I’m a product of the Seventies in that both my social sense and my creative vision were influenced a great deal by what was going on in the decade from 1970 to 1979. Economically speaking it was terrible with most of the decade stuck in ‘stagflation’ – a stagnant economy wracked by inflation, and the country suffered a major geopolitical black-eye in Southeast Asia. At the same time it looked like racial issues were being addressed, and the multicultural bridge crew of the Starship Enterprise more than an escapist’s dream – which made my heart warm. My parents were an anomaly for their generation in that they were color-blind when it came to race, and so the idea of everyone of all colors getting along and working well together seemed only natural.
I was excited to be studying ‘commercial art’ as well and I loved the flamboyant renderings and splashy color choices of illustrators like Bob Peake that were so popular at the time. I looked forward to working in that design world, so at times it was challenging to have my illustration career on hold for five years while I served in the Army….but when I came out of the Army things were starting to change. Individual art directors were being replaced by committees and group-think tends to shun the experimental. Race relations were starting to change as well and the future didn’t seem as positive as we thought in the previous decade.
One indication of the changes was also one of my signature bodies of work – the group of uniform designs I created in 1986 and 1987 for FASA’s foil-covered BattleTech House books. It was a marvelous opportunity and a great learning experience: if you line the books up in order of their production you can see a gradual positive change in both my figure drawing and marker technique.
Unfortunately that project is unlikely to happen again with the same results.
Why? Jordan Weismann was the sole art director for the entire project and he pretty much let me run with my ideas – in the entire series he turned back exactly one drawing. Unfortunately by the last book Jordan had left and I had to contend with three different people dictating often conflicting changes which made for a drop in concept and quality. I no longer had the freedom to excel.
There were other trends that were disturbing me… Early on in the BattleTech project I was able to keep that Enterprise bridge crew model-mix of genders and races but as the series wound up with the committee in charge, it seemed like all the figures they took exception to had darker skins or only “X” chromosomes. Those committee objections took me totally by surprise (hence the title of today’s post). I’d been tooling along with my Seventies goggles but when I stopped and took a good look around in 1988 everything was very different.
I won’t even go into how I feel about the way things are now, but rest assured that I still prefer that Seventies perspective and I still put more stock in a person’s actions than the way they look.
This laser-equipped trooper from the Eridani Light Horse happened at the very beginning of the series
Re-visualized version from earlier in this decade
For some reason my reworked version of the House Steiner Gunner (from BATTLETECH) gets a LOT of hits, so I came up with a color version last night.
Latest in the MechWarrior Redux series; this time it is the House Steiner Missile Launcher equipped trooper. Unfortunately you’ll have to scramble through your old copy of MechWarrior to get a look at the original version as my scanner is not cooperating today.
Drawing this figure was a cathartic experience for me – it had been a been a bad week with an unusually elevated pain level and when that happens depression settles in soon afterwards. However, this drawing fell together so fast and so well that I didn’t have a chance to snivel. Getting inspired by your own art is kind of like laughing at your own jokes: it doesn’t happen very often but when it does it’s great!
…and let me go on record:
I like women in high heels. I like poses with high heels and toes pointed. I don’t care how authentic is looks – I like it. Besides, if all the cinematic Catwomen can have high heels – even in the most recent Dark Knight trilogy then I can use high heels for my action ladies. (I’ll just toss in Vibram soles as a nod to the fans of more functional design.)
These newer versions have much more personality than the 1986 gang, to the point that I start wondering what they would sound like talking. I think this young lady would sound like Sylvia Anderson doing the voice of Venus on Fireball XL5!
Original 1986 version:
One of the blessings of knowing and working with someone for a long time is “honest evaluation”. When I sent the Eridani Light Horse rifleman drawing to Scott he was very frank in his assessment: loved the figure but not the face. At first the nonverbal reptile lurking in the survival area of my brain wanted to lash out…but then I had to admit that I had not been that happy with the face but had just wanted to “get it out the door”
…and right at that moment Lori chimed in with ” You know, I wasn’t happy with the mouth….”
I had also left out the communications headset so using the wonders of adhesive labels blocked out then reworked the rifleman’s face and cap into a stronger visage
Latest in a series of reworked uniform/character sketches from the table-top miniatures game classic MechWarrior – this one an Eridani Light Horse trooper adjusting the stock on a laser rifle. As a purely personal measure I’ve tried to achieve a likeness to how I think my grandson Jayden will appear 20-25 years from now.
It’s been nice to go back and >tweak< the designs a little. The deadlines were so incredibly short and my drawing skills not as polished as they are now so often it was a matter of “churn and burn”…and just get it out the door. As I make these changes I strive not for a complete stylistic update as much as a more finished look to the original vision. For example, the back-pack power unit hasn’t been changed much other than the addition of the chest belt linking the two arm straps. Anyone who has ever carried a pack more than ten steps will appreciate what that one little strap will do for the carrier. I had planned on including it in the original version but in the rush to hit that short-fused deadline the chest belt was left out.
My good friend and agent Scott Taylor (of Art of The Genre) has a MechWarrior project a-brewing and he asked me to do a couple of drawings. He’s been very close-mouthed about the concept, telling me only that it will deal with very early MechWarrior material – as material created in the first three seconds after the name change from Battledroids.
(…and if you recognize that title you are indeed a hardcore MechWarrior/Battletech player)
First up is a rework of the female Mech jockey as featured in color section of the first MechWarrior book. Truth be told I’ve always like the black & white versions for the same reason I prefer unpainted figure sculpts: I want to be able to fully enjoy the structure.
For comparison I am posting a scan of the original below. It’s hard to believe it’s been three decades since I produced it…