TristanJTarwater

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

Mar 012013
 
A street in Chinatown, NYC

A street in Chinatown, NYC

Loisaida. The Lower East Side. Chinatown. Little Italy. K-town. New York City is full of what are referred to as ‘ethnic enclaves,’ areas where a significant portion of the population shares the same ethnicity. I grew up in on the Lower East Side in the 80s and 90s which had a large Puerto Rican/Nuyorican population. Many people were bilingual and the comforts and foods of home were accessible. There’s something about eating a hot alcapurria when it’s snowing that is a bit comforting. A bit farther south of the bodegas, joyerias, cuchifritos and churches of the largely Latino population were the delis, garment stores and synogogues of the Jewish population. Fixing grocery on Saturdays meant seeing people coming back from synongogue; sometimes I’d run into my friend from school. Farther south on East Broadway the open air fish and produce grocers, storefronts and restaurants of Chinatown surrounded me. In HS my best friend took me to a Indian neighborhood in Queens where we stared at the gorgeous jewelry in the jewelry store windows, drank lassi and looked at movie theater posters for films with amazing dance numbers.

When people immigrate to a new land, they tend to find people they can relate to to help them settle in. Different reasons might drive populations from their country or land of origin in large numbers but once they arrive at their destination, a bit of familiarity makes the move a bit easier. When the location won’t fill in the hole, someone who speaks the language, has the same traditions or is even a distant relative or friend of a friend will make the move less scary. Sometimes people arriving might find while technically they are allowed to be in certain locations, they are not always welcome. In addition, well established and nicer areas might not be financially feasible. Unsettled or undesirable land might be what is available and through hard work and working together, a community can be built.

Once these communities are established, many newcomers gravitate towards these neighborhoods, hoping to gain from the experience of those already settled. The already established want to help their friends and fellow countrymen succeed, offering tips, housing or even employment if they’ve set up their own businesses. People settle down, start families, put their children through school, send home money to loved ones. They build grocery stores, religious communities and recreational centers where they can teach tradition and language. They bring their food, their martial arts, their style of dress, their music, their ceremonies. Sometimes they start organizations, both legitimate or illegal. Sometimes they dream of ‘going back’ but sometimes the conditions in their homeland make it undesirable or even impossible. Some do go back. And others stay, becoming citizens, contributing to the society and culture they have decided to stick with through thick and thin.

Most major cities will have ethnic diversity; in the same vein, if there is diversity, it will probably be concentrated in cities. Despite how New York City is depicted on television, it’s rare to go a few blocks without seeing someone whose family came from a different part of the world than your family. Cities being centers of commerce, business and major ports, they tend to have the most varied populations, the streets rippling with the sounds of different languages, the scent of different foods, the color of different kinds of clothing. Sometimes ethnic differences can stir up trouble but at the end of the day a vast majority of people want to be happy, safe and with their loved ones.

Ethnic neighborhoods in your campaign can expose your PCs to various issues, both political and social and is a good way to prime them for a trip to another country or region where the culture is different. Depending on your character’s background, a trip a few blocks down can be an eye opening experience or a respite from spending most of your time in a culture that doesn’t understand you. What comforts and adventures can ethnic neighborhoods offer in your setting?

For GMs

  • What ethnicities lie within your setting? Where did they relocate from? How long ago? Did they come all in one huge wave? What facilitated or necessitated their move?
  • What kinds of communities have they set up within the larger region? What part of the city do they live in? What are the boundaries of their neighborhood and how were the boundaries set? How have they grown over the years?
  • Why have they settled in the locations they have? Was the land similar to home? What was made available? The first safe place they could find? Empty?
  • What kinds of businesses have they set up? Do they import foods and goods from home or have they adapted to local fare and offerings?
  • How many generations are currently living residing in the country?
  • What issues did the population face in their homeland? What issues do they face in the new country? Security? Lack of food? Illness? Prejudice? Lack of resources?
  • Are there any locations where they make up a majority of the population, despite not being the indigenous one?
  • Does their country of origin have any issues with/affiliations with other countries? When their descendents meet in the cities of the land they’ve immigrated to, what happens?
  • How are they similar to the indigenous culture? How are they different?
  • How easy is it to move out of the neighborhood? What are reasons for wanting to leave? Reasons for staying?
  • When are people with different backgrounds considered citizens? What can they do to gain citizenship? Are their children born here considered citizens?

Plot Hooks

  • All the PCs grew up in the same neighborhood and have the same cultural background but have since moved away. When someone they have in common invites them back for an important function/ceremony, they run into old acquaintances and customs and must maneuver through the ‘old ways.’ What things are asked of them? Who do they meet? Who did they have connections to? How long are they ‘in town’ for?
  • When an ethnic neighborhood starts creeping into another neighborhood, setting up businesses and moving into domiciles, the PCs are hired to sabotage the storefronts and make the place unappealing to the newcomers. What reasons are given as to why these newcomers aren’t welcome? How do the PCs go about keeping them away?
  • While traveling through the countryside, the PCs come across a town populated by people from a different culture altogether. Far removed from the country they originated from, they have set up a small community that appears to be thriving. How did they all arrive there? Do the surrounding towns and villages know they’re there? How have they acclimated to the dominant culture? How do they receive the PCs? Do the local authorities know they’re there?
  • When the country goes to war with another country, the neighborhood that corresponds to the enemy country comes under scrutiny. The PCs are sent to see who goes in and out, monitoring the populace and watching for spies. When people start disappearing, their neighbors and friends are too afraid to give any information. Why are the people disappearing? Has the mood changed in the neighborhood? How are the people treated by others? Do the PC suspect anyone in the neighborhood and how are they regarded by the would-be traitors?
  • The PCs are all parents/guardians of children who attend the local language and tradition school, where the next generation is taught the ceremonies and ways of their people. When the government decides to cut funding which would shut the school down, the PCs are sent to convince the government otherwise. Why is the government pulling its funding? Where does the funding from the school come from? Why do they as parents care and why are they the ones sent? Can they obtain the money for the school elsewhere? What would it mean if the school were to close down? How many schools would be affected?
  • When crime becomes a problem in the neighborhood, the local police force blames it on the tempers and attitudes of the citizens, blaming their background for their violent behaviour. The PCs investigate the reasons for the sudden uptick in crimes. What kinds of crimes are on the rise? Who is committing them? Who is helping to commit these crimes? What are the police threatening to do to curtail the lawlessness?
  • After a few years of trying to establish itself in a new land, the elders of the community decide to try and hold one of the larger festivals publically and invite citizens to join in the revelry. The PCs are selected to help organize the event and spread the word. What is the large festival about and when is it to take place? What must be prepared? Why is this the first year it is being held on this scale? Which elders proposed the event? How does the local government respond?

