(Photo by Elisabeth Alba)
GenCon truly is the best 5 days in gaming. Not only did I finally get up the cojones to set up a table and sell prints and limited editions of my work, I learned to play Magic. That’s right, Magic the Gathering. You might think you’re too cool, but I’m telling you it’s a gateway game, crack for strategy lovers. It is a simple game to play (low threshold) with near infinite possible permutations and strategies (low boredom potential), and games are easy to set up and don’t last too long (could it _be_ more set up to be an addiction?). But that has nothing to do with my art, which is why you’re reading this, ish.
I spent my 5 days mostly in The GenCon artists alley. I set up a booth with my art for the first time, and all told I think things went well. In the end, cons attract specific audiences: gamers go to GenCon, fans go to WorldCon, Artists go to Illuxcon. There is overlap, but the way people approach each con is very different. The same guy selling prints and whitebacks (artist proofs of cards) to gamers at GenCon, will be selling his originals to collectors at Illuxcon. For me at GenCon that just meant a higher barrier for sales. Most of my card art will be coming out in the fall, so the gamers don’t know me yet. Look at a guy like Drew Baker who has all but written the style guide on L5R (a samurai card game), and you see how deep the rabbit hole goes. Drew could print his art on hand-i-wipes and would still do well at GenCon. Beyond his stellar art, he has a great connection with the fans, and loves the game. That’s the magic formula for GenCon right there.
I want to get into doing Magic cards, so I took one of the Art Directors up on his offer to get me some starter packs (thanks Jeremy!). It’s funny, the other artists were shocked to find out that I didn’t play D&D or most of the games there. After playing Magic, I can understand why. Fun games with great art have can affect me in a way that is hard to describe. It’s the place that inspires, intimidates, and completely energizes me. How could you want to do fantasy and sci-fi art without playing these games? For me, I just think the sh*t is cool and love making it. I also used to love going to the bookstore and looking at all the covers. I just remember staring at the Piers Anthony shelf (or did he have a whole section? genre?) and loving every whacked out alien, or spaceship, or whatever else they had up there. I even read some of the books. So I love the genre, and my way of engaging with it is largely through the art. But now I have this little Magic habit. First one’s free they say.
I feel great about my first show, and am humbled and inspired by those around me. All the ADs I met were great to talk to and hang out with. It was great to see some of my friends do well too. Jeff Himmelman (and Caroline Himmelman), the Mohrbachers (Pete and Ania), Aaron Miller, Grant Cooley, Eric Deschamps, Lars Grant-West, Steve Argyle, John Stanko, Steve Belledin, and Drew Baker all seemed to take it up a notch from their previous years. I met some new friends too like Tyler Walpole, Chris Rahn, the Prof, Jim “d-nose” Pavelec, and Chris Seaman. And I got to see some of the IMC crew show up and I think get some work from the companies there. I’m looking at you Scott Murphy, Liz Alba, and Owen Weber.
In talking with these artists, I notice that, like me, it’s not just about painting monsters, it’s about painting really really well and monsters are just the medium. Everyone I spoke to is looking at old masters for inspiration, and taking the process very seriously. I could do a whole post on everything I now know about shooting reference. My point here is, the people behind the tables are more than just guys and gals who never grew up, but they are men and women who are all busting their asses to be masters of their craft. That desire was palpable, and made for a great weekend.
I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a HUGE thank you to Tim Piotrowski. Talk about above and beyond. Tim not only did the 16 hour drive with us, twice, he hauled art, got us lunch, and helped man my table all weekend. He gelled immediately with the group, and kept me sane. I would still be recovering if it were not for Tim. Go look at his art, it’s really good and really funny. Buy something fer pete’s sake. I recommend the Kool-thulhu coffee mug. http://www.glitchworks.com
GenCon made me realize that there is some seriously inspiring stuff going on in game art right now, check the links above for more of their work. As for me, I have some pirates to paint!
You can find my art and my blog at http://www.marcscheff.com