To anyone who is an aficionado of Dark Fantasy or gaming Tom Baxa is a household name. His uncanny art has illustrated the likes of Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, World of Warcraft tcg, Darksun, L5R, Shadowrun, miniatures and many more. He was kind enough to give us a few moments of his time to discuss his craft and his new book Blood Rituals: The Art of Tom Baxa
A) When I was a senior in college getting my degree in Illustration, I started sending out samples of my work to various game and comic companies. I was so excited to get a call from the art director at Dragon Magazine saying that he wanted to publish one of my portfolio pieces. It was a pen and ink drawing of a wizard fighting a demon, and it happened to fit one of the articles that month. That was my first published piece.
From there, I kept sending samples and follow up samples to all kinds of companies. But once I had my foot in the door at Dragon, I kept “pestering” the AD until he gave me an assignment proper. Once I got my first job, that’s when I felt like I was on my way to being a pro.
A) As a working illustrator, a degree doesn’t really mean much. If you work is strong, and you are professional and meet your deadlines, that’s all that matters. For an Art Director job or some art management positions it may be more important.
However where going to college is invaluable is all the hours you spend focusing on your craft, being exposed to new ideas, learning a variety of techniques,etc. Being around other artists is stimulating and teaches you a lot as well. I always valued my fine art classes where I wasn’t allowed to do illustrative type work at all; it taught me a lot about other ways to express through art besides the story element inherent in illustration work.
I highly recommend college or some form of art education.
A) One of the biggest things is the shift from black and white art to all color, all the time. Back in the day, it was cheaper to print in b+w, so you had to be good at pen and ink line drawing. Then with the rise of the computer, it become easier and easier to do layout, graphic design, and digital full color printing at a fraction of the time and cost. So nowadays you pretty much have to do full color art for everything. And the level of quality keeps going up, so you have to put in more time and detail to fit into the market. Sad thing is, is that the pay rates really haven’t gone up much.
Q) You have worked on a lot of properties in your career, are they any creations you would like to stab at that you have not had the opportunity?
A) No, not really. I’m much more interested in developing my own properties – it’s much more exciting and creatively rewarding to work on your own ideas, rather than someone elses.
I would like to do more concept art for films. That’s pretty cool.
A) Again, as I develop my own stuff, the plan is to carry it into other mediums like film or comics. It’s coming.
Q) I saw at one point you had decided to attempt do a 99 paintings in 99 days, what lessons good and bad did that project teach you?
A) 99 paintings had some very specific goals. Some were met, some were not. The idea was to do one small painting a day and sell them for $99. If I sold a little over half in a month, I would make rent, not have to take jobs and focus on writing my novel, which was the number one goal – work on the novel. Ultimately what ended up happening was that doing one painting, photographing it, uploading it to my site and Facebook and my Blog, etc., was more time consuming than anticipated, and I wasn’t writing everyday as planned as a result. That’s ultimately why I stopped at 47. I’ve always intended on starting up again – we’ll see.
It was very cool though, because I was experimenting a lot and just playing with paint (and pixels). I had a blast and it generated some art. I also found that I was doing a lot of head shots, so the series felt a bit the same.
A) My website www.BaxaArt.com has tons of art to look at, and the BaxaArt Store has original art, prints, artist proofs, a Gnomon instructional dvd about painting, ebooks and more for sale. You can also buy a signed copy of my artbook, Blood Rituals: The Art of Tom Baxa, which if chock full of all my best work. Check it out!
Final four (questions we ask all interviewees)
When the zombies take over the world where will you be?
Silly question: Eating the spleen of some jerk off politician!
Jedi, Ninja, vampire, were-wolf, pirate, fairy or Spartan?
What one piece of art, be it music, book, film or picture, do you think people must experience before they die?
One of the best books ever is Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way. Excellent book on recognizing all the blocks we have in place that keep us from achieving our goals.
Give one fact that most people would not believe about you?
I listen to progressive metal most of the time, but I also like Celine Dion.