Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More on the artwork for The Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and Their Modern Simulacra

Here is the full collection of art that I originally did for the book, along with the versions Aino made. My versions are on the left or top of each pair of pictures. I'd like your comments.

Here is the tentacle box. I think this is the best of the bunch that Aino did:

The spider-thing:

The scorpion shark. Not very different...

The parasite. My version shows my painful lack of technical skill. The original idea is that this thing has snakes coming out of every hole, and that the infested person is not dead. The idea I tried to get across was that the person was completely emaciated, like a Holocaust victim or something. I don't think I did a very good job. I like Aino's interpretation of the snakey-things that are coming out of the body, and I especially like that the ribs on her figure actually look like a ribcage and not some mangled tree branch arrangement.

The eyeball monster! This was the first creature I drew for the book. Aino made the wings better plus gave the thing a couple more implied powers, what with the pupil design and the sparks around the claws.

The charmers. This idea came about because a friend of mine told me she was scared of seals. Why seals? I don't know. The idea is that the seal song is causing the adventuring party to go crazy and kill each other. My version doesn't really get that across at all. I do like my magical bolt victim a bit better though. :P

The centipede! Again, a friend told me that she was scared of centipedes so I had to use the idea. Funny part is, when I had the contract-signing get-together with Aino and our friends, I was telling these stories. I forget who tells me they're scared of what. So I repeat this centipede story, and one of the people there chimes in, "That was me!" I'm kind of a storyteller in person, and sometimes I wonder if anyone believes anything I tell them because I really get into it and even I think some of the shit I say is unbelievable, even if it's true. Things like that make me feel better, as well as confirming that I'm not just inventing everything in my mind. I really do wonder sometimes.

So I know I want to do a centipede, so how to make it different than a normal giant centipede? Tail spikes! I actually have a couple of problems with Aino's version of this picture. My perspective trick with the centipede is crappy, but I think it gets the idea across. Right? Aino didn't attempt that. And Aino's adventurer seems like some random guy wandering around for no reason. Mine has the sword on the belt and the carried lantern, implying the dungeon-exploring adventurer idea. Again, things like this are my fault because I was rushing the hell out of Aino to get this out. For next time I've asked for preliminary sketches before she does final versions so I can note issues like that before getting final versions.

You've seen the acid snake. Interesting that my version has the sword, and her version has the scabbard.

The back cover. I wanted to get the idea of "RPG adventuring party" across. 10' pole! I was hoping Aino would put the same level of detail in the figures here as she did in the Acid Snake pic (same comment could apply for the Charmers pic as well, and again it's an issue of rushing the artwork to get the book out), but she did get the Flame Princess figure in there and thankfully didn't reproduce the anorexic Shakespeare look for the wizard. I like the solid black background on her version. I kept telling myself that my obvious pencil marks would have had "charm," but it does just look amateurish. I will note that things were so rushed that for both this pic and the Charmers pic, Aino's figures weren't shaded at all, and I did tell her to fix that before I'd accept them, which she did on the computer.

Aino's drawing skills are secondary to why I'm using her. With a little encouragement and effort, I do think she can produce some pieces to go up there with the classics of the RPG scene, but of course she's not there yet. She's still better than some of the crap clogging traditional gaming material published these days though. But her photo manipulation work, that can make an impression now. Here is the cover idea, from my initial 2" tall sketch in a notebook, to her final product. We had discussed having the dead body in the picture as well, but we didn't have a special effects/makeup budget and who really wants to browse those rotten.com type sites looking for a split open head to manipulate to fit in? Blech.

Yay artwork.


  1. Wow, she does some really nice work. I am especially fond of the Charmers and the back cover. I am not sure what it is about the charmers, but I love that pic. It might be the shading of the rocks and the image of the seal's song. Very nice.

    The back cover is just pure awesome, nothing like danger lurking just over your shoulders.

    --Mike D.

  2. Hers are better than yours and it's not just the shading. Hers are more relaxed and look far more natural. You can really see this in the tentacle box. You're clearly working very hard to keep the parallel lines of the tentacles from undulating. Hers taper nicely, and writhe in a way that looks alive.

    You can see it again in the legs of the spider-thing, where she added in the leg-joints.

    Skipping to the eyeball monster. Ok, I don't know that those are supposed to be bat-like wings, but assuming they are, you both need to check out some pics of bat-wing anatomy. The thing about a bat wing that many, many artists flub, is that it's evolved from a paw or hand. Imagine stretching out your fingers until each is four feet long and then stretching a thin membrane of skin between each of them. That's what a bat wing looks like. Those bone-frame pieces should all originate from a palm-like place at the center of the forward edge of the wing.

    I also love the fanciful feel she gave the charmers and how she represented their song. It's wonderfully fairy-tale.

    For both of you, I'd certainly take a closer look at anatomy. There are issues with foreshortening and body proportions that are not easy to get right, but really make a lot of the difference between good and great.

    You've got good composition skills, and that's really shown off with the shark and your back cover piece.

    - Brian

  3. Hers are better than yours and it's not just the shading.

    I hope so, or I published the wrong set! :P

    The eyeball monster's wings were not modeled on bat wings. Trivia note: I learned that bat wings were as you describe after seeing somebody paint a dragon's wings that way.

    I look forward to what she does when she's not burdened by my (visual) framework.

  4. Hey! I think you aren't that bad artist at all. If you couldn't find anyone else to do the work, you might do it yourself for dirt-cheap items.

    I like that not-so-serious art. Many older Finnish rpg's are horrible in art as they got drawings from anyone who agreed to draw but for some reason there is special feeling in those. It might be enthusiasm on producing material and gives this from gamer to gamer feeling.