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Q&A with Clyde Caldwellby DMPexx
Below is the Email Q&A we did a while back with Clyde Caldwell with our Discord group. Hope you all enjoy it.
He asked for this link to go with the Q&A: clydecaldwell.com
Was the inspiration behind Castle Caldwell, both the dungeon and owner of said castle that wanted it cleared out? Module B9
I wasn't actually involved in the game design aspect of 'Castle Caldwell and Beyond', though one of the designers named the module after me since I was doing the cover art. I guess it was just an inside joke. Supposedly one of the characters in the module originally was going to be named "Clyde Caldwell", but the TSR legal staff wouldn't allow it. Since I never actually read the module, that's all I know about that.
Keelan Halvorsen Oh this is so exciting! I as a 22 year old aspiring content creator would like to ask:
From the perspective of your own artistic career, having watched the RPG community grow into its current state. How much would you say the "Tone" and "Vibe" of RPG artwork has changed, and how has that affected you as an artist?
Never having been a gamer, just a fantasy artist who did covers in the RPG field for quite a few years, I haven't paid much attention to the RPG community since the early 90's. I really don't know much about the current "tone" and/or "Vibe" of the RPG artwork. I've always preferred a more realistic representation in the fantasy artwork I like, and I've noticed that some of the artwork for newer RPG product has been somewhat more stylized and "cartoony"...reminding me more of children's book illustration than the fantasy art I loved growing up and as a young artist. Not to say that's bad or anything negative...it's just a bit different from my own taste in fantasy art. I can appreciate some of the artwork I've seen, but much of it misses the mark for me personally.
I stopped taking on book cover assignment work a few years back for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons was that I have always hated deadlines, and as I've gotten older, it was harder for me to deal with the "dread deadline doom". But another reason was that political correctness had seeped into the fabric of book cover art. As a younger artist, I figured I had my whole career ahead of me, so any assignment that came along was fine with me. As I got older, I began to see a finite limit on the number of paintings I was going to be able to produce, and not being a politically correct kind of guy, I didn't want to waste my time doing artwork that wasn't of interest to me. So I opted to concentrate more on private commission work. No deadlines, and much of it not so politically correct.
What does the future of RPG artwork look like from the standpoint of such a well-respected Creator?
I really have no idea. I'm sad to see that photo-manipulated photoshop digital work has taken over much of book cover design in recent years. I'm not as familiar with the RPG artwork.
Do you think the newer and younger RPG fans would be turned off by B&W ink compared to the vibrant full-color standards of today?
I'm not sure about this one either, but I would be sad if that were the case. I was always a fan of b&w work in general, and of nicely done, b&w ink work in particular. It would be sad if that died out entirely in the field. I grew up reading comic books, and really loved the old Warren b&w comic magazines and the old EC comics MAD Magazine. I think that was where my appreciation of fine ink work developed.
If so do you believe it is past the point of revival when considering its appeal to consumers?
I guess everything has its day. Since more and more artwork is produced digitally, and printing methods have improved to the point that almost any medium can be easily reproduced, b&w line work's time may have passed as a major medium as far as the mass media market illustration is concerned. It became popular because it was easy to reproduce on cheap paper. Now it would need to be appreciated on its artistic merits...which are considerable. But people seem to always opt for color over b&w when available.
At what ratio does the presence of elf butt increase popularity of artwork?
I'm not sure how to answer that one. I've always thought that the quality of the artwork was the most important thing. If you have a really nice cover painting that captures the essence of the material being illustrated, that usually is what people respond to. If it's a bad cover painting showing a lot of skin, I don't think the amount of skin shown adds much to the appeal of the artwork.
With the so-called old school Renaissance of role playing games along with an increasingly large demand to avoid showing skin, how do you balance old school art with modern-day artistic demands?
