It’s always a little disconcerting to see what happens to your work when it finally gets to print. In this case it’s the cover to the first GunKingdoms book that I worked on with Scott Taylor ; I was so excited with the composition and the way the gradiated color in the circular graphic device played against the overall stark white background, and how the smooth texture of both background and circle set up the detail of the figures quite nicely.
…all of which was knocked (bleep) over teakettle in the printed version, and of course as the artist I was just sure that all that extra detail surrounding my figures was a distraction at best.
Seven years later I am still mentally kicking the two images back and forth. Words and pictures will forever be competing for centerstage and both Scott’s name and the title wouldn’t near so dynamic were it not for Jeff Laubenstein’s embellishments…but that plain white background looked soooo nice.
As I’ve written before when I first started free-lancing I was just as interested in historical work as science fiction and fantasy, but you go to where the money goes…and as clients tend to order what they see in your portfolio I ended up specializing in genre work. I can’t complain – I could have ended up stranded in romance novels…
Most of my military work happened early on which made this project a real treat when it came about in 11986. It’s a good example of my work at the time, though it would have been nice had it not been so abruptly cropped – the original is almost twice the size and contains a Russian BT7 tank and the barrel to the Panzergrenadier’s submachine gun.
Airbrush, paint & colored pencil on 12″X16″ hot-press water-color board
During the ten-year period following the Skye Boat Song promotion I sent out some sort of promotional piece every six months or so, the cards often performing double duty as convention flyers, bookmarks and on one occasion a change-of-address card. One fairly effective piece was a large color card displaying several color images produced by one of my major clients – they’d ganged the images on the end of a regular print run then used the bundle of finished cards barter in settling an old debt .
It seemed to be particularly effective as a hand-out at the dealers’ room tables we would often run at conventions….until I saw convention attendees sporting buttons displaying some of the same images from the card. At first I was pleased, assuming the buttons to be promotional items coincidentally sent in by the publisher in question but when I determined that the buttons had been purchased my sons and I did some investigating and found that a t-shirt vendor six tables down from us had walked off with half my cards and was using a hand-punch to make them into buttons then selling them for a couple of bucks apiece.
(It’s always amazed me that to the end he emphatically insisted he “didn’t do nothing wrong!”)
Entitled Queen and Escort this image was one of the multiple samples on that card but was well-received enough to serve as a promotional mailer on its own in the spring of 1986. It’s one the best examples of the composite technique I used at the time as well as one of my first large format female figures and was the basis for a third-person cosplay performance as well as the subject of two different small sculpts of mine later on. It was a point of pride that the concept, composition and use of color was strong enough to gloss over the fact that she wasn’t wearing very much. It even took my mom fifteen minutes of viewing before she tumbled to her state of relative undress.
Queen and Escort still hangs on my studio wall despite several lucrative offers, but then the highest bids invariably come from gentlemen ( and I use the term loosely) that I’d never want as owners of my work. This image is based on a Cibachrome print and the colors have shifter quite cool over the years. With the daughters and granddaughters I have now I don’t think this is something I’d do again but it remains one of my favorites
Other than knowing how to sling an airbrush and wield a marker I was totally clueless at the outset of my freelance career. As I’ve written earlier my parents were not overly enthusiastic about my career choices and until my second year of college the only bona-fide artist I knew was Peninsula pioneer and Renaissance man Cotton Moore…and it didn’t get much better when I finally started studying art in college as practicalities of an designer’s life were glossed over in favor of draftsmanship and technique.
Somewhere along the line I discovered CA (Communications Arts) magazine and learned about promotions and hustling up work…which immediately started the internal Stukas tearing up my innards. Along with all sorts of naturopathic remedies I had been spoon-fed in my youth with the idea that you “didn’t shoot off your mouth about yourself”, that hard-work and professional results were the best advertisement ever and in the initial stage of my illustration career that proved to be a sound plan.
…then came the evening in late 1984 when I looked at our snug little home, my sleeping children, the moths flying out of our checkbook and realized that at my current income we’d soon be getting our mail at nsmCardboard Box 5, Under The Overpass at Exit 272 , Utah 77340
My first step was to increase my efforts showing my portfolio locally, but I also went back to CA (then subsequently Step By Step and How-To magazines ) and started researching the idea of promotional mailers. As I was living in the creative wilderness of the Intermountain West a decade before computer aided design (with printers and scanners) the process of designing/printing/distributing promotional mailers was extremely labor-intensive but I managed to churn out some nice work which in turn brought in new clients and an increase in assignments. .
Skye Boat Song was the first promotional image I sent out – the image was inspired by Gordon Dickson’s classic military science fiction novel Tactics of Mistake while the title was a pun playing off the title of one of the first bagpipe tunes I ever learned. The type was all set by hand using Letraset press-type and pairing with the image involved more work with a PS 79 Proportional Scale than should be allowed by law. As photographic prints they were a little pricey to print up, but I sent 25 out in December of 1984 followed an equal amount a month later. As a promotional mailer it wasn’t too terribly successful, but it did startle an existing client into formalizing our relationship and feeding me a LOT more work, so it definitely was one for the win column.
