Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Art Statistics...

(Because my buddy Bill Bodden started this and whatever Bill does I have to do as well...because I roll like that.)

Counting only from July 31st to Today...

I have completed the following:

12 Full Page Illustrations (Published)
8 Half-Page Illustrations (Published)
47 Quarter-Page Illustrations (Published)
----------------------------------------
---------------
67 Paid Projects

Unpaid projects: 12

Personal projects: 19

In 26 Weeks, that is 3.8 Illustrations / week. (This is taking in to account communication time, getting approvals at various stages of the project). Not bad. I can do better.

Publishers this year: (Contracts signed, work completed within this year, or scheduled for 2009)
Rogue Games
One Bad Egg, LLC
Catalyst Game Labs, LLC
Hero Games
Crafty Games
Atlas Games
Flames Rising. com
Various small press publishers and e-zines.

Next Year:
I have a few things lined up for January (I'm already working on them, trying to get a little ahead of the curve).
Looking to do some more work for myself, fill out the portfolio with stuff Art Directors want to see rather than necessarily published works (as a lot of that is what that particular AD wanted to see. Need to get back on my follow-up system, hammering out follow-up emails to everybody and their brother. I'd like to keep my schedule filled up about a month in advance at all times if at all possible. It'll be nice though to get to post a lot of my work up finally (as it hits the publication date). Ironically as a lot of it gets published, it's already old and my skills have already surpassed it (this is one of the reasons for doing some stuff for me, it hits the gallery ASAP and is the current skillset).

Conventions coming up, and I need to get my schedule sorted out.
More social networking. More SEO stuff. More fishing for work in every niche I can find. Need to expand my client-base. Hopefully shifting gears a bit to the paperback/ novels market.

How is this all possible?
My wife. Straight up. If it weren't for her working at the Sheriff's Dept I'd end up going back to IT and being miserable, doing odd bits of art here and there and that's about it. One of the keys I've learned this year is that when I can do this full-time, every day, I learn a LOT faster and improve almost overnight. The work I did last year and even early to middle of this year is absolute shite in comparison to what I can do right now. All of this from having my hands in it, every day, and learning a new trick or tip with every illustration I do. There's just no substitute for drawing and working in Photoshop every single day. All of this thanks to an awesome wife who affords me this luxury.



Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Satisfaction...

There is something awesome about being able to scratch a project off the work-board as "completed" and move on to the next one.

For me, I have a dry erase board sitting in front of me where I keep track of my projects and deadlines. This morning I completed one task and am moving on to the next.

When I'm working on a project, I give it 100%. No such thing as half-assing Project A to knock it off the list so I can get to the juicy Project B. I do sometimes have to put aside non-paying work in favor of paying work, but I don't cheap out on quality at all. The way I look at it: if it has my name on it (or it's credited to me) I need to do work I'm proud of. MY NAME IS ON IT!

I love my job.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Fan Film of...Quality!


THE HUNT FOR GOLLUM - FULL Trailer 1 from Independent Online Cinema on Vimeo.

The Luskan Campaign

So we started the campaign on Christmas. The setting: Luskan, 25th of Nightal, 1357.
Kay has a brand new shiny rogue, level one. Human of course named Meg.

Meg is the daughter of a carpenter. A good man in a bad city. He's tried to shelter Meg from the influences of the city, but there's only so much he could do. Meg got involved with ruffians associated with Rethnor's Silver Blades. He father, upon hearing of this snapped, beating Meg badly and causing a permanent rift between them, and consequently driving her further in to rebellion and in to the clutches of the web of intrigue between the Five Captains of Luskan.

Meg does odd jobs here and there. She's not a member of any gang or guild, but a "friend of hers" is Cullen, a low-level soldier for the Silver Blades: Rethnor's Gang. Winter in Luskan is hard. The merchant area is almost empty except for the permanent residents who largely work from their homes. No caravans are running this time of year. Shipping is as normal, and the Five Captains make their wages by skimming the cream of every shipment...but the low-level thugs have to earn their pay through the rackets.

Unaligned rogues and other thugs have to make due with the scraps they get from the members of the five gangs:
Rethnor's Silver Blades
Kurth's Night Masks
Baram's Hunter's Claws
Taerl's Dark Jesters
Suljack's Blood Reapers

Meg got to earn a little on a job trying to wring some gold out of a butcher who was courting another gang for protection, even though he clearly lives on Silver Blade turf!

Meg and Garrick, her burly friend was to "clarify things" for this cheeky butcher.
They broke in, and alerted the butcher, who was in no mood to deal with any more attempts of coercion. The butcher got stabbed in the guts by Meg, and Garrick beaned him in the head, knocking him unconscious. They tore the place apart in making it look like a robbery, lifted some gold and a bit of meat and reported back to Cullen.

The butcher lived and apparently the butcher's shop got cleaned out of all the stock on hand. The butcher is taking his "case" to the "Captain's court" hoping for some sort of justice.

Meg has taken up a part-time gig at The Cutlass, waiting tables when Delly find's herself "otherwise entertained". It's a bit of gold, she's fed and she hears all kinds of news.

Meg took a quick job for a little old grandmother who has rats in her basement. nice old lady who can't pay much, but offers baking services. Meg soon found herself fighting three dire rats, which very nearly killed her. She staggered back upstairs afterward and collapsed unconscious.The kindly grandmother patched her up and Meg recovered enough to make it home, where she fell deathly ill for several days. She earned a couple gold and gets pies every week for as long as she wants them. Something strange about the old lady though...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, an E-Card of sorts...

While most illustrators draw something of their own for "Christmas Cards" I'm choosing to showcase the art of a long lost buddy of mine, Damian Zari. He's awesome.

2008 has been an awesome year. Awesome as in "Awe Inspiring", not necessarily "good" by any stretch for many people. As I sit here in frosty Wisconsin, thinking about Christmas, years past, and the future I am reminded of how many wonderful things happened this year.

1d10 Reasons 2008 Rocked!


10. The return to full-time illustration and the line in the sand...
This year I faced a choice. I life-changing choice. This choice has come with a heavy debt, but the payoff is ultimately the freedom of my soul. I left my on-again, off-again IT career. I sunk a chunk of cash in to a whole new re-branding/ product recognition campaign in order to help drive my freelancing career. New domain, new emails, new blogs, cast away all the old handles and aliases.
Several people have been key to this endeavor and for the sake of brevity I'll only name a few: Jason L Blair, Leanne Buckley, Matt McElroy, Monica Valentinelli, Adam Fuckin' Jury, Jess Hartley, Bill Bodden, Matt Forbeck, Todd Lockwood, jeebus, the list goes on and on. Not even mentioning the people I've worked for who have been awesome.

This endeavor has not been without hardship. Financially we're taking a massive hit. Without gory details, it's huge. Even with the financial hit I consider us in a solid position and making long strides upward towards not only success as an illustrator (which I think I'm pretty much on-target) but financially as well. I have tons of work flowing in. As a matter of fact this month I started turning down work due to having only so many hours in a day. I've retained my 100% on or under deadline reputation and not once sacrificed quality. It's all working! I'm gaining momentum!

The lure of going back to IT has been there. Several times actually. The finances have been so tight on occasion that...well...they've been tight. And sometimes I looked hopeless. It would be easy to give up the art, suck it up for the sake of a dollar. That I found is the easy road. I learned in my absorption of all things freelance, from Matt Forbeck about the Season of the Pitch and the cyclic nature of freelancing. That got me by. I hung in there and the contracts began to flow! Thanks Matt!

9. Seeing old friends and new...
Thankfully part of my work as a freelancer is attending conventions. It's absolutely crucial to go, see and be seen at these conventions. Shake hands with all the people you've worked for and make new contacts. This year I was a man with a plan! I showed up with business cards, new domain and web gallery and hand-out portfolios. I shook a lot of hands. Ultimately it comes down to numbers. A small percentage of those you talk to and shake hands with will actually contract you. I'm something of a zealot when it comes to organization and follow-up. I've actually got a spreadsheet with every publisher I contacted and like clockwork I followed up with them. I'm getting work from maybe 10%. All of this I attribute to being able to put names to faces and following up.

In addition to simply working conventions, it is absolutely wonderful to get to see old friends. So much of my life is lived online. I don't have an office other than my living room and PC and drawing boards. I'm a bit of a freak when it comes to being online a lot. For me it's how I get (almost) human interaction. With that comes a multitude of "Online Friends". The fun part of Conventions is that those "Online Friends" get to get promoted to "FRIENDS" pretty easily. I haven't been let down yet. Thank you Jeff, Chris, Andy, Darykk, Dan, Bull (my GenCon Roomies) as well as all the other folks I wait all year to see.

