Friday, December 19, 2014

KickStarting a Victory

Victory in Europe, Box Cover,oil on paper, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek 
The new Columbia Games block game is coming out soon. After two years work and a very successful KickStarter run the game is finally at the printers. Having completed the art for almost 60 card and game pieces, the final thing was to paint a cover. It was originally going to be a weary solder after a battle. I had sketched a few out, one idea being a soldier after the D-Day invasion.
Instead Columbia wanted to go with a portrait of Churchill. The game had gone though multiple name changes through its development- Guts and Glory, K.I.S.S and finally Victory in Europe. As Churchill was famous for his V for Victory sign, I thought it would be cool to incorporate his fingers into the title of the game. Of course there are a lot of great photos of Churchill to reference. I used a few different photos to do the final drawing and then did inked up a final image.
Victory in Europe, Box Cover, Pen and Ink, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek
I printed this out on 11x14 paper and coated the paper with amber shellack. I mounted it on a board and then did the painting in oil.
I wanted it to have a strong graphic, postery look, so I left the strong lines and occasionally had to paint them back to make a strong image. I wanted the image to look like a painting, so I used a lot of thick paint and loose application on most of the image. Of course there are not a lot of color images of Churchill so I used both a mirror and other portraits to get the colors I wanted. 

 The game will be shipped in a plan black box with a sleeve to fit over it. Taking cues from the the design I did for the back of the cards I thought the game box should look like a war machine with bolts and rivets.

Allies and Axis card backs, digital, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek
Here is the final layout of the box showing the back and sides of the box. This also shows a few of the cards I did, many based on old photos and posters from the time, laid out on the back of the box.
Victory in Europe, Box Cover, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek

Friday, November 28, 2014

Totally Green HârnQuest

Everyone has certain moments in their career that stand out as special: the first paying job, your first cover, and the chance to illustrate a gangrenous leg.
Peoni amputation, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek
I recently got to cross that dream off my list. To top it all off I got to draw that leg being sawn off. The research I did for this was not something I did whilst snacking. Some nasty stuff. In this image are some medicines used, bandages, Hârnic healing herbs and a pot for cauterizing the stump. As much as I love this time period, I am so glad I was not born in the medieval times.
The last HârnQuest had a lot of fun images. I got to come up some cool new images and revisit a few old images for updating.
Sometimes my ideas get rejected and I have to rework or even redo. Not very often, but this one was a definite redo. A religious symbol for the Balm of Joy order which specializes in birthing babies suggested some sort of fertility symbol. My first attempt maybe was a bit "too literal". Enough said.
I thought I could do the same think in a more rustic and natural way with a simple twig bound into a fertility symbol. It gets the point across, is subtle and has a nice handmade look. So the one on the right made it into the article.

Daughters of St. Eaclid, Silver necklace
Daughters of St. Eaclid, Twig
Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek

For the Misyn article I got to illustrate some of Hârns more freaky landscapes, specifically karst landscapes, or areas where the soluble stone are eroded and washed away.
There were some cool real-world places to use for inspiration.

Misyn, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek
This images show the beauty and the dangers of the area. Misyn is frequented by pilgrims on their way to visit holy sites. I added the arrow to point out a third and possibly unseen pilgrim who was not so lucky. His deadness is subtly illustrated by me via use of a skeleton.
I did a pen and ink, scanned the drawing in to Photoshop, I added some photo textures to get the thing started. I then selected the spires of stone, filled that with a fade of tones that I could then paint across to give a misty look. I erased the pen lines on the distant areas to help the front stand out (though I wish I had done a better job as some lines still show and flatten the image out too much).
The nice thing about working in photoshop is I can leave all the various objects on separate layers that can be reworked, colored, resized and moved around. I can select the individual layers and paint without affecting the other areas.

Misyn Landscape. Copyright © 1987, Columbia Games, Inc. and Eric Hotz
One of the original images from the old article was illustrated close to 30 years ago. The article was much smaller so the image was pretty generic. I always loved this image as it gave a realistic portrayal of the areas geology. I basically redrew the same shape and mood, but made it more specific and left room for color. I also did a lot of research into this type of landscape. Some very cool stuff.

