop put on by the group ConceptArt.org. I was there "officially" recruiting artists for a company, but man, did I get my mind blown. Holy smokes, these guys are talented. And they put on a hell of a show.
I saw some sights that would jigger your lights. Some highlights were Jason Manley and Nox doing crazy Photoshop paintings; El Coro, painting in his awesome notebooks; Marko Djurdjevic drawing on the walls; Android and Targete doing oil work; Peter Konig sculpting; Seeing the young guy known as "Insane Visions" getting discovered and hired... And perhaps my favorite moment - watching William Whitaker paint a beautiful portrait. I actually watched this amazing painting (pictured above) fly onto the canvas. Wow.
Check this spot out for some wild sights, if you are into concept art:

I also recommend their DVDs and workshops, if you are interested in creating art.

The Muse

I love my job when creative ideas spark. Ten minutes feeling inspired is worth more than two-weeks of blah. That's the secret, I believe. Lines drawn as "mere work" are stilted or lame, while a burst of creative mojo can make them go crazy! That's when the ink flows in the most surprising ways. These are the moments when I get really happy.

Yet, it's the less inspired moments that make this profession so tortuous. One can sit faithfully working; trying to catch some moment of brilliance, and unless the Muse is willing to flirt, it's a waste of time. Those can be dark moments.

I once heard that being a professional artist, means "doing your best work, even when you don't feel like it." Bah. I disagree. That's for robots, not artists. I think being a professional artist, means knowing how your cycles of mojo work, and learning to harvest them fruitfully.
Funny thing - when I go into the darker moods, and various emotions kick in for the lack of recent inspiration - that's when the Muse seems to take notice. Out of the darkness, some blessed sense of purpose will emerge. This strange and tortuous cycle of mood seems to be integral to those moments of ecstatic creativity. Oh fickle muse!

Friday, July 18, 2008

More thoughts on the knife ban

If society wishes to sublimate base desires and violent ways, I think abstracting those things into games and books might actually have a healthy effect. This may seem counter-intuitive, but I think there is something to it. If we are to live in a society that wont trust it's people with any sharp or dangerous implements (what about cars?), then I think a virtual space might be the best place for people to vent and play. Until we live in a padded, rubber world, this might offer the best transition.

Banning knives in the UK

I hear that knives (and swords?) may soon be banned in the UK. I'm sure this will help drop the violence levels right down - just like banning stabbing did. :/

I even hear that the Prime Minister is talking about banning knives in video games. How long before knives in books are banned?

Yeah!!! We'll be safe now!!!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Listening to old Pink Floyd tonight

The great object in life is Sensation—to feel that we exist, even though in pain; it is this “craving void” which drives us to gaming, to battle, to travel, to intemperate but keenly felt pursuits of every description whose principal attraction is the agitation inseparable from their accomplishment.

-Lord Byron
Photo - Syd Barrett

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Edge of Nowhere

Had a migraine so bad today that my vision was screwy. I can't work like this, so I'm just browsing around on the internets, trying to see through my peripheral vision.... ouch.

Inside peeks

Some more shots of stuff in the book (Swords: An Artist's Devotion) --
From the Kings chapter, and Samurai chapter.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I just started playing around with facebook. Wow, it's really fun! Today saw a burst of activity, with invitations flying around left and right. I got into it, and one by one, I'm reconnecting with old mates. It's so good to hear from these old friends again.

With luck, I'll find more as time goes on. :)

Rien Poortvliet

I was going through some more of my old books in the office today, and found several from the late Rien Poortvliet. I am very lucky to have known this wonderful, wonderful man. My father used to travel to the Netherlands, just to visit him. I was a lucky kid, allowed the chance to spend some time in his delightful studio - which gave me a sense for HOW he did what he did. He was the original one who inspired me to pursue illustration (of my own books). It was sad that he passed away years ago, as I wish he could see the book I finally created. He was very kind when I knew him, and he gave me encouragement to pursue my art… I think he would have loved to know I took his advice to heart.

