Sep 152012
 

Welcome to Epic Level Artistry, where we showcase the talent and inspirations of artist who play RPGs, make art for RPGs and make art inspired by RPGs. Our very first artist is Amy Clare Learmonth aka Amika Sterling, an illustrator, gamer and student who resides in our neighbor to the north. I first came across Amika’s work through Twitter and was blown away by her cityscapes and figures, both cyberpunk and fantasy. Amika has a distinctive style she can adapt to many genres of work and uses a color palette that sets her work apart from many other artists (though I’ve seen some work she’s done in black and white and wow. Also amazing). She is also an avid player of video games, with her most recent foray being Fallout: New Vegas which she is kind of obsessed with despite having/because she beat it twice. Luckily, I got a hold of her before she delved into her game.

So, tell us a little bit about yourself and your history with art in games and RPGs.
My name is Amy Clare, I’m currently in my second year of art university as an illustrator and I go by Amika when I’m working. I’ve been drawing pretty much since I was a toddler and when I turned eleven I started teaching myself to draw digitally using a crappy mouse and MS Paint. At thirteen I got my first tablet and a copy of Photoshop Elements for Christmas and I basically spent all my free time between DeviantArt, roleplaying on IRC, and drawing. I’ve always been into video games as well, and my first experience with RPGs were the video game variety. My gaming habit has hugely influenced my work.

 What’s your favourite system to play? Is there a setting/system you love making art for in particular? What is it about this world/system that inspires you?
I’m pretty flexible on settings; I’ll play anything and enjoy it. I tend to gravitate towards colourful science fiction settings (I got bored with dark sci fi when I realized its core audience was teenagers pretending they know how adult worlds function; when everyone’s playing The Darkest / The Most Coy character it’s pretty boring). I get inspiration for drawings from the games I play once in awhile, but it’s the story and characters that inspire the art and not the setting or system.

red caps

 
Do you prefer to GM or play as a PC? Do you find this affects your art?
I enjoy both roles; I always have a ton of fun running campaigns for my friends, and I pride myself on my ability to both create really engaging worlds and fit them around the players (rather than making them fit themselves to my setting). Other times I just really like making a character and experience someone else’s setting. I don’t think my preferences affect my art at all.

Do you find yourself more drawn to drawing locations or people? Do you have them fleshed out before you bring pencil to paper (to use an old idiom) or do the ideas and the image kind of grow side by side?
Lately I’ve been trying not to favour one or the other between locations or people. For fun I like to draw single characters but as I get more and more into illustration I’m trying to do both at the same time. I’ll usually have an vague idea inspired by something before I decide to draw, but sometimes I’ll find it changing if I come up with a better idea during the process. I try not to tie myself too rigidly to a single process when I’m not doing a series so as not to pigeonhole myself.

What’s your preferred medium to work with? Do you work digitally, on paper or some mix?
The medium always depends on what I’m trying to portray. Usually that means I end up doing lineart in pencil and pen and then colouring digitally, but I also work with acrylic paint, coloured pencils, charcoal, chalk, quill and ink, and watercolours.

ocean queen

How much time would you say you spend in a week making art? How much time in a week would you say you spend gaming? 
It really depends on my mood, schedule, and whether or not I’m in school. I always spend a greater proportion of my time drawing than gaming, though, because it’s my vocation. Playing games is fun, but it’s still just a hobby.

Are there any trends, either genre-wise or technique-wise that you’re seeing in RPG/game art that you’re enjoying now? Is there anything you want to see more of or things you don’t like?
Not that I can think of. As I’m often writing about on my tumblr and twitter accounts, I’d always like to see more relatable female characters that are made for women to project onto rather than for male players to ogle.

Whose art do you like the most? Whose art would you say has influenced you or do you try to emulate?
Off the top of my head, Jamie Hewlett, Lois van Baarle, Frank Stockton, Imperial Boy, Rose Besch, Patricio Betteo, Ein Lee. There’s probably more, but that’s a good start.

What projects have you worked on in the past? Can you tell us what you’re currently working on or have in the queue?
My first ~official paid project~ was doing illustrations for the Valley of Ten Crescents series! Since then I’ve been commissioned to do a handful of illustrations for print media as well as designs and assets for the Nak the Crunkodile flash game. At the moment I’m casually consulting with an indie studio’s art department while they put together their first game, but I’m trying to keep my schedule more or less clear and relaxed until school starts. I do a pretty good impression of a terrible slacker student, but I actually take it pretty seriously.

snow castle v2

Are there any pieces you’re particularly proud of? A favourite character you managed to pin down or something really funny/touching/dramatic you captured? 
I’m in a really volatile and developmental stage in my art career, so usually my favourite piece happens to be whatever I did last. Which is this: http://amika-sterling.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d5c7s07

What would be a dream job/commission?
I’d really like to collaborate on an illustration project with any of the artists I admire, even just on an art trade or something like that. This sounds silly, but I also think it’d be really cool if I were allowed to design clothing items for Dirty Lynx on Second Life.

cityscapes

Do you have any advice for people who are trying to find artists to hire? To artists trying to get their work out there? 
Let artists do their jobs. I’ve had to fire a total of four clients because they had super specific images in mind and I could tell by first or second contact that they weren’t hiring me to do an illustration, they were hiring me to read their minds and execute the image they had in their head. I won’t go through an author’s book/article/whatever and tell them how they should rewrite it; they should show the same courtesy with my illustrations.

To artists trying to get their work out there, don’t be shy about contacting people you admire and being proactive about networking. Obviously don’t be annoying and don’t grill them, but most artists will be totally stoked that you’re interested in what they do with their life. Don’t be shy about submitting to magazines or publications as well, because the worst that could possibly happen is you don’t get published and everything carries on as normal, and you never know if you’re publishable until you try.

How important do you think it is for artists to be present on social media?
It can help you get established, for sure — all the paid work I’ve done so far, barring gallery shows, has been commissioned through the internet because of my social media presence. At the moment, I’m sure it would still be just as easy to get an agent or contact newspapers and magazines and get established that way but over the next several years as more and more of our media moves to digital format it’ll be that much more important for artists to be present on social media. It’s already expected that artists will have their own websites; that’s only a step away from getting a Twitter or a Tumblr or something.

When can I play Nak-Nak? Seriously.
You can play it right now! My favourite site to use for flash games is probably Kongregate.

If you’re interested in seeing more of Amika’s work, reading  her thoughts on video games and art or commissioning her you can check out her deviantArt page, her tumblr or follow her on Twitter at @amikasterling.
Are you an artist interested in being interviewed for Epic Level Artistry? If so, drop us a line at trisj at backthatelfup dot com for more info!

About Tristan J Tarwater

Tristan is the author of 'The Valley of Ten Crescents' series and someone who is obsessed with elves. She once gave her 3.5 elf druid 'Skill: Basketweaving' just so she could take the spell, 'Beget Bogun.' Check out more of her work at backthatelfup.com

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