This illustration may have been the first assignment I received from the Anchorage advertising firm Murray, Bradley and Rocky. After I ran the ARCO illustration on the 22nd I got to thinking, which got me to rooting around what tear-sheets and records I still have from that time – and this is what I came up with. I know that I did it in late 1980 but so much was going at the time I can’t be sure which one happened first
…and my records are so spotty. For years I kept meticulous records, hauling at least two (and sometimes more) full file cabinets everywhere we went but after thirty-nine years and seven moves I’ve lost a lot of stuff. It’s the kind of illustration you’d see now only in a specialty publication or used to establish a nostalgic theme and would now be done in Photoshop or purchased from one of the numerous photo houses that flood the Internet.
It’s also of a time before internet commerce lead to the proliferation of ‘dead malls”. While Northway Mall was headed in that direction long before the rise of the Internet, when this advertisement first ran it was the one nicest shopping centers in Anchorage, anchored at each end and the middle with major retailers like Safeway and Pay-n-Save.
…though we were more interested in the Waldenbooks, gaming arcade and Art’s Video Mart stores where a good portion of my lieutenant’s pay was squandered on the 1st and 15th of every month….
In late 1974 vocalist Mac Davis did a cover of the Kevin Johnson tune “Rock and Roll I Gave You All the Best Years of My Life” . It was a catchy but bittersweet tune about unrequited love, not for a person but for a music genre and career field. I’ve always felt the message to be valid in my own creative career as I was drawn to fannish subjects and clients but rarely got the recognition or success I could get in other fields.
This brochure cover is a case in point: I produced it at about the same time as I was painting a cover for a role-playing game company, but while this piece earned me a sizeable chunk of cash and a BONNIE (Best of the North//ADDY award) the cover paid a much smaller chunk and was barely acknowledged.
My first freelance assignment after getting transferred to FT Richardson in 1980.
Actually I need to explain something: I started doing freelance work for role-playing game companies while I was still in school – mostly spot illustrations but also some micro-game covers. This was my first non-fannish assignment and was contracted through Murray, Bradley and Rocky, an Anchorage advertising agency that I think is still doing business albeit under a different name.
I did a LOT of advertising work in Anchorage and even won a “Bonnie” ( Best of the North award like the Addy award in other cities)
People become illustrators when they develop an affinity for a certain type of art. When I first started teaching thirty years ago everyone wanted to illustrate movie marquee posters but by the dawn of the new millennium all my students wanted to work in the computer gaming field. Tattoo art was the big thing two years ago as I was winding up my academic career but for me the magic genre was music…
…as in album covers. When I first started out I jumped into the role-playing came market as a way to work into doing comics and book covers, but my Holy Grail was the 33 1/3 r.p.m. record album cover. Covers measured twelve inches by twelve inches and uniformly presented 144 square inches of the most dynamic art on the planet. Roger Dean, Phillip Travers , Kim Whitesides and Patrick Woodruffe were my favorites as was (unknown to me at the time) Phil Hartmann of SNL fame and I worked as hard as I could to break into that market and rub creative shoulders with those guys.
I was delighted when asked to create this cover in the fall of 1983 and hoped for many more such assignments but little did I know that before long the cassette, then the CD would conspire to eliminate this wonderful genre. I got a second similar assignment for an album entitled “Runaway Heart’ which was followed by a flock of forgettable kiddie records but by the middle of the Eighties the LP market was all but gone. I wanted to grouse about the situation but to be honest I was (still) delighted to have the small part of the market that I did.
Production notes: I don’t remember what happened to the original so it may be stashed in a box somewhere in the house or garage. Airbrush, pen, colored pencil and gouache on hot-press watercolor board. It was rendered as a wrap-around illustration measuring 16″ X 32″ so this front cover would be 16″X16” square
I produced this illustration in and around the kiddie Traveller box art, with both projects getting sent to press just prior to my deployment via C-130 for JRX BRIM FROST 1983. I was glad to have the work but more than a little stressed as I was responsible for both getting the battalion ready to go as well as the running the airfield control group for the entire exercise once we got to the area of operations.
I also wondered why GDW was opting for a second cover so soon after the first printing. Say what you want about style but the original cover art by Rodger MacGowan is definitely an iconic piece in the Traveller mythos.
I have no idea where the original art ended up but I do remember it as measuring about 18″X24″ and was rendered with airbrush, colored pencil, marker and marbilized enamel on cold-press illustration board.
…when is a cut-paper sculpture not a cut-paper sculpture?
That’s a question I answered during the spring of 1989 while teaching an introductory illustration course at Kenai Peninsula College (KPC) in Soldotna, Alaska. One of the last assignments I had the class do illustrate an historical event using cut-paper sculpture. I had fully intended on working alongside the class members and illustrating a cathaphract (armored horseman) from the Romano-British period of the 5th century but got stalled on the concept and finished it off in my regular airbrush/paint/pencil illustration technique.
This painting is the result. It measures 9″X12″ and was rendered on illustration board, I still wince a little when I see it – I had this great idea about using plastic window screen mesh for the chain mail but it would be another fifteen years before my cut-paper skills would be up to the task.