8. My Wife the Cop...
Okay, she's not a cop YET. She's at the top of the list though for the next class, so soon she will be. One of the things that irks me the most, about anyone really is people who bitch and complain about things...yet do nothing to change the issue. As far as I am concerned, if you aren't willing to make the changes for yourself, and do something about your own life, even make the effort, then I have no sympathy for you.

"The gods help those who help themselves"

For years my wife bitched about her job. She hated them.
"Well...what do you WANT to do?"
"I dunno."
For years. It bugged the shit out of me. I don't really care what she does as long as she sets a course and steams at any speed in that direction. As long as she was miserable in her career, I could never be happy, so I had to suck it up and drive on.

A year ago she accepted a position with the Sheriff's Department. She files reports with the FBI. Incident-Based Reporting or IBS. Great job, she loves it. Here's the icing on the cake. Once there she decided on what she wanted to do as a career. She wants to do Crime Scene Investigations. CSI Kay. All she has to do is become a deputy and go in to that unit. He second career choice is Detective. She tested and interviewed and did all the steps and is now out of 60 applicants tested, and 25 chosen, she's #7 on the list for hire and school.

I'm so proud I cannot see straight.
(Am I terrified of her being a cop? Yes. But really, when it's her time, or anyone's "Time" it doesn't matter whether you're a cop, or stay-at-home mom...your time is up. Maybe that's my years of Infantryman attitude or my norse-ness showing through)

7. My relationship with the gods...
I'm not overly religious. The Gods, or God...really...nobody knows. That said, I do keep a little shrine and give offerings. Usually Olives and Water or wine if we have it, replenished as it goes dry. When things go well for any reason, I thank the appropriate gods. I'm a thankful person and on the off chance Thor, Odin or even Hermes is listening, I gave thanks when it was due.

I think that when people "pray" for help all the time, it uses up "credit" with the gods. The gods are more likely to be helpful if you've built up good credit already. I think the gods survive on the offerings and power we give them.

Of course I could be wrong. If so, well...I'm out nothing short of a few thanks to nobody and a few olives and a cup of wine every few days to a week. Hedging your bets is a very period practice.

While I myself my not see eye to eye with many of my Christian friends, my relations with them has been exceptional. I have no disdain for Christians. I freely admit that I may be barking up the wrong tree(s) religiously-speaking. I have respect for those of almost any faith who are honest and true to it (not hypocrites). Belief in something, anything is important to me. Even if that belief is Atheist.

6. We have our health!
We've largely been healthy as horses this year. Small bits aside I think we've done well. Thank the Gods!

5. Illuxcon!
As recommended by Todd Lockwood, this is THE con to go to this year. If I go to no other...THIS is the one to go to. At least for being a Sci-Fi/ Fantasy Illustrator and Concept Artist, et cetera, blablabla. All the best people are going and it's a learning convention, based around hands on learning of techniques, etc.

4. Gaming!
I have been fortunate to get some gaming in this year and will continue to do so next as well. I think it's important for anyone who works in the gaming industry to play games. You've got to. Otherwise how do stay abreast of what's going on, what works, what doesn't? Without active participation you're developing in a box and relying on theory and other people's opinions.

3. Getting back to my gaming roots...
Thanks to the efforts of many "Grognards" I've begun having more of an appreciation for Dungeons & Dragons in it's original and early forms and become a student of The Evolution of the RPG in a manner of speaking. In the course of these studies I've learned to love and hate some of the prevailing attitudes out there. I learned (and am still learning) that there are a wide variety of games and players, play-styles and all that...and ultimately, regardless of what any of the more vocal critics/ opinionists say, ultimately there is NO ONE TRUE WAY.

Thanks to all of this, I have been able to dive in to the works of Pulp Fantasy, especially the works of Robert E. Howard and the stories of Conan the Cimmerian.

2. Politics...
This has been a very political year. Understandably so. I'm glad the reign of G.W. Bush is almost over. I'm glad we have Obama incoming and I believe that things will improve with him at the helm. I'm no fool, nothing will happen overnight. It's going to be "a tough row to hoe" but I think as long as Americans work together as Americans it'll get done. The coming of Obama isn't going to be all sunshine and flowers either. Actually, if anything I'm hoping for a moderate result out of all of this. I want to see Democrats and Republicans quit this bipartisan bullshit angling and work together for a change. See the extremists in BOTH camps ostracized and see the middle make a difference. Maybe it's a pie in the sky...but it's a hope.

1. My family...
The most important thing is that my family; My Wife and I, out four-legged kids, and the folks I've chosen as family, whether blood-relatives or not are as tight or tighter than ever. Most importantly Kay and I are closer than ever, which is almost impossible as we've always had the idyllic relationship. We're almost never apart and while most couples would get on each other's nerves, we don't. We actually far prefer each other's company to anyone else's. Actually if we're not careful we hibernate and see nobody at all (which isn't healthy). It's been eight years now and we're still joined at the hip...happy just be in each other's presence, the very best of friends. Absolutely honest, at all times, able to speak of anything, encouraged to disagree, always learning...together. I keep thinking it can't get any better, but every year it does. Every year with her is the best year of my life. I wouldn't trade my life for anything.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cold...

Usually I'm fairly stoic about the cold. Between the military and my upbringing...I can deal with cold temperatures pretty well.

Dude, it's frigging cold out there!

Add to this my own laziness has turned and bit me in the ass.

I got a snow-blower this summer from a neighbor who got a new one. It's a hand-me-down but it's operational (I hope. I haven't tested it)
So I've dragged ass about getting a full gas can and some two-cycle oil (yeah, it has to be mixed, which I've never done before).

Well...it's -8F outside, Windchill of -35, with a couple feet of snow on the ground. I've been shoveling lately because it's been powder-y and I need the exercise (I broke my back in 2003, and I've pretty much avoided physical labor ever since).

So now I'm buried at the house. I need to get off my ass and use the snow-blower. Unfortunately, I'm out of gas and oil. I need to drive to to go get some. The car is buried with snow and the driveway is completely covered. But I have a snow-blower! [loop back to the beginning]

Well CRAP!
So I went out and shoveled the driveway clear. My facial hair froze over like the dudes on National Geographic. It was kind of cool actually, albeit a bit painful.

Guess what!
Car won't start. Battery is crapping out, lugging over.
OKAY. I get it! I'm a lazy Mo-Fo who should have prepped this months ago. I got it. I learned the lesson. Thank you Karma. I see your point. I'll be good. You can stop pimp-slapping me upside the head now.

I have a jumper-Battery-thingy warming up. I'll get some gas and oil. I'm back inside and warmed back up. I need to get some work today, and maybe sneak in a couple hours of NWN2 tonight as a treat!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Update: 20 DEC 08

Okay, it's a working weekend!
(aren't they always when you're self-employed/ freelancing?)

I have maps to wrap up for Richard and the Rogues for Colonial Gothic. Due 12/28
2 more images for a magazine, due 12/21
27 images (just sketches) for Aaron for the card game, due 12/25
Hero Games/ Dragons I have 7 or so to do by 1/15
Catalyst, 10 SR4 images due 1/15 as well.

I've got a leg up on most of these or at least know what I'm doing.

Took a break, played some D&D last night. Nice! We're possibly reverting back to v3.5 or even AD&D 1E. WOW!
Maybe as a treat I'll run a bit of D&D 3.5 for Kay (Her Luskan Campaign). Failing that I can do some NWN2.

I'm pretty much snowed in anyways...so it's not like I'm going anywhere.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Drama cards, a repost from long long ago.

One thing I've done in most of my games is use what I call Drama Cards. Originally the idea came from a buddy who used Torg Cards but I simplified it because at the time I couldn't get my hands on any Torg Cards.

Here's the gist of it.

I use a standard deck of playing cards. Remove all the cards I don't need. Usually this is the 6-10 cards but this could vary to your tastes and the game system used with.

That leaves the face cards (I pull half of those too), the jokers and the 1-5 cards. At the beginning of a game session, I shuffle and the Players draw three cards each*. Cards are useful of that game session only, no hold overs to a later game, use em or lose em.
(*edited for clarity. Thanks Restless.)

Basic Rules.
The cards can never be used for your own character. They HAVE to be used for another PC OR NPC. Yes, you can help an NPC if you like, even an antagonist. (which has been done several times by my own group to curtail a PC being a prick)

RED Cards are for NON-COMBAT conflicts.
BLACK cards are for COMBAT conflicts.

The 1-5 Cards are a bonus to a roll. Any roll.
Face cards are an auto-success.
Joker is wild. Not only an auto-success, but a spectacular auto-success. This is how you cheat death and survive the vorpal blade somehow. Doesn't mean you're unscathed, but you somehow manage to survive a fall down Niagara Falls.

It's also important to narrate out the use of the cards/ successes for dramatic effect.

*Note: with the Drama cards in use I tend to be much more strict in my die-rolling, even rolling in front of people. They now have the tools to save themselves. I don't need to shelter them from a death by bad dice.

Work update!

For those interested: I'm currently working on a number of maps for Rogue Games' Colonial Gothic line. Yay cartography!

D&D 3.5: Edited for Homebrew use.

I've always loved D&D. I started in 1983 with 1st Ed AD&D (orange binding) and have played every version so far. D&D has a lot of things that I enjoy as far as flavor goes. Vancian magic, named spells, certain monsters and the way some things have always worked.

Now I also prefer the rules to be light. 1st Ed AD&D was pretty simple. The THAC0 thing was a little cumbersome, but otherwise it was pretty straightforward. Still had all the bits of D&D I love.

2nd ED was largely the same, though it did start adding a lot of optional rules which IMO kind of muddied the waters as far as simplicity goes, but the core of it was largely the same as 1st Ed.

3rd Ed (and 3.5) introduced some serious alterations to the game. Most of the original flavor was there, but there was a definite shift towards a balance between Player and GM. Lots of new toys for the players to tweak and adjust their characters. Some of those changes though I have always chafed at.

Largely...the Attack of Opportunity. Tied to the AoO is the grid and movement in squares...which has always brought me to an uncomfortable cross between minis game and RPG.

I love minis. I have several minis games. That said, I use minis in RPGs only in a very limited sense. I don't use squares, measurements are approximated and physical representations with minis are just for a vague overall impression of the scene.

Not using a grid eliminates the AoO and a dozen feats.

The reasoning for this is that use of the grid, 5-foot steps, measurements, really takes away from what I'm trying to achieve in a game that I'm running. I don't want a minis game...I want a fast and lean fight (when it comes up) with as little system interaction as possible. I want the focus to be on "I slide under the ogre's legs and stab him in the jimmy!" not I make a tumble check, I have mobility so I'm not incurring an AoO, and I have a bonus to my attack because of X, Y and Z.

Do AoO happen? Sure. I keep it as a tool for GM use when PCs do something cool or stupid, roll well or botch really badly.
"Ooh, the orc charges over the table (clatter of dice) and ooof, he trips, landing at your feet, sword flying away...you get a free shot at him!".

Out of the original 3.5 List of Feats, I've edited a total of 14. most are regarding AoO. A couple are regarding Dodge, which I've always thought was kind of ridiculous (Dodge is something anyone should be able to do IMO).

Another area of editing was in the area of Actions in combat.
Largely it's the same, but I handle it a bit more simply and "hand-wavy". In a nutshell you can move and act in your action. Some things like loading a crossbow or casting spells take all your effort to do, so you forgo one of the two. That's about it. I hate getting bogged down in "you can take a move-equivalent action, a normal action, and oh, you have that quickened so that's a Move equivalent too...bah!" screw that. [wave hands] Good enough, move on.

Other than that D&D 3.5 is intact. Metamagic feats are a bit cumbersome, but if someone ants to use them, so be it.

I know, these edits a lot of folks won't dig. That's cool. Welcome to my homebrew!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Killing PCs

When I run a game, I admit, I am hesitant to kill PCs.

Usually part of this is due to the fact that I want the players to really dig their characters, put a lot of effort in to them, love playing them. They're NOT just a piece of paper or a pawn on a chessboard.

That said, I want their experience to be fun, scary, with a constant threat of danger and possibly even mortality.

If a PC is to die, I really want it to happen in a meaningful way if at all possible (though in a grim Dark Heresy-kind of game, it's perfectly understandable for even a PC to die in a meaningless way...it's the nature of the grim future).

I tend to build up NPCs and get the PCs close to them, but I also have a tendency to sacrifice them for the sake of a dramatic scene.

PCs though, unless they are patently stupid and doing what they know will likely result in death...I probably won't let them die.

Part of this is that in my games, I hate the idea of protagonists and antagonists fighting to the death every time a weapon is drawn. It's just ridiculous. When things look grim for the antagonists I'll secretly roll to see if they cut and run. Live to fight another day. Recurring bad guys. Unless the antagonist is mindless like a zombie or skeleton or something...it'll think twice about staying in the fight after half his buddies get smeared all over the room.

I expect the PCs to consider this as well. Not every encounter is designed to be "won". Sometimes the PCs wander in to the Bad Guy Home Base and realize they are woefully outgunned and need to RETREAT!

I guess it comes down to choice.
I try and give my players and their characters lots of choices, and with this comes a lot of rope to hang themselves. I try to be really up-front about what characters notice: give them plenty of chances to realize what the situation is and if/ when they get in over their heads.

They set the stakes and if they choose to bid high, or go "all in" then they CAN die and I won't be as forgiving with the rolls. I won't however sneak up on them and blindside them with situations they will not be able to get out of. They might get snuck up on with a situation out of their league, forcing a retreat...but they have plenty of "outs".

In order to do this...sometimes I fudge rolls.
It's true.
I also roll my dice all the time out of habit, so only half the time it's for a purpose. I also call for lots of random rolls that mean absolutely nothing. Especially good or bad rolls on either side of the screen can have an impact somewhere.

So how do you guys do it? What are your thoughts on killing PCs and fudging die rolls?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The most awesome gift EVER!

Thank you to my most awesome, creative and talented friend Jen Woods!




Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Art Techniques: bits and bobs.

This thread I'm using to compile bits and bobs for the artists for S&W.
Bits on sketching, pencils, inking, as well as composition and life drawing.

http://drawsketch.about.com/library/blinktexture.htm
http://drawsketch.about.com/od/drawingt ... e-Library/
http://drawsketch.about.com/od/penandin ... shwall.htm
http://drawsketch.about.com/cs/figuredr ... ortion.htm

One thing strongly recommend is surfing the web for references.
If you like a certain artists inking style, find some pages of his work and print em out, that way you can look at the details of his style and techniques.
"How on earth do I draw water like that?" Well...find drawn images of water and pick the one you like the best and print it out. Pay close attention to how the piece was done: crosshatching, use of negative space, etc.
Have references handy.
Unless you're in that top 1% of artists, you don't know how to draw everything. Not from memory at least. Your hands aren't trained for it yet.

One of the main things that stop amateur artists from improving is ego and attitude towards using tools.
Photo-references and well...any references are simply tools. Same goes with the smudge tool on Photoshop and using certain pens and markers.
Once you're an uber-artists who can do anything and everything and are the Michelangelo of the 21st century, then you can have the ego to be an elitist and not use every tool and trick in the industry. Until then...you're in the trenches with the rest of us trying to improve, using every tool and trick available to do a good job.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Orphan Works: A Lame Duck Countdown, Part V

Orphan Works: A Lame Duck Countdown, Part V

FROM THE ILLUSTRATORS’ PARTNERSHIP

Orphan Works: A Lame Duck Countdown
Part V. Through the Looking Glass

12.08.08

Orphan Works advocates defend their proposals by saying they’re necessary to put users in touch with copyright owners. They say this isn’t happening now because of a market failure in commercial markets.

Speaking at a Congressional Seminar March 31, 2006, Copyright Office attorney Jule Sigall explained why they believed artists needed Congress to “push” them to register their work with privately owned copyright registries (page 23 of the transcript):

“[A]t this stage, in respect to the legislation…the real question we need to ask and answer is, what kinds of provisions put the right pressure [on photographers and illustrators] to get to that point? Who needs to be pushed there? I mean… I use this line a lot, photographers and illustrators like to say, ‘We haven’t collectivized…’ This is a problem, generally, for their marketplace. It’s hard to have a marketplace where buyers can’t find sellers.” (Emphasis added) http://www.pff.org/events/pastevents/033106orphanworks.asp

Nothing expresses the looking glass logic of the Orphan Works bill better than this statement by the “principal author” of the Copyright Office report that an amendment legalizing the infringement of millions of commercial copyrights is necessary in order for buyers to find sellers.

For the record, there is no evidence in the Copyright Office report that art directors and commercial clients are having any difficulty finding the contributors they want to work with. No evidence whatsoever! Indeed, even a cursory glance at our field refutes that conclusion:

Consider magazines such as Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, Time or Vogue. All of them and countless others are filled from cover to cover with photographs and art - as are newspapers, trade publications, medical journals, ads, annual reports, posters, brochures, catalogues, postcards greeting cards and more. How can anyone be surrounded by this sea of images and seriously argue that in the visual arts “sector,” “buyers can’t find sellers”?