For PCs

  • Did you grow up in an ethnic neighborhood? Are you part of an immigrant group that came here from another region/country? Born to one of these groups?
  • What have you heard about the different neighborhoods? Are their neighborhoods you go into for certain reasons/items? Ones you avoid? Ones you avoid at certain times?
  • How have you seen the neighborhoods change over your lifetime? Do you think they’ve changed for the better or worse?
  • Do you like places with more diversity or less?
  • What do you do in neighborhoods where the cultural background is different from your own? Do you just eat food? Buy goods? Talk to people? Receive services (clothes washed, armor repaired)?
  • If someone invited you to their home in a neighborhood you heard questionable things about, would you go?

What say you? Where we come from can be a big deal, both geographically and culturally. One doesn’t have to leave the country to necessarily encounter someone very different from us. The differences and similarities can make for a wild ride indeed. Do you have ethnic neighborhoods in your town or city? How can you translate that to your campaign?

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

Feb 282013
 

Another end of the month, another Epic Level Artistry! Today’s installment is Epic indeed, as the talented and hilarious Khairul Hisham was willing to sit down and answer questions about his love for RPGs, Star Wars and admit he is maybe a little fixated on capybaras. Let’s see what he has to say and check out some of his work!

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Barebones RPG Adventure cover cover by Khairul Hisham

Barebones RPG Adventure cover cover by Khairul Hisham

So, tell us a little bit about yourself and your history with art in games and RPGs.
Hi, it’s great to be here. Thanks for having this interview with me. I’ve always been a sci-fi and fantasy geek for as long I can remember. First things first: I grew up in a small town in Malaysia in the 70s and 80s where for some arcane reason there is a large fanbase of genre media. Ever since I saw it during its release at my town, I’ve been a huge fan of Star Wars. Not just the movies as stories, but as a universe. I read the comics so I could experience more of this fantastic universe. Suddenly, here was this game from West End Games that allowed you to simulate adventures in that universe. I picked it up as a teen. I ran games for a lot of my friends. I drew their characters and situations. Lo and behold I’m still doing that 25 years later, and I’m enjoying it. There was a long time in the early to mid-aughties where I rarely gamed, but since I’ve discovered the awesome bunch of people that makes up the Gamer of Kuala Lumpur (GOKL), I’ve played Eclipse Phase, Doctor Who AITAS, Warhammer FRP, Trail of Cthulhu, Night’s Black Agents and recently I GMed the Star Wars Edge of the Empire Beginner Game. I’ve also GMed Call of Cthulhu, Azamar RPG and BareBones Fantasy for my 10 year old son. Not as varied as many veteran players, I know, but I takes what I gets.

Vader's Ideas y Khairul Hisham

Vader’s Ideas y Khairul Hisham

What’s your favourite system to play?
My favourite system is my first system, which is West End Games’ D6 system (now known as Open D6) because of the Star Wars RPG. Very adaptable. Very fast and cinematic. There should be more companies out there taking advantage of using the system which has been released into the wild using Open Gaming License.

Is there a setting/system you love making art for in particular?
Any system or setting can inspire me to make art for them. For example I played Doctor Who once, but it inspired me to create this penny dreadful cover for the adventure I was in.

Torchwood Penny Dreadful cover! By Khairul Hisham

Torchwood Penny Dreadful cover! By Khairul Hisham

Do you prefer to GM or play as a PC?
There is no preference. I was almost always the GM when I was younger, but now I’ve met the fine folks of GOKL I’m finally enjoying playing as PCs. But the aspects of either appeal to me.

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?
Thanks to a lot of practice, I’ve done a lot of characters, but I also do a lot of creatures, gear, vehicles, robots as well as scenes. Sometimes I plan it out. Sometimes it just comes to life on paper – or screen – naturally without a lot of thought. More so of the latter when there’s capybara blood mixed with kumquat juice.

Revenant by Khairul Hisham. Done for Wicked North Games

Revenant by Khairul Hisham. Done for Wicked North Games

What’s your preferred medium to work with? Do you work digitally, on paper or some mix?
I work with pencils, brushed inks, watercolours as well as digital work, and some mix.

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?
One thing I like about anything about anything in the world can be distilled by one word: diversity. There is room for any type or medium of artwork to be used in gaming, or any sort of dead tree or web publication. You want to use crayons? Go right ahead. You want to use 3D art? Sure. I understand no single medium or style is for everyone, but no one has the right to stop you from working with it. Having said that, I draw the line at using capybara blood mixed with kumquat juice as an art medium.

Void Vultures by Khairul Hisham

Void Vultures by Khairul Hisham

Whose art do you like the most? Whose art would you say has influenced you or do you try to emulate?
One of my favourite RPG artist and influenced me the most is Mike Vilardi who freelanced for West End Games back in the day. Also, I’ve been reading and trying to emulate art in comics ever since I could read, although I suspect it was long before then. I drew using the styles of comic artists in the 70s. Later I would learn that they were people like Joe Kubert, John Buscema, Jack Kirby, Carmine Infantino, Gene Colan, Ernie Chan and the likes.

Mecha RPG: Battle Zone by Khairul Hisham

Mecha RPG: Battle Zone by Khairul Hisham

Did you attend art school? Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
I did not got a an art school. I did however go to a school that taught me to repair flying machines. But my heart wasn’t into it, so I left that industry and moved to Kuala Lumpur. I found myself alone and surrounded by strangers who I thought were my friends. I found myself further and further from-

Now you’re just quoting Bob Seger
Yes- I- what? Whoo, man… that capybara blood and kumquat juice is a doozy.

