Tuesday, March 7, 2017

My Favorite Artists - Michael Prescott

I would like to introduce you all Michael Prescott, he's an RPG artist that runs the I'll See It When I Believe It blog and Trilemma Adventures.  He self publishes one, two and three page system agnostic adventures that he beautifully illustrates himself.  His style is clean and sharp and he has a fantastic sense of perspective.  He runs a Patreon campaign here: Michael Prescott is creating adventures!  Head on over and support him for as little as $1.00 per adventure! I really appreciate Michael doing this interview, to learn more about him read on after the break!

  • When did you first discover your creative talents?  
My mother is an artist--I remember finding her huge charcoal drawings of Gollum in a portfolio in the basement at a young age and being very impressed, because I'd never seen her do art of her own. Now that I'm an adult with kids of my own, it's easy to see just how much she loves passing this on to kids. She'll always be getting out the finger paints, or having them make thumbprints in purple ink so they can add arms and legs to them with markers.

  • How would you describe your style and where do you draw your inspiration from? Do you have a favorite piece you have created?
Most of my stuff is pen & ink landscapes, frequently isometric or perspective dungeons. My stylistic muses are probably Dave Trampier to start with -- every now and again I flip back to his stuff and think, "Yep, still not as good as him." I'm inching closer, though! But the emotional core is a vein of nostalgia for England's castles and cathedrals. I discovered these at the same age I was discovering B/X D&D. It amazed me that every gift shop would sell you a little map of this amazing, ancient structure, all ready for you to plop down numbers and to get busy stocking it with sentries, monsters and treasure.

There's something visceral for me about the way a map is a doorway to adventure. Sometimes it's just a skeletal reminder of the real place (like a cathedral map), and sometimes it's much more, as in the case of my treasured survey map of Sutton Park, or the cloth maps from the early Ultima games. These are like fractal invitations to a whole world of discovery. It sounds so trite, but it totally lights me up. There's a few children's books that capture this magic, books like Who's Got the Apple, Where's Waldo, and Nora's Castle. If you look carefully, there are a whole bunch of little narratives woven into the art, so you can really sink into them and explore what's going on. What is that little worm doing? When you spot the connections, it's so delightful.

These days I have to work incrementally, on a time budget, but one day I hope to make something like that myself. I haven't managed so far. In the meantime, my favorite piece is a toss-up between Limestone Curtain and the Tomb of the Timeless Master. Both of these were drawn as commissions, which tend to bring me out of my comfort zone and push me to do things I wouldn't normally do. What I love about the curtain is the shadows on the ceiling, and the way it shows the complexity and difficulty of maneuvering around natural caverns. While I was doing it, I was thinking of the amazing interiors from Roger LeLoup's Yoko Tsuno comics, hoping to capture some of that sense of greebly detail. (I had a French copy when I was little, and only half understood what the hell was going on.) http://www.deviantart.com/art/Limestone-Curtain-385231837 The Tomb is more in line with my usual maps, but it represents a particularly complicated effort, and it was very gratifying that it turned out as well as it did. http://michaelprescott.deviantart.com/art/Tomb-of-the-Timeless-Master-667537282

  • Who is your favorite artist? What draws you towards his or her artwork?
Recently it's been Simon Stålenhag, mostly because of his use of color. Most of my stuff is black and white these days, and his grasp of indirect light just blows my mind. He's pretty popular these days. Also check out Christina Petterson, her pencils look like watercolors.

  • Is art a full time occupation for you?
No, not by a long shot. I'm in software, which leaves me precious little time to crank out art and sharpen my skills, which is why I don't take on commissions.

  • What projects are you currently working on?
The main thing is my Trilemma Adventures, of course. I'm (very) slowly assembling a compilation of them, so people will be able to get them all in one place. I bounce back and forth between this and noodling on a few heartbreaker RPGs. Right now I'm working on a pick-up-and-play Mechwarrior/Battletech rip-off closely modelled on The Regiment.