The Copyright Office “evidence” for their conclusion of market failure amounts to no more than 215 relevant letters submitted to their study on the specific subject of orphaned work. Since they didn’t study the workings of commercial markets, there cannot possibly be any valid grounds for deducing a market failure in those markets. You can’t study apples and draw conclusions about oranges.

Orphan Works “For the Sake of Ease”

However unfounded, this Copyright Office factoid of “market failure” is now an orphan works fact to lawmakers. When Chairman Berman of the House IP Subcommittee held the sole public hearing (I hour 27 minutes) on this bill, March 13, 2008, he acknowledged in his opening statement that it was not a true orphan works bill. Yet he insisted it was necessary to correct a “market failure”:

“[W]e should correct a misnomer. The works we’re talking about are not orphans…The more accurate description of the situation is probably an unlocatable copyright owner…this situation better describes the orphan works construct, which is to correct the market failure when a potential user can’t find the copyright owner. But for the sake of ease we’ll keep talking about them as if they’re orphans.”
http://www.copyright.gov/video/testimony-3-13-08.html

But to redefine an orphaned work as “a work by an unlocatable author” is to radically re-define the ownership of private property. Since everybody will be hard for somebody to find, this bill would permit any person to infringe any work by any author at any time for any reason - no matter how commercial or distasteful - so long as the infringer found the author sufficiently hard to find. And this would create the public’s right to use private property as a default position, available to anyone whenever the property owner fails to make himself sufficiently available.

We may presume that the bill’s backers don’t want to be seen as trying to strip citizens of their intellectual property rights without due process. So instead they now argue that they’re only trying to help artists, who in their fecklessness, oppose the bill because we don’t want to be helped.

The Myth of the Feckless Artist

The best example of this mythologizing can be found in statements coming from Public Knowledge, one of the driving forces behind this legislation. On May 29, 2008, Gigi Sohn, President and Co-Founder of PK, explained to listeners at the Center for Intellectual Property why artists perversely oppose these bills:

“Now let me tell you what the main opponents of orphan works legislation really don’t like about it…[they] don’t like the fact that good faith users- those who are willing to pay but can’t figure out who to pay - might be able to use their works without permission and without the maximum financial punishment. They want to control every use of their works, and whether or not they receive fair payment is beside the point.” http://www.publicknowledge.org/node/1594 *

And on August 21, 2008, her colleague at PK, Alex Curtis, reiterated the theme:

“Visual artists say they have a problem, that no one can find their work, or at least match them as the owner of their work.” http://www.publicknowledge.org/node/1717

“Visual artists say they have a problem, that no one can find their work…” Actually we’ve never said any such thing. In fact we’ve explicitly said the opposite. Here’s just one example, from a sample letter we posted on our CapWiz site May 3:

“I am told that the Copyright Office conducted a study of Orphan Works and that these bills are based on that study. I understand that an orphan work is a work whose owner can’t be located. I am alive, working and managing my copyrights. I can be located. My clients locate me all the time. But that does not mean that anyone anywhere can find me. And frankly, why should the failure of any one person to find me be the measure of whether or not I can be found?

“What if 1000 people can find me but one can’t? Why should that one person get a free pass to use my work?” http://capwiz.com/illustratorspartnership/issues/alert/?alertid=11333406

“I can be located. My clients locate me all the time.” I don’t see how we could say it any more clearly.

Far from complaining that we can’t be found, an entire food chain of collateral markets currently exists to facilitate the process by which image buyers successfully find image sellers: Agents, commercial directories, trade shows, ads in trade publications, direct mail, web sites and email solicitations - all attest to the fact that hundreds of thousands of creators are engaged daily in the robust business of making themselves accessible to potential users.

All of these businesses will be hurt by a bill that legalizes the infringement of the work they trade in. None will be helped by placing on them the onerous and costly burden of registering and maintaining tens of thousands - or for photographers, hundreds of thousands - of individual copyright registrations, not to mention the impossible burden of trying to monitor infringements of their work, which can occur anytime, anywhere in the world.

The Orphan Works proposals under consideration would not create new ways for buyers to find sellers. It would merely allow opportunists to co-opt the existing markets of creators and of the collateral businesses that serve them.

As artists we already know this. Our chore is to hold this bill over until the next Congress, then work to counter the false logic of market failure created by the unwarranted conclusions of the Copyright Office’s Orphan Works Report.

- Brad Holland and Cynthia Turner for the Board of the Illustrators’ Partnership

*Presented to the Center for Intellectual Property 8th Annual Intellectual Property Symposium, University of Maryland University College May 29, 2008

Tomorrow: A Bill Too Far

The Orphan Works Act of 2008 (H.R. 5889) has not been passed by the House of Representatives, but could be placed on the Suspensions calendar and passed by the lame duck session of Congress scheduled to re-convene this week. The Illustrators’ Partnership is asking lawmakers to hold the bill over to the next session of Congress, when rightsholders can have an opportunity to have their case heard before the full Judiciary Committee.

For news and information, and an archive of these messages:
Illustrators’ Partnership Orphan Works Blog: http://ipaorphanworks.blogspot.com/

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Disappointment...

I've started unsubscribing from blogs this week.
There were several blogs I started watching due to my interest in old school D&D...but after wees of discussion and observation I'm sad to say that all I've found is another batch of extremely opinionated gamers with a fixed view on how things are, and how things were as far as gaming in general and D&D specifically.

I'm not saying that these are bad people or that their opinion is wholly wrong. Their style of play was/is common. That style of play being largely dungeon crawls and gaming with a morally ambiguous L Sprague DeCamp or Robert E Howard kind of Grey Mouser/ Conan kind of mercenary play where PCs are all bastards out for loot.

I seem to be the only guy in the world who very rarely played like that. The groups I was in were more altruistic. Almost heroic. Less mercenary. Influenced more by Tolkien and Lewis than the above listed authors.

That's not true either. We've always had a mix: free to do as we wished. Only rarely in "dungeons" of any kind.

The point here is that the blogs of many "old school" gamers are just as opinionated and static as the Indie narrative guys, or GNS nazis. Sticks in the mud. Firmly believing that THEIR views are the most accurate portrayal of what their subject is...allowing no room for anything outside their view except as some sort of "aberration".

Any way you look at it, it's The One True Faith again.

My beef is that there are lots of ways the game D&D was played and is played today. I really take exception at people who are self-avowed "Gygaxians" because really, E Gary Gygax, while one of the fathers of the game and the industry as a whole...was not an honest man when it comes to the origins and motivations as well as inspirations of D&D and gaming. Not honest at all. While some people look at EGG as a paragon of D&D, I see him as a man who took the ideas of others, as well as some of his own, cobbled them together and sold them. His ambition drove the early days of D&D. His ability to use the ideas of others. That is all.

I have no hatred of EGG, or need to run him down, especially after his passing by elaborating on his past indulgences. Tolkien's influence was likely the single largest lie he perpetuated. Understandably so. With the lawyers baying at his door, he was wise to distance himself creatively.

Really...the point here isn't any of that at all.

The point is that some people who I previously respected and admired have become "just another opinionated asshole" in my eyes. And it's not even that the opinions differ from my own. It's the sweeping generalizations they make on all of this, stating "the way things were" and making them sound absolutely universal, and then delving in to the references they choose to use, from a man who was a well-known liar and cherry-picking evidence to back them up.

MY point is that it's not that simple, and while some people play "that way" others did not and that there IS NO "right" or "true way", "intended way" or "as Gary designed it to be". Why? Because lots of people played they way THEY wanted to, right from the very beginning, and all the "references" they use to prop up their "opinions" with are of dubious validity...and ultimately make no difference as there are just as many "references" to counter them.

For example Tracy Hickman is listed as one of, likely THE main person who altered the face to D&D forever, introducing STORY elements to what these grognards call "Old School" D&D. He's is reviled for this. They sugar-coat it, but in no uncertain terms, they place the change of D&D as a simple rules-light game to what it is today (and what it is today is seen universally as an abomination mind you).

My question is that of the Chicken and the Egg. Which came first? Did Tracy suddenly create an adventure that had plot elements and a bit of "story" to it? This never having existed before? Or was Tracy Hickman responding to a set of existing players who were already doing this, wanting something more than a dungeon crawl and "kill things and take their loot"?

To these (unsubscribed) bloggers, it's all on the head of Tracy Hickman, and he ruined their perfect white box game. Of course it is. To say otherwise would admit that people were already playing with story elements, and ultimately playing outside the nice neat little box of "kill stuff and take their loot"...which of course can never happen. Gary Gygax said that the way he wanted it. Seyla!

