I have long been a fan of Silverblade the Enchanter’s outstanding Spelljammer art. For me, much of the shape of the Spelljammer Universe has formed over the years based on his vision, his colour, and his well-researched and well-planned 3D imagery. Most Spelljammer fans are aware of who he is, and his art is featured all over the internet and even in some print media. But many people don’t know where his art came from, since he has widely released it for non-profit usage. Facebook and the Piazza forum has brought us together and given me this opportunity to catch up with him in an interview.
Q: What first attracted you to the Spelljammer Universe?
A: Spelljammer is just so damn out there, such great ideas! 🙂 I’ve always loved exploration stories like Jules Verne and original Star Trek. I LOVED the weird and interesting ship designs and art. Also, way it broadened D&D way way out. Asteroid bases, illithid battlefleets?! holy crap, awesome!! 😉
Q: Why have you decided to spend so much of your time and effort working on this setting? What is it about it that appeals to you as an artist?
A: I love the fantastic and odd. I absolutely adore the scifi/fantasy novel covers and art I saw when I was a kid, from 1960s and 70s, so many freakin’ amazing artists who did really mind blowing stuff. Boris Vallejo, Christos Achilleos, Bruce Pennington, Chris Foss etc. Just tripped my mind out, as my dad used to get this sci-fi monthly magazine with big gorgeous poster art pics in it 🙂
So, along comes D&D and wow, the artists were astounding, Brom, Clyde Caldwell, Keith Parkinson etc. Got many of their collected artbooks and posters. I totally love all that 🙂
Not many folk out there doing Dark Sun and Spelljammer art, is there? 😉
The ships in Spelljammer…well I’m more of a “scene builder” and “engineer”, I can’t draw for crap, but I can imagine places and scenes, and design things. Used to spend ages writing up settings, and surroundings in my D&D games (I was always the DM, rarely ever got to be player, hey the peril of being a great DM is they always want you to DM, lol!)
Also when I was a kid, I used to love building Meccano then model kits of planes, ships and so on, love building and making 🙂
Q: What other settings have you worked on and what is it about them that appeal to you?
A: I’ve also done fair bit of Dark Sun art, that and Spelljammer are my fave settings, though also like Ravenloft, the *original* Forgotten Realms (back in the grey boxed set era before it got blitzed to hell with detail and made far too “urban” which I do not like…DM’s love mystery) and Planescape though alas I must confess I can’t stand most of DeTerlizzi’s art, far too anaemic and every critter looks like it’s starving :p
I love the ideas behind each setting. Dark Sun is harsh, brutal survival, acts of benign morality there are so hard to achieve it makes them impressive.
Planescape, the WILL is the key, always about belief.
Spelljammer, trading, ship to ship combat etc, PIRATES! :p
I adore several old book series, long before Johnny Depp was around, about the buccaneers of old Jamaica: Captain Blood and Dudley Pope’s “Buccaneer” series “Buckle me swash” as my granny used to joke, lol, she loved those old pirate films too with Errol Flynn and the like. Hey, Burt Lancaster’s “Crimson Pirate” is a riot! 😉
Also, ever since childhood I’ve adored the stories and films of Sinbad, mmm 🙂
And hey who didn’t love “Jason and the Argonauts”, the scene with Talos is freakin’ OUTSTANDING.
Q: I know that many people (myself included) have urged you to try to make some money at this. Is this something you have ever considered, and if so, why have you chosen not to do it?
A: I actually did do some commercial artwork like textures, materials, some models (*not* Spelljammer of course! but sci-fi spacehips etc), but my health’s too bad, stress is pure poison for me, as any artist knows, doing stuff for OTHER people is completely different – it puts tons of stress on you and is often NOT fun
So didn’t do it for long, sigh.
Used to write up, purely for fun and to help others, tutorials and tips on 3D, even invented a 3D art technique 🙂
Q: You’ve made it no secret that you struggle with a disability, and that sometimes this interferes with your ability to do your art. Could you tell us a bit about that?
A: This illness is a *nightmare*
maybe best for the article to just say:
“it’s like the damn Flu, FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, sick, aching muscles etc, with hormone problems, lot of pain that can get truly terrible, varies due to weather, cognitive difficulties and a permanent headache that can flare up into migraines.”
and leave it at that
I can still laugh, chat etc, because that’s what I’m like: garrulous, humorous etc.
