Walking through Artist Alley in a Con can be one of the more fun experiences. It’s a soothing break from the rush of panels, events, and autographs. The work found there can range from fluffy fun, to whimsy, to super hero comics, all the way to bizarre and macabre. ShadowMyths is one of those cases went the art falls in different categories depending on who is looking at it. Some might see the art of Doug Hoppes scary or macabre but to me the ShadowMyths world is one of dark beauty, magic, and mystery.
Meet Doug Hoppes
Doug Hoppes has been drawing a large chunk of his life. His love for Doctor Strange comic books and Dungeons & Dragons inspired his early artistic endeavors but like many of us, Doug put aside drawing for “real world” things and got a degree in physics. In his thirties, he would return to art as a hobby and by the time he was in his early forties, he was learning plein-air painting and exhibited his work in art fairs and tourist galleries.
About three years ago, Doug and his family had moved to North Carolina. This meant rebuilding his network for gallery shows but as he discussed his art with his wife something became very clear to him. Doug shared with me.
I was talking about how I loved landscapes but couldn’t figure a way to get into the local gallery scene. She said…. “No… you don’t love landscapes. You LIKE them. You LOVE monsters. After two or three paintings were done for a gallery, you would do a fun painting (monster) for yourself. That’s what you should be doing.” So, I stopped doing the traditional work and started creating my fantasy paintings.
At that time, I started seeing how they fit into my world and the stories that could be told around them. This “passion”, as she calls it, is the reason why I spend a lot of my limited free time building my world. As she says, my eyes light up when I tell people about this world that I’m creating.
He usually works on his art about 20 hours a week, every week. He’s been doing that for years but he notes that became passionate about his work around the time he switched from painting lovely landscapes to painting his fantasy creatures, the ones that make up the ShadowMyths world. Based on watching Doug’s enthusiasm and energy at the convention when he was relating the ShadowMyths stories to people asking about them, I’d say his wife was spot on. In fact, I want to give his lovely wife a public thank you because Doug’s ShadowMyths world is nothing short of inspiring and evocative. Every painting begs you to see the stories with in them. Stories that are often sparked by the feeling of ancient mystery and dark beauty. ShadowMyths beckons the viewer not just to visit Doug’d world but to expand their own.
A Moment In Time
One of the first questions I tend to ask any artist is which is their favorite piece currently. Doug’s choice was A Moment In Time which you can see at the top of the post. This ironically is my favorite piece by him. I asked him to tell me a bit about it and what he sees in it.
My favorite piece, A Moment in Time, is about everybody and the small moments in your life. The painting is all about how those small fractions of a second make up the most memorable parts of your life. Not the thousands of hours before or afterwards… but those fractions of seconds. For me, the figures are me and my wife. I remember the first time that I saw her coming up the stairs to a party that I was having. In my book, they are the characters Kira and Selik’s Father. For many of my customers, they are themselves and that significant person who means something to them.
I see a couple sharing a quiet moment between themselves. There is nothing but them. No worries. No bills. No adventures. Nothing. Just them basking in the quiet moment with each other and knowing, sometimes, that that’s enough.
The reason that this stands out is because of the shared quietness that you see between people. You don’t have to be lovers. You could just be friends. In the end, it’s that quiet connection between people that care about each other.
I think there’s a strong lesson there for many of us in life. Art often carries with it the philosophy of the artist but equally as often mirrors the heart of the person viewing it. If you get a chance to meet and talk with Doug at a show it’s worth every second of your time.
Inspiring Others & Challenging Norms
While Doug did gallery showing for a time with his fantasy work, he has stopped. It’s apparent he truly enjoys conventions. I was curious as to what he enjoys most about them and I have to confess I was impressed with his response and seeing him engaging with the audience at the con it makes perfect sense.
I love meeting the people. The sales are always good but I really get excited when someone just falls in love with my vision. I’m extremely happy when it’s little girls because they are taught that they shouldn’t like my type of art. When they see it, and start coming up with their own ideas on weird creatures or skeletons to create and their parents are supportive, it’s a great feeling.
Being a girl myself, I could see exactly what Doug meant about loving the fact that little girls fall in love with his art. I was more than a bit pleased to hear that myself. His even related to us a really touching story from an art fair about a young lady impacted not by the lovely landscapes in his gallery but by the art that is a produce of Doug’s true calling.
I was selling my traditional landscapes but it was a slow show. So, I started doodling some skeletons in my sketch book. A mom and her little girl came over and we talked about my art and the little girl wanted to see what I was doing. I showed her the sketch and she loved it. So, I tore it out of my sketchbook, signed it and gave it to her. I get an email later that night from her mom thanking me. The little girl was so excited that she had been drawing her own skeletons and creatures on the drive home and that night. That made me feel pretty good. Inspiring another artist to think outside of what is normal and do what they love.
His story exemplifies one of the things I love about the art world … Freedom. Although it happens less now than it did when I was young; society still tends to push little girls toward conventional definitions of “pretty” and steer them away from artwork like Doug’s. Often the deterrents used are claims of “it’s spooky” or “you’ll have nightmares”. Fortunately, Doug hears from the girls and women that are drawn to his work and it clearly impacts him.
The main comment is that: “This is beautiful.” They don’t see the darkness. They don’t see the scariness. They see part of themselves in the piece. When they come to view the painting, there is always one piece that speaks to them. They don’t know why. It’s that emotional connection. When they hear the story, the realize why it spoke to them. The story of each piece seems to resonate for a particular person and time in their life… or something that they are currently going through.
It was this mix combine with his openness towards his fans that led us to ask him for an interview. I was particularly interested in the artwork that made up his ShadowMyths and the stories behind them. I asked Doug what inspired the ShadowMyths deck and how people use it.
I wanted to create my own art book. However, as you have noticed, I didn’t want the same old book that everybody has… a book full of paintings. I started out writing a philosophy book with each page having a painting and a moral story that goes with it. After spending about a year doing that, I realized… it was pretty boring. If I didn’t want to read it, why would others? So, my wife was saying that people are more interested in stories. So, I went with that approach. However, I didn’t know what story that I wanted to write. As I looked at a couple of my paintings, I started seeing a story that they told. I then laid out the images of all of my current work at that time and the story expanded. After I wrote the story that I saw, I realized that others have the exact same problem… coming up with the initial idea. This led to me creating the ShadowMyths decks.
I noticed Doug’s Patreon and I had to ask him about Ozul… a world of elementals, people, and wizards. I just had to know more about where Ozul came from and maybe a brief History.
When I created my story, I was thinking of my childhood… and lots of other kids… and things that bother me about a lot of young adult novels. When you are a kid, you want to go out and explore the world around you. That’s pretty natural. However, you also have this sense of immortality because, for the most part, you have led a sheltered life and your parents kept you away from harm. This sense of immortality allows you to think that you can do anything and be better than anyone. Well, as you grow and travel, you learn differently. So, I took the approach of starting with a teenager who thought the world revolved around him and he was better than everybody else. He’s put in situation where he doesn’t have a choice but has to deal with the problem. However, like most young people, when they learn that they are not immortal and have a major problem, the first reaction is to run away or look for help. So, that started his journey. Unlike most young adult books and movies, he’s just a normal kid. He has a special ability (the Artifact) but he doesn’t know how to use it. When he learns that everyone is after him to get it, he just wants the problem to go away.
That sounds like an amazing basis for a book or even a series. The depth and breadth of this world is just staggering. I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know Doug and his art as much as I have.
Where Can You Find Doug?
While you can obviously find Doug online at ShadowMyths.com, and at Patreon; I’d encourage you to try to catch him face to face at a convention. His upcoming shows include Raleigh Supercon and Gen Con. If you’d like to keep up to date on his convention appearances you can sign up for his newsletter on his site. If you like to say hi to Doug on social media and ask him more about his work and his world you can find him on both Facebook and Instagram.