Monday, April 9, 2012

Professional Art for Your Savage Worlds Character - Three Artists I Met at Wondercon 2012

by Derek B., The Savage Duck

A Little Background - 

or Why I love going to Comic Conventions

I've always been a very visual, creative type.  In my gaming group, I was the one spending hours creating terrain, buildings, and paining figures. It had to look realistic.  Growing up in Texas and being an hour away from Dallas meant that conventions were within easy driving distance. It was there in Dallas, during the early 1980s, that I encountered the artists behind my favorite Sci-Fi and Fantasy worlds. Ralph McQuarrie creating the first images of Star Wars, the Brothers Hildebrandt and their wonderful visions of Middle Earth, Chris Foss and his remarkable spaceships, H.R. Giger's nightmares, and just as importantly, a diverse group of awesome comic book artists, like John Byrne and Jack Kirby and, slightly later, new-comer Frank Miller.

Confession: My parents were both fine artists who were lovingly dedicated to keeping me out of the artist's lot in life. I was drawn to technology but always had an eye for art. I decided RPGs were a cool way to be creative as a hobby. 

A Fun Discovery

I discovered that most artists at the conventions are very approachable and some will create works of art for you at very reasonable prices. These experiences became some of my favorite moments at Comic-Con, Wonder-con, and a slew of other Cons starting way back at Bulldog Production's DallasCon / Dallas Fantasy Faire 1982. Here's a link to a sketch by John Byrne from that Con.

Gaming is often secondary at these more media-centric conventions but the goal was to keep abreast of Geek-dom and take advantage of row after row of artistic talent.  In addition, we could usually pick up miniatures for our games too. Back in the '80s we called them lead figures, because they were.

Fast forward to this millennium. With the rise of Comic-Con came a slew of CC-imitators, each good in their own right.  I'm fortunate to live near the Grand-daddy of them all in San Diego. 

In the past decade, I had the income to spend $30 to $150 on sketches of my personal characters and ideas at a convention.  This changed my perspective of self-publishing significantly. Anyone can purchase really cool cover by a professional artist if you so desired.  Great looking art for your in-house campaign, character, or idea is only a convention away. The Internet also allows access to full and part-time professional artists that cater to our gaming appetites and needs.   Here's a new sketch depicting my old gaming group's characters from the 1980's.

 Special Note: This picture (above) is one of my all time favorites and a cautionary tale.  It's from an artist I met at the 2007 Comic-con. This was the best $75 I had spent in a long time. The sketch at the top was done by the same artist. I used it as a present for our group cartoonist, Charlie.

I further commissioned a small poster-sized, Steampunk-themed collage of some characters from our Space Nazi campaign. Long story short, sometimes, things go awry. I prepaid $150 and didn't get the art. Don't do that. I am leaving the artist's name out as he had some family issues that were real.  Some sketches can take overnight when they're extensive but get your art before you leave the convention or get your money back.  Head-shot sketches can be done while you stand there in 10-15 minutes. The 5 figure composition took under 2 hours.

Three Artists I met at Wonder-con 2012

I'm sharing the three artists I met as an example of what art is commonly available at these conventions. In Part II: "Three Gamer-friendly Artists", I'll share the three artists the Troll uses for our in-house campaigns and his Map-Tool projects.

Tom Gianni

As I wandered through Artists Alley, a painting with gold gears and a Steampunk vibe caught my attention. I looked it over and the artist said "hello."  His badge read "Tom Gianni."

As I began to chat, I found myself saying, "You look a lot like Gary Gianni.*" Tom quickly replied, "No, he looks like me!" Tom is Gary's younger brother and I could tell there must be some sibling rivalry going on here.

Tom's interview on Chicago's WTTW, Public TV 11 features a video about a large mural he's painting for the Eisenhower Library. It also tells the story I heard from Tom on his newest pulp action creation: Mechanic Anna, the subject of the lovely painting.