Misyn Landscape, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek

I decided to introduce specific sites from the article, like the needles of Nyr, the pilgrims rock, and Hoag's Gullet.
Next I drew a pilgrims map. I decided it would be something sold at town to pilgrims for the trip. Medieval knowledge of geography, throw in less than trustworthy individuals looking to profit off the eager travelers. I figure these maps are going to be close to useless. It does seem useful, with indications of religious sites and possible dangers, even representing gargun attack areas.Nice looking map, though you may likely end up looking like the dead pilgrim in the image above.

Again, I do a pen and ink of the image, color the line work and lay it over a scan of real parchment. With a bit of push and pull, it looks like the lines were drawn right on the old leather sheet. I left off any text as I figure most are illiterate anyway. Kind of wished I had put this map in the hand of the skeleton, but I ran out of time.
Pilgrim's Map, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek
I also illustrated the updated Jarin article.

Again, thoughts or questions on the art in the recent articles are welcome. If you don't yet own these articles, well, you should be ashamed of yourself!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Everything's Illuminated

Finally getting caught up after my time in Indianapolis at Gen Con- the largest gaming convention in the world. It is something to behold really- 60,000 or so folks descend upon the city for gaming, imagination and full-on  nerd action- sometimes in outrageous costumes.

My goals for this convention, were to have an impressive booth for the Columbia Games and to have some nice looking, new products for sale. I feel it was a successful convention for us. Of those new products, (Orbaal and HârnWorld) we completely sold out. We definitely wanted to get a good intro product for introducing the 30 year old product to some a new crowd.
We also met a lot of Hârn fans and we are gathering a good list of people willing to help run games next year and at other Cons.

As we were publishing the new HârnWorld and HârnDex, I wanted to do some medieval manuscript images for the cover. 

HârnWord Cover, Pen and Ink, digital color, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek

 I have been trying to move the medieval art used in Hârn to a more accurate manuscript style for a world based on 12th -13th century Europe. I found an old manuscript image that I used as a template and built my covers on that adding Hârnic elements in the design.

The cover shows a creator of sorts mapping the Island. The medallion has the Hârnic script for the initials NRC for N. Robin Crosby.

Here is the initial sketch and test layout. I did a pencil drawing, inked it, used actual parchment and gold leaf textures to finish the final image in Photoshop.

 For HârnDex I decided to keep a similar look, but wanted to show the beginning of an adventure.
HârnDex Cover, Pen and Ink, digital color, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek

For the back of both publications I wanted to do something based off the standard for the back covers of most of our publications.
Here is the typical look for a back cover, which as been around for at least 30 years.

HârnDex back Cover,  Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc.

Here is the new back cover strongly based of the above but with a manuscript style.
HârnDex Back Cover, Pen and Ink, digital color, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek

Both will be available for sale on the website soon. HârnWorld will be available in hard copy in the typical binder.
The Dex is over 150 pages and is available as a PDF download.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Orbaal Invasion

I have finished the art for upcoming Columbia Games kingdom release. Orbaal was a big project for me, lots of hairy, and fur wearing Viking types to draw. I had to draw and paint over 50 images for this one.
The kingdom article is a few weeks away from being published as it goes through final review and editing.

This image is for the front page of the kingdom. I decided to illustrate something of the struggle going on in that northern kingdom; an invading Ivinian attacking a Jarin warrior.

Coming Ivinian Storm, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek

I thought I would post a few of the reference photos to show a bit of my process. Also I wanted to explain to any neighbors who may read this blog why I was posing like this in my yard last week while my wife took photos.

While the above image is full of rage and testosterone, - well, the reference photos are too.
The reference shots, while very helpful, are just part of the process for creating the final image. I had to outfit these guys with proper weapons and clothing, but I also had to make the guys in the final image not quite so handsome. I also had to remove my awesome van in the background and replace it with the rugged coast of Orbaal. There were ton of other photos for the hands and face to use for reference as well, as the pose required more action or a changes. I tend to assemble a reference in Photoshop, arranging various photos, then selecting various limbs, hinging them at the joints to move around like puppets until I get a pleasing arrangement.