I'm disappointed.
I really wanted to believe that some of these folks were more "open" to a wide view of gaming and the way things were and are. I was wrong.

Ultimately all I found are more guys whose nostalgic memories are of a very limited style of play. Very vocal guys who are die hard believers in the "One True Path of Gygax".

Am I the one who's "off" in this?
Has D&D always been just "Kill monsters, take their loot" and being a mercenary bastard interested in gold and loot? Is that the true way? Is everything else just a figment of my imagination and my own personal experiences...and nobody else did that?

*The important note:
I don't want to downplay that pulpy Conan-like mercenary play is out of place or not a big part of what D&D has always been. Not at all.
It's just that it isn't, and has never been "the only way" or "The intended way".

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mission Accomplished!

Biggie image done under deadline. Had some interesting (academic) color issues to sort out. Everything worked out and the client is happy. I win!

The rest of December is booked to capacity (and then some. I'll be pulling some long hours this month) and I had to start turning down work today. Man I hate that.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Orphan Works Part II: The Legislative Blueprint

Orphan Works Part II: The Legislative Blueprint
Excerpted from Todd Lockwood's Blog Behind the Water Heater

FROM THE ILLUSTRATORS’ PARTNERSHIP

Orphan Works: A Lame Duck Countdown:
Part II. The Legislative Blueprint

12.02.08

The “legislative blueprint” for the Orphan Works Act was not drafted by the Copyright Office after their year-long Orphan Works study, but before it, by law students at the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic.

Their Copyright Clearance Initiative (CCI) is the document that first proposed the “limitation on remedies” that would radically change international copyright law. From page 5 of the CCI proposal:

“Under no circumstances will Sec. 504(c) statutory damages, attorney’s fees, damages based on the user’s profits or injunctive relief relating to the challenged use be available against a qualified user.” http://copyright.gov/orphan/comments/OW0595-Glushko-Samuelson.pdf

This is the premise the Copyright Office adopted with only slight modifications: where the law students had proposed capping infringement fees at $100, the Copyright Office proposals changed that to an ambiguous “reasonable fee.”

And how did the student authors describe their study of the orphan works issue?

“On April 11, 2003, the Clinic held a symposium with scholars, academics and other interested parties to discuss this issue. Since then, the work of CCI has focused its efforts on devising the blueprint for a legislative solution to the ‘orphan works’ problem…and has been in close contact with various non-profit organizations, intellectual practitioners and academics…”

A footnote names the eight “clinic students” who contributed to the “legislative solution.” And among the “interested parties,” the authors cite Public Knowledge, a group now actively promoting the Orphan works bill. Copyright holders were apparently not considered interested parties, as none are listed among those invited to participate.

The Clinic authors submitted their blueprint to the Copyright Office March 24, 2005. They cited no effort to survey the potential impact of their legislative solution on commercial markets - nor did the Copyright Office three years later, when they adopted the “limitation on remedies” and proposed it to Congress in their 2006 Report on Orphan Works.

The Director of the Glushko-Samuelson Law Clinic is a long-standing critic of existing copyright protections.

In 1994, legal scholar Peter Jaszi wrote that in the new “information environment” created by the internet, authors, artists and others “may not need the long, intense protection afforded by conventional copyright — no matter how much they would like to have it.”

Copyright, he wrote, is rooted in outdated concepts of “possessive individualism.” The “romantic myth of authorship,” he argued, is a vestige of the 18th and 19th centuries “in which entrepreneurial publishers…[and] entrepreneurial writers…played out their shared conviction that the “individual [is] essentially the proprietor of his own person or capacities — and thus of whatever can be made of them.”

Professor Jaszi has criticized the US for joining the international Berne Copyright Convention, calling it “an international agreement grounded in thoroughly Romantic assumptions about creativity.” And he noted with disapproval:

“The first Act of this preeminent ‘authors’ rights’ treaty in 1886 represented the culmination of a process which got underway in the mid-nineteenth-century with Victor Hugo’s vigorous campaign for the rights of European writers and artists. Other famous ‘authors’ rallied to the cause: Gerhard Joseph suggests that the manic energy with which Charles Dickens championed international copyright stemmed from the novelist’s private insecurities about his own ‘originality.’”*

Note the scare quotes around “authors rights” and “originality.” The Professor appears to subscribe to the postmodern cliché that all art is a form of collage and that authorship and originality are merely covers for one writers “vigor” or another’s “manic energy” and “insecurities.”

Maybe so, but a working author might guess that Dickens and Hugo were merely protecting their copyrights because that’s how they made a living.

Citing the authority of postmodern critics, Professor Jaszi laments that their “critique of authorship” “has gone unheard by intellectual property lawyers.”

“However enthusiastically legal scholars may have thrown themselves into ‘deconstructing’ other bodies of legal doctrine, copyright has remained untouched by the implications of the Derridean proposition that the inherent instability of meaning derives not from authorial subjectivity but from intertextuality. Above all, the questions posed by Michel Foucault in ‘What Is an Author?’ about the causes and consequences of the persistent, overdetermined power of the author construct — with their immediate significance for law — have gone largely unattended by theorists of copyright law, to say nothing of practitioners or, most critically, judges and legislators.” -Page 12 The Construction of Authorship*

Or to put it in plain English: why hasn’t Congress harkened to some collectivist literary critics and written their debatable theories into US copyright law?

With the Orphan Works bill, maybe they will.

Yet if this were one’s goal - to impose a collectivist agenda on US copyright law, wouldn’t forthrightness be the better policy? Shouldn’t you say “we want to change the laws governing a citizen’s ownership of his or her intellectual property” - then present the case frankly and debate it publicly and transparently?

Wouldn’t that serve the public interest better than concealing the agenda behind a claim that you’re only amending the law to “find homes for the poor orphan works” or making the world safe for folks to duplicate pictures of grandma?

Tomorrow: How many letters did it take to trigger the Orphan Works Bill? Would you believe 215?

*Quotes from the Introduction to The Construction of Authorship: Textual Appropriation in Law and Literature by Martha Woodmansee, Peter Jaszi, Editors, Duke University Press, 1994
http://books.google.com/books?id=dpRKltgJYYwC

- Brad Holland and Cynthia Turner, for the Board of the Illustrators’ Partnership

Monday, December 1, 2008

Little Known Facts: Orphaned Works Act

Excerpted from the blog of Todd Lockwood:
http://www.tolo.biz/2008/12/01/liitle-known-facts-about-the-orphaned-works-act-part-i/#

Little Known Facts about the Orphaned Works Act: Part I

These are bullet points worth using in any letter to your representative. It certainly looks like an underhanded attempt to wrest control of a valuable commodity — your copyright and mine — or make us pay to keep it. Please spread word far and wide, not just to artists, but to writers and photographers as well:

FROM THE ILLUSTRATORS’ PARTNERSHIP

Orphan Works: Lame Duck Countdown

12.01.08

Part I. Little Known Facts

Congress will reconvene for a lame duck session next week. That means Orphan Works backers may try again to pass their bill by suspending the rules. We believe this bill is too controversial to be passed by backroom dealing. It would let commercial interests harvest and monetize the personal property of ordinary citizens without their knowledge.

The bill can be improved, and we’ve offered amendments that would improve it. But there’s not enough time to improve it during a lame duck session. The bill should be held over until the next session of Congress, when those whose livelihood it will threaten can have the opportunity to present their case.

Over the next few days, we’ll highlight some little known facts about the way this bill has been conceived, drafted and promoted. We believe these facts raise serious questions about the legislative process that has brought this legislation to the brink of passage:

1. The “legislative blueprint” for the Orphan Works bill was not the result of the Copyright Office’s year-long Orphan Works Study. It was drafted before the study began, by law students who made no apparent effort to survey its potential impact on commercial markets.

2. The blueprint was drafted under the guidance of a legal scholar who opposes current copyright protections. He has written that authors in the internet age “may not need the long, intense protection afforded by conventional copyright — no matter how much they would like to have it.”

3. The Copyright Office received barely 200 relevant letters to their Orphan Works Study. Although they testified to Congress that the number was “over 850,” they failed to acknowledge that more than 600 letters had to be dismissed as irrelevant or too vague to determine their relevance to orphaned work.

4. In their Orphan Works Report, the Copyright Office failed to acknowledge a unified statement submitted by 42 national and international visual arts organizations. This statement called for the maintenance of existing copyright protections and warned that a bill drafted too broadly would spread uncertainty in commercial markets.

5. The Copyright Office studied the specific subject of orphaned work, yet concluded they had discovered a widespread “market failure” in commercial markets. But since they didn’t study commercial markets, there’s no evidence for this conclusion in their report.

