The Analoggers Strike Again!

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This week’s Saturday Morning Re-run: I found this post the other day while doing prep work for my “Cheap Tricks” book project and thought it was notable/repostable in that I made it exactly forty years ago during the Christmas break of my last year of undergraduate work. Staying immersed in work was a good way of dealing with the tension of the very imminent arrival of our first child Conrad – who started his run-in to the natal drop zone during the 31 December 1978 episode of Battlestar Galactica.

David R. Deitrick, Designer

The Analoggers Strike Again!

Well, not recently. This was done for my senior portfolio when I graduated from BYU in 1979.My three years there were not the happiest time in my academic career and it seemed like I was always “leading with my chin”. Since I was also enrolled in ROTC and due to go on active duty it shouldn’t have made that much of a difference…but it did.

During my last semester I really went all out to put together a great portfolio and this TV Guide mock-up was the centerpiece. I ended up redoing every illustration in my book that last semester. My only regret is this is the best copy I have, which is sad because this and “Solo Kill” won me awards in the student art show that year.

This was all done with cameras, copiers and hand-skills. For some reason I kept the clear acetate overlay and 13 years…

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Cancelled Starfleet Battles cover

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The presence of two licensed Trek products in the gaming world was a bit of a mystery back in the early ’80s. Both companies maintained that they were the exclusive license holders but the story I got a about the situation was murky at best.

In the mid-70s Franz Joseph Designs produced two wonderful licensed Trek items: a set of blue-prints for the starship Enterprise and a Starfleet Technical manual. For some reason they were able to grant a sub-license to Lou Zocchi to produce a line of injection-molded styrene plastic miniatures based on the ship designs in the technical manual (and if I may add they were positively beautiful). Not so long after that Task Force Games was granted a sub-sub license to develop a tactical ship game based on the miniatures.

How plausible is this? Well, Paramount never shut down the TFG Trek line, though to be honest the back story for that game had morphed over the years to something quite unlike the main Trek universe. I know that the licensing department was very casual when first started doing the FASA trek covers; at the beginning I signed the covers along with a copyright bullet but it was two years before Paramount came back with ” Well, you probably shouldn’t be doing that”.

There was also talk in late 85 about Paramount granting a non-exclusive license to West End Games for a Trek tactical starship combat game – I know because I worked up comps for Jordan for a similar game that FASA would have rushed to market to fight the West End product….but all along Task Force games churned out their version of Trek and finally I was asked to do a painting for them.

Central to the book was a new cruiser class for Starfleet and the accompanying sketch is the concept I came up with – I felt it did a good job of splitting the difference between the class TV series version and the current movie version. It wasn’t until I submitted a cover sketch that I had the boom dropped on me.

The game designer sent Task Force a four page hand-written letter demanding that I NOT be used for the cover, and unfortunately by contract he had the right to do so. I had produced a cover for their STARFIRE game a couple of years prior to this; he felt that my work was too stylized and abstract to represent the Starfleet Battles game system. I lost, but the art director gave me another STARFIRE cover assignment ( the Gorm-Khanate War) that I always thought was one of the best covers I did during that time period.

Epilogue: In early 1987 I got a frantic call from Task Force Games – they needed a cover and their regular artist was unable to take the assignment. At this point I was indelibly connected with the FASA Trek series so I didn’t feel like taking the job was appropriate – and I had just taken a non-gaming assignment with a short deadline ruling out any other work. I was kind of glad for that as I didn’t want to look like I was thumbing my nose at Task Force .

1971: The Real Hogwarts

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The Real-life Hogwarts

There was a point in the first Harry Potter movie when the hair stood up on the back of my neck. It was the scene showing the train ride to Hogwarts – it triggered a spasm of nostalgia that made my stomach hurt.

I don’t know if the Alaska Railroad still gives a student discount, but when I started school in 1971 they did – you bought a regular ticket and upon arrival it was endorsed with a special stamp to make it “good” for a return trip. The trip up just before the fall semester was just a regular Alaskan summer excursion ( jaded a kid could get after living in the Last Frontier for nine whole years); it was the trip back at Christmas that was magic.

You left before the sun came up – and was up for only about four hours so most of the trip was completed in the dark. It was a magic dark though with moon-shine, star-shine, the Aurora Borealis and countless homestead lights sprinkling the countryside with bright little beacons that fired your imagination. The track paralleled the highway in several places so you also got the treat of amber and red car-lights flashing by. Overlaying all of this was the ever present fog and mist drifting in from not just heating stoves and automotive exhaust but from nearby streams and rivers.

…and it wasn’t just the trip – the terminals at both ends reeked of drama and strong emotion. While leaving or arriving at the Anchorage terminal was usually a very “flat” affair, the very opposite could be said about Fairbanks. It was like you were in a movie – tearful promises and farewells, hugs and kisses – I half expected French genedarmes or German storm troopers to come bursting through the door after me as the train left.

I wish I had a better photo of both the train and the school – this one dates from the mid-1980s but still looks pretty close to the way it did when I went there. Looking at the school in the cold light of day its just a unspectacular little land-grant school – but in the fall of 1971 it was the start of a movie that I was going to live in, making made it the best place in the world.