Let me know what you think- I am more interested in your thoughts on the top image.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Excessive Facial Hair and Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

I am very close to being finished with the next big Columbia Games Kingdom release- Orbaal. Should be completely done sometime in July.
My strict Catholic upbringing has instilled in me a constant need to demonstrate just how much I suffer for my art and hopefully will result in all of you feeling guilty about my crippled drawing hand.
Orbaal has been a bit more taxing due to all the hair, fur and gruff line work needed to illustrate 39 hairy Viking portraits.
Here is a sneak peak at a few of the characters which will be raping and pillaging their way across Hârn.
King Alegar II, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek
Above is the King of Orbaal.

Valhakar Caadern Sardosk of Thursa, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek
The next illustration is based off of a fanon article, I tried my best to get the basic look of the guy.
Felan Weymyss of Pethwys. Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek
We do try to look at work done on settlements by Hârn fans that may have posted articles online. I think I was pretty successful.
Just so you know, after typing out this blog post my fingers are a bit sore.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


The beginning of the year I built myself a stand-up desk so I could work in a more comfortable and healthy position. It has helped.  Here is a link: Something to Stand For .
At first I thought I had made a terrible mistake. It wore me out and my feet were killing me. Well, I got used to it in about a week. I love it now. I find myself moving around. I don't settle into an unhealthy position like I did when I was sitting. Plus I got a nice high chair I can sit in if I get tired.

I had to make a few adjustments to it adding some file holders and raising the pull out drawing board to up under the monitor. I am now done with this desk.

Or am I? Now it seems I am out of the loop, I apparently now have to build my self a robotic exoskeleton. It seems Robotic Legs are the new stand-up desk.
I am not sure how much these will cost, but I bet it is out of my price range. I am going to have to go all 'Tony Stark' and build my own. Wonder if I can build mine out of wood.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

You'll Put Your Eye Out Kid!

So I almost had a very bad day yesterday when I took a tree branch to the eye. I hard at work in the yard distributing 25 bags of mulch we had delivered to our driveway. I was walking towards a wooded area on our property, about to execute a manly toss of the heavy bag of mulch, when the attack happened.
I was stunned for a bit, as I was not 100% sure the branch did not go into my eye. Honestly I am not sure how it didn't come out the back of my head, but the eyeball was unscathed.
While it was merely a flesh wound, this greatly affected the rest of the day. I think I would have been less freaked out if had almost cut off my left arm. As an painter, I pretty much only need my right arm and both eyeballs. The other parts I consider bonus.
So this was a close call.

To add some detail and make you realize the severity of this, I was attacked by the dreaded Red Bud Tree. Below is a photo of one of these horrible trees- not the one that attacked me, but I am sure it is an equally deadly tree of the same species. Seriously, if you have one of these trees, I suggest you protect yourself and your family by chopping it down immediately. While this tree is frightening, it would have been even scarier with my eyeball hanging off the end of a branch.

Now it does hurt a bit every time I close my eye, but the fact that I am doing so over a working eyeball- I am not going to complain. I have to admit, the resulting scratches look pretty bad ass. It really accentuates my overall manliness, but I suppose it will heal.

One of the writers for Harn reminded me of an illustration I had done long ago. While I am a bit reluctant to post this illustration for Dunir from 2001, as it has some issues, but I did pose for the photo reference. This battle hardened knight, not only looks like me, his scar is a bit prophetic.
Sir Kaleb Vandor, Dunir, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek
Now we are not sure how he lost his eye, but maybe Sir Kaleb lost his eye to a Red Bud Tree.
I should double check to see what other illustrations I posed for and if they have any nasty injuries so I can be extra careful.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Birds Eye Views

I don't really like illustrating stuff with the bird's eye view in medieval period work. For one thing, I like the view to be more of  view that would be seen by those living in that world. I think it is more believable.
But, often this is a pretty cool view. Now that I am doing the Sketchup models, I can at least post a few of them on my blog for people to enjoy.

Minilaous Keep, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek

The first is Minilaous, a keep in Kanday on the cliffs overlooking the bay. The models are of course very roughly knocked out so I can get the drawing accurate to the maps.  I decided on a view on the cliffs looking east.

