Lloyd Metcalf Inc.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Does Illustration Matter?

If you think maybe Art doesn't sell, and has no effect on your printed book, game module, or product, think again.

Ask a Dungeons and Dragons player to describe in detail a mind flayer, Goblin or beholder and they can use any book they like.
While they talk watch what happens. Their eyes do not scan the page for words, not the paragraph on the subject, not the place-holder in the text.... but an image, a piece of art is where their attention rests.
The gamer will dart his eyes down and up well over a dozen or more times to get through about 10 sentences of descriptive language.
He / she is not reading text, they are looking at the illustration that interpreted the text. They recognized the section they needed that held the monster in the text by recognizing the artwork.
The more engaging the artwork, the more engaging you will find the description become.

Why is it important to game and fantasy writers to try this?
In the web design world it's what we might consider a usability study of a page. Just to sit aside, and record where a visitor looks, what they read, and where they click.
Without directing a reader and user of your product let them have a round of the text without art and it becomes apparent as you sit at the table what happens. Quietly play through your module as someone else is reading and presenting without art. Don't interrupt, don't re-describe your vision for encounters. You won't be sitting at every table after you publish.
The game changes dramatically with no art, and even different artistic interpretations of the exact same text will change the game. Just pop in a couple stick drawings in the text, all with round heads and funny faces, an play through again, it will be a new game.

If I type the name Kitiara, or Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Raistlin etc.... do you immediately recall passages of text from the great writers who created the names, or are you conjuring first artwork of Larry Elmore and his interpretations of dragons and hourglass eyes?
Make no mistake, Weis and Hickman were the creators of those characters, breathed life into them, made them talk, feel and interact with the world, but when someone thinks of those characters, they are thinking in Elmore imagery before they talk.

Now think of the importance of Rich "Uncle" Pennybags to sales of a product. Don't recognize the name in type? What if I said "The Monopoly Man" who looks like J P Morgan? How important is that little piece of art to sales? How many millions of times has that drawing been reproduced and printed? He is an American Icon. Sadly, no one really knows who the original artist was.

How much impact can a little illustration have on people?
Fred Mizen, an artist / illustrator in 1930 who managed to get a one off job painting a sign for a department store to pay his bills.
Oh, you don't don't know the name?
That's ok, most people don't and I had to google it myself.

Describe to yourself, or your kids Santa Clause.

You just described Fred Mizens interpretation, and you possibly have described it to children many times over. Fred Painted the first modern Santa that was rotund, jolly, wearing a red suit.... and... drinking a Coke over the worlds largest soda fountain. Prior to that he was smaller, occasionally gaunt, elf like, a little scary and paranormal. The Saturday evening Post, and later Macy's printed Freds art, and the world was changed.

When an illustration appears in text it is referred to in description, big deal!! Big deal indeed. Especially in Fred's case, and that of role-playing games and fantasy. In these situations it is left to the responsibility of one person describing to others how something or someone looks, what the mood of their setting is, how they interact with the world and how to relate to them. one person tells others.
When the others read that text, the imagery used to describe that scenario is reproduced when they look at the text. They will likely re-tell it again, continuing to use the image they see, their past experiences with it (described from another looking at the art), and the new things they see on closer inspection will be added.
Retold to 3 to 5 people a dozen times using a single image and a certain "expectation" becomes solidified as how something should look. How would you react to a waif thin, sunken eyed, elf draped in animal furs sneaking into your house? That would be the old Santa, not Raistlin sneaking into your bedroom.

So buy art for your writing, buy it often, and consider the value and impact it will have. Treat your artists well and they will strive to make sure your product lives in the memory of people for the long run. They will happily associate their images with your brilliant writing. Slapping in the wrong art, or no art, or even worse... MS office CLIP ART (yes, I have seen it).. will get your product passed over by the readers regardless of the writing quality.

~Lloyd M

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Warm ups can be good too

What I do before I start

Sometimes before I sit down to the Cintiq (which is still a new thing to me) or a canvas, I will do some loose doodles to loosen up and warm up.
So the other day was no exception. I came home from a full day of work and sat down with my dinner salad to get into another few hours of illustration. I popped open a small image, roughly 1,000px x 800px and started scribbling around with various brushes in a set I had discovered.
At first black on white, then not liking that, I went with a Chiaroscuro technique of making everything Sienna and burnt umber.
I set the scribble aside and started working, but kept coming back to it. Right before my eyes there were things appearing that demanded splashes of light.
Well into the painting I realized that it was 1K x 800 at 72 dpi. tiny in size. So up blew the image and in went the detail, and here is the result.
Still a little impressionistic in nature, but I like the feel and energy. Wasn't sure what to do with it, but the Gnome will take it for future projects.
This note I leave to myself and others.... even on warm up start as if it will go to print. or "Res up" early in the process. Doing it later increased the work load on the drawing.
Lesson learned, now back to work!!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Friday, July 5, 2013

Whisper and Venom a WINNER!

