Shane is busy RPG industry artist. He’s a key figure at Heathen Oracle and his artwork can be found in and on Goodman Games, RPGObjects, Thunderhead Games and Mystic Eye products. GameWyrd’s questions appear in strange blue and Shane’s answers are in typical black.
1) Which of these two best describes you “a roleplayer” or “an artist”?
Well I would have to say roleplayer more than anything mentality wise. Lets say, 15th level Player, 18th Level GM and 24th Level artist. Based on a time span of 20 years on and off.
2) How long did it take for you to get established as a RPG industry artist? What advice would you give to budding artists who want to get noticed and commissioned?
Established is such a subjective word, I do make a living at what I do, though I am not as well known like the WOTC mainstream artists. I have been working freelance since 1992 and just now have been getting noticed for my work and my name recognized by Art Directors since about 3 years ago.
There was a period of 2 years I stopped freelancing altogether and just did cartooning/logos and airbrush work. Then I tried to get back into freelancing RPG after 4 years invested, and found that it was like starting all over again. So definitely keep at what you’re doing, stay in touch and keep Art D’s updated once a month by mail or e-mail!
3) What do you consider your highest profile piece so far? Is it your best work?
“Familiar Wounds”, without a doubt. I have it posted as the front of my gallery on Paper & Pen.net That piece has seen A LOT of hits in the short time it has been up. It had also inspired a short story by Chris Heath (Kenzer & Co. writer, also Heathen Oracle CEO) titled the same. But my best work to date? I would have to say “Sky Henge” which is an unfinished painting just yet.
4) Some early criticism of the many small companies that fought their way into existence as a result of the open gaming license and d20’s popularity was that the quality of the art was dreadful. Do you think that was true? Do you think it’s still true?
Well a lot of that really has to do with the start up funds available and what resources they can pull from the internet. At first I think they felt they could sell their product based on the d20 concept alone, those that did more than likely suffered if a talented and experienced illustrator didn’t represent them dynamically. This field and just about any other goes hand in hand with art and imagery, if your imagery doesn’t reflect the feel of your game, you can bet there are those that do judge a book by its cover. I feel the art has increased dramatically in the field since the advent of the OGL, many nooks and crannies of the internet have been upturned by those seeking publication helping ferret out unknown talent in both artist and writers.
5) Which do you prefer? Being given a lot of freedom to draw what you Imagine when you’ve been commissioned for an illustration or being given pretty tight guidelines and requirements?
Oooo that’s easy “Freedom!” recent Companies I have done covers for have given me full reign and are very happy with the results, usually its just a simple “I want it dark, lots of action and a big critter”, that type is my absolute favorite. Then tweaking if necessary.
6) Do you have time to roleplay? If so which games do you play and do they still inspire you? If you don’t have time for much for roleplaying do you think this makes it harder for you to know what game designers want drawn?
I Role-play about once to twice per month, mostly as a GM. D20 right now, but I still have 2nd Edtn tendencies. The inspiration for me is the imagery of the entire field for both SF & F, but I GM’d for about 20 years, so I have lots o’ data to work with. Matter of fact I have just recently started hanging out in your forums for the freeform role-play of Hawkshield in one of the threads. Helps me brush up on my creative writing & I will be occasionally putting sketches in there of the adventures appropriate to the freeform story.
7) Some RPG supplements only have a picture every third page or so whereas some books have several illustrations on each page spread. Do you think the second type of supplement there are obviously better quality than the first?
LOL, in a word no, its all in the placement and the quality of the art being done. I would rather see a few excellent illustrations that move the viewer, than a bunch of mediocre ones that are just taking up space (but then again I’m an illustrator).
8) Do you think fantasy illustrations, specifically artwork for RPG products, is evolving at all or are we still seeing the same sort of styles used since the first books?
Tough question, and anyone reading this will certainly have their own views vastly different from mine I am sure. Yes I do feel it’s evolving in many ways. There seems to be a lot more thought going into mediums and texture effects/lighting than what is traditionally available for the majority. One example are my B/W interiors I am doing now for a novel/book, it combines a background of monotone oils, main armor and clothing of figure in pen & ink, and the faces and skin are done in pencil. A nearly impossible combination that is easily done digitally would be tedious at best traditionally. So what I am saying is that Digital illustration has greatly enhanced the look of RPG art in its variety and application. I know a lot of artists now that intentionally move away from the WOTC/TSR look to create their own.
9) You’ve got a few of your own products in the market place yourself in the form of collections of card-sized illustrations. Could you just explain how you see people using them in a game?
Well, both as a creative stimulus and as a way to encourage players to strive for something more tangible. It organizes details in an easily handled format without having to shift through a lot of papers. And form numerous emails I have received, players gladly enjoy coloring them as well. So it keeps slow moving spots in games focused and on the game, not flipping through some non-related magazine.
10) How hard do you think it is to get the balance between visual aids and natural imagination right in games?
It takes practice, just like movies, not every scene is the one that makes the commercial to inspire you to see the movie, so that’s what the cards help with, is creating instances of excitement. Vistas was oriented around this tremendously with full color art. So its just as important that the GM is able to create invoking flavor text, and giving the players a chance to also help create it. I don’t feel its all on the shoulders of the GM, the players have to want to create as well!
(GameWyrd notes – We’re in the Out of the Box section now. A couple of unusual questions for which we expect unusual answers!)
11) Imagine a strangely accented man with oddly coloured eyes thrust a battered and torn scroll at you, explained that it was of utmost importance that you read the words of the scroll from the top of the nearby hill during tomorrow’s dawn and then he then ran off before you could ask him anything else. Would you read the scroll on the hill at dawn?
Well, being the gamer at heart that I am, first I would see to what extent the scroll has been torn and tattered, making absolutely sure everything was legible and there were no text missing from the seemingly important scroll. The next thing would be to review the contents to see if I could even read what the scroll was written in, don’t want to be stumbling over my context or pronouncing words incorrectly assuming its written in a language I can read and fluent in. He states “during TOMORROWs dawn” this is at least 12 hours away. I would research the hell out of the scroll contents on the internet before proceeding. Then I would of course (again assuming everything went well) shower up, set up the Portable Video Cam near the hill. Explaining what I was doing, the circumstances and why (just incase something happened to me, there would be some kind of evidence of what happened), then I would proceed at dawn reading the scroll (making sure my breath was minty fresh). So yes I would probably read it.
12) You’ve been given a suitcase full of small white d6. The challenge is to use them in such a way that gets you into the news – the more coverage the better – what do you try first?
I would have them all gold plated, and hand them out at conventions as THE initiative dice. Not very creative was it? Well, it’s a weird question, now if it were 12 sided dice (my favorite)….