Learning Dark Arts

Come learn the art of 3D computer generated art and animation. This blog deals with the lessons learned and the art created by Robert G. Male using DazStudio from Daz3D. Also covered are the ancillary software, tools, techniques, and processes needed both before and after rendering in the 3D software.


Spell casting woman.

R.M.T.P. Co.


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January 13, 2007

The Z Man

Now, where was I? Oh yeah, I was going to move on to another great artist from the RPG world of Palladium-not that these artists are limited to work only for that company. Today's artist is John Zeleznik. I could be completely wrong but I think his first Palladium book cover was the Compendium of Contemporary Weapons. He has also done wonderful work on some Rifts World Books including Japan, Juicer Uprising, Coalition War Campaign, Canada, and Splynn Dimensional Market. There is good talk about his Rifts Conversion Book 2: Pantheons cover, with its Techno-Thor. I like the wrap around covers including Rifts Dimension Book 4: Skraypers and Rifts: Coalition Wars 06: Final Siege. He's also stepped away from Rifts for Century Station (for Heroes Unlimited), and PFRPG: Baalgor Wastelands and PFRPG: Dragons and God's.

It's also fair to note that he's done covers for Gurps, from Steve Jackson Games, with covers for Robots, Reign of Steel, Vehicles, Ogre, and Atomic Horror-along with others. One of the most interesting books I think has to be Skraypers. Not only did Zeleznik do the wrap around cover. Also he did a lot of the interior art, but that's not the amazing part. Zeleznik also pulled a bit of a Wayne Breaux and created the setting and any number of the concepts for the game setting as well as doing some of the writing. A lot of these games are give and take between art inspiring the writing, and art just being assigned based on the writing. However it's always exciting for me when someone does art and writing at the same time. It makes me feel like maybe I can do more too.

January 12, 2007

Newsletter Trouble Update and Victoria 4

I can gladly report now that by going into my Daz3D account profile and unchecking the Newsletter box, exiting the browser, and going back in to re-check the box, that the Newsletter showed up in my inbox again. Speaking of inboxes, I was dismayed to find out that a spam message snuck its way into my Hotmail account. I'd really like to know how it happened given I have that account set to only accept email from addresses on my white list. Any other message is supposed to go to the spam folder never to be seen again. This doesn't bode well for someone on my list, that is the first explanation to look at, though of course I can't do that, I couldn't see any of those addresses in the header/routing info for the spam.

I saw that there is now a Victoria V4. I looked at the Basic package, the Complete package, and then the super monster Pro Bundle. Talk about a lot of options. Of course the more you get, the more you pay for it. Not quite the old saw "You get what you pay for" though perhaps if I had such a palette, as that Pro Bundle must provide, I might just say that I got "more than I bargained for". To be honest though I'm probably wasting 90% or more of the potential of the models I have. I just can't seem to find the time to work with Daz3D. Or I don't put forth the effort. I spent a couple hours last night colour correcting a scan. Now that's a task I wish knew how to do better as well. I just fiddle until it looks well with no "thinking" behind it; I just push slide controls around, and go back and forth. I think the result is okay, but it doesn't exactly match the original. Oh well.

January 11, 2007

Alien Worlds Never Better Represented

While I've been busy talking about the artists whose works are inside the role-playing games I have been neglecting the ones that may be the real stars of the RPG art scene, the cover artists. The first one, and one that I must absolutely mention is Keith Parkinson. Sadly Keith is no longer with us, but I think he'll be remembered by us Palladium gamers for a long time to come. The piece he will be remembered for is "Minions of the Splewgorth" a.k.a. the Rifts 1st edition core book cover. I talked about Long and MacDougall defining the feeling of Rifts, but in that respect their excellent contributions pale in comparison to the effect of that game cover.

I have a numbered and signed print of "Minions of the Splewgorth". I think it's like 142 or 143 of 1000, or something like that. It's a very captivating picture, and says so much. As the Rifts cover it said, this is a strange and alien place where danger lurks everywhere, and things you might never have imagined exist there. The creature and its cadre of hot human women surrounding it on its hovering barge. The floating eyeball jars with the mysterious skulls projected over each of them. The strange beings in the background that seem both leery and threatening to the creature. It is just a phenomenal statement, and stunning advertisement for what lies inside the book. If you get a chance, look for it on Parkinson's site. Though I don't know if its related Parkinson also had a piece called "The Sentinels" in much the same vein as the eyeball jars. Sadly I didn't see this one on his site. Yes, the site is In Memoriam, but don't let that stop you.