Whisper and Venom is completely funded, and then some. Over 400%.
Now the REAL work begins and it's all going to get put together into an EPIC box set. It's mostly there, but there is still a lot of art and work to do!! What a run, thanks to all who backed it!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Whisper and Venom

I have illustrated this project extensively, pick it up, share it, check it out... but support it as best you can :)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lesser Gnome Kicking Off

In 7 little days the Lesser Gnome Kickstarter  project goes live. Supporting this, even at a dollar or two level is supporting my illustration ambitions. (I have A LOT of artwork in there) and The head gnome has been forking over cash to keep me working and get stuff done! Pay him back!
You can go to the Facebook page, like it, enter the Gno Contest at:
to win FREE minis, gaming geek stuff before the launch even happens!

Success in producing this box set means more in the future. So support the page, like the stuff, and dust off your wallet, even just a little at launch time!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


No good classic feeling RPG would be complete without at least a few zombies. Often over-looked as are kobolds and goblins, zombies may not be getting a fair shake in your campaign.
Take a look at all the zombies on TV and in the movies. They are an infection, an inescapable plague that can ruin entire civilizations, but in RPG's they are often a simple level one or two monsterthat gets hacked and everyone moves on, unphased.
Re-think the next zombie a little more, give them a bite that makes more zombies.... seen here, what if the water gets infected?
Keep players on their toes by using the basic creatures to their full potential.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013

A return to Old School

At the  Request of Lesser Gnome (more on this story later)  and a few others,  I went back to paper, pencils, and pens. People like that old school D&D feel, and why not?
It has been fun and I have really enjoyed the trip. I think I will keep turning these over for a while now.
I will post more later, and more Lesser Gnome news as it comes up!

After these last posts, I will be waiting for the purchaser to post or publish the images first.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The start of the landscapes

Rulers Aerie
Starting to consider landscape possibilities. Not much commentary, but stay tuned as I get this stuff together.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Gary Con V "A Life Well Played"

The Last Day

Saturday was very busy. I started early and ended late. I played "Tower of Gygax" with a few young fellas at the table. They may have been somewhere between 10 and 12, but their over excitement at the table was good to see. I didn't care that the Druid tried to pick some pockets or the bumbling around. We were all smiling, and their enthusiasm is something I hope will last as long as mine has.
I had a Chance to steal Diesel "DSL", Dave LaForce for an hour or so and talk about digital art, the Wacom, Photoshop and how I work. soo... no pressure.


I grabbed a game of Gigantic with Chris Clark. An outrageously fun game that I NEED to get a copy of, where you play classic character types on a sinking legendary cruise ship.
We got to talk a little "business" afterward about Eldritch enterprises and how they work with artists. Next week I will have the contract signed, and you can say hello to the newest member of the art team of Eldritch. I am not sure if everyone is aware of who is involved with Eldritch, but it is a core group of Dungeons and Dragons old guard members. There isn't a ton of money involved, but I can do whatever I like with the images I give them and this has nothing to do with money for me. They have found a contract that is smart and gives everyone maximum creativity.
What does that all mean?
That means, cross a life long dream off my list.

The over -all

I met a bunch of the Gygax family, a bunch of the originators of RPG's, a bunch of artists, game designers, players, young and old. I didn't come across a single person I didn't like. I TRULY wish I had come with a few hundred bucks to blow. When I realized Elise Cousino (Gygax) (Every D&D old school player's dream girl ;)) was auctioning off her chainmail top that really is a piece of D&D history, I realized a fella should come to the auction with a full bank account. There were some other UBER collectible pieces in the auction that all the family and friends had donated to help Ernie recover from a fire. I hope they made a mint for him.
No one charges for signatures, and everyone came in honor of Gary Gygax Sr. "A Life Well Played"
I would especially like to thank Luke Gygax for letting me illustrate the module for the convention he wrote with Jim Ward and REALLY opening the door for me to get my feet wet and get everyone's attention right off the bat. I look forward to many more projects with him and TSR whenever they pop up for me.
I would also like to thank everyone who looked at my portfolio, talked with me, and gave their thoughts. Lastly, everyone who rolled dice with me and sat at the gaming tables.
This was truly a trip to remember and one I will never forget. It may have strained the purse strings this year, but was worth every cent, every moment.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Gary Con V day II

