Category: Illo-a-Week


Here’s an exterior shot of the BlackEagle building from the Miami Sourcebook.

Image

The fictional Johnson tower from Millennium’s End. Also affectionately known as “the pencil.”

If you checked in last week, you saw the architectural plans for building. It was kinda cool to also draw a shot like this, picking up on all the details to make sure the drawing matched the plans.

Or maybe I did the drawing first, and matched the plans to them after. Frankly, I don’t remember.

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OK, not actually on TV. But, yes, I once wanted to be an architect. In fact, I studied architecture for two years, but ultimately left it for an even greater love of writing and game design.

These maps appeared in the Miami Sourcebook for Millennium’s End. They depict the fictional office building in which the Miami office of BlackEagle/BlackEagle was housed.

Maybe I should get back into cartography a bit. I really enjoyed it.

Writers live and die by the feedback they get from their readers, so I’d love your comments—there’s a little link just down below to the right. Also:

  • Receive an email notification of every update to this site by subscribing (see the link to the right)
  • Follow me on Twitter at @charlesmryan, where I post lots of game, writing, and geek news and can often be dragged into conversation
  • Follow my writing diary on Facebook at Charles M Ryan, where I post frequent short bits on the writing process and state of my current projects
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Illo-a-Week: Nightwalker

From my second-ever published work, the titular Nightwalker.

This little piece holds a special place in my heart. Yeah, it’s not really that awesome an image, though at the time (that would be, um, 20 years ago) this sort of thing wasn’t all over pop culture like it is today, so there was a bit more of a cool factor. In any event, for whatever reason I’ve always liked this one, so it’s sat in a frame on my desk for years.

When I unframed it to scan it today, I was glad I did: As you can see, time and light exposure haven’t been kind to the paper, so it’s a good thing I made a digital record of it before it’s too late. (Believe it or not, when I published Nightwalker/The Villee Affair for Millennium’s End, desktop publishing (or, as we call it now, “publishing”) was in its infancy. I used a now-defunct application to lay out my book text, but the illos were still photographed the old-fashioned way and hand-stripped into the negatives for the printing plates. So this image was never committed to digital form.) I scanned it as a color image to give you a look at how the paper has darkened—the paler edges mark the area that had been covered by the frame.

This was the Nightwalker of the adventure’s title—a MacGuffin in a high-stakes heist for the protagonists to chase down. Still looks fairly slick, if I say so myself, which is good: Its role in the adventure was frankly more one of style than of substance. Hopefully it lives up to that requirement—what do you think?

Writers live and die by the feedback they get from their readers, so I’d love your comments—there’s a little link just down below to the right. Also:

  • Receive an email notification of every update to this site by subscribing (see the link to the right)
  • Follow me on Twitter at @charlesmryan, where I post lots of game, writing, and geek news and can often be dragged into conversation
  • Follow my writing diary on Facebook at Charles M Ryan, where I post frequent short bits on the writing process and state of my current projects
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And, seriously, what would the post-apocalypse be without guns? Here are a few I put together for the Deadlands: Hell on Earth roleplaying game way back when (these actually appeared in The Wasted West, the core setting book):

A few handy sidearms.

You're getting a bonus here: I also did those page backgrounds, which were standard throughout the HoE line.

The technique here, for those who care, was one I really enjoyed but rarely used: felt-tip pen. In this case, the original artwork was in grayscale, so I used a variety of different gray-toned markers.

Obviously, I scanned these out of the rulebook (with apologies to the fine folk at Pinnacle—serves you right for calling me from a bar last night at 1:00am). I don’t have the original pieces anymore, but as a point of interest, here are some of the preliminary sketches, which I do still have:

Sorry about the crappy scan, but all I have is a crappy scanner.

I’d had a LOT of experience drawing realistic firearms a few years before, when I did about six zillion of them for UltraModern Firearms, so it made putting these fantasy firearms together an easy pleasure. I think they turned out OK, and fit the Hell on Earth style quite nicely. What do you think?

Comment below; you know you wanna! And receive an email notification of every update to this site by subscribing (see the link to the right). Converse with me on Twitter at @charlesmryan, or follow my writing diary on Facebook at Charles M Ryan.

OK, I’ve been on a bit of a Deadlands: Hell on Earth bender lately. Sorry. When I dug up the stop sign a few weeks ago, it reminded me of a whole slew of pieces I’d completely forgotten about over the years. I’ve really enjoyed revisiting them—hope you’ve found them interesting, too.

Here’s something else I came across: a map I did for the HoE core book The Wasted West. I stumbled upon a pretty degenerate copy of this image on the internet—I’d completely forgotten about it—and that prompted me to dig through my boxes of games in storage to come up with it.

The map of the Wasted West

It's the Wasted West. Click on it for a closer look, particularly at the California coastline.

