Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this blog, I want to state that the examples of art that East Coast Trolls do not own are used under the Fair Use Doctrine.
Fair use is copying copyrighted material for a limited and "transformative" purpose, such as commenting upon, criticizing, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner.
Art is one of the cornerstones of a quality D&D publication. It hasn't always been that way. The original Gary Gygax Orcs from 1977 looked like "pig men" (Gygax, Copyright 1977 TSR Games). At the time, journalist and future Fiend Folio editor Don Turnbull said, "I can do no more than heap high praise on the Monster Manual. If every DM and every player didn't buy it, I would be very surprised. It is, without doubt, the best thing that TSR has produced so far." (Turnbull, Don (August–September 1978). "The Open Box, The Monster Manual." White Dwarf (8): 16–17.) The bar was not very high.
Leap forward more than forty years. Nerds now rule the world, and we have high standards! The pigmen from the last century are gone, replaced with the evolved Orc. This example is from DnDBeyond (retrieved 5.2021) and illustrates how WoC portrays an Orc. There are countless variations on the Orc, ranging from homebrews and fan art to adaptations and portrayals from the Peter Jackson films and video games like World of Warcraft. These new orcs are more than just an illustration; they are the visual interpretation of the storyteller inexorably tied to the world and the plot.
A project as large as the Copernia Campaign World and the Oakhaven Anthology requires a lot of artwork. I would venture to say that the art is on par with the high-quality narrative in order of importance. Developing this art is a collaborative process between the Illustrator and the writer. I thought I would provide you with a visual walk-through of one of our latest efforts.
The process does not happen overnight, especially for East Coast Trolls. Our challenges are not limited to a need for consistent communication and issues of language and time zones. East Coast
Trolls currently work with Artists on five continents. Only two of our current artists are native English speakers. Sometimes we have to rewrite an explanation two or three times before effectively communicating everything from concept to details.
The artist in our example is Deryl Arrazaq from Indonesia. We have worked with Dareyl on two pieces so far, what we call "feature art." By our definition feature, art is an entire page or a two-page spread. The art is used to start a chapter, illustrate a major storyline or
character element, and be the cover art for a book.
We begin our process by selecting the artist whose style is best for the subject matter. We provide the artist with a document we call "Imagery for Artists." That document can be one to three pages in length and provides a detailed description of the subject matter, backstory, and place in the story inline. If we think it's necessary, we provide examples from the narrative.
After the artist has a chance to digest the material we have provided, we usually go through a Q&A period. Sometimes it helps us work through the language barriers by providing reference images. We are never looking to copy an image. We use them to help illustrate a particular concept or detail critical to the end product we are looking for.
The next step is a series of concept sketches. Daryel provides us with basic poses and angles, eventually working through composition, lighting, and coloring samples. Sometimes we nail it on the first pass, and sometimes it takes a few tries. A critical element to the collaboration is the flexibility of our own opinions and imagery. I have been creating and playing in this world for forty-plus years. I have a very distinct picture in my head of every last image. Sometimes the artist's interpretation is better than the picture in my head. It can be hard to let go, but it is necessary to bring you the best World and Adventures.
The last step is what I call nitpicking! It's like proofreading a paper. We look at the illustration individually and as a group. We discuss what we don't like. At this stage, what we want is already well communicated. We sleep on it. We should do that all the time but honestly skip that step sometimes. Then we take a fresh look, send all the comments back to the artist or tell them what a killer job they did!
The finished art goes into the files. Sometimes we use it in our social media teasers; sometimes, we want to keep it a secret until we launch the Kickstarter or publish the book. Regardless of the time and method of the illustrations release, we always credit the artist for each piece individually. If the art is published digitally or online, we provide links to the artist's portfolio and social media sites. We have a symbiotic relationship. They help us create this incredible fantasy world, and we try to help them further themselves in this world. If you like what you see in our books, please support our artists in the future.
About the Illustration.
This 2D Digital painting is titled "The Twins." The subject matters are the god and goddess brother and sister Forst and Síðast. She is the Sun goddess of dawn and childbirth. Forst is the patron and protector of infants and small children. She is present as each new life is born into the world. She has beauty beyond compare, and the Titan A'chiad is smitten with her. Síðast (LN) is the Sun God of Dusk and Death. Like his sister, his appearance is striking and ageless. His long black cloak is representative of the slowly creeping night into which all life eventually subsides. He arrives as death is inevitable to set the soul on the road to the afterlife. Together they represent the start and end of the day as well as the start and end of life.