Interview with Tom Baxa, Artist on Dragon Kings

We chat with Tom Baxa this week, an avid artist on the Dragon Kings team. Tom has produced some fantastic work on numerous projects, including an illustrator for Dark Sun, Dungeons & Dragons, Magic the Gathering, World of Warcraft tcg, Shadowrun, and many more. He also has done concepts in design Film + Video Games for Van Helsing, Alien vs. Predator, Nox, and Command & Conquer.

See what Tom has to say about his work on Dragon Kings below!

Dragon Kings: Share with us a little bit about your history and what you do for a career.

Tom Baxa: I’ve been a fantasy illustrator for over 25 years working primarily in the role playing game industry. I’ve worked on countless projects including Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: the Gathering, World of Warcraft tcg, Vampire the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Earthdawn, and more. I’ve also done concept design for miniatures, video games and a few films. I’m currently focusing on some personal projects that include my being a writer as well as an artist.

Dragon Kings: What interested you most in participating on the Dragon Kings project?

Tom Baxa: Well, as most folks interested in DKs probably know, I was the primary black and white interior artist on the original Dark Sun saga for Dungeons and Dragons. Brom did the covers (and some interiors) and I did the ink drawings inside for most of the run. So when Tim Brown got in touch with me about DKs, I was pretty stoked, mainly because it gave me a chance to revisit a universe that I really enjoyed working on in the past.

Dragon Kings: What other projects are you working on now besides Dragon Kings?

Tom Baxa: I always have my hands in something, but I’m most focused on developing my own properties with a lot of verve right now. I’m creating a new branch of the BaxaArt brand called BaxaArt Academy which emphasizes art instruction and sharing art ideas and information. I’m also at the beginning stages of an illustrated horror novel (can’t say much yet).

Dragon Kings: How did making Dark Sun art affect your art for Dragon Kings?

Tom Baxa: Well after talking with Tim Brown and getting a little sense of what he has in store for Dragon Kings (it’s going to be great guys!), I understood that he wanted to carry much of the flavor of his original creation of Dark Sun into this new universe.

I did two creature paintings for DKs, so there wasn’t a ton of context from Dark Sun in them, per se, but did want things to feel desolate and gritty like the bleak desert environment prevalent in Dark Sun. I’m sure there will be more carry over as the project progresses.

Dragon Kings: Who has inspired you to keep producing art for these kinds of projects?

Tom Baxa: I’ll always have a passion for fantasy art settings and I love doing fantasy art, so it’s not hard to get me on board such a great project like Dragon Kings. I’m most inspired by other artists; and when I see a game developer that has come up with a cool universe in which the artists can play – that’s cool – I want to be a part of that.

I’m also very excited about the possibilities that crowd funding sites, like Kickstarter, are opening up for creatives like Tim and myself. I used Kickstarter to fund the printing of my art book “Blood Rituals: The Art of Tom Baxa” way back in 2010 before it was all the rage. I saw its potential then, and I see that potential growing as more people get involved with it.

Dragon Kings: You created some Magic: the Gathering cards. Tell us about those.


Krikis_COLOR_72Tom Baxa:
Magic is a great game and Wizards of the Coast has brilliantly nurtured its gaming fan base. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for me as a working illustrator to do imaginative and dark fantasy art, and get worldwide exposure.

Some of the player favorites I’ve done art for include: Lobotomy, Relentless Rats, Festering Goblin, Blighting, Maelstrom Wanderer and more.

Dragon Kings: If you could create a new Dragon Kings creature or race right now, what would that be, visually speaking?

Tom Baxa: A crusty salt ghoul that feeds only on other undead. They live under the sand and salt flats and their bodies are dead flesh infused with chunks of salt minerals and grains of sand. They can be summoned and bound by a complex magic ritual and commanded to seek out and kill those pesky undead roaming the night.

Dragon Kings: Where can budding artists go to learn more about your work and how to become an artist?

Tom Baxa: Funny you should ask, I’m about to release an ebook called “Get Work as a Fantasy Artist” packed with all kinds of great tips and insider information on how to break into the fantasy illustration market and launch a career as a fantasy artist. Anyone interested should stay tuned to www.BaxaArtAcademy.com for news about the release later this month (November 2013).

As always, my primary website www.BaxaArt.com is the main hub for everything I’ve got going on including art galleries, news about me and my new product releases, art for sale, my fiction, by blog, you name it.

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4 November

Interview with Brom, artist on Dragon Kings

We chat with Brom this week, an artist on the Dragon Kings team. Brom has produced some fantastic work on numerous projects, including illustrating on Dark Sun, Deadlands, and Magic: The Gathering. He also has worked on several video games, movies, and is an avid writer.

See what Brom has to say about his work on Dragon Kings below!