6. The principal author of the Orphan Works Report has acknowledged that their true goal was to “pressure” working authors into relying on registries to protect their work. He said this was necessary because artists and photographers have “failed to collectivize.”

7. The first commercial Orphan Works domain name was registered by an anonymous party more than two years before the Copyright Office announced their Study. Did this anonymous party have a crystal ball? How did he know the Copyright Office would ever study orphan works? How did he know they’d open the door to commercial usage? And why did he register anonymously?

8. Two of the key players in the legislative process have already left government service and gone to work for companies that stand to profit from passage of the bill. On the other hand, one of the parties who testified in favor of the bill has already gone to the Copyright Office. She’s now in charge of orphan works.

We think these and other little known facts give lawmakers sufficient reason not to pass this bill without a thorough vetting.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

no sooner...

...do I post about not doing it again...I did.
Okay, that's IT. No more.

I'm steering away from forums now where all this gets heated. There's just no point. It's not like anyone's going to listen anyhow. I just need to extricate myself from one blog now and I'm done.

Edit: Allright. I'm out. No more of that.

I'm not doing this anymore...

So I posted this reply to a blog post...
===========================
"It's an understatement to say that Gary Gygax was disingenuous in acknowledging the debt Dungeons & Dragons owed to J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth tales."

This I think, by itself makes any deconstruction of intent of flavor or ethos impossible. Even if some sources may have been in-mind at some points in the creation of D&D, others were in-mind at others. That doesn't make one "The core ethos" of D&D any more than the other. They were a factor...included...that is all. It has no bearing at all on "how D&D is/ was to be played.

There is NO "as intended" on style of play as it was left for the DM and players to decide. People stating that D&D was intended to be played a certain way is all opinion.

"It's all too easy to forget that D&D is a game and its early design was shaped by the demands of regular play rather than by some abstract theory."

Completely accurate IMO.

"regarding The Hobbit, IIRC Bilbo gets browbeaten into adventuring by Gandalf and pricked into it by foolish pride: he's a classic reluctant hero, like Luke Skywalker, for instance, which places him ina very long literary tradition but makes him fundamentally different from almost any PC."

That's a huge assumption on PC motivation from a limited point of view. Not everyone plays or has played PCs that are Conan-style mercenaries.

I think Gary Gygax fought against Tolkien as an influence publicly because his ideas were hardly original. He used the ideas and resources of others and cobbled them together in to a game...and when questioned about the obvious tolkien-esque similarities, he distanced himself from it as much as possible.

I'm not saying EGG was a bad person, not at all.

The history of D&D is full of debates on who created what, who was the influence and who gets credit (and who gets screwed over credit) and I think THAT is a more telling view of what the influences were.

Yes, EGG loved a lot of Pulp Fantasy. I believe those made their way in to D&D. Clearly so. Tolkien did as well. Clearly. As far as an "intent" on play, or "intent" on what D&D was supposed to be like, played like and "felt" like...we are left with a bunch of biased personal opinions from our own preferences and points of view...and the often contradictory statements of EGG, who regularly changed his mind.

We end up left with a game system that tells us to do what we want, how we want to. PC motivations are up to the PCs. The rest is a matter of conjecture. Likely will be forever.
===============================


Now, in retrospect, I shouldn't have bothered.
Here's one of my biggest failings:
I see something IMO wrong. In this case opinions disguised as "fact". I just HAVE to try and say something. Like that while what they are saying is nice and all...but ultimately it's opinion. It's their point of view. Not the only POV, and as such, no more valid or invalid than anyone else's.

Why do I do it? Because it's arrogance on their behalf and it does an injustice to the silent others who believe otherwise.

Why do I do it? Because of my own arrogance in trying to show a different POV to opinionated people, hoping they see that their own opinion is just that...opinion.

I'm just as guilty as the next guy.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I may have figured out a part of it...

The whole grognardia thing that is.
Extremism. Same as in politics or religion or really anything else. Folks seem to pick a view, a perspective and dive in behind in 110%, adopting that point of view, that set of rose-colored glasses and forsake all others.

What can be done about it?
Nothing. First off, I'm not one to try and change anyone.
In order to change someone that would mean that I'm somehow better or right...and they are somehow wrong or worse.
Now wouldn't that be arrogant?

Besides, it's not like extremists will listen to anyone outside their sect anyhow.

This seems to apply to gamers, politicians, republicans, democrats, every "clique" in humanity I expect.

I wonder how many folks DON'T fall in to this catagory. How many folks avoid getting sucked in to one point of view? How many folks take the time to stop and actually take a look (as much as one can) from someone else's rose-colored glasses, and actually, really...HONESTLY consider other POVs before diving back to their own?

There's just so many arrogant people out there. I can be arrogant as well, have no doubt. I do try to mitigate that. It's just that of all the people out there, there are so many static opinions. From people I have known and admired. Respected even. But I find over time that their opinionated commentary is so...static. They don't even consider other perspectives. Maybe it's because they have become a lightning rod of similarly-minded folks who have propped up that POV. My respect and admiration dwindles for these people.

What do I admire? Adaptability, people that stand behind their opinions BUT also keep an eye/ ear/ heart open for other opinions so when something better comes along, they can adapt.

At what point does our opinion become "truth"?
Do we tell the lie enough times that we start to really believe it?
Do we really fall prey to our own cult of personality?
How do we avoid that?

For my part, I constantly remind myself that I am just one man...and I'm no better and no worse than anyone else. We're all equally worthy/ worthless.

Sure...sometimes I DO consider myself enlightened...and then I smack myself up-side the head with the possibility that one of these extremists or one of these single POV people may be absolutely correct and I have hedged my bets for nothing.

What does that make me?
Flaky?
Wishy-washy?

I don't know. I think I'd rather live with being that than an arrogant asshole riding roughshod over other people and their beliefs and opinions.

And it begins...

We have our first snow that actually "stuck". We got about two inches. It's beautiful and crisp, and the neighbor's wood stove provides a nice campfire aroma. Mmmmm. Winter has come.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Labels, Factions and Grognardia.

One of the things that's been on my mind lately is the way we label things and a need for people to identify themselves with a label.

For example, there is the whole argument over what certain RPGs are for. What their purpose is, what is at their core. Depending on the label you wear, your view will be different...or will it?

Some of the hard-core Grognards recently are saying flat out that D&D is strictly a game of "Killing monsters and taking their stuff". The irony here is that for years theorists in the Indie Gaming "new school" line of thought have said the exact same thing. Ironic because the Grognardia "sect" has fought long and hard against theories and classifications from the "New School" folks...yet come up with the same view of their holy grail.

Now for my part, I've always held the view that these labels become a straight jacket, limiting a game to one view of how it is played...and from these perspectives these limitations and assertions become "TRUTH". My own belief is that these perspectives are just that...the perspectives of those people, from that fraction of the player base...not the whole.

I object to the very notion of "one true faith" when it comes to ...anything. Having "one true way" leaves no room for anyone else or anyone else's views, beliefs or practices.

In respect to RPGs, it means that game X is about Y and only Y...not anything else. The rules say so and there is nothing outside the rules.

In respect to D&D that means D&D is only about dungeon crawls, killing monsters and taking their loot. That-Is-All. That is D&D. Nothing else is. The way others play isn't D&D. THIS WAY IS THE ONE TRUE WAY.

Fuck that.

D&D, like any other RPG is what you make it. It's about imagination and going where you want and doing what you want. Ultimately it's about what the players want and where the players want to go...not a straight jacket.

I think part of this is due to the labels of groups of people.
I think Grognards are like Goths and Emo kids. They WANT to be Grognards. They want to identify with that and make an effort to become a sort of paragon of Grognardia by narrowing their view to the extreme. Like being a supergoth.

What is this accomplishing?
It reinforces an external stereotype. They do it voluntarily.
It's like geeks who go overboard trying to be the epitome of geekdom, or gamers trying to be the epitome of gamer.
Why?

I think it's a lack of identity.
Somehow here in the 20th and 21st Century we have a need to put ourselves in some sort of category in order to have an identity. We have few other ways to identify ourselves, so we shoehorn ourselves in to a label, a category, a perspective, and willingly slide in behind that pair of "rose-colored glasses".

In doing so, we reject the perspectives and realities of those outside our sect, subclass, category.

"I'm a grognard and grognards believe change and new visions of old things is BAD!"
Whatever.
People try so hard to conform in one way or another to a certain view, to a certain ideal. People want to FIT somewhere, and in doing so, blind themselves to the fact that that there are innumerable categories, views and perspectives. Innumerable pairs of "rose-colored glasses" to wear.

