Portrait of Micael Priest by Sam Yeates
Really broken up over the news that Micael Priest has passed away. Such a sweet man, so ridiculously talented and totally a symbol of an Austin that has faded away.
He did the early art — like, most of it in the early days before we had an art team — for Ultima Online. He was a famed poster artist for Armadillo World Headquarters, rendering inked versions of Zappa and Willie Nelson and countless others in a detailed, hatched and stippled, bold cartoon style.
He was colorblind — I still remember when he thanked us for letting him know that he had made green people for UO by accident. I remember when he defended us during the run up to alpha, when Richard came to complain about the artwork in the game that Kristen and I had put in as placeholders until we got the real work, and Micael said “it’s not programmer art… it’s designer art! So it’s better!” I also remember walking into his office one day and being surprised by the presence of Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame); I fled in the presence of one of my heroes, and he told me after, “you should have stayed, I’d have introduced you!”
I thought of him often, but we had lost touch, because I am lousy at staying in touch with people. He wasn’t active online, and these days notifications are what passes for friendships. During UO crunch we all lived in each other’s pockets for months on end, and then… distance, and time.
It’s hard to imagine such a vital presence gone, but he leaves behind so much work, such a stamp on Austin culture. There was even a Micael Priest Day declared by the mayor, long ago.
Today also comes the news that Threadgill’s World Headquarters is closing; Micael’s art hangs all over the walls. Everything becomes ephemera, I suppose, to be auctioned off. We are left with the memories of smiles and warmth, of talent, and the unmistakable twinkle in his eyes.