Portraying a fictional character in a fantastic setting – otherwise known as “rolplaying” – can be tremendous fun.
What starts out as a rough sketch of a person slowly evolves into a full-grown protagonist (or antagonist, depending on your style of play). The backstory expands, twists and turns. Character traits grow, evolve and die as the happy-go-lucky gang poser grows into a nihilistic street samurai.
I am always fascinated by this process. Starting only on a whim or spark or image. Developing the character idea. Fleshing it out. Adding bits and pieces, quirks, a signature piece of equipment or fashion or a distinctive hairdo.
Of course, being an artist has its advantages here, as I started out early to do a character drawing for each and every character I played in any tabletop roleplaying game. Like my very first Shadowrun character, back when the 1st edition of that massively successful game launched in the early 90s.
He was an old troll called Fletcher and was a freelance truck driver, hauling cargo in his -ahem- absurdly armed and armored tank of a truck (and of course it also had a nitrous oxide AND a rocket booster).
Soon I began doing character drawings for my friends and co-players, too, like this shot of … uhm … a dwarf whose name I forgot, riding on the back of his black dragon Nikodemus and having the extra arm length that Fletcher, above, is clearly missing.
And of course I sometimes did pictures showing non-player-characters (NPCs), buildings, settings or situations like the time that Ferran/Skaven trader pleaded innocence to the Lord of Lynfeste, my shameless ripoff from the excellent fantasy novel “Dragonsbane” (“Der Schwarze Drache” in German) by Barbara Hambly.
Barbara Hambly’s husband is, by the way, the late George Alex Effinger, author of one of my most favorite Cyberpunk books “When Gravity Fails” – which, as even many hardcore Cyberpunk fans do not know, was also a setting sourcebook for the awesome Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop RPG).
(And now that I have your attention, CP2020 fans, take a look at the Hardwired sourcebook for CP2020, which of course is designed to let you play in the setting of Walter Jon Williams “Hardwired” novel – German setting book review here). Also, I love the narrator’s voice of the audible book version (excerpt here).
Where was I? Oh, yes, character drawings.
I think every roleplayer wants to have a picture of his or her character, and since the internet provides an endless selection of sample pics this is no longer a problem today.
However, some still like to have a real, individual artwork of the very character that they often have spent many many days, evenings and nights with exploring, sneaking, racing, fighting and eventually: maybe dying with.
For these roleplayers I offer to do commission artwork of their individual characters or even the entire team or troupe.
One such project was the depiction of a pair of twins at the ACHE arcology in Seattle.
I originally met my client in autumn 2014 at the SPIEL trade fair in Essen where I was signing books and doing quick character sketches next to the wonderfully talented Laura aus dem Siepen (@farbtier), signature artist of the “Kleine Helden” card game line. She even did a picture of my “in-game voice” in Shadowrun, Tolstoi, in her distinct “Kleine Helden” style.
Some time after the SPIEL, I got a written description of each of the figures, some reference pictures and a general description of the scenery that my client wanted to have. And at the end of 2014, the client got a first sketch from me.
Aaaaaand that was it, for a loooong time.
I had already warned the client that I would not be able to do much artwork in 2015, as I was entering a new, quite demanding job that in fact was so demanding that 2015 became an almost 100% “art-free” year for me.
For some strange reason, the client wasn’t mad at me for not delivering, and stranger still: He was still interested in seeing the artwork getting done, some day.
And now, April 2017, almost 2.75 years after receiving the order, the picture was done (within 3 days). But please: Do not worry! I usually do not take THAT long to finish a picture. 🙂
Here are some samples of various stages I sent the client, and the finalized and approved picture again.