How did you get started making art for RPGs?
Because I was a huge Star Wars RPG fan, I thought I’d make a website that offers free SWRPG player character artwork to other websites. I helped Gary Astleford with artwork for his D6 website and we kept in touch over the years. When he started writing games professionally he recommended me to do some interior art for Future Player’s Companion, a d20 Future supplement for The Game Mechanics. As an aside, because of my work to provide free SWRPG art, I was invited to form the Star Wars Artists’ Guild in 2002.

What projects have you worked on in the past? Can you tell us what you’re currently working on or have in the queue?
Since then, I’ve done artwork for companies like Super Genius Games, Wicked North Games, DWD Studios, Kallisti Press, Postmortem Studios, Heroic Journey Publications and also a number of Troll in the Corner products. Currently, I’m working on a number of projects including Brent Newhall’s Monsters of the Shattered World podcast, DWD Studios’ BareBones Covert Ops and Wicked North Games’ Westward.

When you’re not making art or gaming, what are you doing?
Hunting capybaras behind supermarket.

Pono Waniri, Morseerian Soldier by Khairul Hisham

Pono Waniri, Morseerian Soldier by Khairul Hisham

So, Star Wars- ?
WOOOO! STAR WARS!

What would be your dream job?
I would sell someone’s kid – not mine nor yours – for an art assignment for Fantasy Flight‘s Edge of the Empire . However, looking at the art they churn out, I think I have a long way to go before I can make their cut. My stuff looks horrible when compared to their artists.

Anyway, moving on to our last question, do you have any advice for artists trying to get their work out there?
Be communicative. Be pleasant. Always answer your emails, unless you’ve been mauled by capybaras and dying of blood loss in the bush somewhere. It happens. Being a gamer is being a part of a small but awesome community. If you can draw, show it around. Set up an online gallery. You’ll bound to get a query or two from publishers. Or at least a crate of kumquats. Or something.

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Well hello, that was awesome. If you liked what you read and wanted to check out more of Khairul’s artwork, you can check out his gallery. I look forward to seeing his work in many RPG books this year! Thanks for checking in and happy gaming!

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

Feb 222013
 
Combat boots.

Combat boots.

When I was in high school, I had a pair of boots. Not just any boots. Grinders. 10 eye. I got a friend to buy a pair for me in Poland because they were less expensive there. I loved those damn things. I wore them with skirts. I wore them with Dickies. I wore them with fishnets. I loved them. They made me feel like I could kick someone in the ass and break them. I loved how heavy they were on the concrete streets of NYC. I loved how they looked and hugged my feet. They were perfect.

My mother was not as enthusiastic as I was. My mom’s taste in clothing and definition of what is feminine is a bit different from mine and I got a lot of looks and offerings of shoes with heels and flowery dresses from her. Those boots moved with me to the Pacific Northwest and got me through many rainy days till my pregnancy made my feet too big to wear them. I passed them on to a young woman who I’m sure is getting good use out of them but I miss them like whoa and am planning on getting a pair of Corcoran Jump boots when we move back to Portland.

Shoes can be useful. The right shoes can make an arduous trek easier. Wearing basketball sneakers on astroturf to play soccer is really not the best idea. Wearing hiking boots that are a size too small on a long journey is a recipe for discomfort at the very least, physical deformity or injury more likely. Footwear made of porous material can be miserable in wet weather. Too big, too small, too unsteady can make for poor adventuring. Showing up to a ranger’s lodge wearing the daintiest of sandals will raise brows as much as wearing the clunkiest, furriest boots to a formal ball. Ranging in materials from animal hides, plant fibers, wood and more, protecting one’s feet from injury, keeping them out of rough weather and whole, shoes can be an adventurers best friend. Important tools or status symbols, they can get you into or out of lots of trouble.

In some places, barefoot is the way to go. In other locations, it is a sign of being impoverished or even a slave. Some cultures frown upon shoes being worn indoors while others insist upon footwear staying on most of the time. Different religious orders have taboos or rules about feet and footwear while the secular world might call for highly embellished shoes. What your characters chose to wear and where they wear it can mean the difference between fitting in or offending a very important person.

For GMs

  • What is standard footwear for the everyday citizen? Is this for people across class? Gender? Position?
  • Do shoes or any special types of footwear symbolize anything? Are shoes used in ceremonies?
  • What are shoes made of?
  • How do shoes differ from culture to culture? What shoes are appropriate for the different climates?

Plot Hooks

  • When an important individual is murdered in the inn, the only clue left is a strange pair of shoes left by the killer. The PCs must use the shoes as a clue as to who has committed the crime. What do the shoes look like? Where are they from? Do they actually belong to the murderer?
  • The boots of a long dead historical figure go missing from their tomb and it’s up to the PCs to locate the relics. Who has taken the relics? Why did they take the footwear, of all things? Is there something about the shoes themselves that are special or is there something hidden in them? What are they planning on doing with the shoes?
  • Unhappy with the local government’s excess and hedonism, the citizens begin to wear simple but well made shoes to show they are good enough to wear such things. The PCs are sent to confiscate any of these simple shoes they find and close down any store selling them to curb the solidarity and demonstrations of the populace. How did the shoe movement start? Who started it? What do the shoes look like? Who is selling them? Who is making them? What are the people’s reactions to the shoes being taken?
  • In order to infiltrate a fancy dance gala, the PCs must wear very awkward but fancy shoes in order to blend in with the crowd, each design saying something about whoever they are pretending to be. What shoes do they manage to get and what will people assume about them because of their footwear? Why do they need to get into the gala? How long do they have to perfect walking in the shoes?
  • When an enemy invades the town, they learn the spiritual leaders go barefoot to be closer to the earth; they then inflict a strict shoe-wearing policy. All found barefoot on the streets are thrown in prison. The spiritual leaders go into hiding and the PCs must try to maneuver the bizarre rules enforced by the invaders while keeping the spiritual elders safe. What is the result of the religious clergy now being shod? How do people react to the new, strange rule? How is the rule enforced/how do they encourage the people to follow it?

For PCs

  • Do you wear shoes? Why or why not?
  • Do you have a favorite pair of shoes? What are they like? Why do you like them? What do they say about you? Do you take care of them? Are they worn? Broken in? Stylish?
  • If you could have any pair of shoes, what would you have? Why?
  • How do you feel about other kinds of footwear? People who go barefoot?
  • When is it appropriate to wear shoes? When is it appropriate to go barefoot?

