The Talent of
Susan Renée Tomb
Since our beloved Firefly hit the airwaves, Susan Renee Tomb (11th Hour) has created many unique art pieces for the Browncoat fans as well as helping to promote the show.She's a prolific artist whose work you might have run across in the various Firefly communities. Susan is also an M80 award winner for her Firefly web banner, which helped to market the Firefly DVD release!Susan is a Browncoat that keeps on giving even to the point of sleep deprivation. Here's a look into her work and her love of Firefly.
Interview by Amy Kingman
Amy:I hear you stayed up for over 30 hours to get the “Firefly Life Lessons” poster to Adam. What kind of an experience was that, and how did you feel, knowing that Adam liked it so well he wanted to present it to Joss and the rest of the cast?
SRT:I have been known, on several occasions, to forgo sleep in order to complete a project. The work is the thing...
But it can make me rather spacey the next day. Hence that intensified what would have already been the somewhat surreal experience of meeting Adam. When I finally met Adam, I was running on adrenaline, substantial sleep deprivation, and the natural high of the “dream come true”... meaning being able to give prints of the Firefly Life Lessons posters to the people most intimately involved with Firefly.
Adam was just so considerate, charming and warm. I’m sure he could tell that I was a bit on the ragged side, and he was so calm and friendly... which was such a kindness to me. I had been so intent on just getting the posters to him that almost everything else fled from my mind. I didn’t expect him to take the time to visit and chat with me. I was really Alice in Wonderland. He also gave me some wonderful Firefly mementos, which overwhelmed me. So thoughtful of him, and I treasure these items. Adam even made the point to say that he was a fan of my work! That made me take a breath. Did I say already he was charming? Oh, and really good lookin’? Well he is. Whatta guy.
The reason why I put the extra push into getting the posters prepared was that Adam was taking them with him that night to a dinner at Joss’s house. Several of the cast members were going to be there... it was to be a very special night. So I was working hard to make some refinements to the poster design, little things here and there that I always wanted to adjust, plus a big boost in resolution. I now had a strong reason to get these changes made: Mr. Whedon himself, and the extraordinary cast, were going to be gifted with the posters... so they had to be the best I could make them.
It was “hush-hush” at the time, but the reason for the dinner was that Joss was going to tell the cast his plans for the Firefly movie! I had a feeling that might be the reason for the get together, and I felt that the posters would add an extra happy element to the occasion for everyone. This ended up being true as Adam e-mailed me the next day that Joss had shared the movie news with them, and that the posters did make a special evening even more special.
That filled my heart with so much happiness; it’s hard to put into words. To be able to give something back to the amazing people who brought Firefly to life is so gratifying, yes... even spiritual.
Yeah, I said spiritual. I said it and I meant it.
Firefly Life Lessons
Amy:Is there any particular person or "thing" from Firefly that you don't draw enough of?
SRT:Oh, the Stegosaurus.... definitely would have to be the Stegosaurus. Yes, that and the way the base of the console meets the pilot controls... actually that whole area....
Amy:How does creating your Firefly artwork, differ from any other kind of work that you do?
SRT:Whenever I create Firefly art, I dabble in the realm of copyright infringement. With my other art, not so much…
Amy:I enjoy your postcards and posters, what gave you the idea to do them?
SRT:The postcards were created during the big postcard campaign to save Firefly last year. They were put together fairly quickly and were geared mostly to give fans Firefly themed postcards to send. The designs were fairly straightforward... I wasn’t going for “high art”, just attractive images that communicated some of the spirit of the show.
As for the posters... the “Firefly Life Lessons” poster was a big ol’ love letter to Firefly. It was also a gift for us fans to enjoy, and for use in bringing new fans to Firefly. The poster was created during the very wrenching period right after Firefly was canceled, when Joss was doing his best to get the show picked up by another network.
The poster idea got started from a thread on the Official Firefly Forum titled “And what did we learn today? ;-)” (Thread #4881). The thread became very popular and lots of fans started contributing funny “lessons”... Firefly style. It was a fun way to celebrate some hi-sterical lines and attitudes from the show. Someone early on compiled a collection of the posts. Then another fan used the first main group of quotes and placed them over a soft opacity group shot of the cast to make a poster.
I had also wanted to do a poster, but my idea would need a lot of planning and crafting to get it the way I envisioned. I wanted to create something that encompassed several aspects of Firefly: the outstanding writing, the “other time” look, and also showcase the best lookin’ cast in the ‘verse. I edited much of the collected quotes: a few were similar versions of the same “lesson”; some needed correcting to be more faithful to the original writing; and I created several new ones to help balance out the characters, and to fill in some fun “lessons” that were missed in the original group.
I wanted to arrange the text so that it wouldn’t cover up any of the characters,and group the lessons nearest the person with which the lessons were most associated. On top of that, I also wanted the arrangement of the characters to reflect their relationships on the show. Let’s just say it took a lot of finessing to get the composition to achieve all of the goals.
One very significant quote came from an online script of “Our Mrs. Reynolds”.