Dragon Kings: Please share with us a little bit about your history and what you do for a career.

Brom: Got my start at TSR with Dragon Kings spiritual sister, Dark Sun. Been working in games, books, video games, and film ever since. Currently creating my own line of illustrated horror novels.

Dragon Kings: What interested you most in participating on the Dragon Kings project?

Brom: A chance to revisit material similar to my earlier works.

Dragon Kings: What do you think of the music for Dragon Kings so far? Does music inspire your art?

Brom: I think the music really sets the tone, it’s like a soundtrack to the game. I draw lots of inspiration from music. Anything that drives emotion tends to seep into the work.

Dragon Kings: What or who inspires you to create such great work that’s been released so far?

Brom: I tend to find inspiration everywhere. I think that is part of what artist do. They take in what’s around them and hopefully channel it into a unique vision.

Dragon Kings: Are you a fan of Role-playing games? What is your favorite RPG, or general favorite game of all-time?

Brom: It’s been hard for me to find time to play RPG’s, as I’m always too obsessed with creating art. When I was younger I really enjoyed miniature games such as Space Hulk and Ogre.

Dragon Kings: Did you ever play D&D in the Dark Sun setting?

Brom: A couple of times. It was always a treat when some of the game designers would host a campaign and invite us artists to play.

Dragon Kings: Tell us about the inspiration for the Dragonlord cover image.

Brom: The composition is one I drew about twenty years ago and always wanted to paint. So when the chance arose I jumped at it. It was almost like collaborating with myself from twenty years ago.

If you are interested in Brom’s work, visit his website at: http://www.bromart.com

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28 October

Interview with team member Alyssa Faden

Alyssa FadenWe chat with Alyssa Faden, team member on the Dragon Kings project leading the awesome cartography work you’ve seen. Here’s more about her and what she loves about Dragon Kings!

Dragon Kings: Share with us a little bit about your history and what you do for a career.

Alyssa: Well I – like a lot in the industry – have a day job as well as a passion for the gaming community. My day job is not all that exciting I am afraid, but it has taught me some very valuable skills. I am an Account Director: which basically means that I handle day-to-day relationships with a fortune 100 company. I work for a smaller company than that – quite a bit smaller! – but all of the work that we do for them is onboarded by myself and I am there to ensure that they get exactly what their business needs and that they receive a red carpet treatment.

The skillset I have honed over the years? Patience, talking to people, managing expectations, transparency, and honesty. These are invaluable skills when dealing with people and they ensure that I do not go on rampages across the internet saying inappropriate things that will only come back to haunt me in my professional capacity. It has also enabled me to provide a more professional service when it comes to my mapping commissions: understanding what my clients care about, keeping communication open and honest, and ensuring that I meet all the deadlines that  I say I am going to meet.

Dragon Kings: What or who inspires you to create such great work that?s been released so far?

Alyssa: Well I think it would be fair to say that every map I have ever saw – regardless of style, subject matter or historical period – has provided some inspiration. The simple truth is that I look at maps and immediately start evaluating lines, composition, fonts, colors, color balance, detail levels, and over style and composition. I could not have gotten to where I am and what I do without drawing from every source I seen over the decades.

Mike Schley is the cartographer i most admire. There is something about his style, his line work and his colors and textures that hit me in all kinds of good ways. I continually find myself being inspired by his work. And lastly – even though this will sound a little corny – my clients often provide the greatest inspiration. They will often come to me and ask for something incredible, something I never imagined myself drawing, and they cause me to reach and stretch into a deeper level. 

Dragon Kings: What interests you most in participating on the Dragon Kings project?

Alyssa: I’m not sure I can answer this easily, but I think if I had to start at the beginning it would have to be Dark Sun itself. The covers to Slave Tribes, the original Dragon Kings, Dark Sun boxed set, and DS1 Freedom had me hooked on the setting right from the get go. Honestly, I remember the first time I saw Freedom’s cover artwork and it had a profound effect on me that has stayed with me throughout the years. It is a simple, powerful piece that has so much story and depth within it.

So when Timothy Brown pops up and starts talking to me I am already falling out of my seat. When he mentions that he is doing a spiritual successor to Dark Sun, I’m salivating. When he announces that Brom is involved, I am whipping out my checkbook. When he asks me to be part of it? Yeeaahhhh, I’m not sure that any response other than a drooling, gibbering, “yurhspleaz!” was going to happen. Of course I wanted to be in on this! It’s iconic!

Dragon Kings: What Dragon King?s pledge level is most notable for you personally?

Alyssa: I’m thinking about jumping in as a Complete Dragon Kings Fan, but that Dragonlord of GenCon 2014 is looking mighty tempting. I’ll be at GenCon, so I’d love an excuse to have my character destroy whatever nefarious encounter Timothy has planned.

