Artwork...Behind the Scenes

The final manuscripts are in the hands of my layout guy (along with a butt-ton of illustrations and placeholder illustration images). I've revised the Employee Rules one sheet and GM Screens for the final rules. I'm working my way through the adventures, updating them for the final rules and putting them all in the same format, with a cover. I have some other "support material" stuff to work on, which I'll begin shortly and in conjunction with ongoing adventure work.

While these things are in process (and there's isn't much to share on that stuff right now), I thought I'd provide a glimpse of the process I've used for acquiring artwork from my super-neat-o artists. For this look behind the scenes, I'm gonna focus on one of the back cover art pieces, titled "Fist Fight" done by Becca Gowdy. The color version will go on the back cover. A b/w/grayscale version will be featured in the interior of the book.

The creation of M&A is 90% me functioning as a one-man shop. This has afforded me the opportunity to learn about and wear some different hats. I became the Art Director for Murders & Acquisitions out of necessity.

Concept, Contract, and Art Order

For each illustration, I first develop a concept plan. This includes defining what the illustration will look like, who will do it, and where it will appear in the book. I then contact the artist, in this case Becca, and confirm they are able to do the illustration.

I then write up a contract, defining the work to be done, deadline, payment, and all that legal-ese crap that goes into contracts. At the end of the contract, I include an "art order." This is a description of what the illustration should look like, its size and orientation, and what format the final illustration should be provided in. Here's the art order for Fist Fight.

Illustration #1 (FIST FIGHT) must depict two people fighting.

One man and one woman in office-style attire engaged in a fist-fight and/or grappling. One of the figures is Caucasian. The other is non-Caucasian. Which one is male and which one is female is up to you. Both figures should be beaten-up/disheveled a bit, as if they’ve been fighting for a couple minutes. We don’t need to see their entire bodies in the illustration. You can cut them off at the legs, but their torsos, arms, and heads should be visible. Make the shot as action-packed as possible. Limbs flailing, Faces contorted.

The background should feature office furniture/equipment, but there doesn’t need to be a lot of it. Just enough to make it clear they’re in an office. Provide a medium-weight black rectangular border. If the figures almost entirely fill the rectangular border, no background office stuff is necessary.

This is a ¼ page piece in a vertical orientation. Approx. 3.5” wide and 5” tall. 600 dpi TIF format. You will provide both a b/w/grayscale version and a color version.

Preliminary Sketches

Becca provided me with four quick sketch options showing different types of fighting and different orientations of the figures.

I selected option #2. It struck me as the most dynamic and filled the frame nicely. I instructed Becca to have the female figure punch the male figure. Since this illustration would be on the back cover, I didn't want to show a man hitting a woman, even though this is something that can happen in the game.

We chatted a bit about other details and Becca provided me with a more refined version of the illustration, in full color.

Becca shifted the figures to be more central in the frame. As you can see here, the poor dude taking the punch looks a little weird. His head is swiveling 180 degrees from the punch. OUCH! We conferred a bit more about this poor guy's head and some other details.

Final Illustrations

Becca refined the illustration. She fixed the head issue and added some radial "action lines" to give the illustration some movement and "pop." Note the added mini-details. Some blood on the dude's lip. A tooth flying out of his mouth along with some spittle. Some additional "action lines" at the point of impact. Torn clothing.

Here's the final color version of the illustration. Please note that the illustrations here are showing about 50% larger than they will show up in the book. There are slight variations and inconsistencies in coloration and line work that won't be nearly as noticeable in the book. (My artists have been instructed to make sure the illustration looks good at the size I define in the art order. At a larger scale, some things get exaggerated.)

Great detail in the woman's shirt and in the man's sweater vest. Highlights in the hair. Shifts in the skin tone so the exposed flesh doesn't look too cartoony.

All in all, a very dynamic illustration. I'm quite pleased with Becca's work.

Becca then graded everything back to a black/white/grayscale version.

The contrast of colors in the color version graded back nicely to the b/w/grayscale format.

So there you go. The process I've defined here has happened for over a dozen illustrations so far. It'll be repeated for many more illustrations once the Murders & Acquisitions Kickstarter funds.

Back to adventure-writing.

And make sure to check back here on Tuesday, May 10th, when the Murders & Acquisitions Kickstarter goes live.