January 10, 2007

90's New Wave

A new wave of excellent artists hit the Palladium RPG scene in the 90s, in the company's new flagship game, Rifts. One artist that I absolutely adored and seemed to just bring amazing depth and feeling to the game, capturing its gritty, down and dirty essence, was a man named Larry MacDougall. In fact it was that mud-stained, and dust smeared, tattered and ripped quality of his characters that really did it. The grit was on every level, all with a clear quality. One of my favourites typifies a particular style that he also worked with, which involved lines and blobs that often formed up into patterns that seemed both intentional and somehow at the same time coincidental. That artwork was a creature called a Black Faerie, a very stylized example of this style.

The Black Faerie is a favourite of mine as it is because it is no new and different even after all these years. My favourite monsters, species, and such in the RPGs are the ones that break away from the normal, human, or terrestrial animal shapes. Some years later a new artist began working for Palladium. His name was Ramon Perez, and he does art for other games as well. Ramon has an excellent, exciting style full of action and quirk-in this case a deep individualism, as opposed to weirdness, though he can do that at amazing levels also. Amongst Perez's work he has wicked depiction of a Black Faerie in a stunning realistic style. What was ethereal and otherworldly from MacDougall is a real depiction of anatomical horror as well under Perez's direction. I love it.

January 9, 2007

The Next Generation

The next artist that I became aware of by name working for Palladium Books was Wayne Breaux who was an up and comer. I don't know when it happened particularly, but Breaux became one of the regular Palladium staff, as opposed to working for them on a freelance basis. Yes, not all of their art, or even their writing, is done by on-site staff, or in these days by telecommuters. The same I have to suppose is true of the other RPG companies at least once they hit the big leagues-something of a different scale compared to other industry's companies with hundreds of employs or more. Getting back on topic, while Breaux started as an artist for Palladium he also moved into the writing side of things, but that's another bailiwick all together.

Wayne Breaux's strength was readily apparent in his weapon illustrations. He had talent with robots certainly, but that took some work before he became really good at those. His characters though… If people complained about Kevin Long's characters then they may have been ripping their hair out over some of Breaux's. However he made great improvements in his characters since and is at least at Long's level or better. Breaux also has an apparent like for the risqué, which historically was something of a challenge given the books had to be nearly PG in most ways aside from violence because RPGs are an offshoot of War Gaming-the kind done with miniatures, rather than Re-Enactors out in a field in period clothing. With Palladium it's still an issue, but Breaux has some of the most line straddling pieces in a few places. I say, well for him.

January 8, 2007

The Artist, Not the Skateboarder

Most of the art that I have involvement with personally, and I don't mean in the creation sense, comes primarily from the vast array of Role Playing Games that I own. Probably one of the most influential artists from that milieu for me would have to be Kevin Long. For my formative gaming years Long was an absolute staple. He of course worked for Palladium Books, as far as I know exclusively, though what that means in the industry might actually be as simple as there was only enough time in a day to do work for one company. Though perhaps much as a writer might work on several projects at once, nothing says he couldn't do work for his own satisfaction, or to sell personally, but more than likely not regularly or for some other company. I'm just speculating here.

Kevin Long pretty much defined the look of Palladium games for must have been ten or more years. That meant for me he defined RPG art. Other artists worked for the company, even the owner and chief author did his own art (some of it I still adore), but the type of work that Long did seemed to set the style and tone for everything else. It's a style I haven't really seen from other game companies. I've always felt it was superior art compared to the other companies. People often argue over whether his character art was that great or not, but to my knowledge most people agree that his technical work, especially his re-creative efforts with Robotech, are still some of the best out there. It was a sad day when Long moved on from Palladium and into video games (I think that was the company).

January 7, 2007

Less Than Skilled... or Not?

I'll be the first to admit I'm not that great of a visual artist if I don't just outright suck at making anything from the blank page up. I can edit completed work, mix together clip-art images with backdrop pictures, do simple to mid-complicated geometric designs, and text art, but that's it. I do not draw at all worth mentioning. I could show how bad some of my species design artworks are for my Fantasy RPG, but I don't think anyone wants to see them, and I should keep the lid on them anyway. I think maybe mechanically they convey what they are supposed to, but that doesn't mean they look any good. I practically could only draw them because a friend of mine way back taught me how to draw what I can only describe as muscle figures.

I have done a bit of paid work with my editing. Things like taking a picture of a couple and removing one of them to make a headshot of the other. That required removing one's hair from where it partially interfered with the other's cheek, and reconstructing a missing shoulder (thankfully in a solid colour sweater) as well as recreating bits of a portrait drop cloth kind of affair from behind the now missing other person. I did some other work straightening out crookedly placed pearls on a necklace and removing words printed on the picture. It's all cut and paste, blur and smooth out, and repeating those things over and over until the missing picture pieces are reconstructed. All in all I feel more like an art director or picture finisher doing this kind of work, but you have to do what you can while trying to break into writing. At least it ties in nicely with web design, maybe the most essential thing I do outside of the writing itself.

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Robert G. Male

Name: Robert G. Male
Location: Ontario, Canada

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