New artwork in progress

Here is a private commission ‘in process.’  I thought it might be interesting for some to see my current method for doing a painting like this one.  Sorry in advance for the quality of the pictures… I just periodically snapped a quick pic to show progress:

The first picture shows the original sketch that I sent to the client plus the drawing transferred to the painting surface via pencil sketch.

The second shows me having basically ‘blocked in’ the environment in greys and blacks.  I learned the hard way that it is much easier to paint what goes behind something first (which seems bleedingly obvious now that I know it).  I also added some indications of shadows.

In the third picture, I have blocked in the ‘local color’ of things.  I.e.: if the warrior’s tunic is yellow, I paint it yellow.  It has a little shape from the blocking in background stage (where I added some shadow detail — which was me skipping ahead but it doesn’t really matter now)

In the fourth picture, I am adding some shadows and details.  I still have a ways to go, but one can see it starting to take shape.  I hope the client likes it!

More thoughts on artists who ought to illustrate your next indie RPG product

Rereading my last post on this topic, I realize that it comes across as too bitchy and negative. I ought to remind myself that the ‘art’ in RPG books usually really ought to be termed ‘illustration.’ It’s not there to ‘change my life’ or give the viewer the equivalent of an aesthetic orgasm; it’s there to illustrate.

My last post coincided with some discussion of Grognardia’s picture of a woman and a man in plate armor about to open a door in a ruin, including some related posts like here and here. I think the kiltedyaksman nailed it (wow, that sounded perverse). But his post reminded me on why I love the art from the late 70s era RPG products — it had an energy I find lacking in other ‘fantasy art.’ Opinions, being like assholes, means that everyone has one, etc., so take mine with a grain of salt. But I guess I would like to urge indie producers who are looking for art to find someone they enjoy working with and try turning them loose. No one is going to get rich off of this stuff, so we might as well have some fun with it.

As good or better is for people who don’t think of themselves as “artists” to give it a try. Back in the 70s, I heard that someone published a zine that had drawings of guitar finger tabs of three different guitar chords. It said, “Here are three chords. Now go form a band.” From that attitude, a lot of music came. I’m sure a lot of it wasn’t something I would care to listen to more than once — but some of it was great. And maybe indie rpg publishing (or the OSR) could be less about “mastery” or being slick and more about doing for ourselves. That would make this the best Christmas ever.

I think one of ther happy accidents of my own youthful enthusiasm for fantasy art is the fact that Gygax couldn’t afford the artists he wanted for TSR products because they cost too much… so he had to ‘make do’ with the likes of more ‘downmarket’ artists like Otus, Trampier, Wham and Sutherland while the ‘real’ fantasy artists made a lot more money painting Tolkien calendars and Star Wars posters. When I heard Gygax say he preferred Larry Elmore to all of the artists who illustrated the TSR books I had grown up with and loved, I thought, “What the fuck, Gary?!?” I guess Gary has the right to like whatever Gary likes — I can’t take that away from him (and hope I wouldn’t try) — but I wouldn’t have devoured The AD&D Monster Manual if it had been illustrated by the people Gary actually wanted but couldn’t afford. The slicker art of that era just didn’t light my fire. All these years later I still love that picture of the Rakasha (sp?) in a smoking jacket firing up a bowl (with a tiny Wham critter on his desk) by Trampier from the original Monster Manual. Or the Remorhaz drawing from the same book. Or the giants. Or any of the demons/devils. Great stuff.

At the time that I got into the D&D stuff, I remember liking David Sutherland’s drawings a lot less than Trampier’s. They were often rushed-looking and poses looked awkward. Since then, I’ve found a lot more to love in his work, especially the black and white work.

So, some other artists who I think deserve admiration, accolades, attention, etc.:

J. Bingham, who has been working quietly and without a lot of “my-own-horn-tooting” on various indie published things — see his work at Ostensible Cat. His recent work has been blowing me away and inspiring me to try to push my own hatch line work.

Someone I know only as ‘Human Mollusk.’ I don’t know if he has done any RPG work, but he would do great monster illustrations; I just know it.

The freaky, psychotic imaginings of art by Carl, who did a very evocative drawing of the ‘Stonehell’ dungeons’ Ogre Gateway. He hasn’t updated his page in forever; I hope he is still drawing.

Mark Allen, who I think did the drawing of the knight and the woman for Dwimmermount. I wish I could afford copies of all of the stuff he has been doing for Arduin, but my wallet is really light these days.

Jaybird, Glad and ATOM of Three Headed Troll Artworks. I see more artwork from Andy “Atom” Taylor than the other two, mostly because I think he posts more in places where I happen to see it.

Michael Bukowski
hasn’t done any RPG work as far as I know, but look at his work and try to tell me that he shouldn’t, huh?