I think it's the ultimate failing of humanity that we seem to have this hard-wired need to categorize things as superior and inferior.

I understand the need for categories: it's a matter of defining things, placing them in relation to other things. It's how we store knowledge and memories. Everything is relational. My memories of how something works is based upon my perceptions of witnessing it or perceptions of learning it in relation to other knowledge/ memories. Memories are tied to other memories in a sort of almost web or matrix.

So I get the categories-thing.

What I don't get is the need to identify one's self with one or another of them.
I know why some people do, but it's not necessary. We don't have to be like that.

Why is it so hard for people to accept a more open view?
Why is it so hard for people to just be themselves, accept other views and perspectives as just as valid?
Why is it always coming down to "I'm right" and "You're wrong". Ultimately that is another version of "I'm better than you". It's arrogance and one of the things that has held humanity back from evolving.

We can be better than this.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Where do I start?

Figure Drawing, Where I start.

*Note: Some excerpts are from here: http://www.wikihow.com/Draw-Manga
Some of this I use, some not: your mileage may vary.

Overall the article was...a start, but there are better ones available:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/2080605/Figure-Drawing-Basics is a very good one.

When I started out, The book How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way was a bible. Since then I've drifted away from that thinking. It's not a bible, but it does have a lot of good information to pass on.


Draw the Frame. This is the basic framework of your character. Draw the general lines for where arms/legs will go, as well as their positioning. Draw the circle for the head first, a line for the spine, a line for the shoulders (a little below the head so there's a neck.), a line across for the hips, and lines for the arms/legs. It may be easier to draw circles for joints (shoulders, knees, elbows), so you can proportion the lower leg to upper leg, and lower arm to upper arm. Essentially, a stick figure. This step is to block out the proportions and figure out what your character is doing; Standing? Sitting? A heroic pose?



  • Things to note!

    • Top of head to hips should be a little less than 1/2 the total height, hips to tips of toes being the rest.
    • The humerous (upper arm) extends from the shoulder point to the bottom of the floating ribs. The forearm should be approx the same length
    • Measurement from elbow to fingertips should be approx the same as hip to knee.
    • The tips of your character's fingers should come to about the middle of their thighs when held loosely at the sides.
    • Something seem strange about your stick figure? Don't ignore it; fix it. Do lots of stick figures and choose the one that best fits the illustration...don't just do one and call it good (unless of course you're just that good).
    • Draw the figure without clothing first. Once the shape of the figure is defined, you can add clothing on top.
    • Demihumans will have different proportions...sort this out now, at this stage.
Flesh out your stick figure. Add weight and depth to the various parts of your stick figure.


*Note: This is a dwarf, demihuman character, not human, so proportions are set for THAT.

  • Head: Indicate which way it's facing with a line, and then add the chin and cheekbones.
  • Chest/Torso: Block it in with a circles, ovals, blocks, whatever works for you.
  • Hips: Can be indicated with a sphere/circle
  • Limbs: Can be blocked in with ovals or cylinders, with circles/spheres for the joints.
  • Hands and Feet: Can be left simple for now, though you might want to indicate their positions.
*ULTIMATELY IMPORTANT NOTE: There is no substitute for studying actual life, anatomy, figures. Use references, don't be afraid of them, or be too arrogant to use them.

Try this search for more ideas:
http://images.google.com/images?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=navclient&gfns=1&q=anatomy+drawing&um=1&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&resnum=4&ct=title
Don't hesitate to print out and keep photo/ images as references handy.



Refine your figure. Still don't worry about details for now, but clean up your lines, make sure the outlines are heavier, and generally just make the figure clearer. A good eraser can come in handy here.

*Note: in this instance I went over this with a sharpie so I could transfer the image fresh to a new page. This was a choice, not a necessity.


Start adding detail. Start drawing in the clothes, making sure they fit the form of your character. Draw the hands and feet, and fill in the facial details - eyes, nose, mouth, hair, etc.

*Note: This was transferred by lightboard to a fresh page and details added on top of it. I do this sometimes just so I have a nice clean page/ image to work with. Again, a choice, not dogma.

Clean up and ready for inking. Erase any stray lines, and make sure you know which ones you want to keep. This is where the transferred image comes in really handy. Keep a good eraser close by.

*Note: until this point I have been working with a non-photo blue pencil.


*Note: now I have changed over to a HB Mechanical pencil: every stroke, every line is prepped for inking. When I ink, it will almost be exactly the same as this image. Essentially...I'm pre-inking. This is something *I* do.

By this point in the project, your hands and eyes have an intimate knowledge of the image. Your hands have gone over the same lines several times and the muscle memories are full-swing. This is important for when you start inking: a very detail-oriented precision process and steady hands are an absolute must. By doing what I've done here, I've trained my hands to be able to hit every mark, stick to every line without missing or getting sloppy.

Next: INKING!

Artistic Pearls of Wisdom

I'm going to start posting a series of "pearls of wisdom" as far as what I've learned so far, and share resources I've found along the way.

I might as well do it here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Release!

The full Gods of the Shroud eBook is now available. It makes a pretty good companion to the Death-Mother (which also has some very cool art by your friendly neighborhood tracer/ art-guy, the Illustrious Jeff Preston)

Support your local starving artist!
$5.99 for a good cause!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On art and passion...

Todd Lockwood posts this on his FAQ and it's pretty good. Not just for artists per se, but for any creatives. I have some friends who are considering being illustrators, but are waffling on the idea. I've spoken with them and highly recommended this perspective. I'm really posting this for them first and foremost, but really any creatives on my FL (and elsewhere) can learn something here.

I have excerpted this in it's entirety with no personal emphasis anywhere to retain the message in its original context. Basically, Todd tells it better than I could anyhow.

Enjoy!

Original post is here on Todd's website:
http://www.toddlockwood.com/faq.shtml#become_artist

Q: Should I become an artist? > top <

That’s not a question I ever asked myself. I always knew I was going to be an artist. But Michael Whelan studied medicine before realizing his true calling.

Art is a passion, or it will kill you. Your love of art will have to sustain you during the lean times. That said, once you have paid your dues and built a following, it can be very rewarding personally, and possibly financially.

Does the phrase “starving artist” ring a bell?

A career in art is, I suspect, much like a career in any of the other arts. A certain tiny number will achieve fame and fortune, another few will achieve fame, but little fortune, others will find good jobs, if only somewhat satisfying, and very many will toil in obscurity until they give up or find something better.

I don’t mean that to be discouraging, but if you’re lazy, don’t be an artist. If you want to spend your weekends lounging around the pool, doing nothing, don’t be an artist. if you expect to graduate from college, land a terrific job and start kicking asses, don’t be an artist.

However, if you love to create things, if your primary means of entertainment for yourself was drawing pictures and/or story telling (D&D, making your own comics, writing short stories… anything that fired your imagination) then you may have what it takes. In fact, if you have all those qualities and don’t pursue art, you may spend the rest of your life wondering whether you had the chops, if you had missed your calling.

Talent is only part of the equation. There are many artists more talented than I who have failed and disappeared. I work my ass off. I go to conventions, I network with other artists and enjoy the company of people around the industry. I spend a lot of time in research (which I find enjoyable), put a lot of thought into every painting, and am always seeking to improve my craft. It’s a matter of desire. After 15 years in advertising, I HAD TO DO THIS. I started attending conventions in hopes of landing more enjoyable work, or I was going to hang up my brushes and get a real estate license. Art was and is my lifeblood. Creating is what I do. If you are the same way, then challenge yourself and study art. If you are just a guy who draws occasionally and thinks that art might be a good way to make some money, you’re on the wrong track.

Joseph Campbell once said, “Follow your bliss, and doors will open where you did not know there were doors”. It’s true, it worked for me. You need to ask yourself what you enjoy most. What gives you the greatest pleasure? What do you do when you have leisure time and want to entertain yourself? That’s where your greatest level of satisfaction in a career will be found. You will excel when you love your work. If art fires your imagination and inspires you, then follow that bliss.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

D&D 4E Worldseed

Check it out: For those of you who haven't seen this yet, take a browse over here:
http://flamesrising.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=58670

Regarding Carcosa...

Recently James Malizewski posted a very thoughtful review of Supplement V: CARCOSA-a book of rules options for the original fantasy role-playing game published in 1974.

James and I alternating agree and disagree on matters old school, but for my own part I'd like to make a few notes on Carcosa of my own.

Review:
1. I agree that Carcosa, as it is a self-proclaimed Supplement V is an odd fit. It does some mixing and matching that in some places works, and others doesn't. It is extremely decorative in the descriptions of Sorcerers and their powers and the actions taken to use said powers...all of which can be most certainly categorized as most heinously evil...the alignment system isn't used.

