Design by Quigley….

2015-03-03 NSCC Art Club Poster 2

Computer-aided graphic design calls to mind the Tom Selleck movie “Quigley Down Under” . When asked several times why he didn’t pack a pistol in addition to his .45/70 Sharps rifle Quigley would just say “I don’t like them”.  At the end of the movie – after he out-draws the villain – he’s asked “But I thought you couldn’t use one?” to which Quigley replies ” I never said I couldn’t use them – I just said I didn’t like to use them.”

That’s how I feel about computers and graphic design. While I’d never want to go back to the days of manually creating a text-wrap I do prefer mixing  technical pens and  X-acto knives with a key-board…

FASA Star Trek : ST:TNG Officer’s Manual // Equipment Cut-away Drawings


This was almost one of the coolest products ever to hit the street from FASA. I started work in late 1987 and I worked on it sporadically for the next couple of months. It was full of all sorts of nice techy information but evidently the Great Bird had problems with some of the text; book was pulled and edited down to a ghost of the original form (I think most of my cutaway drawings failed to make the cut). If you have the first volume you have a collectors’ item.

I worked hard to make the “guts” of each device look functional. Again, a background in industrial design followed by experience as a maintenance officer in the Army was of great help. In order to facilitate maintenance almost all complex devices in the military are built up out of smaller components; first and second echelon maintenance/repair consists mainly of testing and replacing those smaller modules. It  was disappointing to see wire & LED “spaghetti” when Data or some android was opened up on camera. Maybe it was a budget thing or  writers thought viewers needed 1950’s technology in understand what was going on.

STTNGPhaserOne   STNGOfficersManualPhaser

When I got to the Phasers I tried to carry on with the design philosophy used with the Original Series side-arms: the concealable Phaser 1 could clip into the Phaser 2 when more power was needed with the Phaser 2 clipping into a rifle when you really needed to knock something down. When I got to my version of the rifle I decided to have some fun.


Taking a page from George Lucas’ book I styled the rifle on a British STEN submachine gun i.e. the lethality of the base weapon is mirrored in the new device. I rationalized the long side-handle as being the base for a more accurate “triangulating” sighting system…and these weapons would need them because you’d have a hard time hitting anything with them.You’ll have a hard time finding a current military rifle without a pistol grip because they help shooters more instinctively aim. It plays on the way you hold your hand when you point a finger. Flatten the hand out and your aim gets even more shaky; when Worlds of Wonder used a flashlight -format for the initial prototypes for Lazer-Tag they found effective aim to be impossible.

The word must have gotten through: this “dust-buster” format got an angled-down handle towards the end of DS:9.

Denial of Destiny


Denial of Destiny

“Rich artist” is a contradiction of terms for most creative types. That certainly has been the case in my career; I have had periods of peak activity and affluence but they never last long enough to even out for the lean years. As a good friend said ” One month the chicken is in the pot and the next month you get only feathers.” In order to mentally and emotionally survive you have to find your rewards in others ways. You can’t used income to keep score.

Sometimes the pay-off comes with the subject matter you are assigned. It’s been my good fortune to make my living doing Star Trek art at three separate times in my career. In the mid-eighties I did covers for FASA corporation’s Star Trek role-playing game, in the mid-nineties I did a couple of sub-sets for Skybox Cards Star Trek Masterworks II set, and in the mid -“oughts” I did the three dealer-incentive covers for IDW comics adaptation of ‘The Wrath of Khan”.

It was kind of nice the way that all worked out….

This was the first cover I did for the FASA game series. I had just started free-lancing after four years as an officer in the army and truth be told this was a little difficult for me. During my “time in” I did occasional free-lance work but not enough to push me into developing my work; I came out making images almost exactly the way I did when I went in.

Unfortunately my “eye” did continue to develop – what I could conceive was much more demanding of what I could produce. I had an idea of what I wanted to do but was having a hard time getting there.

Considering the predicament I was in at the time this didn’t work out all that badly. It was done in July of 1983 with airbrush on illustration board with inks and Dr. Martin’s dyes. Some areas have been embellished with colored pencil or brushwork. It measures about 12″X16″ – it was originally a wrap-around cover so you’re missing half the image – the back area was split between white space and a continuation of the space-view.

1982: The Face of Pain


The Face of Pain

In May of 1982 I was part of a Field Training Exercise at Malamute Drop Zone, Fort Richardson, Alaska. I was responsible for managing the Army end of all airlift coming in or out–the Airedales will fly anything, but the user has to make sure it’s ready to go. Because of that assignment, my small detachment was located a few miles away from the main body of the battalion.

