The DnD supplement Draconomicon 2 was published this week. A great group of artists was collected together to work on these iconic beasties, and I had the pleasure of creating two chapters starts for the book, which covered two new Dragon types;
The Mercury Dragon
The Orium Dragon ( which also possesses the most interesting breath attack I have come across!)
It is not unusual for me to receive emails from students asking questions about what it is like to work as a freelance illustrator. I do my best to answer, though it can sometimes take a little while to compile a response. Here is the most recent set of questions, that came from Sally, and my answers. I hope they might be of some interest.
Q1) When you set out into the working world, what sort of work/placements did you undertake to get to where you are today and for who?
I am purely self taught. Which was quite disadvantageous in a lot of ways, and meant I had to learn as I went along - both the skill set for illustration and the business model.
Q2) In the beginning, how did you manage financially? Did you have any work on the side?
It was a struggle. I did whatever work I could get, and received as much government funding as I could. There are often incentives for people starting up new businesses, and other benefits available for those on a low income. I know a lot of artists who have held a full time job and worked on their art career on the side. This is probably the norm when starting out.
Q3) What goals did you set for yourself when you began?
Initially it was simply to make a living at doing what I wanted. As that hurdle was passed then I have set myself further goals; both in terms of companies I'd like to work for, and particular products or assignments.
Q4) How much closer have you come to achieving them since you began?
I have achieved most of them, but as I say I keep moving the goalposts.
Q5) Have your goals changed?
Whoops, already answered this :)
Q6) Was freelance Illustrating your first choice?
Yes, absolutely. I wanted to be my own boss as much as possible.
Q7) Did you have a Plan B or alternative career choice?
I always thought I could go into an office job if I had to. I do possess a degree ( BA Eng.Lit.) and felt that would probably help.
Q8) If you could go back in time and do anything differently, what would it be and why?
I guess there are lots of things I could have done more efficiently/differently, but I am happy with the way life has panned out, and enjoyed getting here too.
Q9) Have any of your career choices been swayed by personal situations?
If you mean my personal life, then not really, but clearly I am interacting with other people all the time, and relationships with colleagues can affect work.
Q10) Did you move far away from home to follow your ambitions?
Distance from home has been irrelevant to work, development of the internet has been completely transformative.
Q11) What is the estimate annual income for this sort of job?
I am not on a set wage, so that is not easy to answer. Commissions pay a set fee, so how fast you do the job, and how many hours you choose to work have an impact. I would currently describe myself as having a good income.
Q12)What sort of hours do you work? Do you keep your work separate from your personal time?
My hours are more regular than they were, due to sharing care for my two year old son with my wife, Anne Stokes, who is also a full time artist. There is no real time off. For instance checking emails before I go to bed is 'work'
Q13) Do you have vacation time?
Rarely. Trips away are usually to conventions and the like.
Q14) What is your journey to work like?
A short flight of stairs from bedroom to office, via the kitchen for breakfast. Working from home is a real boon.
I had the great pleasure of working on the cover for the reworking of the classic DnD adventure 'Tomb of Horrors'. The brief requested that I use some of the key elements from the adventure in the following way:
This cover has the look and feel of a movie poster and features a montage of images.
The most prominent image is that of AN EVIL-LOOKING HUMAN SKULL with rubies set into its eyes and gems for teeth. This is ACERERAK, the demilich. We might see the faint glimmer of a spirit trapped in each of the skull’s faceted gemstones. The skull fades or blends into the images of (1) an 8-foot-tall FOUR-ARMED GARGOYLE and (2) the iconic DEVIL FACE that appears in the Tomb of Horrors (see attached reference). The mouth of the devil face is a void of utter darkness. Inside the mouth of the devil face, falling away from us and screaming, is a MALE HUMAN PALADIN in PLATE ARMOR and carrying a LONGSWORD and SHIELD.
The first step was to create series of thumbnail sketches. These are intended to explore ideas of composition, and allows discussion with the art director of the direction we would both like to take.
Some of the thumbnails I explored further digitally. This allowed me easily maintain certain ,and either move them around or mix them with other features. I also added greyscale values to them which helps with some clarity, whilst also generating fresh ideas this way as it enabled an easier way of showing the demi-lich skull in the background.
You can see which one was decided to work up into the cover itself, and that can be seen, wit hfull trade dress here:
We all had fun at Halloween, indeed you can see how much we enjoyed it by the adoption of the demonic red eyes, and hope you did too.
The annual pumpkin carving is something I always enjoy. A different way to flex one's creative muscles, and I was pretty pleased with this effort.
Last week I also had the pleasure of appearing on the Ninja Mountain Podcast. Jon's amusing summary must surely tempt you to listen ;)
This week on Ninja Mountain: Robo Jeremy returns to introduce Patrick,
Socar, Jon, and Ralph, who discuss: Stuff! Stuff like: A single top tip for aspiring illustrators, good and bad qualities in art direction, defending your home against shotgun assassins, sketching, and Twitter.
You'll marvel as Socar takes the moderator's golden laurel wreath and takes charge. Gasp in amazement as Patrick swings from rope to rope, roll your eyes as Jon says "you know" a lot, and feel that funny feeling in your tummy like going over a hump backed bridge in the back of the car when you were a kid as Ralph breaks ranks and offers actual content.
The Podcast is here: http://ninjamountain.blogspot.com/