Thursday, April 30, 2009

Another deadline...CRUSHED!

...a few days early no less.
Why do art directors use freelancers who don't produce on time?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I think I figured it out...

Over the years I've been asked a hundred times "Why don't you do Warhammer art?" I'm a big fan of the material, Warhammer 40,000 especially. Not much of a game player per se, but I love the art, novels, and of course...toy soldiers.

I think it's a holdover from when I was a kid. Little army men and all that.

Anyhow...the answer has always eluded me.

Yesterday I sat down on my lunch break and sketched out a Space Marine. Took an hour or so.
Afterward...I went ahead and colored it in Photoshop.

Now compare this w/ say...John Blanche:

See also Adrian Smith for beautiful work that is WAY different than mine.

Now first off, my image is very static. It's just a test piece, not going for anything spectacular here, so ignore the static vs dynamic bit. I was also trying to adjust the proportions to be a bit more..."true". Anyhow...TEST PIECE.

Now what?
Mine is very...VERY crisp. Neat and between the lines. It's comic art. These other pics...these are paintings. Especially JB's art, which has an almost scratchy, sketchy feel to it. It's...messy.

On mine you see no brush strokes at all. Hard surfaces are hard, soft are soft, everything blended and smooth.
On normal 40k art...very sketch-like rough, course looking work.

Honestly, I have no idea how to do work like that.
Is it an OCD thing? I have no idea.

THIS is why I usually don't do any Warhammer-based art.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gygax vs Arneson and our Rose-Colored Glasses

There was recently a post/ thread on Grognardia that I came out of self-imposed exile to post on. Some good stuff came up and one in-particular that I wanted to illuminate.

Matthew James Stanham mentioned how people often place the views of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson on the hobby in to philosophical boxes. I've found this to be very true, especially in the past couple years. We see Gygax on one end and Arneson on the other and take a wide variety of quotes over the decades and fabricate a Philosophy of Arneson and Philosophy of Gygax and through the use of colorful and creative mix-matching of quotes come up with dogma according to whichever demigod you choose.

My attitude towards this is that both "philosophies" are absolute poppycock.
It's the same as how various people interpret the books of the bible.

Gary Gygax has made a LOT of quotes over the decades, all in different circumstances and each needs to be taken in context...and with a grain of salt. Dave Arneson did less quoting but the same rules apply. I don't think we can draw too many conclusions without injecting them with our own views. Often I find that reviewers and opinion writers come with their own agenda and bias in mind when they start looking at the materials and when they do, they take the quotes as they see favor of their own agenda or opinion. This is true on both sides of any of these debates/ arguments.

People see what they want to see and twist what they see and read to fit their own views. It's a pretty rare individual that can see beyond their own agenda and see things as they are, take things with a grain of salt, and admit when sources conflict, are ambiguous and especially admit when their own heroes are likely popping off at the mouth saying whatever sounded good at the moment instead of speaking in a thoughtful honest and forthright manner.

While I'm admittedly preferential to Dave Arneson's "Philosophy" over Gary Gygax's "Philosophy"...I'll gladly admit both were on occasion full of shit. Gygax shifted his story around often depending on financial successes and the direction the RPG winds were blowing at the time. Arneson frequently liked to "bait the tiger". This isn't's a fact, and over the years we've all come to know this (whether we admit it or not).

What does this mean?
Can we draw some conclusions about the origins of the game? Sure. We can draw SOME conclusions, but we have to be very careful and take in consideration the circumstances of every quote we draw conclusions from as well as the context (and try and limit our own personal bias).

Again this is something that many opinion columnists cannot seem to do.
Sometimes I fall in to the very same trap.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wow...some artists...

Taking a break I opened reader and looked through some of what I've been missing (haven't been keeping up with my reading lately). Largely LPJ's blog and he had some notes regarding art and artists, which I immediately jumped on.

He's got some interesting ideas as far as marketing and sales of artistic product. I may be giving some a shot.