What say you? What shoes does your adventurer wear and why?

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

Feb 152013
 

Another middle of the month, another Epic Level Artistry! This month we are super lucky to have the amazing James Stowe. When James mentioned wanting to be interviewed for ELA, I will admit, I was floored. I was familiar with his work, Sidekick Quests, and being a gamer parent myself loved the aesthetic he brought, bringing in parent and kid alike while staying true to all the tropes and fun that is a part of rolling dice and kicking butts (or having your butt kicked…it depends on the game). He was awesome enough to make himself even more busy and answered some questions for us! Check it out!

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Sidekick Quests Mystery of the Moonstone by James Stowe

Sidekick Quests Mystery of the Moonstone by James Stowe

So, tell us a little bit about yourself and your history with art in games and RPGs.

My name is James Stowe. In the past I’ve been a professional fantasy illustrator with over 100 book credits for companies such as White Wolf Publishing, Fantasy Flight, WEG, Wizards of the Coast and Holistic Designs. Currently I am working on a webcomic called Sidekick Quests which is my attempt to merge my love of cartooning, gaming and playing with my kids.

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?
Right now I am playtesting the Sidekick Quests Roleplaying Game so I’m going to go the self-marketer route and say  that is my favorite system to play right now. I also still play DND 4e pretty regularly and still enjoy it.

The bulk of my professional fantasy work was years ago when White Wolf’s World of Darkness was an active thing. I loved making artwork for those games. I was a regular artist on Changeling and would drop anything to work on those books again. I love the childlike wonder mixed with horror that Changeling presented.

Do you prefer to GM or play as a PC? Do you find this affects your art?
I am a Gamemaster. I love nothing more than running game, writing house rules and developing hundreds of years of history for game settings. A long running joke in one of my troops is that I once wrote an entire page of backstory for a bridge that the PCs crossed over in about 5 minutes of actual play time.

Being a GM definitely influences my work. Sidekick Quests is a comic about a troop of young adventurers in training being led by a narrative like GM. I am such a Gamemaster I’ve even inserted myself into my art.

Sidekick Quests Map by James Stowe

Sidekick Quests Map by James Stowe

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?
I love drawing people and monsters and things. If I had a choice I would just draw pin ups and character commissions all day. While drawing setting has never been something that comes naturally to me I do love drawing maps. I can loose myself for hours and hours in a overtly detailed map drawing.

I tend to be fairly spontaneous when I draw and I do so almost exclusively on a computer. I am a vector artist. I’d say 95% of my work is vector illustration made in Adobe Illustrator. I don’t sketch or make thumbnails generally. Most of that I do in my head. I just make a finished illustration and when I’m done I’m done.

What’s your preferred medium to work with? Do you work digitally, on paper or some mix?
I should have read ahead. As I said I am primarily a vector artist. Most of my work is done in Adobe Illustrator. The entire Sidekick Quests comic is draw completely in Illustrator. When I am not working digitally in vector I like to work with watercolor or sharpie marker. In the good old days of professional fantasy illustrating I worked in acrylic or gouache (before the days of digital painting) or with Photoshop from photo reference.

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?
My day job I manage an art department and act as lead concept illustrator as the Creative Development Manager at the Lucks Company. After 8 to 10 hours doing that each day I probably put in another 2 or 3 hours each night drawing for Sidekick Quests, freelance work, commissions or personal projects. All total I probably draw 40 to 70 hours a week.

I am currently in two gaming troops. One that meets once a week on Sunday night and one that just finished meeting every other Thursday. I am also working on finishing up work on the Sidekick Quests Roleplaying Game and playtesting that as often as I can.

Sidekick Quests! A page out of the comic by James Stowe

Sidekick Quests! A page out of the comic by James Stowe

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?
I love modern digital painting. When I look at some of the artwork that is being made now for the top tier companies I am astounded. When I first started out in the industry back in 1994 nothing like that was being made on a computer. Seeing how far digital art has come in just 20 years blows my mind. That being said I personally am really drawn to cartoony style work. I’ll pick up any game that features the artwork of John Kovalic. He is a real inspiration to me. There are a ton of other cartoonists out there who’s work I absolutely love too. Probably too many to reference here. I’d be here all night.

Whose art do you like the most? Whose art would you say has influenced you or do you try to emulate?
Again, I really need to read ahead on these questions. Okay. I guess if there is going to be a whole question devoted to whose art do I like I might as well make a list. I am a founding member of the Cartoonists League of Absurd Washingtonians (or CLAW). The befezzed cartoonists that make up our ranks are a regular source of inspiration to me. There is Brian Patterson of D20Monkey. With out him I would never have started Sidekick Quests. When I was thinking about making a webcomic he was gracious enough to answer a lot of questions I had starting out. His comic and gaming art is fantastic too. Some other cartoonists/illustrators I admire are Lar Desouza, Dave Willis, Mark Stokes, Nathan Bulmer, Jeph Jacques, Mike Karhulik, Gary Cohn, Mark Monlux, Doug Tennapel, Tarol Hunt, Mark Brill, Kyle Ferrin, Mike Mitchell, Mary Cagel and Erica Moen. There are a lot more I could and should list and properly link to… but there are more questions to answer.

I’d like to think I am beyond emulating anyone at this point. I draw how I draw. I may take little techniques from other artists now and then but for the most part I am comfortable with my own ability and style.

Sidekick Quests Players Handbook by James Stowe. Seriously, how hilarious is that?

Sidekick Quests Players Handbook by James Stowe. Seriously, how hilarious is that?

What tools do you use to make art? What tools/items do you need to game?
My primary tool is a Wacom tablet. I would likely be completely lost without one. I carry a Wacom stylus with me most places I go.

I am a lot more easy going with gaming paraphernalia. I don’t have lucky dice or anything like that. If anything I keep a sketch pad with me while I game. Usually by the end of a session there are tons of sketches in there.

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 current project is Sidekick Quests. You can follow it in webcomic form at sidekickquests.com. It updates every Monday with blog posts throughout the week and a brand new fan influenced monster every Friday. Along with that I am actively developing the Sidekick Quests RPG. It is in beta testing right now and should be available for sale in PDF form this summer. I am also working with Daniel Solis  and Lyndsay Peters on ‘Sidekick Quests the Card Game’ which is currently in closed beta testing. 2013 should be a huge year for Sidekick Quests and I am looking forward to spreading the word about it as much as I can.