I raise my sword to you, Rien!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sword Forum International

This is a FANTASTIC site for sword-related discussion.

Dungeons and Dragons Books

In 1982 I was given a stack of books by a family friend. What I soon discovered, was that I held something special. These were early Dungeons and Dragons books – the Monster Manual, the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the Fiend Folio. Holy Toledo!! This was heady stuff for an 11 year old. Especially in 1982. I had already discovered Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and had a mind populated by crazy ideas and improbable adventures, but these books absolutely sparked a wildfire in my mind.

I really didn’t play D&D per se, but my friends and I pored over these volumes by the hour. We made a few attempts to play, but the sessions soon devolved into colorful discussions and mock sword fights. But most importantly, the lists of weapons in the player handbook got me sketching like crazy. The best fun was to get some graph paper, and to try to fill the entire page with scribbled weapons. I usually imagined a quaint shop with a wall full of weapons for sale. Or, sometimes I imagined swag that would be found in a deep and musty dungeon. Ah, that was fun.

Getting these books was one of those special and formative moments in my life. Serendipity has steered me since to working on the Diablo franchise of computer games, to illustrating SWORDS, and now to working on my latest book (an unannounced secret!!!). The latest project really takes me back to those old memories, so there is a hint.

Funny enough, I just re-discovered these old volumes while rummaging around my studio. I had nearly forgotten that I still had them after 26 years. Now, where is my graph paper? :D

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Online Swords

Here are a few online places where I’ve been looking at swords and dreaming about some future purchases.
European style weapons:
Peter Johnsson is the MAN!

For Japanese style weaponry, I also like:
I have my eye on several things here.

Old world style

My son was recently reading a graphic novel called Mouse Guard (by David Petersen), and I thought I’d flip through it for kicks. It’s a fun book, and I was pleased with what I saw. I liked the premise, which really played to my “kid at heart” mentality. This is like “The Mouse and the motorcycle” on steroids. Mice with Swords, neat!

When I got to the end, I found a few extra illustrations that were contributed by friends of the author. One in particular caught my eye… it had beautiful line-work that just somehow struck a chord with me (I’m a true fan of old world illustration and pen & ink work). This picture seemed very evocative of that old style that I enjoy. It turns out that the artist is a man named Jeremy Bastian.

I looked him up online, and was impressed with his work. We chatted a bit via email, and he gave me a sneak peek at some new work. Wow.
Love that pen and ink!

Check out his Cursed Pirate Girl stuff -

Friday, July 11, 2008


By strange coincidence - "Ben Boos" means "I am angry!" in the Dutch language. This would explain the strange reactions to my name whenever I travel to the Netherlands.

So, if you Google my name, you'll see ten million angry Dutch rants, alongside some actual stuff about me. Just great!

Ik Ben Boos!

Flagship Studios?

I just returned from a trip to the ocean, and I see rumors and headlines about Flagship Studios in trouble. I hear of layoffs and financial troubles...

This is very sad, since I've known these guys for ages. I even designed some swords and weapons for them in the past, prior to my pursuit of writing and illustrating books.

What a total bummer! :(

Swords are still awesome

If you thought swords were outdated on the battlefield, think again...

From DemotivateUs.com :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

seeking clear air

I am so glad I bugged out to the coast for a while. It was smoky and HOT where i was. The worst was the trip here, where i passed several areas that were 113F. Oh, Monterrey... it's a lovely 70F here, sunny and clear.

My eight month old daughter loves seeing the Ocean and the sea birds. The other two kids are like baby sea turtles... they just want to run right into the surf. crazy nuts.

Sea Otters and porpoises are all over, just beyond the waves. Those better be porpoise fins! :P

I am thinking of painting a chapter in my next book that involves a seascape. It looks so strange and beautiful here. The sun is red from the smoke, and casting an eerie light on the turquoise waves.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Chinese Theater

I was looking over my book tonight and I realized that so much of my material deals with far-away cultures. Here I am, a humble western guy, raised in California since birth; and I'm trying to pay homage to Eastern Masters, Samurai, Ninja, Silla Knights, Sultans, and War Chiefs? Knights and Kings are foreign enough to California! Therefore, I feel that I must gently tread on this foreign cultural turf, and with all due respect. But how? I can only charge ahead, and attempt to show my love for the subject matter. But will the honorees be pleased or perplexed?