But I’m about worn down to the end.
I’ve had kidney stones, meningitis, been fried by redhot steel and other crap, so I know what pain and suffering is like, this is M.E. is a real nightmare though because it doesn’t end 😦
(no real point going on about such as it’s long, involved, and really does involve a “conspiracy” and most folk refuse to believe such exists…until they get their ass steamrollered by one, don’t mind chatting about such but not really what folk want to read about when talking of art/D&D etc)
Q: Tell us a bit about the process of creating your work! Let’s say you have a new idea for an image. Take us through the process (as much as you’re willing and able)
A: How do I make an image? Oh, that varies enormously!
Sometimes I have no idea, I’m just monkeying around with a model, or trying to learn a new technique and…”oh! that looks nice!” and I make an image from it. :p
Building the ships is very …hm, organized. I take the ship deckplans and artwork and use those to layout curves to describe the layout, kind of like draughtsmanship then I use those curves to build the ship, it’s pretty complex and hard work just for sitting on yer ass :p wears me out to heck nowadays.
I start with the basics, try to spot problems and fix those early before they mess things up, as trying to fix it later will be HUGELY difficult if not impossible or need complete rebuild; often the original designers didn’t get some things, like putting stairs the wrong way or such.
A lot of the time, I “cheat” :p whole point of CGI is doing things easily that would be a huge amount of work to paint or draw once I build a ship, texture it (put the colours on), I save it, and can just copy/paste it into any scene there after! 😉 save tons of effort.
Also I can use Photoshop to do lot of things, like a space background with planets, hence I did the “Man-O-War ~ Cloaked” image in few hours, just using one of my pre-rendered “transparent” images, then making it look good in Photoshop and building a quick background.
I’m a sneaky bastich! :p
I’d do a hell of a lot more but, I don’t just play video games or read books for pleasure, they are escape, pain killers and as said art wears me out. I don’t want to end up using morphine for pain relief.
Another thing about art is it is…wearing, draining/upsetting it can be. Artists take their work very seriously in terms of caring about it/worry, so we’re always our own worst critics, and with this illness, critiques etc even though genuine and maybe even insightful, ramp the stress up…oi vay
Like constantly being dialled into a torture apparatus: stress, weather, infections, medicines (reactions to them), bright light etc = turns the dial up….
I used Rhino3D to build ships, and Vue Infinite for most scenes I render. Postwork is done in Photoshop, I use a lot of “brushes” and plugins to get effects also a special program, doh! (can’t recall name at moment, that does special effects). Note folks: I OWN these and many other programs legitimately. I don’t smoke almost never drink, haven’t been a holiday in 20 years, can’t go out on the town etc etc, hence what little money I have goes on art and books/D&D 🙂
Q: So what’s your favourite Spelljammer ship and why?
A: Favourite ship…for looks, the Man-O-War, it’s gorgeous!! 🙂 The cover of the Spelljammer boxed set is classic.
For ship to use: Squidship 🙂
Q: How about your favourite Spelljammer race? And do you play that race when you play?
A: Favourite race, oh, I like the hadozee, but the Giff rock, omg, those guys are pure class! 😉
Lot of folk shy from Spelljammer due to the humour/oddity, I adore it, when things are bad, that’s when you NEED humour, and with mind flayers running entire planets…! The big, bombastic, blustering giff are a tonic 🙂
Q: What would you describe as your crowning achievement as an artist?
A: crowning artistic achievement, oh…difficult
Well I’d say two of my images really pleased me
Drow Ambusher dark version, they really please me 🙂
Also been mentioned in books and magazines (Vue 7 book, Dragon magazine, and 3D world magazine, and on E-On Software’s picture of the day)
Also, think it was Chris Perkins of WOTC who liked my Spelljammer work and sent me a message about it 🙂
Q: Can I encourage you to give us a sneak peak at some of the things you’re currently working on?
A: Nothing I’m working on at moment, usually I go into a flurry and do an image in a day or two, except very complex ones like “Docks of Bral” which took me a while to build up all the items.
Need to recover from all the work on the Great Bombard (got ideas though) 😉
Q: Any final thoughts to add?
A: Thoughts? SPELLJAMMER RULES! 😉