Another part was about how some artists charge a LOT for their art and others work just as well for far FAR less. Much of this strikes home for me because I *AM* one of those guys that'll do 20 quarter-pagers for $25 a pop rather than one cover for the same.
Does that make me retarded?

I think largely I like to work, stay busy and build long-term relationships with the folks I work with. I'm no dilettante. I'm a workin' stiff. Of course when my LT relationship people need those $500 covers...well I'm in a prime position to score the gig now aren't I?
Yeah...who's wearing the helmet now?

Told you there was a madness to my method.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Gonna be a busy weekend...

So the art direction is largely squared away. I totally Forrest Gump'd my way in to having the most stellar bullpen EVER! Serious, Knockspell Issue #2 is going to rock like eggs on toast. Art is already coming in and brother, I'm SO impressed. The Bar Has Been Raised! (actually, some of the guys doing art this time 'round are FAR better than I am so even with my "A" game I'm going to be hard pressed to measure up.)

So I have a couple other gigs I'm on that need some lovin'. Period historical stuff for Rogue Games' Colonial Gothic Revised (thumbs all submitted and approved). Need to get hot because my deadline is creeping up on me.

Learning skinning and the Wintermute engine for a SUPER SEKRET PROJEKT. Yeah, this is going to be a year of work and a whole game. Very stoked. Anything to broaden my experience, learn new things and improve my skillset.

That said, while I would like to get on Xbox Live or WoW, or a variety of other diversions...I'm going to be chained to the drawing board for the forseeable future. Well...until around May 1st at least. So if I'm a little absent from social circles...this is why. Oh the joys of self-employment!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

WotC, PDFs, Retro-Clones and the Professional...

So yesterday WotC pulled the plug on their products on the PDF side of the house. No more D&D PDFs available for sale today anywhere. Bummer.

I think it's a knee-jerk reaction to the less than stellar sales of their D&D 4E books which they "blame" on piracy, but I really believe is due to selling an expensive product in a recession.

Smaller-press publishers immediately pulled out all stops on their PDF sales. Good for them. My concern is more for the industry as a whole rather than WotC (granted, the survival of WotC means a LOT to the industry as a whole...but it's not the whole enchilada).

So I'm doing the AD thing for Mythmere Games and their Knockspell Magazine. On one hand I like having some creative control over the quality going out the door. On the other hand, whiel I wear the Art Director hat...I'm doing no art for them. It's a conflict of interests.

I've seen too many products where the AD also is a contributing artist. What happens? What's the downside?
The AD gets his pick of assignments, fills the book with his/her art (which may not be as good as they think it is) and ends up sacrificing quality, and work for freelancers to feed his/ her own ego.

I won't go down that road.
The job of the Art Director is to safeguard the project/ product by striving to maintain the highest possible standards inthe artwork and smoothing the road for the layout guy (who is next on the production path). To temper this AD's also have to balance all this with trying to maintain a stable of qualified artists.

What makes an artist qualified?
Skill? That much is obvious, but even more important is how easy to work with the artist is.
Are they a primma-donna or do they do what they are assigned with a minimum of guff?
Are the communicative? Can you reach them when you need to? Do they respond when you call?
Most importantly, and I can't stress this enough...are the punctual? If you ask for a no-shit assessment on whether they need more they bullshit you, or tell the truth? I'd rather give an extension and hold up the whole project for good art and an honest artist then have the artist half-ass the job because they underbid the project.

Ultimately, like anything else the relationship between Art Director and Artist is a RELATIONSHIP. You have to work together smoothly and that takes both sides making the effort to do so. As an AD I'm looking for a stable of guys/ gals I can depend on to produce quality work ...on time. Dependable people.

This brings me to a post I read on a blog regarding the retro-clone movement and products like S&W and how it's a product made for players and talented amateurs to make for themselves.

That's cool and all...but where does that leave me? Granted I may not be Todd Lockwood or Frank Frazetta, but I consider myself very much a professional in this industry, yet I love working on S&W and other retro-clone products. I dunno, it just left me with a bad taste in my mouth.