How will my illustrated admiration be embraced when it’s enthusiasm more than expertise that drives my pen to paper? I've traveled far and wide, and taken tons of Art History, and History; reading book after book after book, but I am also a product of my upbringing. One can only hope these varied cultures will indulge me, since I am undeniably influenced by less than reliable sources, to be sure. Hollywood is bad enough, but foreign B-movies made a giant mark.

Take “Eastern Masters” for instance - by this I mean my chapter about Chinese masters of sword fighting and martial arts. I've always been infused with a love for this stuff!!! Oh my God, how I grew up on a steady late-night diet of Chinese Kung Fu Theater! I saw endless heroes battle to avenge their slain masters... I watched them suffer, and overcome, in badly dubbed English... They kicked butt and I couldn't get enough of it.

Often, in my mind, I WAS a Chinese hero (a little blond, Californian Chinese hero, no less), jumping around my yard, imagining that I could endure as these men endured. I wished that I could improve as these stubborn Kung-Fu heroes improved. I even longed for some wizened teacher to arrive, whose cruelty would be a secret kindness - meant to hone my skills and make me strong… And if you hurt my elder master? Look out! It’s a rumble at the temple, buddy.

When I was done making a bloody fool of myself, kicking and tumbling about, I would continue to express my fascination by drawing. I even accompanied my sketch-work with awesome sound effects. Things haven’t changed much since then, except that I jump around a lot less now – though I have some pretty epic Kung-Fu battles with my kids before bedtime. But while I’m drawing, I’m usually pretty calm, and you won’t even catch me making any sound-effects (unless you sneak up carefully). So here I am; older; yet still a kid at heart.

When I painted the chapter for Eastern Masters, I still played out a bit of Kung-Fu Theater in my mind. I’ll admit it! This is not exactly the cool science of anthropology at work, but it's what drives me. I am a strange mirror, after all, through which some folks are going to see their culture reflected back at them. I really do hope the result will bring a smile to the people I intend to honor. That would make me happy.

Okay, it’s late and I need sleep!

Monday, July 7, 2008


Time for a small vacation! It's been very busy lately, so I'm taking my lovely wife, two sweet daughters, and big 9 year old boy (it's his birthday today) to the coast.

This is the first break in ages, and besides, there is nothing like the ocean to inspire new ideas.

The Met

The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art will be selling SWORDS! I am totally thrilled.

The book is really selling from a wide selection of places - from Amazon.com to Costco, and and now the Met.

Very neat.

SWORDS signing

I've been invited to the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA) annual trade show (in early October), where I'll be signing copies of the book and meeting other authors. There will be 150 booksellers there, and around 20 Authors. How cool.

I look forward to it, since supporting the independent sellers is really something special to me. Those people do their jobs for the pure love of it.

Independent book stores are sacred ground.


Matt Uelmen

Something I particularly love about the old days, was walking into work and hearing Matt's Diablo compositions emerging from at least five or six offices on any given day. His wistful Tristram theme was not only the soundtrack for a game - it was like the soundtrack to my life for those years.

I recently heard a huge batch of his tunes that he sent me on disk (thanks Matt!), and it was like time-travel. That music is so beautiful and evocative.

I recently saw a youtube clip where a big group performed some of Matt's music. I'm sure across the world, there are others who are taken back to another time when they hear these notes.

Thinking of you, Matt. Keep that quill moving!!! I'm looking forward to what you will create next.

Youtube clip of Matt's legacy:

and another favorite:

Sword Quest 1980's style

In the late 80's, I went to England with my parents. It was winter, but we lucked out and had pretty nice weather as we explored randomly around the country in a shoe-box sized car. I had my eye out for swords, but wasn't having much luck.

