Today the Dragon Wins

"Today the Dragon Wins" offers information from Fantasy Author and Professional Editor Sandy Lender. You'll also find dragons, wizards, sorcerers, and other fantasy elements necessary for a fabulous story, if you know where to look...

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Sandy Lender is the editor of an international trade publication and the author of the fantasy novels Choices Meant for Gods and Choices Meant for Kings, available from ArcheBooks Publishing, and the series-supporting chapbook, What Choices We Made.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Megan Discusses Research Methods for Artists
Or…here are some ideas for keeping concepts at hand

The Dragon continues the interview with artist Megan Kissinger, focusing on research methods for artists to have in their arsenal. Over the years, Sandy has worked with artists who had literally dozens of horizontal file cabinets filled with line art, photographs, images, etc. Some artists were more organized than others with their filing systems… Some artists graduated to the way-too-expensive $200 and $500 and whatever-dollar CDs of images and online warehouses like Getty Images and Corvis. Today, Megan shares her system.

The Dragon: The illustrations you create for the Ft. Myers News Press are a world away from the art I asked you to create for the interior of Choices Meant for Gods. In the newspaper, your subject matter can be anything from butterflies to houses to sports. How do you research your subject matter for the real-world elements demanded of you at the News Press and how is that research method the same as or different from the research you did when you created the map of Onweald and its peripheral pieces?

Megan Kissinger: So far the illustrations that I do come in three categories:
1. Illustrations for graphics that the paper produces to aid the understanding of an article. An example would be last week’s illustration of the anatomy of a giant squid that went along with the article that ran on the discovery of giant squids in the Atlantic ocean. I was basically given the job of illustrating it as close to reality as I could within the time span and space given. What you might call quick and (hopefully) not too dirty.
2. Illustrations that I do for lead articles (the center spread of the front page of a section.) These are planned out a little more in advance with anywhere from two days to three weeks notice. I work with the reporter, the section editor, and the artistic editor. The finished product is still my creation but only after many changes and input from them. This is an example where computer illustration is so versatile. I can make changes to the layers, the colors, and the textures. Not so easy with traditional art.
3. Presentation graphics (my favorite) large, two-page, heavily illustrated articles that I usually research and write myself. The secret is to let the pictures tell the story with a short introduction and breakout text boxes to explain the illustrations in depth. I just finished one of a four-part series on the constellations and night sky events in Spring. This will be followed by three more in Summer, Fall, and Winter.

Research methods vary, but basically Google image search has replaced the old traditional picture file an artist used to keep. Now I save images that may be helpful to my work and bring four or five up on the computer desktop as reference. The library is another valuable resource…better often than Google because the internet usually has no editors making sure everything you read is correct. It’s amazing the amount of bad information there is out there. Finally, field work is great, a good excuse to get out of the office, too.

All of the research for Onweald was already done by you, Sandy. If you remember all those months ago, the illustration began with a handdrawn map written on a crumply piece of blue-lined paper. I took it home and produced a larger thumbnail sketch on tracing paper that was then edited for mistakes and additions. I think we went through this process about three times until we had the basic land mass done in pen and ink. I read all of the Lord of the Rings books as a kid and was shooting for something similar to Middle Earth. Then there was the challenge of making sure the geography jived with the story. This was the part where Sandy had to travel to my studio with a plate of brownies and we spent one day and another evening moving the swamps, mountains, rivers, and twons around until we got it right. Then there were a few calls at midnight from Sandy saying, “Oh my God! Pesch Dell is at the base of the mountains but it’s also on the river! Can you move it a little to the East?”
(The compass rose above is one of Megan's peripheral pieces from the map of Onweald now published in Choices Meant for Gods.)

The Dragon: How would you guide a new artist who was interested in finding research sites or material for the more lucrative (paying) markets in the real world?

Megan Kissinger: Lucrative markets! Where? What is this real-world thing? As far as I know, art only pays well for a fraction of a percent of all the artists out there. Money can be made but to be well paid requires a great deal of skill, work, and, most of all, dumb luck.

The interview with Megan continues tomorrow…
“Some days, I just want the dragon to win.”
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