Happy Halloween, everyone! Today at Troll in the Corner we have a really special Epic Level Artistry with the illustrator Eric Quigley. Not only was Eric kind enough to take the time to be interviewed but he also offered to do a tutorial on how to draw a really amazing and creepy monster, just in time for Halloween! Maybe this creature will be the special fiend in your dungeon tonight. His art is stunning. Fantasy, sci-fi and horror, Eric is a talented individual who also has some great insight on illustration. Let’s see what he had to say!
So, tell us a little bit about yourself and your history with art in games and RPGs
It always felt like when I was growing up that my life centered around what I was drawing. I remember specifically a good two or three years of dinosaurs after Jurassic Park came out, and probably another good year or so of developing my own slasher characters after seeing my first Halloween movie. My mother wouldn’t let me play Mortal Kombat, so I drew Mortal Kombat characters. The Godzilla movie re-make was horrible (I had hopes, I was a kid), so I drew Godzilla for a while to fix it in my weird little teenage mind. It got me through English, math, and social studies.
I’m not sure it was the best degree choice, but it seemed reasonable at the end of high school to pursue a degree in art. I applied and was accepted into VCU. I graduated in 2010 with a degree in communication arts. After that I worked in restaurants for a while, the whole time honing my skill and trying to get to the level of professionals I saw out there on the market. I’m still humbled by every single one of those guys, but as I got better I put out more portfolios and started seeing some jobs.
In January of 2010 I quit my current restaurant job (8-9 years of line cook experience combined) and have maintained a full work schedule since as a freelancer. Recently my projects include the Sticks digital card game by Simulated Culture, Tales from the Fallen Empire by Chapter 13 Press, and Hero Kids by Justin Halliday. Other clients include Inkwell Ideas, Alderac Entertainment Group, Dwimmermount (James Maliszewski), DwD Studios (BareBones Fantasy out the 29th) and various other small publishers and personal clients.
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?
At this point I find most of my work is centered around figures, whether they be interacting in a complete scene or just as stand-alone character illustrations. I do get the chance to occasionally do some scenery work, and definitely enjoy the change of pace whenever possible.
When coming up with pieces for clients I generally do most of the thinking-out work through sketches. If I’m doing personal work things usually start less fleshed-out when I begin to ‘paint’ and I usually make more decisions on the fly. Usually how defined something in depends on a variety of factors such as what the client wants, how comfortable I am with the subject matter, and how long I have to finish a piece.
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?
I don’t know if I could put a reasonable estimate in how much time I spend on art. It really does depend on how much professional work I have and if I have any excited ideas for my personal work. I try and shoot for the normal 8 hours a day/5 days a week, but then usually tack on night sessions and all-nighters because sometimes I need to get things done. If art were a polytheistic religion the top god would be called Deadline.
Gamin-wise I’m still a baby. I mean I do play video games, but I try and break up the time between sessions with those, and it‘s often-times city builders. Role play-wise I’m still very new and have only played a handful of sessions. I am trying to play more, but old Deadline comes knocking more often these days.
What’s your preferred medium to work with? Do you work digitally, on paper or some mix?
My work is done almost entirely digitally now. Sometimes I’ll sketch something out on paper to remind myself I have a scanner, but I’ve gotten used to sitting at my computer to do all work-related stuff. I also like the ability to mirror my canvas whenever I feel the need (so I don’t stare at the same thing forever), and find that it’s really helpful to be able to work on it mirrored. When you hold your drawing to a mirror it does help you see mistakes, but then you can’t work on it mirrored. Traditional paint also brings with it the issue of drying time and just general medium fuss that digital leaves you free of. There just seem to be too many advantages of digital technology, and with lord Deadline around every corner….
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?
This old school revival is great for me. I never had a chance to experience the first pass on what is now called the OSR and probably would never have known what I was missing had I not started working around this time. I love the old school dungeon-crawler stuff, and really REALLY have a soft spot for the undead. I was giggling the whole time I was working on Dwimmermount- I really loved the idea of being able to visually show these tight and dangerous underground tunnels and rooms.
I also love the undead. Any and all. I like making some up, I like painting existing versions, I like liches, zombies, wights, skeletons, and anything else that shouldn’t be walking but does.
I’m not a personal fan of steam-punk. I never really have enjoyed the genre, though I do understand the lure. Maybe I need to do some steam punk illustrations?
Whose art do you like the most? Whose art would you say has influenced you or do you try to emulate?
I know this is sort of a stock answer, but my first fantasy art hero was Frank Frazetta. I remember being introduced to his art- that’s when I knew I wanted to learn how to paint. He was very good at creating drama using both imagery and good composition design, and I lov how juicy and loose some of his work is. Aside from him it’s guys like Keith Parkinson, James Gurney, Ralph Horsley, Raymond Swanland, Kekai Kotaki, Dave Rapoza, Jaime Jones, and the list could go forever.
What tools do you use to make art?
For my art I usually go with Photoshop CS6 and a Wacom Intuos 4 large graphics tablet. I used to use Corel Painter a lot, but find that it’s better to just do it all in one program, and Photoshop has the ability to do it all.
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?
The piece I hate the least is probably most recently the BareBones Fantasy RPG corebook cover for DwD studios. Before that I used this piece of the Executioner Majini from Resident Evil 5 as my ‘head piece’, but it’s so old now.
What would be a dream job/commission?
Either the Unabridged Illustrated Bestiary of the Undead OR Fully Illustrated Guide to Cinematic Hero Deaths: Out with a SPLAT.
When you’re not making art or gaming, what are you doing?
Eating, sleeping, and paying bills. In all seriousness I really don’t have time for much else yet. This kind of career is one that you have to stay on top of, at least until you’re more established than I currently am. Occasionally I’ll go out of town to the city to visit some friends, but most times it’s just the art and me. Well, and Deadline. My girlfriend is in medical school right now so I’m finally learning what all of those veteran artists warned me about: freelance is lonely. I can’t complain- it’s equally as fun.
Do you have any advice for people who are trying to find artists to hire? To artists trying to get their work out there?
You just have to work, work, and then do more work. Look at the art that is being put into whatever genre you want to work in. That’s your target! Remember that we are tradesman and that this is a skill and not a ‘talent’. Study from life, get references whenever possible, and ‘no’ from an art director means ‘show me more later’.
And finally, learn to love Ramen!
Be sure to check out Eric’s tutorial on how to draw a creepy monster that looks like it’s going to eat your face off; not only does it have instructions, it has great tips for illustrating in general. If you dig his art, be sure to visit his website for more art and updates. Eric is also on Google Plus so add him to art and rpg circles for more updates. Hope you enjoyed Epic Level Artistry this time around! Happy Halloween!