Then it hit me! I had recently seen the movie Highlander, which had just come out, and I knew that Scotland was the place to seek swords. I began a relentless propaganda campaign on my parents. We were crisscrossing huge chunks of the map, so I convinced them that a quick jaunt north would be no problem... a simple diversion for a day or eight. They didn't know I intended to make a pilgrimage all the way north to Eilean Donan castle (where Highlander was filmed). There were swords there, I was certain.

Snow, flat tires, and many small roads later, we made it! What good sports my folks were to embrace this huge trek so spontaneously. We got there and Eilean Donan was closed for the winter.

I was wandering around the massive walls, smelling the icy air blowing off the loch, and a big door suddenly opened... A kind little old lady who normally ran the gift shop stepped out into the snow, and beckoned us inside. I could hardly understand her, but she poured us a dram of something delicious, and let me wander the gift shop. Weee!

Swords were waiting around each corner I felt, so I plunged into the dim space. ...... I still have the small carved walking sticks, books, candles, and other stuff I bought there. There were no swords, except a musty ancient post-card that showed one hanging on a wall. To the mental soundtrack of Queen, I left that castle feeling like an exile.

Melancholy can sometimes feel pretty good, in a weird way. I loved that trip.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sword Quest 2

Once upon a time, in the ancient kingdom of East San Jose...

After my 9th birthday, my endless and persistent lusting to own a sword finally prevailed! My sword-quest had become something of a joke to my parents - and this can work wonders on the universe. Thus it was one fine day, while at the San Jose Flea Market, I found a shimmering and magical sword! Actually, it was a junky old German bayonet, but not to ME! I saw a blade that would defeat the meanest giant Japanese rubber-suited monster. This sword was something to wear proudly into the wilderness - hunting gold and dragons and adventure!

I picked up the flea-market bayonet from the table -- and a glow from the heavens shined down on me and the shopkeeper bowed and accepted me as the new and proper owner of this sword... Or at least my dad felt sorry for me, or something, and paid the guy. Whatever happened, I was presented with my FIRST REAL SWORD EVER!!!!

I'm sure my father began an instant lecture about safety, but I heard only the ceremonious dubbing of a Knight and the somber bestowing of a fearsome and magical weapon. I needed help getting it out of the rusty metal sheath, but once freed, I knew I held something special. This was no lame weapon of peasants or knaves - I was armed with glittering steel.

When my family laughed at me later that day, as I strutted past armed and serious, I knew they were but fools! Laugh FOOLS! Who will you come crying to when mutant tarantulas attack?

The small weed-strewn patch between my house and the neighbor's house was no risk for me now. Not even scary. I did not fear dragons or ants or even BEES. I was the master of these lands. Oh yeah. Just ask that trash can I beat the hell out of.

---Thanks dad, for trusting me with that first sword. No harm ever came of it, except to lousy inanimate objects that were clearly in the wrong.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Ninja vs. Orange Tree

When I was in 8th grade, I hit a serious patch of Ninja fascination. Thankfully, there were catalogs that catered to this, and I can't tell you how many lawns I mowed or cars I washed, so I could stock up on craptastic, er, I mean fantastic Ninja gear.

Once, when receiving a particularly sharp cargo of goodies, I ran into the back yard to test my arsenal of mega-power. There it was! An orange tree, chock-full of fat, listless enemies (oranges).

They never saw me coming.

Later that day, my mom was furious that there were at least a dozen PERFECT half-oranges hanging from the tree. She obviously did not appreciate precision or the ways of the Ninja.


Have you ever heard of a graphic novel series called Bone? My 8 year old boy is obsessed with these books. We bought him some HUGE and heavy multi-volume book of this stuff, and the little fella can't go anywhere without lugging that giant tome around. It almost tips him over some times.