  • You've created art for a number of gaming products, are you yourself a gamer and if so what are your favorite games?
Yes, whenever I can! This is a hard question because I'm between favorite systems. Burning Wheel taught me a hell of a lot: it has its failings, but its laser focus on character development was an invitation into a whole class of campaign types I'd never imagined would happen at the table. An enduring influence is also The Regiment, which is a WWII game that affects a lot of the way I think about game design now. The idea of a combat-focused game without a turn sequence would have struck me as pretty bananas a decade ago, but it works.

  • Tell the readers about your Patreon campaign. Do you have any advise for others that are interested in setting up crowd-funded campaigns?
Since January 2014 I've been putting out monthly short adventures. They range from 1-3 pages, but the typical adventure is a fantasy location of some sort illustrated in 3D, surrounded by little call-outs saying what's in each room. I caught the bug from the One Page Dungeon Contest (which is coming up fast, by the way), which is a great little challenge. At the same time, we were playtesting Torchbearer. My gaming group had been focused on dramatic games for a while, but suddenly there was a need to crank out a bunch of little dungeons, and it rekindled my love for the endless hours of lonely fun making dungeons. They're all fantasy adventures, meant to be dropped into someone's homebrew campaign world and reskinned. I stay away from system-specific stats; I'd rather be concise. I figure most GMs interested in this sort of content can decide for themselves how tough an alligator, orc, or young dragon is. (Not least because I'm not interested in balancing encounter difficulty. I prefer players to be active in deciding whether or not they're in over their heads from the situation.)

 I haven't done any Kickstarters, but I've thought a fair bit about the business of Patreons. The main bit of advice I'd offer is to keep the patron in mind. Nevermind your personal origin story about starting to game when you were seven, everyone has that. Get to the point immediately. Every paragraph in your intro before you get to the point will cost you half your readers. Drop it. Are you making maps? Say that you're making maps and show some maps. Secondly, Patreon has this unfortunate vibe that your patrons are supporting you personally. This might work if you're a hawt twenty-something vocalist, but I'd much rather people give me money because they like the content and want me to keep making it, not because they like me as a person. I've seen this lead a few campaigns astray. The creator winds up talking mostly about who they are and what the money means to them (a new computer, new pens, new whatever), rather than what the patron is getting.

Thirdly, post regularly. Everything you post (as long as you're not spamming duplicate content everywhere) is a little landing mat that people can use to find their way back to your campaign. WIP work is a great way to do this. People seem to love a glimpse behind the curtain, especially if they're dabblers themselves. My most plussed/liked/shared posts have universally been the ones where you can still see the blue lines. Fourth, pace yourself. When the campaign starts to pick up and you feel like Sally Fields at the Oscars, resist the temptation to respond by doubling your efforts. Your stretch goals or rewards should be things that are (much) easier to produce than your main content. If your campaign takes off Success feels awesome, but dollars don't translate into more time very smoothly. It's important to avoid burning yourself out to produce a few tchotchkes that only give you a tiny bit of extra revenue. (Kickstarter campaigns regularly fall into this trap, with stretch goals that are expensive, logistically complicated, rely on third parties, are outside of the creator's expertise, or all four.)

  • Who is your favorite musical artist and why?
I'm a fair weather friend to musicians, I pick up most of what I hear from my rascals' listening habits. If I was marooned on the dark side of the moon and only had one album with me, it would probably be some Pink Floyd album or other.

  • What was the last book you read?

  • Where can the readers go to see your art?
All of it's posted on my blog, here: http://blog.trilemma.com/search/label/adventure

  • Lastly, any words of advice for aspiring artists?
Jesus no, I'm a hobbyist. Find a professional to talk to! If you're a hobbyist too, then create what you love, but try to find someone who will push you out of your comfort zone and force you to confront that your fundamentals (perspective, composition, portraiture, light) are probably pretty crappy. Try this: A man suspended by his feet, wrestling with a woman who is standing on the floor next to him. Draw this from the perspective of an ant on the man's toe, looking down towards the struggling duo's interlocking arms.

Thanks so much to Michael for taking the time to answer do this interview!

You can find Michaels blog here: http://blog.trilemma.com/
His Patreon campaign is here: https://www.patreon.com/adventures/posts
Follow him on Google+ here: https://plus.google.com/+MichaelPrescott
His DeviantArt page is here: http://michaelprescott.deviantart.com/

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