This was a line that was cut from the broadcast version of the show, and I never would have found it if I hadn’t been doing research via the scripts. (Thank goodness for blatant fan copyright infringement.) The line was at the very end, when Mal had tracked down Saffron after her betrayal. Mal was telling her what makes the difference between someone like her, who lies and doesn’t form bonds with people, and someone like him, who still got the better of her because he has people who trust and help each other. The line read, “There’s good people in the ‘verse. Not many, Lord knows, but you only need a few.”
That line, along with the previous three which comprise the final portion of the poster, were a promise, a mantra, a battle cry, for everyone who was fighting for Firefly to continue. This was a message for the fans, and also for Joss and all who made Firefly possible, to keep the faith.
The “Firefly Life Lessons” poster was my intense need to express how much I loved Firefly. All my heartache over Firefly’s cancellation, at watching this shining jewel tossed away by a shortsighted network, and the refusal to let the scoundrels “win”, mixed with the deep respect and admiration for the brilliance of this work of art called Firefly... all these feelings found expression in the poster.
This may sound a bit over-the-top in the fan-love department, but Firefly does inspire passion. All the fans have felt this in varying degrees, and expressed it in our individual ways. Creating art is one of my most personal ways of expressing powerful emotions. And if I hadn’t, I think I may have spontaneously combusted!
The black & white “guerilla marketing” posters were a departure from the other art styles I did for Firefly. The goal was to create bold, intriguing designs that could be seen easily from a distance. Designs that have impact and get people curious about Firefly. These posters were created to be easy for any fan to print and make copies. I wanted to make the posters as accessible as possible so that everyone who wanted could help continue to promote the Firefly DVD. This is still very important because the DVD is the greatest way to continue building the fan base. And the more fans we can make in the next year, the bigger the audience will be when the Big Damn Mooooovvvvviiiieeee is released!
I’m just crazy in love with Firefly.
Sunset Strip - Marlboro Mal
Amy:What would you really like to create from Firefly that you haven't done yet?
SRT:I have a book idea... a marvelous, unique “art book” idea. But then there’s that pesky copyright infringement thingy again.
Amy:What is your favorite episode of Firefly and how would you express that in your work, if you haven't already? :)
SRT:My favorite episode of Firefly is “Out of Gas”. And yes, I have already created a rather moving piece of art in tribute of that story. Unfortunately, a good portion of it was destroyed in the fire sequence. Then more of it got sucked out into the vacuum of space. Then the bit that was left got shot by a gorram space pirate.
Amy:Who is your favorite Serenity crew member and why?
SRT:That’s a toughie. The way I feel about the characters reminds me of things I’ve read in articles about Firefly. I believe it was Nathan Fillion who said that each of the characters represents an aspect of Malcolm Reynolds. In a way, I feel like that too. I can personally relate in some way to each of the characters. If I were to narrow it down to only the female characters, I still relate quite strongly to each one of them.
I suffer no fools and speak my mind like Zoe. I have an affinity for machines, and am willing to dive in and do the work myself such as our intrepid Kaylee. I also appreciate beauty, refinement and grace, like Inara. And I’ve had several profound psychic experiences, and have often been seen as “the strange one” in my life such as River. But River is waaaaay better at math, and shooting people, than I am.
Amy:How do you hope others to feel about your work?
SRT:My goal has always been this: When people see my art, they gasp, drop to their knees, and experience a thunderous orgasm.
Amy:When you finish a Firefly piece, how does that make you feel?
SRT:Like I’ve cheated death one more time.
Amy:What do you feel is the most important lesson you've learnt from Firefly?
SRT:Never kiss 'em on the mouth.
That, and you’ve got to keep fighting to live the way you want to live, if I’m still flyin’ it’s enough... oh heck, just about everything on that ruttin’ poster...
Perfect Companion Poster
11th Hour (a.k.a. Susan Renée Tomb), born in N.Hollywood, CA, and currently resides in the hills of Hollywood. A self-taught artist and photographer, who began her professional art career as a teenager, for the spending money and saving her sanity. Did LOTS of drawings and painting before beginning the intense love affair (in late 1997) with creating art in partnership with her two good buddies: The MAC and Photoshop. Currently a free-lance artist who takes jobs as they come, and doin' what it takes to keep flying: commissioned art, production assistant, credit roll montage creation, independent film crew member, co-designer of gothic bookstore entrance, co-set designer, and produces a widely divergent array of graphic art projects. Loves new creative challenges... in fact, seeks them out. Then there's the Firefly thing...a show which swept her up and has been a powerful inspiration and joy to create art for.All the rest of the personal info is being saved for the memoirs.
Turn-ons: Firefly; being in “the zone” doing art; good friends; horses; thunderstorms; rocks; books; the marvel of computers, printers and cameras; music; testing myself creatively; the miracle of nature in all her forms.
Turn-offs: FOX Network decisions; cleaning the litter box; fuzzy meat; rude, stupid and/or mean people; empty magazine; ignorance; the chore of laundry in all her forms.
Next Editon Coming Soon to a Computer Near You!
Browncoats.com would like to thank Susan Renée Tomb (11th Hour) for taking the time to answer our questions and for showing us how Firefly has influenced her life and her art.
If you have a Firefly Artist you would like to recommend for the Artist Showcase of the month please email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org