Aos is pretty dismissive of his own talents, but I think his work has a raw vitality and whimsy that should not be underestimated. He has been posting some kick ass maps lately and I love the way he mixes up the genres… people wearing gasmasks and jockstraps carrying AK-47s and swords while riding kangaroos. Plus he is just always making shit up and posting it — that counts for a lot.

edit: add Jason of Underground Ink, who has apparently done a bit of work for Fight On! and similar. Cool stuff! Slash! Pow!

edit more: Dennis Dread’s “The Battle for Art!” Heavy metal!

Theo Ellsworth “Thought Cloud Factory News.” The name alone begs you take a peek, but you will stay for the art.

There are lots more… people have posted their own favorites in the responses to the last post.

Some Artists who ought to illustrate your next indie RPG product

No, I’m not posting this to flog my own pony… although I ought to at least provide a link to some of my own stuff here:

One of my complaints about the trend in OSR artwork is that most of it seems to be kind of ‘same-same’ to me (note that this is also a criticism I would apply to my own stuff). Too many things produced by the OSR community seems to be to make it look like it belongs in the circa 1978-1980 TSR catalog (right down to the fonts and page layout). I’d like to see more products try for different aesthetics. Please step away from the ‘Magic The Gathering’ inspired digital tablet art, or the goatees and spikes of the 3e era, or the ‘ready for the cover of the next Forgotten Realms novel’ of 4e or the line-by-line, pose-by-pose aping of what has been published before (yes, guilty as charged). And for god’s sake, NO MORE royalty free clip-art. I’m sick of seeing Romantic 19th century illustrations from some forgotten edition of Ivanhoe with stoic knights and weeping damsels in books that are supposed to be about ogres and trolls and fireballs blowing shit up. How about something new and different?

Sean Aaberg has done some work for Labyrinth Lord (notably the devils and demons in the ‘Advanced Edition Companion’). Check out his Flickr pages He also frequently contributes to ‘Eaten By Ducks.’ I love the bold lines and crazy shit going on; it’s got a Trampier meets Rat-Fink in a punk rock zine feel that doesn’t take itself too seriously. He is one prolific son-of-a-gun, making zines, posters, buttons, stickers, t-shirts, etc. When does he find time to sleep?

Fukitor” draws Hard R/X rated semi-pornographic, lurid, tasteless and horror-absurd comics which seem to center around beheading, torture, mutilation, satanism, sexploitation movie themes and other nastiness. Basically, it looks like everything that ‘Fuckus on the Family‘ thinks can go wrong with people letting their imaginations run too wild seems to be fair game to this guy. I don’t know if he has done any RPG work, but I think he seems like a natural fit for it.

Not for the faint of heart, and, needless to say, Not Safe For Work (unless you work someplace pretty unusual).

I’ve mentioned Skinner before, so I won’t do more than mention him today. Visit his site. That’s what I am talking about. If Max Beckmann had been born in Polynesia instead of Germany and done a lot of acid instead of serving in the First World War and studied under Jack Kirby instead of the German Impressionists it might have looked something like that. Or not. The guy sells paintings of wizards in pointy hats to art collectors. I’m sure he could do the cover of your next adventure.

Peter Mullen has done a lot of work for Swords & Wizardry, Goodman Games and others. I love and admire his unique work, with his goofy, desperate, skinny heroes, hallucinogenic monsters and creepy settings. All his pictures seem to tell a story, with figures often pointing at some unseen threat out of frame, critters ready to pounce from some unseen place and other madness. I love his line work and his sensibility. Some of the stuff has a real Peter Max vibe to it (in a good way) — simultaneously threatening and deceptively whimsical. If I was hiring artists to illustrate something Swords & Sorcerorish, his name would be on the top of my list.

OK, that is all for now. After this dose of inspiration, I need to get back to work.

Please add your favorites in the comments section — I’m always looking for new talent to steal from. Full disclosure: I don’t personally know any of these people (but I have traded emails with a few of them)… so there is nothing in this for me other than I think they do good work. And if you hire any of these guys to illustrate your next publication, I won’t charge a finder’s fee.

New art for Khunmar

I posted about this on aldeboran, but, since it is ‘art related,’ I figure I better post about it here, too.

Below is one ‘corrected’ drawing for Khunmar Level 1 (kobold caves) which may get corrected again.  In version 1, the kobolds are dwarf-like (which I like) but look too big.  In version 2 I have replaced them with the dog-headed kobolds of the AD&D monster manual.  The size is better but I like the shabby-looking dirty dwarfs better.  There may be a 3rd version in which I have shabby looking dirty dwarfs of tiny size.  The good thing about this is I don’t redraw the whole thing — just the part with the kobolds in it — and then make it into one image via photoshop magic.  The 2nd (or 3rd, depending on how you count) picture is some feckless dude in plate armor getting the shit blasted out of his gizzards by a lightning dragon as his comrades look on. (Click any image to see bigger)

right monsters, wrong size...

wrong monsters, right size

Zzzzzzzap! Owww! Fuck!