Another Exciting Day

I started out Day two thinking I had a 10 AM game with Frank Mentzer. It was changed at some point, after I noticed my ticket it said 2:00PM. I had Wings at the bar for lunch and saw that the time on my computer was about 2:00pm.
I packed up and headed to the table. Frank was there, and I said, " I'm the first one?"
My computer was still on Eastern time and I was an hour early.
A lucky hour it was. Frank took the time to tell me, "You have been all over the place at this con, talking to all the artists, showing everyone your work, networking with all the right people and being seen everywhere. You are doing everything exactly as you should be if you want to get noticed in this business."
Forgive me Frank, I may be paraphrasing your words to me in that quote. He followed it up by offering encouraging words to keep it up and telling me,"I think you have what it takes!"
I guess that last part will be the part I remember the most.
So the rest of the group showed up eventually and we went into gaming. Frank's module was one that mimicked almost exactly the Salem witch trials, complete with New England style "directions" to get to someones house. It was a heavy in roleplay game. We were attacked early on by some wild barbaric dwarves and after capturing a few, my LN priest had some struggles with just killing them off, and made extra efforts to treat with them.
Frank had the above card created by troll lords from Lake Geneva Gaming Con IV from 2008 (Gary's last one). He awarded it to me for my clerical role play!!
He was kind enough to sign it, and my old beat-up over used book of Marvelous Magic. I had him personalize it to me. While this makes it not so valuable to a collector, it makes it invaluable to me!

More Good stuff!

Earlier in the day I met Diesel and Jeff Easley again in the vendor area. I started looking through original art that Diesel had on display, as I flipped through I recognized such artwork as that in the Monster Manual, the Bugbear, swanmay, and a bunch of other pieces. It was really nice to be able to touch the art that went into the work.
I was looking through Jeff Easley's artwork, and was telling him what an admirer I have always been. I told him my budget was very tight this year, but I wanted some of his pen and ink work, but I would have to wait for next year. I asked him what sort of price range he needed for some of the work, and he thought he could let go of some for $20!! I couldn't believe my ears, ran to the ATM and told him I had $40, and wanted him to choose what he would let me have for that. He flipped through and was unsure about the $40 mark, but he said anything here or here, pointing to some of his work... I said,"What about that beholder, I really like it."
"Oh, that's a comp I did for a possible poster layout, I would take $20 for that, so he was very kind and I left with two original Easley works that I REALLY like!!

A Chris Clark moment

 Earlier in the Con I had met Chris Clark, and got to show him my portfolio. If you don't recognize these names, don't feel too bad, but google around a little and you will find these "Old Guard" names related to Dungeons and Dragons.
Well, I apparently got more of his attention when I got to sit at his gaming table and was drawing a picture of my half orc cleric, "I need your card!" he said and I knew we would be talking soon enough about artwork going into the Eldritch Modules.
I left him a picture I doodled of his carnivorous chipmunk so he wouldn't forget.

Ode to Gary

In the downstairs gaming room, I came across an empty seat. "Reserved for the Original DM Gary Gygax" I felt a little downcast for a moment that I would never get to cross "Have Gary Gygax be my DM" off my bucket list. His old friends have filled his shoes well though, and I have been honored to put my feet under their dice laden tables this week.

Whew!!! and this is only day 2! the busy day will be tomorrow!!

I have no idea how I will pay my mortgage this month, but this trip has been worth while every step of the way!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gary Con V Day one

 Getting Started at Gary Con

Everything was going smooth to start my trip off. I woke up early, double checked my bags, had a nice bagel and a couple cups of coffee and was running through my head everything I had to do to make my trip from Maine to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the birthplace of Dungeons and Dragons and RPG's in general.
I got to the airport and my flight was delayed before I even got on the plane. So for 3 and a half hours I opened up my laptop and did some final tweaks on Luke Gygax's flyers for his module which I had illustrated the interior and cartography.
My life is on my laptop, my art, and everything I planned on doing. Imagine my terror when the stewardess told me they would have to check my carry on, My laptop and all, to the underside of the plane on this small plane. I had images of brute tossing my precious  cargo like gorillas on a samsonite commercial.
It survived.
My connection in Detroit began boarding at 7:10 and we got to the gate at 7:13. I am not sure if I can emphasize how far Detroits' gate A49 is from gate C26, but suffice it to say that my hurried state from one to another was something remarkable. Somehow, I made it as they were boarding. Onboard, everyone seemed to have puts big bags where they didn't belong, and there was no room for my precious cargo again... and it was officially "checked". OHHH the panic as I let go of my life, portfolio, and art to someone elses hands.
In Milwaukee, everything survived!! From this point on - everything would be smooth!
Until the rental car company decided they neeeded to put and extra $200 hold on my credit card. No idea how I didn't hear about this.