Huh?

2. Then there is whether Supplement V should be a Supplement due to content of the book: rules vs setting fluff. I don't think that makes a difference really. There's no magical line that says "beyond here it's not a supplement" nor is there a magical formula for creating a supplement: x amount can be for fluff, Y can be for rules...but don't go beyond that.

3. Take in to account the changes to the rules of OD&D vs Carcosa. There are actual replacements instead of additions. Hrm. I'm okay with that. It seems in tune with the flavor of OD&D to mix and match to suit personal tastes. OD&D was made to be easily adjusted to fit...and Carcosa does that. I think it could have been presented better, like "optional rules" but really...the whole thing IS "optional" already.

4. Space Aliens? Honestly...I don't think it's a dealbreaker. It's a deep underlying secret of the world that most folks don't know. It's an interesting plot hook. There's nothing that says D&D must equal Hyperborea, or Aeryth or Toril, or Krynn, or anything else. It's a basic rules system, and while E.G.G may have been a fan of some of the pulp fantasy novels, he himself made this to be a game that we make our own...not just necessarily be pulp fantasy (and honestly, alien seeding of a fantasy world is just as pulpy as anything else.) I think some folks have a very narrow view of what they consider pulp fantasy or appropriate to pulp fantasy gaming.

5. My main issue with Carcosa isn't the introduction of optional rules (though many folks see this as the beginning of the dreaded rules creep that has driven D&D from it's roots) but with a few of the mish-mashes of creatures, and the overwhelming gratuity of detail in the ritual sorcery.

Honestly, if the sorcerer class was created and the bare basics of the rituals were all there was, sans the shopping list of details (come on, we're supposed to be making stuff up anyhow, we really don't need the gory details of who, what, where, when and how.). Yes, I like the idea of ritual sorcery and that it is heinously evil...even that is tied to lovecraftian elder gods. I'm cool with that. The shopping list is overkill.

A parallel to this IMO would being making rules for combat, and adding a shopping list of things to do before armoring up: Locate your armor. Put on your plate legs first, but after the gambeson (roll on this chart for failure options). Locate your body armor. Put it on (roll on the chart). Now your arms (roll) and gorget. Find your gloves, put them on, now helm. NOW put on the gloves/ gauntlets. Go ahead and grab sword and shield and roll for initiative.

It's just too much. Too much detail to be hunting down the right sacrifices, too much in the way of rules for stuff that is ultimately slowing down the game...for something that really makes no different. Really...it's something that can be easily glazed over and doesn't need rules ( but it's tied in to the whole sorcerer class which is kind of a big part of the point of the setting.)

The Graphics:
Part of the argument is that NPCs and PCs are simply game pieces. They mean nothing. It's all simply a glorified game of Chutes and Ladders.

I'm not one to be all in to delving too deeply in to characters as far as their psyche or anything, but in an RPG, a game where you play a role, and where the goal is an immersive experience, and we're supposed to act out and think in terms of character...some things are considered tasteful, some are okay for color or scene dressing...some things are gory spatter-fests for the sake of sating some weird desire for gory details.

I am totally cool with pressing those boundaries with the right people and to try and seek answers to deep questions or delve in to serious issues. That's fine.

Bloody human sacrifices, in painstaking detail? Okay, that's a bit much.
Alignment isn't even in the picture, so somehow there's no moral judgment involved here at all...like somehow it's all okay.

NO.

Fuck no.

Drifting off to Pulp Fantasy:
Some folks have this mindset that pulp fantasy gaming is about being somewhere on the alignment scale from neutral to evil. I don't agree. I think that while many of the pulp fantasy novels had characters that did some morally questionable things, for the most part, they eeked it over the line to be heroes of one sort of another. Aragorn-like? No...but not evil either. The point of the game, with it's alignment system is that PCs (and NPCs) can be whatever you want along that scale(otherwise what is the point of the scale).

Solomon Kane is a wholly good guy (bad mo-fo who edges close to that line, but damn if he's not a good guy). Conan, dude, often driven by rage, but he does a lot of good and rarely is "evil". Maybe self-interested...but he does fight for the good guys against the heinously evil guys.

Good doesn't mean retarded. It can mean bad-ass too. but so many folks look at D&D and Pulp Fantasy as a largely neutral to evil enterprise. Carcosa takes that to a whole new level with a PC class that is IMO wholly evil, yet has no alignment to differentiate it from anyone else...which I think make it "all okay" to be not only evil...but one damn malignant sicko.

In a boardgame where they are simply just pieces on a board, I'd still think it was gratuitously graphic. For an RPG, a game of immersion...it's far FAR overboard.

Summary:
Overall, I think Carcosa is all tight as Supplement V. A bit presumptive, but really, meh. Who cares. There's no enough IMO to separate it from anything else of the sort, it may as well be Supplement V.

The material as far as setting, rules, monsters, aliens, it works. It's a stretch but look at a lot of pulp fantasy.

One thing I can't condone rules-wise is the divorce of alignment from the heinously evil Sorcerer class. Doing so ...I've covered it already. Nuff said.

The graphic nature of the details regarding ritual sorcery: way, WAY over the top. (although the Expurgated Edition is likely totally A-OK).

If I were to do it differently, my way: I wouldn't change a lot. I'd take the Expurgated Version, throttle back the space aliens and robots a bit, keep alignment in, and make the rules an optional addition on not a replacement. That's about it. (Okay, some of the monsters are a bit weird, I dig the lovecraftian theme that was going there but it drifted a bit off course. My opinion of course. YMMV).

The Grades:
Still, the Expurgated Version is okay as-is and isn't IMO a dealbreaker (closest thing to the dealbreaker would be the alignment issue). I'd give it *** out of ***** (like it).

The original full gory details version: DEALBREAKER! * out of ***** (didn't like it).


Thank You:
I appreciate James' review. Thoughtful as ever. (Well...saying that the UA just sucked bugged me, but it's his opinion, his blog). I also appreciate Geoffrey McKinney's rebuttal which also was respectful.

For more information please see:
http://carcosa-geoffrey.blogspot.com/
http://grognardia.blogspot.com/

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Whew!

Thirteen preliminary sketches completed yesterday, submitted this morning. Good tight sketches, good penciling...not just sloppy thumbnail sketches. I'm kinda proud, that was a lot to get done.

While working I had the following on in the background:

Serenity
Shaun of the Dead
Hot Fuzz
Doom
Slither
I am Legend

Friday, November 7, 2008

Working through the weekend...

Lost a couple days this weeks to politics, so I'm a couple days behind. Consequently I'm working through the weekend to make up my time.

Thus far the schedule of background entertainment is as follows:
Shaun of the Dead (done)
Hot Fuzz (watching now)
Galaxy Quest
Underworld
DOOM
Blade: Trinity

Beyond that I'm not certain.

Five sketches down, 15 to go!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A long way to go.

While Mr. Obama won the election, nothing is going to change overnight. Even when he's in office it'll take some time to see any results at all. Some seats are going to change. Some of the small shifts of power will allow some small changes to start happening, but it's not like the president has some magic switch to change the way things are.

In some states there was a fight regarding Gay Marriages. I think the poignant illuminator in these has been videos showing laws regarding marriages between interracial couples...just exchange the "interracial" parts to "same-gender" and you get a glimpse of what's wrong there. Thing is, it's 2008, almost 2009 and only NOW is a black man getting to the white house. Almost 45 years after the MLK/ Civil Rights movement. 45 YEARS. Changing things for everyone to be considered equal is going to take some time.

What is bothering me the most is reports from across the US of people being called out to as "nigger lover" or the hatred of people so focused on their ownership of guns. Like the Big Black Man is going to come by and take his guns away.

My favourite tongue-in-cheek response today:

A group of Black Panthers have arrived at my door and taken my infant son away to raise him as a Muslim Socialist Gay Communist. Just like I was told would happen!
(Also, they've raised my taxes so much that I've had to go back to exotic dancing to support myself, Castro has called to inform me that I'll be slaving on a Cuban sugar farm for three months out of the year, and I'm legally required to set any Bible I see on fire, and I've adopted the American flag as toilet paper, again as the law requires).

I have a lot of respect for Sen McCain's speech last night. It was very respectful and classy. This is the McCain I remember from a few years ago...before he sold his soul for the nomination. I was proud of him. It's too bad his constituents were boooing at the time.

Why is it Obama and the Dems cheered for McCain and yet McCain acted honorably and his constituents act like children? I don't get that.

It's been a long time coming. I'm glad the race is over, but man...we have a long road ahead.