Truthfully, I can only take limited credit for this map: I started with an excellent source file we dug up somewhere, which had all the wrinkly topography in place. We got permission from the copyright holder to use it, then I colorized it in Photoshop and altered it to suit our needs. I remember the laborious process of flooding the California coastline, painting water into all the apparent low-lying areas.

Just a bit of cartography for your edification.

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So last week I featured an interior graphic used throughout the Deadlands: Hell on Earth RPG line. Well, that got me digging around, and I came up with this:

HOE logo sketch

An early sketch for the Hell on Earth logo. You can see how it was originally intended as a sub-title to the main Deadlands logo, but the final trade dress ended up with it at the bottom of the book covers.

This is an early sketch for the Hell on Earth logo. I don’t have the final artwork (that belongs to Pinnacle), but here’s a scan of the finished logo. This comes from the cover of the d20 version of HoE (it’s what I could get my hands on easily; a lot of my RPG collection is still packed away), and you can see how the text portion was often repositioned to make space on the backboard for other information—sometimes author information, and in some cases the actual book title.

Hell on Earth logo

In all its glory!

The concrete background was drawn in color pencil, while the Hell on Earth text was (if I recall correctly; it’s been a while) created in some combination of Freehand and Photoshop. Obviously, the elements were put together into the final arrangement in Photoshop.

Heh. Busted concrete, rusted metal, and bullet holes. I could draw that stuff all day long. . . .

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Illo-a-Week: Stop!

Ah, the post apocalypse. I did a lot of the visual design work for Deadlands: Hell on Earth—almost no illustrations, per se, but a lot of recurring page elements and things like that. Here’s one of them:

I love all things post-apocalyptic. Fictional things, that is.

Man, I can’t get enough of the old post-apocalypse. My post-apocalyptic d20 Modern campaign has spanned something like eight years: It started when d20 Modern was in playtest (the players ran through several iterations of their characters in the early adventures, as the rules kept changing on them), ran throughout my tenure at WotC, and continues to this day in the form of a once-a-year session at Gen Con.

Looking back, it astounds me that I’ve done not a single piece of post-apocalyptic illustration. Even during the eight months that I ran the Hell on Earth brand at Pinnacle, I contributed not a single item. How can that be?

But where I did no illos in the classic sense, I did work on the page and graphic design of the series. Among other things, I did the Hell on Earth logo, which you can find on the front of any edition (I think) of the game. This piece appears in every book at the dividing point between the player material and the section called No Man’s Land—a section players are asked to read only with the GM’s permission.

As a warning to keep out, it seems to do the trick, wouldn’t you say?

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Illo-a-Week: You’re Next!

Back to the wellspring that is Millennium’s End: here’s an image that more or less encapsulates the game:

From Millennium's End v2.0

A few episodes ago I talked about a pencil-and-black-marker technique that helped me overcome my aversion to contrast, and this is another example that technique at work. It’s a shame the reproduction is somewhat poor, with the lightest gray tones dropping out. Oh, well, the technology of the times I guess.

This piece appeared on the title page of Millennium’s End v2.0, and was reproduced as a promotional piece in a two-color flyer we put together for the summer cons the year of release. The image itself was done as a duotone of black and purple—and it worked pretty well, as I recall. The flyer had the same radical aspect ratio as the illustration (maybe even exaggerated a bit). Wish I still had a copy!

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Here’s a little change of pace: Some logo design. Or more accurately, the treatment for a book title.

I’d hoped to be able to show a clean, isolated version of the logo, but the source file (Freehand 5 or so) is so old there’s no way to open it any more. So instead, here’s a color version cropped from the cover of the Terror/CounterTerror Sourcebook, and an isolated black-and-white version from an EPS file that was used on the book’s title page.

From the cover of the Terror/CounterTerror Sourcebook for Millennium's End.

And again, from the title page.

I like the look of the color version (though they’re both a tad busy). It looks like there’s some transparency effect in the original that didn’t carry over to the color version (look at how the black is just visible through the word TERROR in the grayscale version). I don’t know why that got lost, but this was back in the days when the technology put some limits on what you could do—some things were just too memory intensive or whatever. Too bad; it probably would have looked pretty sharp.

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Illo-a-Week: Night Operations

BlackEagle operatives do it in the dark!

About halfway through the arc of my Millennium’s End illustration career I settled on the technique behind this image: Creating a high-contrast night scene through a mixture of pencil and black marker. I did three or four illos using this technique, and I think it worked out nicely—though obviously for a relatively small slice of subject matter.

As a point of comparison, check out the power armor chick—truth be told, I punched up the contrast in that image when I scanned and posted it. Contrast was an issue for me in my development as an illustrator, so the image here really represents the apex of an effort to best understand and employ it.

One can also see the result of a lot of focus on the human form and the lay of clothing; both of which have also always been a challenge. I particularly like the glove of the guy in the background.

What do you think? Contrasty enough, or do I need to go back to the drawing board?

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