I hoped to find sketch books for sale about his new Mechanic Anna project. He said that by Comic-con (mid-July 2012) he'll have much more to share. I was able, however, to get a beautiful large full color print of the painting signed, in gold ink no less for $10!

His wife was the inspiration for the painting and his daughter Anna, inspired the title.  My wife is of Italian and Irish descent. It was a lot of fun to discuss how strong willed Italian women can be.  His wife liked the painting so much he hangs it in the living room.

I look forward to seeing him again in the Artists Alley at Comic-con 2012 and seeing more art for Mechanic Anna. Also, I'll have my wife with me and he can meet my dark haired Italian inspiration for strong willed female characters.

*Gary Gianni, a well known artist, picked up Prince Valiant after Hal Foster in 2004. He also did the excellent color paintings for the color plates in Savage Tales of Solomon Kane.  I met him a few years ago at Comic-con and is as friendly as his brother.

Tone Rodriguez

Long time Bongo artist, Tone Rodriguez has been a favorite of mine since he illustrated the Snake Plissken Chronicles. Jovial and fun to chat with, Tone had several examples of sketches at his booth. I asked if he was available to do a sketch of the The Savage Troll mascot. He asked if I had something to give him an idea of what I wanted. I had some sketches I scratched out but they weren't for public consumption. He took a few looks and proceeded to bring his vision of The Savage Troll to life. Well Done!

Tone did this for $30. He did a blue pencil sketch, inked it, and finished with a wash. The Savage Troll looked awesome.  Look for it to pop up on the mast head someday soon.

Tone is a local Angelino (SoCal speak for L. A.  native). In our conversation he wasn't sure if he was coming to Comic-con 2012, but he can be found at the various LA based conventions. I should have asked for a sketch of The Savage Duck.  Oh Well. Next time.

Allison Reimold

As I continued to wander, my eye caught some sketches at the table of Allison Reimold of what looked like Trolls. Sure enough, a $2 sketch book had 19 pencil sketches and one painted. This was a must have for The Savage Troll and was the bargain find for the day.

She drew intensely as I looked thru the sketch book.  I should have taken a picture of her booth as this small feature would lead you to believe all she does is trolls.  Pencils seem to be a favorite but she paints and does digital art as well.

I interrupted her to ask to buy this sketch book. It's about as perfect a fit for Troll Work as I encountered that day.  Other sketches in the book had children-trolls and varying stages of troll-life.

In some of her other work there was a paper mache faux fox-head mounted like a hunting trophy except the fox's large toothy grin appeared whimsical.

With the popularity of fairy tales this year in mainstream media, her fairly tale series of paintings were very timely.

It would be alot of fun to see these trolls brought to life and animated.  My favorite is the elder gent in the cap in the upper right.

Final Thoughts

Nearly all the artists had notices that sketches and art purchased at the convention were for personal enjoyment. You could frame and shown them off but they weren't to be scanned or used for publishing unless you got permission from the artist.  They retained the rights for their own publishing endeavors.  I specifically asked Tone about using his wonderful sketch for our blog.

As you can see, professional artwork is within reach for your gaming endeavors.  I am amazed at how generous many of the lesser-known artists are. One artist had the original oil painting for the cover of his self-published comic book. It was a black silhouette of his character against a huge blazing fire in the background. As we chatted, I asked if he thought of doing a T-shirt as I'd like one. He said, "No, but I can send you a high quality scan of it with a contract restricting you to making 3 T-shirts." I shipped him his T-shirt that week!

If you've found an artist that you really like, let us know here at Tales From the Savage Troll


  1. Inspiring stuff! When San Antonio gets the World Science Fiction Convention in 2013, I'm going to have to hit Artist's Alley. Heck, once I get somewhere on the Savage Regency project, I'm going to have to reach out to some professional artists. In the meanwhile, I'll be sure to check out Allison Reimold's work.

  2. I'll have to look up the WSFC '13. Might have to visit the Troll as his cave is in Austin and that's so close to San Antonio.

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