Sidekick Quests Scout Character Sheet by James Stowe

Sidekick Quests Scout Character Sheet by James Stowe

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?
About a year and a half ago I created some custom DND character sheets for my son’s birthday party and then shared them on the internet. The reaction they got and the support I have felt since then has been really amazing. I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing today if it weren’t for those sheets. It is a project I still take great pride in. It has helped me meet great people, revitalized my love of cartooning and reintroduced me to the gaming community.

What would be a dream job/commission?
I know I am beginning to sound like a one trick pony but if I could work on the Sidekick Quests comic and RPG for the rest of my life as my career I’d be the happiest guy on Earth. That is my focus right now.

Do you have any plans to put the Sidekick Quests comic itself into a printed book?
My current plans for Sidekick Quests involve the release of the RPG. Initially it will be released as a series of PDFs. Eventually I hope to publish the comic as a collection after another storyline or two.

When you’re not making art or gaming, what are you doing?
You mean there is something other than making art and gaming? I guess I try to play with my kids as much as I can while they are both still at an age where they think that is the coolest thing to do. On the rarest of occasions I go out with my loving and patient wife.

Ciber-Cow from Fiendish Fanmade Fridays on Sidekick Quest! by James Stowe!

Ciber-Cow from Fiendish Fanmade Fridays on Sidekick Quest! by James Stowe!

Sidekick Quests is awesome because it bridges that age gap, ushering kids into RPGs while obviously appealing to adult gamers who are in on the jokes. How have your kids inspired you in gaming and in drawing?

You know both of my kids are a huge inspiration. Sidekick Quests wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for my son’s early interest Dungeons and Dragons. One of the ongoing elements of Sidekick Quests is a feature I run once a week called Fiendish Fan-Made Fridays where I invite kids to create their own monsters to help populate the Sidekick Quests’ setting. My my son and daughter have made several. I could run the feature for weeks just on their submissions alone.

Do your kids draw?
My daughter is quite an artist. She loves drawing, coloring and crafts. She is currently teaching herself sewing. Neither my wife or I sew… she wants to do it and is motivated to teach herself. She has always been that way. My son is more of a writer than an artist. He can’t wait until he is a regular Dungeon Master.

Another page out of Sidekick Quests by James Stowe

Another page out of Sidekick Quests by James Stowe

Do you have any advice for people who are trying to find artists to hire? To artists trying to get their work out there?
For people trying to hire artists look for someone that is responsive, clear in their communication and open to direction and feedback. As an art director and creative manager that is what I hope for in freelance artists.

To freelancers I say always keep at it. I had to show an art director at White Wolf a new portfolio piece once a day for two weeks before he finally gave me an assignment just so I’d quit sending him artwork. And work at it. You really need to love what you do. Fantasy illustration is not an career path that will make you rich… but the people and experiences you forge along the way and the games you get to be a part of will be more than worth it.

 

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Be sure to check out Sidekick Quests every Monday; in addition you can also ‘like’ SkQ on Facebook. If you like James’ art you can check out his art blog or his Facebook. He posted some really neat Valentine’s Day cards there, so be sure to like it for updates!  In addition James is on Twitter where he talk about RPGs and art. I want to take the time to thank James for participating in ELA! Hope you all enjoyed this installment; happy gaming!

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

Feb 152013
 
Antipope Benedict XIII, also known as El Papa Luna

Antipope Benedict XIII, also known as El Papa Luna

Most of us are probably familiar with the Pope. Head of the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop of Rome, successor of Saint Peter. The word, ‘Pope’ comes from a Greek word meaning ‘father,’ symbolizing the position this individual had over its followers. To say the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope have wielded authority over the centuries is like saying Niagara Falls is some falling water. In societies where religious life and secular life were one and the same, the authority of the Church accomplished much all over the world and the holy seat of the Pope has never been something taken lightly. With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, people are speculating as to which bishop will be elevated to this seat of power and service.

The Roman Catholic Church has in its history Antipopes; Antipopes were individuals who were more than qualified to have been elected Pope themselves but for whatever reason were not elected. This would cause rifts within the church, with kings, cardinals and even kingdoms rejecting the elected pope and recognizing another individual as the leader of the Church and therefore the everyday lives of many individuals. Some of the antipopes reconciled with the Popes. Others were ran out, tortured, murdered or excommunicated. On occasion the antipopes were named by rulers themselves, in obstinance to the elected Popes who held much power in those days. Others named themselves Pope, saying they had a better claim to the seat. Popes and Antipopes disrupted the lives of everyday citizens, disrupted records as people tried to keep track of who was in charge. Some people even believe a period of frequent antipapacies allowed a woman to briefly become Pope, though some say that is Church legend.

In any religious organization, there are always leaders and there will always be those who really wish some other person was in command. When everyone is dead set on an individual being the Chosen One there are those who would have chosen differently. Maybe it’s because they doubt the qualifications of newly elected leader in question. Perhaps they consider another person more compassionate, more ruthless or more charismatic. Perhaps they want the seat for themselves. No matter how high the seat, no matter how big the service required, if power is involved someone else will have their eyes on it. Politics and religion intermingle and the consequences of opposing one of the highest spiritual leaders of the land can be grave indeed.

If religion plays a big part in your campaign, issues of hierarchy and position can affect everyone. How are the PCs involved in the political maneuverings of the the holiest individuals of the land?

For GMs

  • What structure do religious organizations have? What does the hierarchy look like and who is at the top of the pack?
  • How do the leaders divide their influence? Over buildings? Geographical locations? Number of individuals?
  • How are the leaders of the organization chosen? Do they have to perform tests? Are they elected? Who elects them? Do people not officially affiliated with the religious organization influence the decision making?
  • How much clout do the top religious officials have and how are they regarded by secular leaders?
  • What are some of the important doctrines within the religious organization and what are the main schisms within? Who are the leaders of various schools of thought and how are they regarded by other factions, leaders and the follower?