Between the length of the initial deployment (I was awake and working for 36+ hours) and the environment (dust combined with wide ranges in temperatures) I came down with a cold… which rapidly turned into pneumonia when I couldn’t get to the aid station right away. It wasn’t until our medic determined that I was running a 103-degree temperature that things started to happen, but I still spent a night in my tent by myself before getting to a doctor.

It was during that night that I saw this creature. Yes, it was a fever-dream but it literally scared the hell out of me. When I was finally able to make noises when moving my lips I asked who he was and he responded “Skaaa, the bringer of pain”

As I said before, I know it was a dream–and I know I have an over-active imagination at times as well… but every time I go through particularly nasty bouts with illness or pain that last for any length of time I can almost see this bundle of spruce sticks over in the corner, eyeing me with malicious glee as he sharpens the skewers, hooks and other implements of his trade.


There are two types of posts I make to this blog. The first type is a spontaneous post and usually involves a piece of art. The second type is in essay form, usually 600-1200 words and has been drafted, proof-read edited offline so it comes out exactly right. This post is going to be a mix of both.

While this is not a political blog, and I am not an overly political person I started out with a rant about prescription pain medication. Granted, there is a problem with abuse and diversion in the country but in humanity’s usual mode of over-reaction a lot of deserving people are being not just hurt but permanently damaged.

I was that rarest of anomalies, a drug-free college student in the early 1970s. I didn’t start out with any hard and fast opinions either way, but I made a promise to my girlfriend that I would not indulge, and I kept that promise even though it brought enormous pressure from the other residents of my dorm to include threats of violence. When they finally figured out that (A) I wasn’t a narc and (B) I wasn’t going to cave their attitudes changed and I became the token “straight.” As my good friend The Badger said to me “Deitrick I guess you have character,” and from then on anyone from outside Lathrop Hall risked damage to life and limb if they pushed the drug issue with me.

It’s been that way all my life. I had extremely high security clearances and was selected to control large amounts of money and extremely valuable items of equipment because I have proven myself to be scrupulously honest. When I returned an extra $20 a clerk gave me with change after a purchase she was amazed that I did so, saying, “No one would have ever known” to which I answered, “But I would have”

So, where is this going? Please bear with me.

At the same time that I have been going through life as the living embodiment of Richie Cunningham from Happy Days, I have also been going through sheer physical hell. As the result of a now overwhelmingly disproven SIDS prevention measure known as Thymus Irradiation I was deprived of a healthy immune system. Because of that I have multiple auto-immune problems: advanced rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and multiple skin rashes which are often severe enough to bleed through.

…and did I mention the pain? I don’t have a thesaurus big enough or accurate enough for me to find words to accurately describe the exquisite torture I go through just to get up in the morning. You know that little graph they use to help verbalize pain, the one with the little faces on the number scale? At any given moment I have at least five areas bouncing up at about #7–and there are days when I could tape an extension to the end of that little scale and draw in three additional expressive faces showing pain at level 11 (vomiting) 12 (voiding bowels) and 13 (giving the world the “one finger wave”). I have knuckles that look like walnuts and major joints which possess 20% of the range of motion I had ten years ago. Because of the various non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed to me I’ve gone through pancreatitis twice (usually a one-way trip the first time around). I have gone all the way to “the edge” because of uncontrolled severe pain. The only way I can live anything close to a normal life is by using pain-killers.

OOOOOOHHHH. AHHHHHH. See–already you’re sucking your breath in and looking back over the previous half-dozen paragraphs to see if I ever car-jacked someone or dried a baby off in a microwave. If you use pain medication you are automatically judged as a criminal/addict. Never mind that all these “conditions” are due to massive stupidity on the part of doctors that are all dead now–I am flawed because I need this kind of help. What is bitterly ironic about all of this is the fact that pain-killers don’t really “kill pain.” The pain is still there, but you’re able to ignore it to an extent.

Long term chronic pain acts almost like a disease in and of itself. As your body copes with the overload on your nervous system it changes and adapts–and not in a good way. To take the pressure off of one joint I have to kind of twist in an otherwise unaffected area-–but which now causes more pain because it has been forced into an alignment it wasn’t made for. The longer the pain goes on, the faster and more intense it becomes as well. One doctor explained to me this simplistic but effective manner: it’s like the pain messages have worn a groove they can zip down.

At one time I longed for a device that would allow someone to experience my life for just thirty seconds–a small hand-held device with a push-button on it–but in the end was glad it didn’t exist. I’d be leaving a trail of people collapsed on the floor, covered with vomit with their bladders and bowels voided.

