Thursday, September 26, 2013

New Illustration: TBD Creature (Demon?)

Last night after dinner, I realized I was starting to suffer from illustration withdrawal. As my wife started digging into her grad school homework, and before I stood up to clear the dinner table, I grabbed a pad, started sketching, and ended up with this. I feel like, as a creature, it should be a demon of some sort.

Friday, September 20, 2013

I love this piece of type.

It's the interior nameplate for Goblin Magazine from the run published in 1929. Goblin was a humor magazine published in Canada in the 1920s. It really has no RPG or OSR relevance other than the name (hopefully that's enough to seem relevant here).

My first thought upon seeing it was, "This would be a pretty cool title (and type treatment) for a microgame... if there wasn't already a microgame named Goblin."

My second thought was, "That kind of looks like the type that Rick Griffin did for those Grateful Dead posters in the late 60s and early 70s."

I suppose that if someone wants to start a zine named "Goblin," I might be persuaded to clean up the original image and convert it to a vector file.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Really Old Old-School Artist: Franz Stassen

Every once in a while, I stumble across one of those really old, old-school artists with a large body of work, and I ask myself, "How did I not find this guy before now?"

Today, I find it rather easy to answer that question about Franz Stassen. To start with, Franz Stassen's work was limited mostly to illustrations in books printed in Germany in the early 1900s (he died just a few years after the end of WWII). Now, let's dig a little deeper into why plenty of people would be happy if you never knew Stassen's name. Stassen was close friends of Siegfried Wagner. Not only was Siegfried the son of anti-Semitic posterboy Richard Wagner, but Siegfried himself was honorary president of the Nationalist Bayreuth Federation of German Youth (Bayreuth is a town in Bavaria where Siegfried was also conductor of its annual music festival). Now, if I told you that Stassen began his artistic career as a Naturalist (where the visual truth takes precedence over interpretation), it will probably come as no surprise that Stassen created four tapestries for Hitler's Reich Chancellery--showing scenes from the Edda sagas no less. (Sure, you remember the Edda; I talked about it briefly when I showcased Lorenz Frølich's work back in January of 2012.)

Oh. Wait! Did I mention that even though Stassen was married and his wife died about 30 years before him, he lived his life in the closet? (BTW, so did Siegfried.)

And then there's the part about how much of Stassen's work was destroyed during the war. Nonetheless, during his career, Stassen illustrated about 100 books (many of which feature page after page of his illustrations), 50 bookplates, and 25 postcards. Stassen's work became influenced by Art Nouveau, and he seemed to bounce easily between the more realistic and the more stylized in his illustration work. There are examples of both below. Compared to his more-detailed work with less variation in line weight, his illustrations with less cross-hatching and strong bold lines around the figure edges feature the visual trademark of the Art Nouveau illustration style made famous by Eugene Grasset.

All of the illustrations below come from the book "Siegfried Wagner and his Art," published by Breitkopf & Härtel in 1911. The first image accompanies the entry for Der Kobold (The Goblin), a story replete with a nymph, some fauns, and infanticide! (Turns out, this is something with which Siegfried seemed to have a preoccupation. There's an illustration in the book of a nude male child with two knives plunged into his chest and stomach--sorry, folks, not gonna show that here.)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Question Regarding Changing Public Domain Art

Categorically, I'm one to preserve the legacy of artists whose work is now in the public domain. My question today regards the adjustment of these works "to fit my RPG needs." Take the following example...

In this case, I've taken a Gordon Browne illustration from Dandelion Clocks and Other Tales from 1887. The very first story in the book is "Dandelion Clocks" and features the character Peter Paul, sitting on the fence, wearing wooden shoes and blowing at a dandelion (below on left). It struck me how much it looked like a Hobbit (ahem... "halfling") so I decided to do some additional photo elements and retouch them into the illustration (below on right; I put in the feet, the pipe, and added some lines to the face to give it some "age"). If I were to use an illustration like this, my intention would be to credit the illustration solely to Gordon Browne. And if other retouched illustrations were included in the same document/book/etc., I might put a credit line for myself for "Photo editing and retouching" (or something similar).

The question is, do these kind of edits denigrate the original intention of the artist? Or, since the artist was originally hired to produce the work for someone anyway, does it promote the artist's legacy fairly when the work may have been otherwise lost or forgotten?

Monday, September 9, 2013

d30 Sandbox Companion Update/The Value of Editing

First off, an apology... I have been slammed with work lately and neglected my d30-ly duties (I have three clients all in their major push time for the year, but that is starting to slow down).

Second up, a vow... I am forsaking all other gaming-related diversions for the next couple of weeks while I hunker down on trying to finish up the d30 Sandbox Companion.

Thirdly a HUGE shout-out to my right-hand man Welbo. He's the guy that looks at everything I write and gives me that outsider view, and helps to make things more usable/playable/understandable. A few of you got the chance to meet him at the NTRPGCon (he too survived James Ward on that legendary Saturday morning!)

The d30 DM Companion would not be what it is without him, and the same goes for the d30 Sandbox Companion. For example, check out the before and after images for the Weather generator pages (at bottom of post).

With Welbo's first round of major edits under my belt, I've got my sights set on the final few things that need to happen: 1) a good proof of copy/content, including page references, 2) finishing the Master Wilderness Mapping Key, 3) writing the intro/how-to-use-this-book pages, and 4) creating the index. It's all asses and elbows from here! That's my vow!

On the left = "before" with instructions all over the place;
on the right = "after", with numbered steps and instructions on the left where they should be.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Free Map

While combing through yesterday in search of public domain images, I came across the book Prester John, an adventure novel from 1910 by Scottish novelist (and Canadian governor) John Buchan. The novel tells the tale of David Crawfurd, a young Scottsman, and his adventures in South Africa, where a Zulu uprising is tied to the Prester John legend of Medieval times. In the front of the book was this cool Tolkien-esque map. So I pulled the image, cleaned off the wording (including that pejorative South African term that starts with a "K" that I hate so much), and am making that cleaned up version available for you at this link!

So here's the "before and after" version (the one on the right is the one at the link).

And here's how I've adapted it for something I'm working on...
(BTW, the font I'm using is Morris Troy, a font designed by William Morris.)