Plot Hooks

  • When the current religious leader dies suddenly, the region is in a clamor trying to decide who the next spiritual leader will be. When rival cities suggest well known locals to the highest seat, fighting breaks out in the streets and its up to the church leaders and local police to keep the peace while the next leader is chosen. The PCs are caught trying to keep the peace while those making the decision lay behind closed doors. Who do the PC side with? How are the people advocating for one person or the other? Does the fighting help or hinder the process and decision making?
  • When the spiritual leader announces their retirement, the PCs are sent to the capitol in order to plant seeds which will hopefully lead to a certain individual being elected as the next head of the order. Who are the PCs trying to get elected? Who must they speak to in order to succeed? Who else is in the running? Why are they rooting for one person or another?
  • When an individual proclaims themselves the head of the holy order, the PCs are sent from the capitol to deal with this would be usurper. Their orders say to command the person to step down and if they refuse to execute them in the name of the church. Is the mission a secret one or a public one? How are they received along the way? Does their target know they are coming or are they surprised? What are they told of this possible usurper and what do they learn of them on their journey?
  • When the spiritual leader of their tribe appoints a rather unimpressive individual to be a spiritual warrior before an approaching battle, many of the members balk at the idea. They clamor for another person, more formidable in form to lead them in battle but the spiritual leader holds fast. The PCs are in the employ of the spiritual leader who bids them to prepare the chosen one for the battle, mentally and physically. All the while the enemy is approaching. What is the nature of this chosen one and what is so atypical of them? Why did the spiritual leader choose them? Do the PCs believe this is indeed the chosen one or do they have their doubts?

For PCs

  • Are you a spiritual person? Are you a religious person?
  • How do you feel about hierarchy in the religious world?
  • How do you view the current religious leaders? Who do you think their successors will be?
  • Do you keep tabs on current schisms within the church? Do you side with any of them?
  • Who do you think is the greatest religious mind of your time? What is their rank within the church? Do you think they could raise up the ranks? What would you do to get them recognized within the church?
  • What do you think the connection between political and religious power is? Do you think they should intertwine? Be separate?

What say you? What happens when the highest spiritual position is challenged within your campaign?

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

Feb 082013
 
'The Merchant's Wife' by Boris Kustodiev. Watermelons are considered an aphrodisiac by some.

‘The Merchant’s Wife’ by Boris Kustodiev. Watermelons are considered an aphrodisiac by some.

Note: This article deals with things of a sexual nature. You have been warned.

*cue Barry White*

Aww yeah. You know what I’m talking about.

Many substances are supposed to help get people ‘in the mood’, and when I say ‘in the mood’ I mean the mood to have sex. The pressures of life with its anxieties, the weariness one feels after a hard days work, the ingesting of a rather delicious but perhaps too large burrito…many of these can be dampeners of the mood we hope to be in while adjacent to people we desire. Sometimes one person is ready to go but the timing is off. It’s just not really what they’re down for at the moment.

Enter aphrodisiacs. Throughout history people have reported certain things can increase libido, by suggesting sexual parts of the body, by perhaps delivering nutrients, hormones or other chemicals that tell your brain ‘ACTIVATE NETHERS.’ Some say arousal and sexual desire is more complicated than just eating a gallon of raw oysters and jumping into bed while others swear by the lusty effects of powdered deer parts, ground chilies, melted chocolate, juicy figs and other things that activate all your senses.

People want to enhance everything we get our hands on and sex is no exception. For many sex is an important part of life and we want it to be the best it can be, for all parties involved. Some want to be the best and if that means snorting a dilution of whale penis up your nose, then by Kord, bring on the whale penis. Many want harmony in the home and a happy and satisfying sex life can contribute to that. Some might think a romp enjoyed by all might increase the chances of having children while might others being amazing in the bedroom might garner favors in public society. If it takes a hack to ensure any of these, many people would be willing to try it at least once.

If there are people in your campaign, chances are some of them are having sex and some of them might want to enhance their drive, the drive of others or the performance itself. Love will drive people to do crazy things but sex? Well, look up a list of aphrodisiacs and you’ll see.

For GMs

  • What are well known aphrodisiacs in the culture? Less well known aphrodisiacs? Are the aphrodisiacs for all sexes or just for one in particular?
  • Who prescribes aphrodisiacs? Doctors? Herbalists? Midwives? Do they also make the concoctions themselves or do they hand their patients a shopping list and make them obtain the ingredients?
  • Are aphrodisiacs and sex drive spoken of openly in the culture or is it something handled behind closed doors?
  • Who is supposed to take the reigns when it comes to making sure all parties involved in the bedroom are satisfied? Who’s in charge of ‘stoking the fire’?
  • What benefits are associated with a healthy libido?
  • Where are these aphrodisiacs obtained? How do the aphrodisiacs supposedly work? Why do they work?
  • Are aphrodisiacs expensive? Who has access to them? What are some of the more hard to obtain substances? The ones people grow in their backyards?

Plot Hooks

  • A clergy member claims the deities have given them a recipe for a sacred aphrodisiac that will bless the beds of all who partake of it. The concoction is available only at the temple. The PCs are sent to investigate the mixture and its effects. Who sends them to investigate? What is the concoction? What are its exact effects? Who is buying it and is it working? Is the potion actually blessed or is something else at play?
  • When couples are found dead in their beds, further investigation points to an aphrodisiac being the cause of death. The PCs are sent to find out where the substance is coming from and prevent further deaths from occurring. What is the substance? Does it kill everyone that uses it or is something else at play?
  • A certain animal is being found mutilated in the woods, left to die after certain parts of it are removed. A poacher reveals the parts are being used for very expensive aphrodisiacs that are sent to another region where the people pay top dollar. The PCs must try to stop the poachers and deal with the demand for the aphrodisiac. What parts of the animal are used? What are the effects? What will happen if the supply suddenly stops? How badly is this substance wanted and how badly do poachers want to cash in?
  • After letting a huge shipment of an aphrodisiac across the border, the PCs get wind of a plan to ‘poison’ the capitol city’s water supply with the substance to distract key portions of the populace so usurpers can sneak in. The PCs must try to intercept the caravan without their superiors knowing they dropped the ball and in time to foil the lustful plans. What is the substance? Who is planning on carrying it out? How likely is the plan to succeed?
  • An important official needs the ingredients for a powerful aphrodisiac in the hopes that it will secure them an heir. The PCs are sent to retrieve the ingredients discretely in order to maintain the dignity and privacy of the household. Why are the PCs chosen? What must they obtain? What is their cover? What do they stand to gain by helping this individual?
  • When a conservative faction bans foods that are suggestive in nature the PCs start smuggling them into the country to meet demand. What kind of foods are banned? What are the penalties for being caught with such foods? What is the faction trying to accomplish by banning these foods? What are the results of these fruits becoming forbidden?

