This post will be annoying to some of you in that you were probably expecting a pretty color picture. Instead you will be getting many black and white pictures.
And the featured artist of the day is not some 1970's luminary but well, me. Or rather, the featured artist is the brilliant John Dickson Batten, but the post is about what I did to him.
And if that doesn't irritate you enough, be warned, I will be doing some bragging (explained below).
The post is about how I edited the illustrations of Batten to better suit their inclusion in my four booklet game, Seven Voyages of Zylarthen. The bragging is not how about how great I am compared to you. I am not great compared to you. I expect that most of you reading this post are more experienced/adept/talented at editing illustrations than I am, and that many of you are familiar with illustrations programs that I haven't even heard of. No. I'm bragging because I did it. I did it. Knowing nothing about editing or graphic design, and being generally uncoordinated and not artistic, I nevertheless figured out (temporarily) how to (arguably) do a passable job at it. That's an accomplishment I want to brag about.
A few months ago I said this about Batten:
Finally, in regards to setting, I should mention the artwork of Zylarthen. There are close to a hundred pieces, all by the same artist--the turn of the century illustrator John Dickson Batten. I said elsewhere that once I had chosen the works of Batten, the art actually began to inform the setting and even the writing. Batten's works appeared in children's fairy-tale books. But appropriately enough they were also from a diversity of sources--English, Celtic, general European, Middle-Eastern and Indian. In my humble view, the art was not merely the best art I could find for free, but was in fact precisely right for what I was trying to do. I couldn't have paid for anything better. To the extent that Zylarthen as a visual or physical product succeeds it does so due to Batten. But equally importantly, to the extent the setting and tone are interesting or attractive is also I think due to Batten. Indeed, he deserves an entire post, and will get one soon.In the review of Zylarthen on the Save or Die! podcast. DM Liz paid the product one of its finest compliments do date (I think). To paraphrase, despite the fact that the art was public domain from approximately a hundred years ago, each piece still seemed appropriate to the subject or the page. It enhanced the work rather than looking just tacked on to fill up space. (Then her husband emphasized the point by making a joke: "hey what's that 57' Chevy doing there?")
I think it worked for three reasons:
- The art itself. Now, Batten didn't draw illustrations for dungeon expeditions, obviously. But the exotic, fairytale vibe was exactly right for what I was trying to do.
- Having drawn hundreds of illustrations for nine books, there were enough of them so that I could make informed choices as to appropriate pieces to use.
- I edited most of the illustrations. Obviously many of them worked on their own without any (or hardly any) touch ups. But I think if I hadn't edited the rest, they would have looked forced or slightly inappropriate. The editing was a crucial part of the process.
So part of this is bragging (see above). Again, not I'm so great, but, rather I did it. Most of it was just whiting stuff out, which is easy and actually almost cathartic.
I used the free program Gimp. I only learned 5% of it, but it was all I needed.
In a handful of cases I actually pasted a few images. In two instances, I actually drew small bits of my own. Once I actually sketched a foot.
But the main message is, it wasn't hard. If I could do it, you can. I suspect many of you could almost do it with your eyes closed.
So enough of these boring words. The rest of the post will feature a long line of actual examples. I think this sort of thing is interesting, but you are pardoned if you think it goes on for too long.
Before precedes After:
|To me, the odd hand angle was reminiscent of the Judges Guild "Flying Turkey".|
|The Ducks were silly.|
|The original was too busy.|
|This was one of the only cases where I pasted something in (I duplicated the dagger). I don't know. I thought a second dagger might be more effective in combat than a mask.|
|Better just a corpse than a corpse with a silly man standing over him.|
|I love this monster. I think it's a Solian.|
|This was ironic in that I took a fantastical drawing and made it more mundane. The Boar went from two heads to one.|
|From silly to (hopefully) sinister.|
|The original was too well-known to leave as is.|
|Dungeons don't have beds. Okay, maybe they don't have curtains either, but still...|
|The original was fine but the bird didn't fit.|
|This was my second choice for the magic cover. The first was a great drawing, but it just didn't seem to work on its own. I think this one works. I liked the contrast in that it was the only cover not featuring a person.|
|Away with that little man!|
|I'm not sure this totally works but people seem to like it.|
|These bottles were lifted from various places.|
|Okay, I'm proud of these drums (look on the top). Also, note that I removed the lute from the otherwise identical picture on the back cover of Volume 4 (see the blog heading picture). It just seemed too much. But that's probably just me.|
|Too many angels, or bird women or whatever.|
|I like this sullen creature.|
|Again, the original was too busy...|
It's not perfect. I know that. But we tried. This is part of how we tried...