Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On dealing with Arteests!

Ever since I first saw Jim Shipman’s small T&T magazine the Hobbit Hole, with its articles and integrated with black and white illustrations, I have been fascinated with bringing together words and pictures. So when Flavia and I started working on Peryton Publishing as a mutually supportive catalyst to finally get our butts writing the stuff we have been making notes on for years, I decided that the artwork would be an important part of everything we would produce. Little did I know the task that I had set myself up for.

I have always been something of a cartoonist, even in the professional work place I often used cartoons to catch people’s eye when reading rather dull stuff like rough drafts for protocols and standard operating procedures. But I have more of a background in theater and radio scripting. While a person working in comic books might find this to be a benefit, it didn’t help me out as a soon-to-be publisher.

My friend, No.1 Tony, often complained how his wife, J. , was needing something to keep her “mind busy” since she had their child and was a nanny for others. J. is a professional artist by training at a very prestigious school here in Cleveland, but just couldn’t find the energy and motivation to do any work. I ventured that I had some work that needed illustrating, and he was aglow with hope.
For months I pestered J. and she seemed receptive. I was under the strict theatrical director’s rule “Do Not Feed The Line.” Which was telling me not to directly impose my interpretation onto the contributing creative force, in short “don’t draw what you the other person to draw for you.” So as I said before we discussed two illustrations often for hours on end for months, and nothing was appearing on paper.

Finally I asked, “Would you like to see a sketch?”

The answer was a yes. So over the next week, I committed myself to crafting up some pencil drawings, in fairly crude terms but with enough detail to highlight things that would clarify the image to the general gaming/fantasy reading community. And I produced a decent what could be called a “Bug-Bear” stealing a pig from a little farm, along with some other pictures. I happened to get tired of drawing the pig so I saved the detail and just put “x’s” in place of eyes to indicate
that it was dead– along with a long sentence explaining all of what I have just said.

When I dropped off the sketch’s J.’s eyes lit up when she saw the Bug-Bear. I had hope that an illustration of some sort or another would be coming quickly.

Five months later, I dared to ask how progress was coming along. J. then proceeded to produce her sketch pad and I was treated to a six page study of a cartoon pig with “x’s” for eyes. And then there was a squirrel, also with “x’s” for eyes. And lest I forget, a bunny with “x’s” for eyes. Sort of like a child’s book that you never wanted to show your child. I pointed to the original sketches which happened to be showing the bug-bear and another with a sword-wielding barbarian,

“What do you think about...” I was about say, ‘Doing the rest of the drawings?’ But didn’t have a chance.

“Perfectly average.” J. said without a moment’s hesitation. “Pretty typical of those gaming books.”

I decided to let this lead drop. Just to let you know, she is now doing erotic paintings for very swank group of art gallery owners. She gave us some of her latest work for our library wall as a gift.

Figuring that perhaps artists with more familiarity with the genre might be a better prospect. I posted a flyer at the local coffee shop where role-players, tattoo artists, and Magic card players frequented. Got about a dozen nibbles and had some success, if you count four quarter-page illustrations completed over a year’s worth of dinners. Of
course I had to provide the document protectors upon purchase. Usually after about three meetings, the artists informed me that my schedule was too demanding as moving in girl-friends and car repairs were becoming more pressing. A couple of them asked for sketches once again, but when I provided them, both muttered something about “dwarves don’t come from Egypt” and decided they too were busy.

One of these artists, Sabriel, though was absolutely what the doctor ordered, she would find me when she needed some cash and show me her works for sale. Unfortunately, she got a lead on some street theater in Los Angeles and skipped town– though I have heard rumors of a warrant being involved.

So lately I have been going with the professionals that I meet in fantasy communities on-line as well as at conventions, but even then I run into problems.
I asked Dandelion, a very funny and what I consider a good friend, even if we haven’t met in person yet, to draw up a couple illustrations involving “apes” for my Athebes setting. I offered to throw up my sketches. Upon her positive response, I posted a sketch that I had lying around a place.

Three weeks later, Dandy, was posting to me asking me whether I wanted her to do ape drawings or not. When I pointed out that the sketch was posted, she replied,

“Oh I didn’t know tha
t there was an ape in that picture.”

All this being said, while I realize that a sketch may help someone see what you had you in mind, considering my own luck to date, perhaps I should sit back and let the professionals handle it.

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