Gun Kingdoms I Cover Art

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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.

TNE Covers: Reference Photos

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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

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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.

Traveller: The New Era Trilogy Covers

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Traveller: The New Era Trilogy Covers

Toward the end of the run for GDW there was an effort to revive the Traveller line through a reboot. Well, not actually a “reboot” in that it wasn’t a remake like Traveller: 2300 was, but they moved the time period a couple of decades along and tweaked some of the dynamics of the races involved.

I did some work for Traveller: the New Era (TNE) but nothing near the amount I did for the original game. TNE didn’t have nearly the sales and it hasn’t held up as well over the years with fans. On a purely self-centered level that is very disappointing because some of my best work was for TNE and this set of three covers was the best of the lot.

Even though they were unlikely to all be on the stands together at the same time, I designed the three books so they would work together if they did. While not completely accurate, the term “tryptch” has been used in describing this set. Unfortunately the third book was never published; it wasn’t a matter of quality (Paul Brunette is a good word-cruncher) but rather economics. There was a change in paper stock with the second book which made it noticeably heavier and sales (or lack thereof) did not do well enough to warrant the extra freight charges so The Backwards Mask (Book 3) never saw print.

Something Closer to the Right Side….

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Something Closer to the RIght Side....

Even though the precision with which I make my cut-paper sculpts can readily lure me into Left Brain Land, I think I avoided that trap with this piece. It was originally done about ten years ago (close after the “long/skinny” I just posted) but I revised it this last year before giving it to my friend Hank Taylor upon his promotion to colonel.

The bright colors and near-whimsical rendering style are not an exact fit for the intensity and tone of the Normandy invasion but there is still a sense of strong emotion, that butterfly-on-steroids feeling you get in your stomach before making a night equipment jump.

Dimensional Illustration: Mote Warrior

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Dimensional Illustration; Mote Warrior

Dimensional illustration was a niche specialty that saw most of its popularity in the ’80s and ’90s. The term referred to sculptural work that was photographed and used as illustration in lieu of flat work and it did well enough to warrant its own annual awards presentation (I won a Bronze Medal in 1993 for an interior I did for Amazing Stories).

I did several dimensional pieces for my friend Charlie Ryan at Aboriginal Science Fiction but the overwhelming influence of computer-generated imagery smothered the use of “real” dimensional work.

This is how I imagined the Mote Warriors from the SF classic The Mote in God’s Eye; the environment measures 16″ X 24″ X 8″ and is built of wood, Bondo, plastic, paper and paint. The figure is made of Super Scuply and Pro-Mat.

Photography by Roy Buckener of Kennesaw Creative.

From the collection of Jeff Barnes.

What Analog Artists Do When the Power Goes Out

I am an easy-going person and I get along with just about everyone, but occasionally I will run into someone who seems to feel that my face is a face born to slap. When I was younger it would cause me a lot of distress and it’s still not much fun at sixty, but the most stressful aspect did not know what the cause of this rancor was…then one day the last Lego snapped into place.

Art.

There are a lot of frustrated artists in the world, people who would like to be creative but lack the skill to do so. There are also people with talent that would like to be working with that talent full-time, but can’t quite make the jump to freelancing. In either case soon after they learn I am a freelancer illustrator I start getting red faces, clipped word and baleful stares aimed in my direction.

Unfortunately on one occasion I had one of these people as a client.  The minute I walked through the door the drive-by sarcastic quips started up, beginning with the “Computers are putting guys like you out of a job” and ended with the usual stale “you want fries with that” jokes shouted out the door as I walked out to my car. I wasn’t in much of a mood for the comments but when I did the math it turned out to be a very cushy assignment. The company made custom campers and trailers for the telephone and cable industry and they needed a dozen line drawings of their product. Between the great shot reference photos I shot in their yard and the fact that I can render hardware in my sleep it was going to work out into one of the better dollar-per-hour rates I had ever made, so I sped home and got ready to start work…but the minute I sat down at my studio desk there was a knock at the door.

It was a representative from electric company; because they had to replace some aging transformers or framistats or whatever in the neighborhood they were going to shut the power off from nine in the morning to three in the afternoon for the rest of the week. I chuckled for a minute, then took my drawings to a desk in another room, pushed the desk close to a window for better lighting, then continued working.

On Thursday I called the client and made arrangements to meet. He had heard about the power outage in my neighborhood and was very brusque, telling me that he was a business man with deadlines to meet and he couldn’t be expected to “carry someone else’s load”–which I assumed meant he thought I was going to be asking for more time on the project. The other shoe hadn’t dropped yet–he had been so caught up in being caustic that it didn’t occur to him that I didn’t need a computer to do the work.

I wished I’d had the proverbial camera with me when I brought in all the drawings, complete and a day early. His expression telegraphed his internal reaction so obviously that all I could think was how quickly I could pay off school loans if I ever got in a card game with with this guy. As I turned the illustrations in and the check was being written his face never ceased its ballet of disappointed twitches and tics …though he did get in a parting shot by rejecting one of the pieces as something he supposedly had “never asked for” and docking me a hundred bucks.

I had my own dilemma to solve as well.  The adult in me was urging a kinder attitude, but the teenager in me was hopping up and down in a celebration of reverse-schadenfreude, ready to trade some extra time in spirit prison in exchange for watching that face-tango for another 10 minutes. Yes, computers are the future, but for now I’m happy drawing with my pencils and pens as an “analog” artist, whether the lights are on or off.

HughesTruck

General Grievous, Move Over.

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General Grievous, move over.

Doing any kind of licensed material for Lucasfilm has usually been a nice experience. Not too much micromanagement. Pay not overly great but on time. They even sometimes work your creations into the SW canon, unlike another certain space-opera property.

The only problem I’ve ever had with them can be summed up in three words:

1.Work
2.For
3.Hire

They own everything you do for them under contract…which is why I flinch whenever I see General Grievous on his wheel-bike. This sketch here predates the general’s ride by a number of years–I did it in February of 1995 for the West End Games Star Wars Game journal–can’t remember the title of magazine or Peter’s (the editor) last name. Since every licensed publication passes through Skywalker Ranch at one time or another you have to wonder if one of the production designers was having a brain-fart creative walk one day when SHA-ZAM he came across my design.