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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Interview with Artist Nicholas Gregory

Our artist spotlight series continues today with a quick Q&A with Nicholas Gregory, who's been doing a lot of work for FFG's LotR:LCG and Warhammer 40k lines. Lately his work was featured in what has become one of my favorite quests: The Antlered Crown.

You'll recognize his other work, I'm sure, so without further delay let's dive into the Q&A!

What was your earliest introduction to Middle Earth? And for Warhammer 40,000?

My earliest introduction to Middle Earth was watching the Hobbit and Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings animated films when I was a kid. I loved them, and they really sparked my interest in reading the books and fantasy in general.

My first exposure to Warhammer 40,000 was through the board game Space Hulk that Games Workshop published years ago. It was a lot of fun, very tense and claustrophobic, and I got hooked on the great artwork and miniatures.

Do you have a favorite character or setting from Middle Earth? And for Warhammer 40,000?

That's hard to pin down, it's all so cool. I really get into the sword and sorcery aspects of Middle Earth... Gandalf and the other wizards, the Ring Wraiths, the dungeon delving stuff, and trolls!

Same goes for Warhammer 40,000. Each race has so many cool characters and creatures that my excitement drifts from one to another all the time. Imperial Guard have always been a favorite. But it's so fun to draw monsters and that's where Tyranids and Kroots enter the picture. (ed: Don't worry Nicholas, I'll answer for you - your favorite character is Maugan Ra, with Abaddon a close second!)

Do you play any of the games that you work on?

I try to. I've played both the Lord of the Rings and Warhammer 40,000 Conquest living card games and I think they're both fantastic. I really like the narrative feeling the LotR LCG creates as you play through each scenario. Conquest is great as well. I enjoy that classic head to head deckbuilding vibe but with a new take on how you expect a head to head deckbuilding game to play.

What is your preferred medium for your art?

I paint my artwork digitally.

Did you study art in any organized way? Or are you mostly self-taught?

I'm self taught. I've been drawing my whole life, just always enjoyed it and stuck with it. 

Can you take us through your process; from concept to finished product?

Even though I paint digitally my process is similar to how someone might paint a traditional painting. First I sketch out rough thumbnails to nail down the shapes and sillohettes in the composition. Depending on the piece I might take some reference photos. Then I move on to refining the details of the art; tightening up the drawing and blocking in some dark areas just like you would if you were using a pencil and some charcoal, only I'm doing it with digital brushes. This virtual underpainting is usually done all in black and white. When I'm really satisfied with the tonal range I start to overlay thin, transparent, layers of color based on the pallet I envision. Once those colors start to look good to me then I basically pick areas and start painting them in with more opaque layers of color, deepening darks, adding local colors, and saving the brighter areas and highlights for last.

How much direction will you receive from FFG for a specific card?

Usually I'm given a fairly short but detailed description of what type of card it will be and what they want to see depicted. It might be a short bit of narrative, or a portrait of a character or item. As an illustrator it's my job to figure out the best way to convey that depiction and create a composition that's visually striking. I submit a thumbnail, or sometimes a few, and if they like where I'm going they approve the image to be finalized.

Any advice for artists who want a career like yours?

As Principal Skinner would say, "sticktoitiveness!" For me it started with a love of drawing all the time and not wanting to give up when I couldn't draw something well or someone frowned on my portfolio. In a way I think I've been harder on myself to make each drawing or painting better then the last than any art director or outside source has ever been. When you're ready to start reaching out to publishers and potential clients, be professional, be prepared to take some critisism and learn from it. Once you get a shot at the work you want to be doing, do your best, don't phone it in and don't blow your deadlines. Your illustration career is a business. Even though you're having fun drawing monsters all day you still have to keep track of the same aspects you would with any other business. That means time management, keeping good records, and communicating quickly and clearly with your AD's and clients.

Where can we view more of your work?

I also have a blog which I update frequently with current artwork:

A great artist who knows his Simpsons references, what more could you ask for?!

Want to join the conversation? Please sound off in the comments below, or let us know on our forum!

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