Imbalance of Power

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Imbalance of Power

“4M” (Mixed-Media/Mixed Method) on Strathmore Hot-Press Watercolor board painted in early 1986. Lots of bubbly acrylic wash involved in the rocky texture background. “Imbalance of Power” marked several firsts and transitions for me – and my family.

The first “first”? This wasn’t a wrap-around cover and the single-side format would continue (with one exception) until my time with the series ended. FASA was starting to make a decent amount of money and I had kept my prices down to keep from “killing the goose that laid the golden egg”. The understanding was (to quote John F. Kennedy) “A rising tide raises all boats”: when they did better they’d pay me better. There was some murmuring at a raise in rates but as a compromise they changed the format – which meant less time on each painting which in turn increased my dollar-per-hour figure on each painting.

Another first: I drew the rough/comprehensive sketch for this painting while I was attending BOSKONE. It was a little clumsy working on a tiny little hotel room table but it saved me time and gave me something constructive to do while everyone else was drunk.

Third “first”: It was the first major piece of art I did while living in “the blue house”. The first (not quite) 3 years of free-lancing were spent in a tiny little studio that had been converted from the tiny little garage for tract housing that had been built in the 1940s for workers at the Geneva Steel works in Orem, Utah. Early in 1986 we had the opportunity to move a huge distance (1/2 mile) to another larger house – the blue house – with a large studio built atop a garage instead of inside it. We moved in stages and started living in the new house before we got everything out of the old one so I had to do all the airbrushing and painting with the board ( and my fourth-point-of-contact was sitting atop the cardboard boxes and plywood sheets we were using for furniture until we got the contents of the studio moved over.

It was also a sad time. After three years of freelancing we felt secure enough to have another child. Lori became pregnant almost immediately and was doing well, but had a miscarriage while I was just starting this painting. As I said it was a sad time – but it was made more so by some of the brain-dead comments people would make – but I will leave that for another day.

Back cover: “Decision at Midnight”

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The little bodies are there – trust me. They are floating at the periphery of the exploding D-7 but between the photo-reduction of the original art, the printing process and then scanning they’ll be hard to spot.

When I first got the news about the Challenger I thought about painting them out, but then I thought it would be better to leave them in as a hidden memorial.

Decision at Midnight

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Decision at Midnight

One of my favorites…but one with some odd stories behind it.

The plot involved a Starfleet captain that had gone insane and was trying to start a war. I held on to the original until January of 1993 when a guy walked into the CHATTACON art show at the last minute and bought it for the immediate purchase price. The buyer kept gushing about the great portrait of Commander Riker he’d purchased and when I told him that A) it was an illustration for a classic TREK product published two years before ST;TNG came on the air and B) the guy who posed for the piece just happened to look like Jonathon Frakes the buyer’s eyes would kind of glaze over.

There is also a sad story to go with piece. About the same time I did this painting I got a reply from Task Force Games about an inquiry I had made to them 6 months earlier about doing work for Star Fleet Battles ( it’s a long story but it was a licensed line co-existing with FASA’s products. When I finally heard back I was told that the game’s designer specified that I not be used for the game – by name. As I had never met the guy it kind of took me back but evidently he wanted a lot more detail that I usually included – especially more little dead bodies getting sucked out into space…so when I did this space battle scene I made sure that I had lots of little dead bodies.

…but as I was finishing up the painting and cleaning my brushes an announcer broke into the classic rock station I was listening to, saying ” Folks, I’m not sure what is going on but we’ve gotten word that something wrong has happened at Cape Canaveral – that something might have happened to the Space Shuttle Challenger.”

Yep, it was early 1986 and while I was being oh-so-clever about dead bodies in space the shuttle was blowing up. There are times in my life when I felt like a bigger jack-a** than I did that day – but not many.

The Mines of Selka

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The Mines of Selka

NAASFIC is the alternate venue to an overseas WORLDCON , which in 1985 was held in Australia. NAASFIC was held in Austin, Texas – and I was pleasantly supprised upon arrival to find that the area felt like Sacramento, Stockton and the other central California places that I spent my early childhood years in. I was also pleasantly surprised at the warm welcome I received there; while taking an elevator to my room one afternoon I heard one of the other occupants comment to his friend ” You know, there is this guy in the art show – Diet-rich is his name I think. He has a very different style, kind of an Art Deco thing going and I really like it” When I piped up that I liked it too the guy looked a little bewildered until he saw my name-tag.

‘The Mines of Selka” was the first Trek piece I did after NAASFIC and it shows. While I was there I spent an evening at a local gallery opening and there were a couple of Michael Whelan pieces I really liked. One depicted a human figure moving through a space vehicle’s interior and I was entranced by both the detail and the way in which Whelan handled all the different light sources. There was also one of Michael’s Chanur cover paintings, again with a convincing interior that appealed to me.

I applied all those observations to this painting and it is one of my favorite out of the series. I tried to blend functional aspects of the characters’ background into my usual graphic devices and just for a change of pace used a hexagon instead of a circle of square for my usual graphic device – the one that locates the figures in space.

Same size and medium as the previous couple of paintings, though the acrylic I used to refine the female’s facial features was a bit thicker than what I had been using up to this time. Rather than working with opaque colors I use airbrush as a transparent/translucent medium like watercolor or acrylic glazes and there is a fine-line between just enough and too much when you add paint on the top.