Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My Favorite Artists - Steve Zieser

I am pleased to announce that for today's Our Favorite Artists post I had the pleasure of interviewing none other than Steve Zieser.  Steve has created most of the art for the Labyrinth Lord books, including the covers of the main rule-book, the Advanced Edition Companion and my personal favorite the LL Referee Screen.  Steve was nice enough to take a few minutes out of his busy day to answer a few questions for us at The Drunk Umber Hulk.  Without further delay here is the man that illustrated my favorite retro clone, Steve Zieser!

  • First of all, thanks for taking some time out of your day to speak with me, please introduce yourself and give us a brief bio:  

Thanks, Jason. I grew up on a farm outside Cedar Rapids, Iowa and was the middle of 5 kids. Growing up on a farm, there wasn't a lot to do other than farm work, so I had time to do a lot of reading and doodling. I was an okay student, but would rather have been drawing or reading fiction than doing schoolwork. I loved art classes, and would have rather stayed there all day than work on other subjects. My father fully supported my artistic endeavors, and encouraged me to go to art school. I , however, was young and decided to go to tech school for Radio/TV Broadcasting instead. Afterwards, I worked at a tiny country/western station in southern Iowa for a few years and learned exactly how poorly paid people in the radio business could be. So, I decided to go back to school, and ended up at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and entered the Roman Catholic Seminary program there. (Can you tell I can't do things the easy way??) However, since I kept dating girls the whole time, I had to make a choice and I ended up transferring to Clarke College, where I majored in Studio Arts focused on Printmaking and minored in Religion. I spent a number of years kicking around after college, doing a lot of odd jobs such as working record stores, photo labs, and even selling knives door to door. I eventually settled down building furniture with my Dad for a few years, getting married to my lovely wife in the meantime. Eventually, my Dad decided to retire and I needed a more steady job, and I ended up working for Van Meter Inc, where I have been working happily for the past 7 years.

  • When did you first discover your creative talents? 

When I was four or five, I started tracing Snoopy out of the Sunday comics. I told my brothers and sisters that I had drawn it myself, and they were impressed. The catch came when they would give me a piece of paper and say "Draw me a Snoopy" with them watching! So, I had to learn very quickly how to draw Snoopy without tracing him! After that, I drew on everything I could get my hands on, and I would get into trouble for handing in spelling tests where I had drawn all over the margins, even though I spelled the words correctly. Things just kind of mushroomed from there, I think...

  • Could you tell us about some of your own favorite work? 

I'm really proud of the panels I did for the Labyrinth Lord Referee's screen that Goblinoid Games just put out. That job really intimidated the heck out of me, but it all came together really well. Also, the LL core book, which I did nearly all of the artwork for. To have an entire book to put my own spin on was really an honor and I enjoyed working on it immensely.

  • How would you describe your style and where do you draw your inspiration from? 

A lot of how I draw really comes from my training in etching/intaglio printmaking, and so I do a lot of heavy line work and crosshatching. In college, I looked at Albrecht Durer and William Blake a lot, but drew much more from Blake. But most of my inspiration has come from comics, sci-fi television and movies. Star Wars, Star Trek and the old Universal monster movies have loomed large in my imagination, as well as the writings of Tolkien, Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

  • Do you have a favorite artist? What draws you towards his or her artwork? 

I've already talked about Blake, who I think just had an incredibly vivid imagination. Other people I admire are Arthur Adams, Ralph MacQuarrie, Joe Johnston, David Peterson, and, of course, all of the old TSR bullpen of artists. Trampier's work always resonated strongly with me. Is art a full time occupation for you? No, which is good, because I get to have health insurance and a steady paycheck! I started doing illustration just to see if I could do it, and people started paying me for it! I enjoy doing it, though, and getting paid is an added bonus.

  • You've created art for a number of gaming products, are you yourself a gamer and if so what are your favorite games? 

Oh, heavens yes! I started playing D&D in high school, and the art from those old rule-books really inspired me. Right now, I'm running a weekly Labyrinth Lord game, but I also love superhero games such as Villains & Vigilantes or Champions, and science fiction games like the old FASA Star Trek, Traveller and X-plorers. My current gaming crush is on Tales of the Space Princess as well as ADB's Federation Commander and Star Fleet Battles games.

  • Who is your favorite musical artist and why? 

A lot of Wilco lately, as well as the Minus 5 and the Young Fresh Fellows. They all do just a lot of really wonderful stuff, and I can never guess what each new disc they do will be like.

  • What was the last book you read?

Chessmen of Mars

  • Where can the readers go to see your art? 


  • Lastly, any words of advice for aspiring artists? 

Draw what you like to draw! Don't waste your time trying to draw things that just don't interest you just to get a job from someone. You'll end up making yourself miserable and your work will suffer for it. Also, don't get too hung up on one particular medium.. Try different media to see how your work translates and you might find a style emerge that you didn't see coming.


  1. I'm Steve Zieser's wife. It was wonderful to come across this four years later and just three months after Steve passed. I miss his mind and this gave me a look back at how wonderful a man and artist he was. Thank you.

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I was heartbroken to hear of Steve's passing. I really enjoyed his work and was very excited when he agreed to do an interview for me. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers!