Posted on March 30, 2004 by Flames
How did you get into gaming?
I started playing Dungeons & Dragons when I was nine or ten years old. Some friends had been playing for a while, and I finally got intrigued enough to go see what it was all about. I was a complete newbie, and they had a lot of fun at my expense while they were breaking me in; I can still remember the looks on their faces when I tried to attack an ogre with my chain +2! How was I supposed to know that was shorthand for magical chain mail?
What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas?
I love the way Stephen King recently answered this question. He said that whenever he needed inspiration, he’d open the locked drawer of his desk and stare at its contents, the shriveled, preserved heart of a murdered innocent; it never failed to bring him inspiration! What I wouldn’t give for one of those! Lacking such an item, however, I am forced to find inspiration more conventionally through film, comics, novels, other artists, etc. Some of my favorite things that get the creative juices flowing: Francis Bacon, Rembrandt, Egon Schiele, Frazetta, Jeffrey Jones, Kaluta, Arthur Rackham, Froud, William Stout, Elmore, Dave McKean, Mignola, Jon Foster, Rick Berry, Phil Hale, Wayne Barlowe, Blade Runner, The Exorcist, City of Lost Children, David Lynch, the Cohen Brothers, Planetary, The Sandman, Hellboy, 100 Bullets, Bendis, Gaiman, Salem’s Lot and the Dark Tower Series…Whew! That was a mouthful! Also, I’ve gotten into the habit of using models for a lot of my paintings, so those folks are an inspiration, too! Thanks, Bruce, Dave, John, Kurt, Maudell, Lisa, Renie, and that weird lookin’ guy on the El train!
Do you have a favorite medium? Why?
I usually do most of my illustrations on a Macintosh computer (yeah, I said it), using a Wacom tablet, Painter, and Photoshop. I got used to drawing with a tablet quickly, and there’s no mess (I hate the smell of linseed oil). I also like the freedom it gives me, allowing me to to experiment with layers of different texture, opacity, etc. in my images. Still, everything starts out as pen or pencil drawing, and I always enjoy doing quick watercolor washes and sketches from time to time, especially during a life drawing studio.
What can you tell us about your work on The Seventh Seal?
It’s been great working with Scott on the Seventh Seal and helping to define the look of the Sentinels, the Legion, and the world that these warring factions of the sacred and the profane inhabit. I’ve tried to make my work for the Seventh Seal reflect a consistent visual aesthetic. Gritty, realistic, worn … I’ve tried to make my heroes and villains both seem rough around the edges, to avoid stereotypes of the black hat vs. white hat mentality. I’ve specifically chosen grayscale for the images so I can fill each piece with texture and lighting to emphasize the drama of the images while grounding them with a sense of reality and solidity.
What makes The Seventh Seal stand out from other games?
I think the characters you play really stand out from other systems. You don’t control flashy, one-dimensional champions of goodness; characters in the Seventh Seal, while eventually quite formidable, usually start out conflicted, scared, and not necessarily that virtuous. They are everyday people chosen to act as champions of Heaven itself. The plight of an average person thrust into this kind of situation, given that kind of responsibility … it makes for a wealth of interesting gaming opportunities. It’s also lots of fun to play (or in my case, draw) the antihero type!
What advice do you have for artists trying to get into the RPG industry?
I’m hardly an expert on that subject, and in a lot of ways I’m still breaking into the industry myself. Still I can offer some advice to prospective illustrators: never stop learning, perfecting, or experimenting with technique; draw something everyday, even it’s only a doodle; learn early on to take criticism and to be receptive to the advice of your peers; never give up. In perhaps more practical terms, concentrate on learning anatomy and perspective; take life drawing classes or go to an open studio, and pick up books by Loomis and Bridgeman for reference or for when you don’t have access to a model. Learn traditional media, and learn to draw on the computer, too. See if working digital suits you, but don’t use it as a shortcut, and for god’s sake stay away for the lens flare filter in Photoshop, even if you have a lapse of judgment and think it looks really cool; believe me, it doesn’t. Become familiar with what publishers put out which games, what style of artwork each publisher favors, and where your style best fits in. Pay attention to and be on the lookout for submission guidelines and calls for art. These happen all the time on the internet and can be a great place to find work. Finally, check out message boards like the Freelancers Forum on RPG.net, or www.conceptart.org. These places are filled with brilliant artists who can offer you further advice or inspiration.
What’s next for you?
I’ve just finished up doing some illustrations for the Cyberpunk collectible card game from Social Games, and hope to do more work for them in the future. I’m doing concept work for Creative Illusions’ new game, Legion, and will be doing the cover and some interior illustrations. This book was originally intended to be a supplement for the Seventh Seal, but it’s grown into its own system now, and should be a blast for those who want to take a break from the heroic Sentinels and see how the other side lives. It should be creepy, good fun! Also, the Seventh Seal will be going into a hardcover second edition this year, and Scott gave me the honor of re-illustrating the book to make it more consistent with the game’s current world view and style. Plus, I get a chance to repaint and perhaps do justice to a few images and ideas I kinda butchered in the first edition!