I hoped to get a signed book from the author (Jeff Smith), while I was at the Book Expo America, but he was off signing books for his publisher, and I was busy signing for mine. That and I had too many meetings and things lined up to let me wander freely. I now find out that Jeff Smith was signing right next to Slash, the guitarist, so that would have been a double-header for my son. Doh.

Ducati Days

I miss the old days of working in the bay area some times, roaring around on motorcycles everywhere. I used to zoom up the peninsula on my trusty Ducati Monster 900, and that was a blast. Going to the shop and customizing old yeller was always a treat, too... carbon fiber Italian pipes, braided-steel brake cables, steering stabilizer, little grip mirrors, drag-racing handlebars, special fly-wheel... That was my baby for a long time. Actually, I still have it, but I just don't ride it much (read "at all"). Life just got busy, and I work from my home studio, so the whole commute thing disappeared. But I miss those days of buzzing up skyline road with my mates.

I put around 30,000 miles on that bike. What a great ride, too. It never, ever broke down. That Italian engine just sang its syncopated roaring song, mile after mile.

Ah, my trusty old yellow duc. Well, now it's my dusty old yellow duc.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sword Quest!!!!

When I was just a little guy, around 6 or 7 years old, I wanted a sword more than anything in the world. I was just gonzo for getting my hands on my own valorous, magnificent sword. Sticks from the yard, tent poles, and other improvised weaponry were just not cutting it.

So-- It was one fine day, while walking past my father's BBQ, that I noticed the semi-shiny, metal spit... with strange fork-like bits that could be detached and adjusted. Hmmm. After a bit of work, climbing up on stuff, and wrestling the spit off the BBQ, I was on a mission.

Taking off one of the fork things, and adjusting the other to be a sword-guard, I was looking at something magical. Like pulling some sword from a stone, I had pried my first sword from the rusty old BBQ! We never used that spit anyway, so I must be the rightful one!

That sword was incredible for the many long minutes of service that it gave me, until I bent it while slaying a giant spider (or maybe a tree), and then had it snatched away from me by an angry mother.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Michio's Sword

Once upon a time, when I parted company with some very dear friends, I had a special encounter with a man named Michio Okamura. As I headed for the door, he stopped me. He was like a brother to me after our long years of working in the trenches under duress, and my heart was heavy with my leaving. In a generous and knightly way, Michio plucked his beautiful prized sword off of the office wall, and gifted it to me on the spot. He gave me words of wisdom, and wished me well on my journey. He knew it would be an arduous way ahead, and he was right. Yet his faith in me was pure gold.

Truth be told, at that moment, I did not yet know what book I would be creating yet at all. I only knew I wanted to write and illustrate. I felt a strong drive to agitate toward my goal, even though I was leaping without a clear plan. Michio's kind words and magnificent gesture left me ringing like a bell. His sword-gift became something emblematic with my jump to pursue a dream.

I felt like a hero on a journey, given a sword to keep me well on my path. I'll admit, I embraced this notion, and it served me well.

At first I banged my head on several false-starts and dead-ends - and in a moment of sadness and frustration I later wound up contemplating Michio's sword. An idea grabbed ahold of my brain! One gesture to the next, I began to sketch and then paint, and SWORDS the book was born.

I will always be grateful to Michio for his act kindness. Never underestimate the power of a kind deed and what it might cultivate in the hearts of others.

Afterthought -
Michio (the original creator of the DIABLO character design), is now hard at work at his awesome new company L5 Games -still bringing dreams to life and inspiring others to do the same.

I salute you brother!

Diablo 2 still hot!

Still selling strong, seven years after release! Number 1 PC game on Amazon.com! Holy smokes. I'm glad to see that I wasn't the only one roused by the Diablo 3 announcement.
By the way, that's my box art for the Battle Chest. :)

Thanks to G4 for the info.

Kind words from Mike Huang

Someone pointed out to me that SWORDS is mentioned in a recent blog entry. When I went to look, I found a heartwarming mention of the book from an old co-worker at Blizzard North, Mike Huang.


Wow mike! I can't thank you enough for the kind words!