…and contrary to what thoughtless people have said to me, this isn’t a moderate condition that I am “using.”  As you would expect with growing up in Alaska and life as a soldier, I have experienced other periods of severe pain before all of this set in. At age 10 I walked on three broken bones in my foot for a week before getting a cast. I had my left thumb slashed/dislocated in an industrial accident and I took care of it with aspirin and a butterfly closure. Passed gallstones twelve times before the operation with only ibuprofin to ease the pain.  I know what pain is and what I go through daily equals those brief incidents.

Fortunately there are exceptions in the human race, people with unfeigned compassion.  I have two attending doctors now that both deserve sainthood for what they have done for me but in many ways their hands are tied by government rules and regulations that are just not thought out very well by people who know nothing of the science involved to begin with, much less the misery their actions have inflicted.

I make it through each day only because I have a great support system, with my beautiful Saxon princess at the top of the list. As I mentioned there are my two doctors and their staff who regularly save my life through their care and compassion… and there are the members of The Club.

The Club. I am certainly not the only person in this situation and I refer to those friends of mine in similar straits as members of The Club. I can readily pick those individuals out of a crowd–there is particular combination of a dark exhausted look around the eyes, a careful way of walking and an absence of judgment that comes only from countless sleepless nights, regular spasms and chronic joint pain… and the fear that comes with it. It is something that can only be experienced to be understood and it gives you a compassion that nothing else will.

At the outset of this post I said I didn’t know where I was going or what I wanted to accomplish, and I still don’t have a totally cohesive thesis statement to tack onto the introduction. Just do me a favor please. If you know someone in pain-hell, or in your daily activities encounter someone with a cane, moving in an oddly stiff manner or maybe wincing while moving around at a desk or handling objects, please be kind. No matter the kind of life they’ve lived, they’re going straight to heaven because they’ve already lived in hell.

Gun Kingdoms I Cover Art


Gun Kingdoms I Cover Art

With all the emphasis on our new book (Airship of Fools), I thought it would be nice to show the cover art for the first book. This will also give most of you a chance to see the entire painting as well; by the time the text lines and graphic devices were added, 15%-20% of the image was lost.

I loved doing this painting because it was created with my old process (airbrush/paint/pencil) that actually a lot more fun to do with the wide variation in tools and activity. I think that this process also makes a painting with a bit more “pop” to it.

Albert Jones Memorial 3.0


 Albert Jones Memorial  3.0

Another cardboard construction–this was made for a Saturday morning “drive-in movie” activity for church. Most of our time was spent keeping older kids from sweet-talking Meggie into trading rides with them.

This is also a good example of the viewer interaction I try to incorporate into my work. At times I will render only part of a background or just “indicate” it via simple line work. I do that so the viewer will be able to complete the image in their mind.

I found that my enthusiasm waned for things like Star Trek, Star Wars and Traveller as more background information was added. It was more fun for me to fill in the blanks myself.

TNE Covers: Reference Photos


TNE Covers: Reference Photos

I learned early on that good reference material get you a good painting. I have file cabinets full of clippings laboriously collected over the years but I find that even with all of those images available I usually end up shooting new photos for each project. It’s better to have a photo tailored to your design than it is to tailor your design to the reference you have on hand.

I have also found that even with the ba-jillion images available via the Internet I still have to set up shots. Google “The Romulan Starship ‘Buzzard’s Breath'” and you’ll get 100K results… but 998K of the images will be the same identical shot.

I don’t set out to use myself as a model but I often find it so much easier to do so. With this cover painting I wasted 45 minutes trying to get my model into the desired “crazed cult-member pose,” and in the end I had to pose while he took the photo. My only regret is that I couldn’t keep my McGuyveresque locks into the painting.

You never know beforehand who the best models will be either. I tried using one of Lori’s drop-dead gorgeous friends for a FASA Star Trek piece but the girl had no acting “muggability” at all. The gentleman who posed for the soldier in this painting verbally worried about “everyone in the neighborhood staring at him” during the shoot despite the fact that there were two, maybe three kids (no adults) within a four-home radius.

TNE Trilogy Covers: Comprehensive Sketches


TNE Trilogy Covers: Comprehensive Sketches

I make fairly precise comps, to the point that some of the more literal editors I’ve encountered will assume that the final art will “have all those black lines.” Luckily that wasn’t an issue with this project because the art director was Kirk Wescom, one of the best ADs I’ve ever worked with.

(How good is Kirk? When you look in the dictionary for “art director” you’ll find his picture next to the citation.)

…and the only change he requested was to change the background color to the teal shade I had specified for the first and third volumes.