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.

HMS Aphid Aerial Gunboat

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HMS Aphid Aerial Gunboat

(I apologize in advance if you get this image twice. I’m still learning the ropes what gets forwarded where when I post something here)

I made this model while doing pre-production design for Space:1889. GDW handled visual aspects for the game series in the same way a movie would be designed out before any film rolled.

Why the model? I knew the ship would appear quite often and I wanted convenient, consistent reference. It began as a simple I-board mock-up hovering between 1:54 and 1:72 scale-wise and painted overall primer grey to aid photography…but when I saw how good it turned out I finished it off, giving it a full-color paint job, adding Ral Partha miniatures for crew and using period-correct ship fixtures purchased from Flying Dromedary Inc.

I was very selective about showing it for the first couple of years as it was part of the whole Space:1889 design package for which I had been paid a retainer – I was a little concerned that I’d have to give it to them. Luckily Frank was feeling gracious the day I asked about it and “gave” it to me.

Many fan-built ships differ slightly because the first published drawings of the Aphid show differences from mid-point aft to the propeller. I found that as I was making the model some aspects of my first design looked fine from just one angle – but appeared pretty clunk when viewed in the round.

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.