Updated art for Mines of Khunmar

As time allows I’ve been working on some pictures for the Mines of Khunmar project here and there. If all goes as planned, it will be a pretty art-heavy book because that is where my interest is.
Earlier, I presented this drawing of an encounter level on level 1 (the Kobold Caves) (click to see bigger):

I noted that in the drawing I had taken the original D&D at it’s word that Kobolds were ‘dwarf-like’ rather than dog men… but in the drawing they just look too big. I think my assumption in making the drawing is that foreshortening would cause the humans to look smaller and the kobolds to look bigger, but it just doesn’t work. So I decided to fix that by drawing a new set of kobolds (and making them dog-men this time) and scanning them and them putting them in the drawing via the magic of photoshop like so (again, click to see bigger):

OK, that’s better.
Here’s another one that tickles my fancy:

OK, that is all for now.

Zorion the SwordLord

I was just poking around the internets when I came across Benjamin Marra’s blog.  If that wasn’t good enough, from there I found my way to Zorion, The SwordLord; Space Barbarians of the Ultimate Future Dimensions.  Awesome and I am not kidding.  It’s the 80s D&D on crack; I love it.  Looking forward to more updates.

I hope when it is all done, Marra offers a print version.  I’m not even thinking it needs color (although color cover might be nice).  Sparkling B&W suits me fine.

New Mosaics

Here are a few more of my new mosaic projects:

The God problem / the no god problem

I don’t generally find myself perturbed when other people believe or don’t believe in a god (or any sort).  I only mind when other people insist that I have to live my life according to the values presented by them by their god.  If I ate bacon, I wouldn’t mind that people who kept kosher didn’t eat bacon.  And if I were to be at their home for a meal, I would eat whatever they were serving and be grateful for it.  And if they uttered a prayer or lit candles or spilled some mead on the floor for Thor, I wouldn’t object or interfere.  And if they wanted me to hold hands or sing Kumbaya or shout ‘Amen,’ I would do so.  When in Rome and all that.  But I wouldn’t tell them, “Yes, I believe in your god.”  And I would find it rude if the devout insisted that I HAD to believe in their god or accept being proselytized to.

Similarly, I have to admit that I get kind of sick of some of my atheist friends who feel the need to respond with snark and mockery whenever they encounter someone else who believes.  Some people’s certainty that there is no god can be as irritating and smug as some people’s certainty that there is a god and everyone who does not believe in THEIR god is gonna fry.

I find talking about religion with both militant atheists and militant believers to be exhausting and boring.  I don’t know if there is a god, nor do I care.  I think if there is a god and I am going to go to some sort of punishment after I die for not having managed to pick the right god out of the thousands available to believe in, then it is probably just another lottery that I didn’t win.  Besides, I wouldn’t like a god that plays such a rigged game with his/her/its followers.

WOTC cease and desist resquest

It’s not my fight, but found a link about Wizards asking people to take down or modify OSRIC stuff because of I.P. issues:

It is not something I know anything about, but thought some readers might be interested.

Edit: changed title from “WOTC cease and desist orders” to “WOTC cease and desist resquest.”

Are you going to be your character?

I was reading the blogs this morning and stumbled on Noism’s Monsters & Manuals blog where he had recently posted an interesting read about ‘Life Lessons.’ One of the things that struck me was his ‘life lesson #1’:

You really, absolutely, definitely, unquestionably, indisputably, do not need a detailed character background before play begins. In fact, all you really need is a name, a class, stats, and some equipment, and you’re good to go – because within five minutes of the game beginning you will without fail find your character beginning to take on a personality of his own. This strange and almost mystical emergence of character through play is one of the best things about the hobby, and it amazes me that people have been so determined, for decades, to kill the concept.

I thought it was a good summation of some of my recent disenchantment with ‘new school’ rpgs (if I may use such a broad term).

But as I thought further on it, I began to question if the ‘character’ (or ‘avatar’ or whatever you want to call it) really needs any personality of his/her/its own. If I sit down to play D&D and I create the character ‘Stumbo the Dwarf,’ do I really need to justify what I have ‘Stumbo’ do beyond the idea that I may want to do it? Is “Stumbo will open the door because he is by nature greedy and curious and he hopes to find treasure,” to be considered better roleplaying than, “Stumbo will open the door because I want to see what is behind it“?

I’m starting to wonder if all characters can’t just be an excuse for ME to have fun exploring the fantasy construct of the imaginary world with my fellow players (without death and other consequences). Sure, as Stumbo I’ll do things I would never attempt in real life, like staring down medusa or jumping over pits filled with poisoned spikes, but start to think that creating a ‘character’ in terms of personality attributes begins to fell a bit artificial to me, or a case in which we are trying to make Dungeons & Dragons more like a cooperative novel. And I question if it is suited to that role.