For PCs

  • Do you consider yourself a sexual person?
  • Do you pay attention to your sex drive? The sex drives of others?
  • Do you think that aphrodisiacs work? What do you think imbues them with their properties? Is it divine? Psycological? Natural?
  • Do you think of a lack of libido as something normal to experience or an indication of something being wrong?
  • Would you take a substance said to be an aphrodisiac on someone’s word? Or are you wary around such things?

What say you? How can you spice up your next campaign?

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

Feb 012013
 
Spec Fic Daily Dollar Daze

Spec Fic Daily Dollar Daze

So because a perfect storm of illness, lack of time and stress has descended upon my house in a big way, I am posting a link to Spec Fic Daily, an ebook deal site that is currently running their Dollar Daze Fantasy and Sci-Fi special. Eighteen books, all of them marked down to a DOLLAR. All are available on Amazon, some are available at other ebook etailers (Kobo, Nook and iTunes; prices may vary).

In addition, SFC is running a Rafflecopter with prizes that include gift cards and signed books. Definitely check that out for your chance to win!

Eighteen books for $18! That’s a lot of potential fodder for your next campaign! Hey now!

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

Jan 312013
 

Do you have dark dreams you wish you could bring to paper? Prefer RPGs where players aren’t so much fighting to save the world so much as maintain their sanity? Does the idea of sharp teeth, tentacles and realities far stranger and less merciful than our own make you want to pick up your dice? If so, check out Kirsten Brown, our latest artist on Epic Level Artistry.

I met Kirsten originally online through some friends and have been a fan of her art work for a long while. Dark imagery, symbols and magic are a common theme in her art. Kirsten illustrated an installment of Reality Makes the Best Fantasy last year and in addition to illustrating she also creates wands and does other crafts. Let’s see what Kirsten had to say about making art and playing RPGs.

***Note: Some of the art in this installment of ELA is NSFW (contains nudity and blood/gore). You have been warned.*** 

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Maw by Kirsten Brown

Maw by Kirsten Brown

So, tell us a little bit about yourself and your history with art in games and RPGs.

Hm. It’s kind of haphazard. I played a lot of videogames as a kid, renting from the little rental store with discrimination. I’d try anything that looked cool. I remember running into the first Final Fantasy that made it to the states, and the first time I rented it (there would be repeats), it still had the poster with all the monster designs on it, and that was almost as fascinating as the game itself.

If we’re talking non-Nintendo-based gaming, I had a lot of tabletop and ccg things before I knew what they were for, most of them for the art. I was eleven or twelve, head-over-ass obsessed with dragons, and my best friend had given me a Dragonlance novel for my birthday. I had no idea it was based on a lets-pretend game with dice and some rules, or I’d have hunted down someone to play with as if I were an entire pack of dogs after bacon. Instead, I picked up issues of Dragon Magazine when I could, for the posters. I acquired a massive stack of M:TG cards, especially for someone who never played once. I collected most of the Changeling: The Dreaming corebooks when I was in high school, pretty much for the express purpose of wallowing in the artwork and worldbuilding in them.

When I went to college for illustration (98-02, to thoroughly date myself) gaming art seemed to be regarded by my instructors as a kind of baffling bastard sibling to book-cover art, something akin to comics, and thus a less than a worthwhile goal for an art career. They wouldn’t touch trying to point me towards any of the things I would have cheerfully given my left arm to do for the rest of my life, which is funny, because that’s also around when I found my first gaming group. Which kind of leads to the next question, so I’ll stop this particular yammering here?

High Priest by Kirsten Brown

High Priest by Kirsten Brown

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?

Shadowrun, for both. Other than one really ill-fated attempt at joining a Vampire LARP when I was a bitty high-school goth, wherein my character was hung for actually possessing a sense of humour, it was my first. I started on 3rd edition, back in college. That group fell apart for various personal reasons before I could get too into it, but it was appealing because it fit the mythology of my life, then. I’d started hanging out with a bunch of hackers, and had also fallen face-first into cyberpunk as a genre. William Gibson was a visionary, Ghost in the Shell, a revelation. There was an aesthetic to all of it that drew me, all this arcane technology, but unpolished and approachable and darkly funny like most sci-fi I could think of patently was not.

It was years until the a housemate situation I lived in presented me with an opportunity to try it out again, and I found out 4th edition is even more fun! The world as a whole is appealing because of the juxtapositions it has going for it, and how cleverly they’re applied. There’s gravity in its portrayal of poverty and corporate rule, the magical and environmental ruin of their version of Earth, but it’s still got room for some hilariously gonzo things to happen because these people you’re playing aren’t some kind of epic, mythic hero. They’re everyday assholes with talents who, for whatever reason, decide to apply them differently than others to the problem of dealing with life in a really weird place. It’s amazing how many terrible, hilarious situations a group can get into with that very basic trope and your GM at the wheel.

I’ve played and liked the worlds for Legend of Five Rings and Eclipse Phase, too. The rest of my group weren’t so fond of them, so neither lasted long, which is too bad. The Void mage I put together for the former was a lot of fun, though I think we play way too fast and loose for that world. As for the latter, I have no idea why anyone wouldn’t want to play as an uplifted squid on a space colony.

Bottom Lake by Kirsten Brown

Bottom Lake by Kirsten Brown

Do you prefer to GM or play as a PC? Do you find this affects your art?

I’ve never GMed, and actually don’t think I’d be very good at it. I write, sometimes, and plotting for that has taught me two very important things about myself; I am a) a poor planner, editing and messing with things in very disparate parts of the story as I go, and b) a massive detail and control freak. Players messing with where I think they should be heading would drive me completely insane.

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?

People and creatures. I’ll start with a concept, see if I can ping a personality for them (and even critters have a demeanor), then build details around that. Settings make me shamefully lazy, and that’s a bad habit I’ve been trying to bribe, work or otherwise flog out of myself for a long time.