Dragon Kings: Are you a fan of Role-playing games? What is your favorite RPG?

Alyssa: *stares at the interviewer in a bemused manner*

How … how could I not be? I have grown up on roleplaying games since I was … oooh … 12 or 13. I’ve gone through Basic D&D, blue box, red box, the iterations thereafter, and countless, countless other gaming systems: Paranoia, Gangster, Bushido, Chivalry & Sorcery. I mean truly, the list goes on and on and on. I can’t name one favorite, but I can name four: Shadowrun, RuneQuest, Traveller, and Call of Cthulhu. Man, I’m probably cheating by listing out 4 like that, but how am I meant to narrow it down to just one when they have very different systems and settings? If I had to name one – just one – to take to a desert island with me, I’d probably pick any of them (and then hide the other there in the same bag).

Dragon Kings: Dragon Kings offers rules for Pathfinder and Savage worlds for sure and 13th – Age & Fate with met stretch goals. Which of these are of interest to you?

Alyssa: Pathfinder for sure, only because this is my groups chosen system at the moment so it would make it very easy to adopt and jump into, but both SW and 13th Age are appealing as they are a direction I want to go in.

Dragon Kings: If you could create your own Kickstarter campaign, what would it be about?

Alyssa: Well I already *have.* Earlier this year we launched Torn Armor: a hex-based fantasy skirmish game intended to be quick to learn, setup and play, while being fully expandable for the hardcore wargamer. We’re still fulfilling on that title, so I wouldn’t launch another before it is complete and in the hands of the backers.

If I launched on as a cartographer … well I have in mind an idea for a geomorphic dungeon and town system that players and GMs alike could use as terrain tiles, plus I have always wanted to draw truly historical cities (I semi-recently drew Dubrovnik.) I always thought that it would be a great idea to offer to draw x-amount of historical cities and have the backers decide which ones those would be. I fully anticipated Rome coming up. I thought that they could look really slick as prints, posters, and for gaming use or simply to add to a collection. Maybe one day.

Dragon Kings: How long have you been a cartographer, and what originally interested you in drawing?

Alyssa: I’ve been drawing maps since I picked up my first RPG. There were great worlds out there and I played and ran in a lot of them, but I also wanted to *create,* and creating a world means drawing maps, so I have been at it for thirty years. I only started getting into it seriously maybe about 6 years ago or so when I started showing people my old maps as a laugh … but they liked them. I started showing my others, those were just as popular, and before you know it I am drawing *for* other people. The rest is history.

Dragon Kings: How long does a complete map generally take to complete, such as the Old Countries?

Alyssa: 16-24 hours is about average, but that’s uncolored. It doesn’t matter if it is a city, an overland map or even a world: they all tend to even out to about the same time investment. Coloring increases that time of course. 

Dragon Kings: What’s the most interesting cartography project requests you’ve had so far?

Alyssa: I’ve had a few that have caused me to raise my eyebrows when first approached: a series of city maps I did for James Carpio and Urd Leviathan were a real blast. He asked me to draw cities that invoked a sense of hieroglyphics, so I ended up drawing city shapes that looked like scarab beetles, wings outstretched and all. The net result really catches the eye.

Then there was one for R Scott Taylor and his book anthology based on the city of Taux. Scott has a vision for a massive city in mind and I got to draw a very crucial part of it that was a sprawling morass of buildings built upon an old gaming stadium. Firstly I was drawing in ink, so there’s no going back, but secondly it was a shape that I’d never conceived of before, but it came out looking really good. Gygax Magazine also threw down the gauntlet when they asked me to map the progress of roleplaying games over the years to match an article in the first edition. I ended up drawing a ‘universe’ of galaxies and stars, each spreading out from a central sun that was the birth of roleplaying games. Ensuring that all the games were in there, had the correct dates, and were correctly positioned relative to each other and their distance from the center was an interesting challenge.

One day I’d like to have a print of that up on a wall somewhere. Lastly – wow I talk a lot don’t I? – I was recently commissioned by Lesser Gnome Games to “come up with the best map you have ever drawn.” Now that’s a big challenge, but it maps someone like myself sit up and take notice. We also drew it to be used as a poster, which meant drawing it at a scale I am not normally commissioned to tackle. The net result though … wow … there’s a photo somewhere of me holding it up at a print size of 42″ across and it’s a gorgeous piece. 

Dragon Kings: Are there any other cartographers you look up to when searching for inspiration?

Alyssa: Mike Schley and Herwin Wielink. Both have incredible styles, stunning details, and gorgeous coloring. Their isometric work is unparalleled.

If you would like to learn more about Alyssa and her work, visit her cartography Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/AlyssaFadenCartography

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21 October