 At Lake Geneva Resort

I came into the resort and immediately recognized my roommate Jeremy and shook his hand. Then he thought it would be funny to flip his badge over and say, "Hi, I'm Steve.." The exhaustion of travel sent me spinning and saying, "Ok... Hi Steve..."
Before I even checked in, ten minutes through the door Frank Mentzer was flipping through my portfolio and commenting on the pieces he liked, and how he liked to know that digital artists could also work in traditional media, Colleen was right! We talked about OGL and copyright info for module printing and I immediately was struck by how good this weekend would be. Frank is a very charismatic articulate speaker and was freely sharing his experience. HE took a card and I am pretty sure that somewhere between himself and Jim Ward we will be talking about maybe getting some work in some Eldritch modules.

The lodge was warm and inviting, the staff friendly and there was plenty to do. I WAS STARVING!! that bagel at 8:00 AM was a long time a go.
A run to Burger king and we were in action again. We grabbed a board game of "Ticket to Ride" and a drink and had a late night. Jeremy and I sat up talking about the Con, the games and what we would do.
I checked my schedule and saw I had an Old school D&D game with Tim Kask in the morning at 10:00. The first old school TSR employee, if I recall correctly, and legendary editor and DM.

 The next morning I got my badge and a little extra gear before breakfast and I found Tim's table and sat down to a good old school D&D module "Curse of the Weaver" sold by Eldritch. A fun story, a solid module and a fun game.

 Tim Kask (Behind the screen)

Tim worked his way through the module with the group. His first game of Gary Con V. I felt my character was dominating the social situation, and along toward the wrap up time, my character made a slightly rash decision and charged into a giant lizard (That may have been wounded) instead of fleeing.
This started the trend, and Tim enacted a coupe de gras and finished up the game a TPK (Total Party Kill) It was a good game, lots of fun, and The Curse of the Weaver is a great module.

After this I attended a seminar talk by Frank Mentzer about his time with Gary Gygax. It was both enlightening and entertaining. It was more of a "Let's all sit around Frank and listen to his tale" than a seminar really, it was just the title he chose for the talk.
Some Chinese take out and a nap was in order... and there we are.
The portfolio and artwork has all been well received, Luke bought me a drink and chatted a while this evening and SO many good things are happening. I really feel my work has a place in all this somewhere, and it's coming together. Not to mention the fun!
Tomorrow morning I sit in on Frank Mentzers D&D adventure, notes and photos will happen.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Warming up for the con

When Raptors Fly

There always seems to be a shortage of time when it comes to preparing for a trip or some such thing, but I have really made an effort to keep focused on what I love to do.
So when I get home at night from working on a computer all day, it is sometimes a little difficult to turn the computer back on, and paint. but, it's paint time, not work time.
A little ginger tea and the old Wacom get warmed up and I have to remind myself to get some sleep.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Gary Con Bound

Chronicles of an Adventure

Tomorrow, I will roll my D20 in memory of E Gary Gygax Sr. Who's XP exceeded the level limit on March 4th 2008.
I will be attending Gary Con in Lake Geneva Wi. from March 13th to March 18th, a gaming convention put together by his friends and family in memory of the fella that changed the way we roll dice and tell stories.
So book mark this page, as I intend on TRYING to get to the blog to update with photos, events, and "whatever happens" as it all progresses day by day!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A double whammy!

It has been quite some time since I have updated the old blog, which also updates the front of the website.
Shame on me... but this is good news, it means work is coming in to keep Ol' Spratt' busy.

To reward your patience, Enjoy a couple pieces that I recently have finished.
A monacled Goblin. Maybe a little contradictory, but I was thinking perhaps the monacle might be an object of "true seeing" or perhaps "Treasure finding", and this character seems to just create his own backstory just looking at the image.

The second is the Flesh Xorn. A creature related to the Xorn, but from the plane of flesh (or some such similar place). The problem with resizing things for blogs and web, is the loss of detail.
I particularly enjoyed working on the mouth parts for this one, and they are lost on the wide angle view.
I am not sure where I will use this creature, but I assure you, it will be a rather uncomfortable encounter.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Just a little Kobold

I'm a little kobold, short and stout, here is my priestess, She'll take your party out!
Yes, The module will create a healthy respect of the always overlooked Kobold.
Things are looking exciting!

Friday, January 11, 2013


I haven't updated since before the holidays. I have not forgotten, but have been busy.
http://www.failsquad.com is up and running and we are trying to get a couple mini modules out before GaryCon in March.
To keep on top of other news, there have been a couple of illustration distractions and some 9-5 developments.
So now it is time to get back on the arts train!!