Another castle I had to render was Moleryn in the Thardic Republic. This one had a very old illustration from way back in 1987. I considered updating it, but decided I needed to redraw it as it had a few things that did not jive with the maps.
I rendered what I needed in a bit more detail, but spent about 10 minutes to trace out the rest of the castle.

This last view is pretty close to what I used as the model for the final illustration.
This HarnQuest should be shipping by the end of the week or so.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Hârnic Centaur

The next HârnQuest is about ready to ship. The Centaur article, which has been bouncing around for a few years finally is going to see the light. I don't know about you, but when I think Centaur, the first thing that comes to mind for me is the SNL skit in which Christopher Walken interviews a Centaur for a job. The Centaur does not get the job.
So, all ideas for the concept of the Hârnic Centaur started there.
 One of my first thoughts was to really go beastial with this creature. Not the typical Greek Mythology, fashion model torso stuck on horse look. So, the early sketches were an attempt to move away from that.
I knew the horns were pushing it, but we realized that Centaurs had been mentioned enough elsewhere and even illustrated previously, so this was probably too much of a change. I did some other sketches, but this pose was my favorite. I just needed to tame it back. I initially wanted more goat-like hooves, and hands that even mimicked hooves.

Here is the final image I came up with. I did a late evening background that unfortunately got cropped out of the final article due to space issues, so I thought I would post the full rendering here.
Dirty Centaur, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek
I went with  a more human look with beastie features. I thought of adding more clothing or equipment, but it sort of mucked up the simple natural look of the creature. They occasionally interact with the Gargun, so I thought a gargun-like weapon would be a nice touch, but fashioned to take advantage charge. I figure some simple hook weapons on the hind legs would make a kick even more nasty.
I just realized that the image in the article is a bit different- I made the head a bit smaller and adjusted the weapon into a more pleasing position.

For the end piece of the article I drew a hillside scene.
 Centaur Herd, Copyright © 2014, Columbia Games, Inc. and Richard Luschek

I may eventually ink up one of the other sketches for FFF style release.

Monday, April 14, 2014

High Tech Detective

Last year I was asked to do a T shirt design for Cyber Security company in Michigan. The design was a zombie chewing on a computer modem- you know how zombies do.
Recently they asked for a new design for this years Michigan Cyber Range Conference in Ann Arbor on May 20th.

At the Cyber range they do various demonstrations in their fiction town of  Alphaville, a secure environment that enables users to practice cybersecurity techniques. For example, attendees may be airport traffic controllers who will be put in a scenario where evil hackers are trying to break into their computer system and cause havoc. They are taught how to stop the hacker and keep everyone safe.  It sounds pretty complicated and intense- even more advanced than tips like "your password should not be 1234".
Who shot the Computer? Copyright © 2014,Merit Cyber Range and Richard Luschek
This time they asked for a 1930's pulp style detective looking into a case of computer "hacking". I thought it would look cool if the "hacking" was represented by a computer that had been shot. Doing research on-line I was finding some cool 1930's pulp covers with wonderful graphic layouts.
I decided to push it in that direction and turn this into a cover. I sent some sketches of the detective I did quickly in Photoshop. After a few back and forth emails, these two were the last set.
Who shot the Computer? sketches, Copyright © 2014,Merit Cyber Range and Richard Luschek
I liked the gun, but it confused the issue and made it look like maybe the detective had shot the computer. The other was a bit cooler and looked as if he happened upon the scene. In the final image I made sure he had a subtle glance in the direction of the "victim".
I expanded the scene to an Alphaville office and pushed the silhouette a bit more so it was a stronger image. I had hand drawn a font based on one of the old covers, but they decided on a different title so rather than attempt to draw a new title I looked for some fonts that gave it a retro feel.
I also stayed with the anachronistic mood and changed the price to bitcoins.

This was a fun project. While I have yet to sent the invoice for the job, maybe I can get some help from them on my computer security. Like, do I have enough bear traps set around my computer area? Should I add more barbed wire?
I'll let you know what I find out.