What’s your preferred medium to work with? Do you work digitally, on paper or some mix?

Mostly digital these days. Sometimes I’ll trace my own scanned drawings on paper as a base for a finish. Ballpoint sketching is a longtime love, and doing that sort of translation is a big help in improving my digital sketching. I do occasionally try to convince myself I can paint, like Old Masters’ type painting. I have a small set of oils around for that particular brand of self-hatred. Everyone else seems to like the results, but I usually end up just wanting to set the canvases on fire or getting really impatient.

Bright Water by Kirsten Brown

Bright Water by Kirsten Brown

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?

Shadowrun is on Sundays, usually for about five hours. There’s a lot of general hanging out and BS-ing to it, as none of us have the greatest attention spans, and we’re all friends first, some of whom don’t see each other often outside of this.

God, art? I don’t even know. GIMP stays open when I boot my computer in the morning, thanks to hibernation mode, and I’ve always got something open. I have been trying to make this my living for years, to varying levels of success and with the help of a very patient partner who keeps me from ending up a vagrant living out of a shopping cart and drawing on walls with cat feces. I’m almost always doing something.

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?

I’m really happy that so many people are chasing some really appalling tropes in regards to the portrayal of women in gaming and comic art into the light of day, all the little things that, were I a slightly different and less contrary person, would have read loudly as ‘THIS IS NOT FOR YOU’.

Whose art do you like the most? Whose art would you say has influenced you or do you try to emulate?

To a point, liking and influences are inseparable. If something really grabs my face, I’m instantly trying to find the largest, highest-res version of it that I can find so I can break down brushstrokes, tablet strokes, textures and layering to see how it was made. But! I’ll at least stick to people whose work I’ve learned from or who I think have actually helped inform my style instead of being relegated to the ‘Hey, that’s neat!’ pile. I’m fond of detail, clarity, a sense of movement, clever use of negative space, and symbolic elements.

In no particular order; HR Giger. Salvador Dali. Boris Vallejo. James Jean. Botticelli. Waterhouse. Alphonse Mucha. Sam Kieth. Jhonen Vasquez. Yoshitaka Amano. The manga team CLAMP. Jenna Chew. Tim Bradstreet. Chynna Clugston-Major. Android Jones. Dave McKean.

Gate and Key by Kirsten Brown

Gate and Key by Kirsten Brown

What tools do you use to make art? What tools/items do you need to game?

For the digital end of things, I use GIMP 2.8.0 under Linux, and a poor, battered little Wacom Graphire I picked up used five or six years ago, the thing is apparently built like a tank. For sketching, I like plain ballpoint pens and printer paper or Moleskine sketchbooks.
As for gaming, dice are obvious. I also need the books for whatever we’re doing at hand because I’m crap at remembering the rules and any numbers not on my character sheet. I also need something to do when it’s not my turn, because combat takes forever, or if it’s a particularly not-my-character-heavy session. Lately, that’s consisted of bringing my netbook along and screwing around with network tools like wireshark until I understand what they do, because I’m an autodidactic masochist. And coffee or tea, I consume both in probably alarming amounts.

What projects have you worked on in the past? Can you tell us what you’re currently working on or have in the queue?

The biggest gaming-related project I’ve done was Shadowrift. A friend of mine owns the studio behind it, and it was an educational, if harrowing, experience. Halfway through, I was offered twice the workload I’d initially been offered. Of course I took it, so I found myself with two dozen pieces due in two months. At some point I started calling it the Art Deathmarch.

Frost Mage by Kirsten Brown

Frost Mage by Kirsten Brown

There was talk of an expansion for Shadowrift, but only talk thus far. I’m also working on a comic for a friend’s script, planning out some nasty-fun retelling of faery tales and myths with someone else. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about the really fun possibility, yet.

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?

A lot of my favourite stuff recently has been fanart. Some would say sadly, but for a while for me it was this big taboo thing. Art school taught me not to draw characters I don’t own. Thing is, it’s nowhere near the big deal it’s made out to be, and it’s a good way to introduce people to you and your work. I’ve been having a lot of fun drawing stuff from a webcomic, Homestuck; it’s got very loose designs for a huge number of distinct characters, and a completely batshit sense of humour. I plugged some of the characters into a take on Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, between some paying jobs that were nowhere near as silly. Also, Rubyquest; it’s this cutely-crudely drawn and thoroughly creepy little comic that unfolded through question and answer sessions on 4chan, of all places. I doodled all the characters to break in a new Moleskine, and ended up dropping that in GIMP because I wanted to colour it.

There’s also a thing I did of a sort of mermaid, playing with bioluminescence, that I’m really fond of. There might be a story in it, I’m not sure, I just have a lot of fun playing with light and dark and glowing things.

Fish Bitch 2 by Kirsten Brown

Fish Bitch 2 by Kirsten Brown

What would be a dream job/commission?

Free rein over all the art in a Technomancer’s guide, or a Shadowrun tarot, maybe. Designing monsters for something like Deadspace. Illustrating the next Caitlin R. Kiernan short fiction collection or book cover. Being asked to contribute to an Invisibles artbook. Mercreature smut.

When you’re not making art or gaming, what are you doing?

Cramming Linux into my face. Pulling apart dead laptops and learning my way around. Reading. Writing. Watching cartoons. Gardening. Working out. Cooking. Chasing my cat around the apartment. Screwing around on the internet.

Do you have any advice for people who are trying to find artists to hire? To artists trying to get their work out there?

To those hiring? In this kind of job climate, and with the kind of value people seem to ascribe to art these days? Thanks are due.

Rubyquest by Kirsten Brown

Rubyquest by Kirsten Brown

And to those looking for work, especially the ones who want to do this full time, get very, very good at managing your own time. Being your own boss sounds really great until you turn around, find yourself three projects deep and with no idea where you left off of any of them because you decided to put things off for a bit and reread Drowtales instead (a thing that has happened to me, it was not pretty). And cutting corners is never a good idea.

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If you like Kirsten’s art, you can find more of it on her portfolio (some images NSFW) and in her Etsy shop; I want to thank Kirsten for taking the time to share with us! I hope you enjoyed this installment of Epic Level Artistry. Keep on gaming and drawing!

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