In my mind art is SO important to how a game is received. Half the time, when browsing games in a store the very first thing I will do is look at the art. I know the whole ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ thing is always brought up, but when you flip through a book and you see dozens of pieces of wonderfully crafted art you maybe just maybe wonder if the rest of the work is of the same quality. Art in a tabletop book is especially important. I don’t know how many times I’ve jumped to the equipment section of a RPG player handbook to take a look at the drawings of the weapons to see a version of what my character is holding. These scattered little bits of page filler get the creative juices flowing and allow you to better visualize what is happening in the game. They set the tone for the adventure you’re about to embark on and even on your most uninspired days they allow your imagination to get a good grip on what the world is, how everything looks and what you can expect. While I do have photos in the book to demonstrate some of these concepts I decided to lean heavily into the art just for this reason. I can hand craft terrain and paint minis for a month, hire an expert to take photos of them with proper lighting and everything and they still will just play second fiddle to a single piece of expertly done hand drawn artwork. One of my favorite pieces of art so far actually appears on the second page of the table of contents. Its a character, who we assume is a bard, just sitting by a fire reading. There is meat cooking over the fire, they’ve got a little bit of tree cover, the moon is overhead. What are they reading? Is it this book? Is it the short story on the next page? Is it a history book they are studying so they can better perform at their next show? Even a single image with not much in the way of action can spawn about a hundred different questions and really get the creative juices flowing.
The art of Anthems of War is still in progress. Its the last hurdle outside of a deeper dive into playtesting and there is a reason it is taking time. The first reason. Art is expensive. As I had mentioned in my inaugural blog post I am funding this game entirely out of my own pocket. I am not the highest paid person on earth but I make sure I set aside at least some of my take home pay for the book. The second reason is more of a logistical one. The artists I chose to work with are only human. They have lives and can’t drop everything they are doing to just work on my little book. I laid out all of the test in the book in my desktop publishing app of choice and when everything was done I had about 85 natural page breaks in the book, some an inch tall, some almost a half page. At the time of writing I’ve got about 46 pieces of art left to commission. It is a very hard thing for me to do to drop a request for almost 50 high quality pieces of art in someone’s lap. As it is right now, I am commissioning them in waves of between 3 and 6 at a time every two weeks or so. This gives the artist enough time to work without feeling overly stressed about deadlines, because I HATE setting deadlines where I don’t even have one for myself. Sure I could set an artificial deadline for each commission but all that does is add stress to the artist. Art and stress rarely mix. So the art is in progress. I am working with artists who I am extremely happy with. Lets talk about three of them!
Matt is the friend I mentioned in my previous post. It was with his assistance that I started down this path. He is responsible for all of the top down diagram art you see as well as a few pieces I really enjoy in the equipment section and in the introduction chapter. Matt often downplays his skills but his art is truly impressive. I am always a fan of the work he does and I am so happy to have him as an artist, as a playtester and as a friend!
Joseph is the next artist I would like to mention. I found him AGES ago on instagram because he was doing these really cool dot grid old school looking D&D maps colored with copic markers. His style was super unique and a lot of his work reminded me of the stuff you would see in the equipment or magic items section of an old school rpg. I had originally asked him to do some brick walls that I could laser cut out and use as modular terrain. When I got further into that project I realized that with the equipment I have now I would not be able to produce large amounts of high detailed brick walls I put that project on the back burner and months later commissioned him to do some other art. In the Anthems of War book I have a section of sample armies. These are stats to use as a base for your own creations or they can be used as is to fill out army lists. I have about 8 factions and I wanted each of those factions to have a little bit of flavor text and a logo. I basically gave Joe a little example of what I wanted and then just left him to do what he was good at. I am SO happy with the results and now I have 8 super cool faction logos. I even painted some of the symbols from the ‘Legions of the Dead’ faction logo on the shields of my Wargames Atlantic Skeletons to make them more interesting.
Elisabeth is the final artist I would like to talk about. I messaged her out of the blue on Artstation and I am so glad I took that chance. Her art makes up the majority of the art in the Anthems of War book for a reason. Her comic book style approach to all of the art and her natural skill makes it a no-brainer. Elisabeth is so easy to work with and every single time I see her name pop up in my email inbox I cant wait to see what she has sent. The featured image on this post as well as a few of the other ones peppered around it are all her work and without her I don’t think the style of the book would be even close to as good as I wanted. I am pretty sure she made my editor cry when she saw the art to go along with the short story, because we worked SO hard to get that story just right.
Hopefully this little look at the art of the book will get you folks excited. Feel free to shoot me a message on any of my social media if you’ve got suggestions for future blog posts or if you have ANY questions at all. Better yet, join the Anthems of War discord and facebook community (hit the discord or facebook logo in the footer) and join in with folks talking about the game. Its a small group right now but I’d love to expand that.
See you next time!