As with everything, times change. I grew up admiring artists like Frank Frazetta, Jeff Jones, Wallace Wood, Boris and many others who had a knack for portraying the female form. They worked in an age old artistic tradition. My approach to fantasy art has always been to primarily focus on characters, and I especially have always been drawn to strong, sexy female characters. I think every artist's work reflects the world in which he grows up. As time goes by, society's attitudes and artistic tastes change. So if today's consumers demand showing less skin, and the artists producing the work are cool with that, then more power to them. As an illustrator, you always have to work within the restrictions and requirements of the assignment.
Which one of the Mystara Gazetteers covers was your favorite?
I never really had one favorite. I like different ones for different reasons. However one of my favorites is 'The Minrothad Guilds'. I liked the way the main character stood out while the other characters systematically receded into the background. I thought that worked out pretty well, and it was hard for me to pull off. Another one of my favorites is 'The Shadow Elves'. It's basically a black & white painting, with just a few color accents. I liked the restrained color use on it and thought the final result was interesting.
What advice would you give to a new artist that is trying to balance realism and fantasy?
I always felt the trick to a successful fantasy painting was to make everything in the piece equally believable. I use models for the figures in my paintings and try to get as much reference for the rest as possible. However I have to rely on my imagination for everything that doesn't exist. Painting the elements that aren't real and making them just as believable as the rest of the painting is what makes everything click. Norman Rockwell once said something like, "Get reference for what you can and then make up the rest." I always thought that was good advice.
What is your favorite tool to use as an artist?
Paint Brush? Pencil? I don't do digital work, though use the computer in a number of ways when doing my preliminary work. It's made my process much easier, I have to admit.
What was your favorite piece you did for Mystara?
I covered that one above.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do as an artist?
Since I'm a slow painter, I'd say making deadlines. I always had to put in a lot of long hours to make deadlines.
Have you ever thrown away work because it didn’t live up to your standards?
As an illustrator, you don't often have that luxury. In most cases you just have to go with what you come up with and make the best of it. However, the way to avoid turning out work that you aren't happy with is to make sure you have a good, solid idea going in. Then build that idea into a good, solid drawing. That lays a good foundation for the painting, so you usually don't get into the middle of it and say, "this sucks!"
Have you ever had an opportunity that you wished you have had taken?
Most probably, but nothing comes to mind right off hand.
Do you use models for your work?
Yes. When I made up figures, I always felt they weren't as realistic as I wanted them to be. When I started using models, I was able to see details that I wouldn't have been able to make up, especially with lighting. That kicked my work up a notch.
Do you focus on one piece before moving onto the next or do you work on various projects at a time?
I usually start something and finish it before moving onto another project. However when I was working at TSR, sometimes I would work on one painting during the day and then another one at night.
How long does a typical piece take to complete?
An average painting used to take me about a month to six weeks to complete. I've done a few pieces in a much shorter period of time, others took somewhat longer. It just depends on the piece. Now I'm much slower, since I don't spend as much time drawing and painting as I used to.
Of your published work was there anything you are not proud of?
I'm sure every artist has produced paintings that didn't turn out as well as they would have liked. Much of my fanzine work was a learning experience and when a piece pops up now, I cringe. I always tried to do my best work within the constraints of the assignment. However some paintings were more successful than others.
What’s some advice you can give to new and current artist out there that has aided you over the years?
Always put your best foot forward. Play to your strengths, but don't be afraid to challenge yourself. You likely won't do a good painting if you start off with a bad drawing. Don't cut corners, put in the work.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Frank Frazetta is my all time favorite fantasy artist. Boris Vallejo, Jeff Jones, Sanjulian, Enric, Roy G. Krenkel, Wallace Wood, Will Elder, Bernie Wrightson, Gil Elvgren, just to name a few. The list is long...
Do you have any rituals while working or before you start a project? examples: Listening to music, drinking a certain beverage, go for a run etc…
I used to listen to music a lot, but now am just as likely to listen to talk radio during the week and listen to music when working on the weekend. I might drink a Diet Dew while working. I used to drink much more diet soda than I do nowadays, but still drink quite a bit.
What’s the longest you’ve ever worked on a piece?
Hard to say. I used to put in many hours in a workday. Now that I'm old and semi-retired, I may go days at a time without painting or drawing.