Monday, May 30, 2011

We don't need no Stinkin' Badges

How does that saying go?
You can satisfy some of the people all of the time. You and satisfy all of the people part of the time, but you can't satisfy all of the people........ I just lost my train of thought.
Point is, it is hard to satisfy everyone.

Illustration can be a tough business. In fine arts, most of the time the painter gets to make a product that is placed into a gallery and if someone likes it, they buy it.
An illustration is ordered by a client, laid out in a book which is then distributed to a bunch of people that may or may not agree with your representation. I do most of my illustrations for the game world Harn, which has been around for over 20 years. It has a loyal following of intelligent players, well versed in that world and everything historically related to it. So I have to be on my 'game'.  I can't be doing any armor or weapons that do not fit the period. I got an email once for someone telling me I illustrated the arrow on the wrong side of the bow.
I think most of my work is pretty well received. I get the occasional "I always imagined that guy with a full head of hair" kind of comments, but basically I think the customers like what I do. I work pretty hard to satisfy.
Recently I did an illustration that I got some flack for in the online game forum. The problem is that I did what I thought looked cool, and it turned out to not work so well historically. It has been printed and delivered to customers all over the world. Too late now.
So I thought I would post some of the ideas and images here. First to explain why, and second so those not happy can down load these images if they want.
The idea was to draw some symbols for various groups of mercenary units. I did not want typical heraldry symbols. I thought they should be iconic, simple and easy to read. The groups were named, and I tried to come up with symbols that matched. The writer had suggestions and even mocked up a few.
I did pen and ink line images and dropped in color in photoshop.
Copyright © 2010, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek
They look a bit harsh and stiff. In hind sight, they probably should have had different styles too.
I took the above image and lowered the saturation of the color a bit to make them look old and darkened them down.
Copyright © 2010, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek
Getting a bit better. These maybe would have worked fine. I should have stopped here.

I thought it needed to be a bit funkier and I added a texture to it by scanning some canvas texture into photoshop and adding it on top of the image. Now I thought it looked cool, aged the image and made it a bit more like a badge.
Copyright © 2010, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek

Boos and hisses from the crowd.
Well I tried. Lesson learned. I agree with the criticism now, so in the future I will not be doing this. I will have to come up with a new way to get the effect. The above does look too much like a modern screen print. Kind of reminds me of a prize you might get in a cereal box- "Kool Harnic Mercenary Badges for your Mom to iron on your Denim Jacket!".  It would have been more successful to do shield designs or some clumsy paint job to give them an authentic look.

1 comment:

  1. >Boos and hisses from the crowd.
    Hmm. I was probably a bit loud with my hisses, for afaik I was the only one to openly criticize the badges. Anyway...

    Actually my first impression was rather positive (cool stuff), but when I reread the module some days later some kind of adverse reaction kicked in.

    It is, however, NOT the graphical representation that I dislike. My problems are twofold:

    1. These badges look like prints, and durable cloth colour prints are WAY in the future on Hârn (despite other opinions). One might, given sufficient time and money, probably paint a piece of cloth this way using contemporary colours, but these would not stand any weather and endure. No way (imho) a band of mercenaries would use them as badges sewn upon their tunics. This leaves the question how the badges can be transformed into something more authentic: probably by embroidery of coloured yarn. But, even leaving aside the problem of weatherproof coloured cloth...

    2. Unit insignias worn as badges are a thing of the modern military, not medieval times. I know that Hârn is fantasy and thus may ignore historicial authenticity, but we should not tread that road. I have, probably like most Hârniacs, read my share of military history, and cannot remember any such badges in any unit depiction before around 1900. They simply have no medieval authenticity to me, and this is where my reaction kicked in.
    Even ignoring the printing-problem, I fail to see such badges on the soldiers of Hawkwood, Urslingen or indeed any medieval (pre-modern) soldiery (well, bragging units like the personal guard of Cesare Borgia might have seen elaborate embroidery on that scale, but I think the point is clear).

    So where does this leaves us: mercenary units do not have an official coat of arms, since they (by itself) do not represent any noble or church who has the right to bear them. They might, however, get away with painting these insignias on their shields (especially roundshields).

    And, of course, guilds DO use badges, and wear them on their cloth. There somewhere is an article on HOW these badges (pretty simple affairs) can be worn, mainly on the breast or back. These are often simple insignias, and will probably we worn in a simplyfied version on their cloth - which might also hold true for the mercenaries.

    Now how to represent these: There was this splendid double page coming (iirc) with Son of Cities that presented the guild badges in various non-heraldic ways.
    The company might have one full version of the insignia on a banner (embroidered, rather large), tablet or a ceremonial shield (or the actual shield of their leader) as template, perhaps even a stamp seal.

    So, imho, giving us these in plain white to decide for ourself how they are applied, or showing them on a roundshield similar to the Ivinians, would be my choice.

    Thanks for caring!