Monday, February 7, 2011

Interview: Artist Devin Night

Devin Night is a cartographer and artist providing great content for RPGs and Virtual Tabletops. Over the years I've commissioned multiple works and have always been very satisfied with the results. You can find his artwork on the Immortal Nights, his Token Blog, in Maptool as a loadable token set, and multiple DriveThruRPG products.

His tokens are overhead views of characters, monsters, and items. They are hand drawn and colored, with transparent backgrounds and soft shadows to help them stand out on maps. Each token comes in two scales: med-res and low-res. Tokens can be custom ordered
for a small fee.

Devin has a new token pack out titled Dark Forest Token Pack depicting Goblins, Hobgoblins, Orcs, Wolves, Bears, Ettins, Green Dragons, Earth Elementals, and Hill Giants available on DriveThruRPG.

Devin was kind enough to consent to an interview at the Tavern of The Savage Troll.

ST: Which came first, your love of drawing or love of gaming?

DN: I’ve been drawing since I was 5 and gaming since I was 10. But even my earliest drawing were fantasy based. I think that gaming was in my blood.

ST: Art is an intrinsically solo affair while gaming is intrinsically social. What aspects of each to you enjoy?

DN: I like the quiet that I sometimes get when working. If I can get a block of time to focus on work everything else kind of just fades away until there is me, a piece of paper and an idea. Then bringing that idea to life just feels really good. I think I do my best work for others though, so the idea of art being entirely a solo process is a bit misleading. Sometimes a lot of communication is required to make art. What I like most about gaming is the storytelling, I prefer the role of Dungeon Master, though it often requires the most amount of work, I like setting the environment for the players to grow in. I think in a way that the gaming is an extension of the creativity of creating art. With gaming though, everybody gets to participate in the process of making the story.

ST: What games do you play?

DN: Mostly DnD. Right now I play about once a week in a 4E campaign. I’m currently DMing, and having a good time running the game for some great players. I have some local friends who try to get together to play more board games though. We have played Descent, Bang, and lately Castle Ravenloft. I buy more games than I can ever play, but maybe someday everyone will be less busy and I will have more time to play.

ST: What’s your fondest gaming memory?

DN: First of all my memory isn’t as good as it used to be. I remember a lot of weekends back in my high school days playing with friends and my brother Jay. Now I play virtually but still play with my brother, I think that is why I was so happy to find Virtual Gaming software. Since he is in Iowa and I’m out in Ohio. There was a time when he would play something other than a dwarfen fighter. Once we were elven brothers and I think it was Against the Giants. My character put on a cursed wolf pelt that turned me into a wolf, I might have even been dead or unconscious and the guy carrying me slipped into a ravine. Jay’s character vowed to retrieve me regardless of how long it took.

More recently I have been running a character name Lin, she died early on in the campaign, but managed to come back as a Revenant. Due to some very unlucky timing a part of her soul was taken by a shadow dragon. So she is a bit unstable and unpredictable. She’s more chaotic than most of the characters I play and it’s been a blast. Right now since I am DMing she has run off to do something and the party is trying to catch up to her. She also likes to eat the recently killed or dying and this has lead to some really fun role-playing situations as the rest of the party tries to decide to trust her or hate her.

ST: What’s your greatest accomplishment as an artist?

I painted at 7 foot tall oil on canvas Wagner for a client. He donated it to the Cincinnati Theater after spending a night drunk and talking to it. It was a great piece of work, and I lost any images I ever had of it. I haven’t searched Cincinnati to see if it is still hanging up anywhere.

ST: Where do you derive inspiration for your art?

Everywhere. Movies, books, cartoons, other art, and nature.

ST: How did you become involved with Four Ugly Monsters and why did you decided to leave?

I was approached by three guys looking for an artist. They had a writer and two cartographers. I can’t remember if I had even started making tokens at that point, I don’t think I had. So we became the Four Uglies. After several years I was the last of the original founders. It’s more accurate to say that I closed FUM. It had become too big a project for me to maintain, I tried a few times to rejuvenate the site, but there just wasn’t enough people behind the scenes to keep it going. I think the idea of what we were doing was pretty solid though.

You donate a lot of your artwork to the VTT (virtual tabletop) community. Which VTTs do you use and which do you like best?

I primarily use FG for my weekly gaming. It’s a sold VTT with all the tools to run a 4E campaign with a nice interface. I have Battlegrounds and would love to create some virtual boardgames for that program. Right now I lack the time and more importantly a programmer type person to really make the mechanics work.

ST: Which game companies have you enjoyed working for most?

A lot of the work I do is for individuals. There are a lot of great gamers, great people out there that need a few pieces of work, a map, or an illustration, or tokens. I have only worked with a few companies, Level 99, Rite Publishing, 10 Foot Room and maybe 1 or 2 others. I like companies and people who trust me to do what they ask, but allow me room to be creative and add a bit of my own taste to the work. I’ve been lucky to have this almost always be the case.

ST: Do you have a non-gaming job to pay the bills or do you derive all your income from your hobby?

I’m lucky that I have a great wife who brings home the bacon. I could not survive on what I charge for my work currently. However I have taught at Columbus College of Art and Design off and on for the past 10 years. I also pick up freelance work for book layout or production work. I have one real client, Citrasolv, who gives me regular work and that helps with paying bills.

ST: What’s on the horizon for Devin Night?

There are a few things I’m working on and probably a lot of things I am not even aware of.
I would like to make some board games with my group of friends who are also very talented guys. I’d like to grow my Token line by about another 20 packs. I’d like to get hired by some of the big companies to do illustration, cartography and tokens. January has been my busiest month following many months of being busy. If that’s any indication of where things are headed than I’m going to be very busy in the future.

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