Friday, March 28, 2014

D&D Art and the 13 year old Me

My life changed in the 7th grade when I was given the assignment to read the Hobbit for my English class. I poured through unlike any other book I had been asked to read before. I read it a few more times and shortly after moved on to the Lord of the Rings series. (I should write a blog about how the recent Hobbit films have crapped on those childhood memories)

When that same teacher introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons in an after school group- well, I was hooked. I went full on nerd. That completely innocent awe in the idea of the grand adventure is something I have held on to with tooth and nail even into my 40s. Now I am lucky enough to illustrate for games much like those that first captured my imagination when I was a kid.
I heard today that D&D artist David Trampier died at the early age of 59.
As a painter, I like to champion the masters as inspiration. The great painters of the Renaissance thru the 19th century. In illustration the greats of the golden age often come up: Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, Lyendecker, Gibson, Rackham, and Frazetta.
I have to say that some of the lesser know artists of the early D&D publications also had a tremendous influence on who I am today, including the work of David Trampier. 
[AD&D 1st ed Player's Handbook[4].jpg]

Above is one of Trampiers most famous covers. He did a lot of the more striking interior pieces in the old Monster Manual as well.
His graphic and simple pen and ink interiors influenced me and many of my current illustration heroes.While at times a bit crude, his work had a wonderful graphic quality which was clear and descriptive. Often he was introducing us to weird fantasy creatures for the first time.
A few years ago I was asked to do a serious of black & white silhouette art for a game offering new look at old school D&D.  The game is called Roguish and was designed by Christopher Brandon.  I thought I would post a few images of the art I did for it, including this first one where I was asked to do an image completely inspired by Trampiers Players guide cover. I did a series of about 20 images that followed 4 characters through their adventures done in B&W silhouette.
The Gemstone Eye © Richard Luschek and Christopher Brandon 2014

Pumpkin Heads © Richard Luschek and Christopher Brandon 2014
The Bridge © Richard Luschek and Christopher Brandon 2014
RIP David Trampier. Thanks for the inspiration.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Something to Stand For!

In the past year or so, I have been  doing a lot more illustrations. It is great to have the work, but I have been finding myself sitting in a desk chair for hours at a time. Of course, a smart man would get up and stretch once a while- maybe even just move a little. As a result I was getting fat and out of shape, my legs were aching and as I worked at this very non-ergonomic desk my shoulders would hunch up and then my back would hurt.
See what I go through to do my work!
Anyway, instead of being a fat, crippled martyr for my work, I decided to switch to a stand up desk.
Here is some science on the subject. Click Here

After a bit of research and looking around for desk that would fix my dilemma, I decided to build my own. I found an online resource to determine the correct height. Click Here
I determined that my desk needed to be around 42 inches high. I could have probably just made the desk I had tall enough, but I don't do things that way.Thought I would post about this wonderful part of illustration process in case you wanted to stand up with me. Let's all stand up.

I was a cabinet maker for a while and am fairly handy, so I thought rather than build something ordinary, I should make a fine piece of furniture. A few years ago a friend sold his parent's house and was cleaning it out. He and his wife gave me a few things that were just going to get thrown away. Being a pack rat, I took it all and hauled it home.
Here is photo of my lovely wife after helping me get the prize out of my van. She immediately said, "Why the hell do you need a old Organ?" At the time I honestly did not have any idea, but I still needed it!
There is a reason I have never been able to park my van in the garage.
This beauty is an A.B. Chase pump organ from the 1880s. A close up view will show the rough shape it was in.
While the bulk of the wood was salvageable, all the innards were ruined by a combination of dry rot and being stored in a basement. So, I carefully pulled it apart and saved all the parts I could. Just taking this apart without doing damage was a chore. The inside organ parts had to be thrown away, but all the panels and decorative parts ended up being used in other places.
Of course the organ is not high enough for a stand up desk so I had to figure out how to make it about a foot taller. Raising it in a pleasing way took some time and a lot of sketches.
I finally realized the panels from the top were about the right size and would match the sides.

I used 2x4s to make the base for the panels. Using different woods was something I regretted later. Early on I thought it was in such bad shape I would have to paint it. If I had know it would finish up so well I would have found walnut for all the added parts.

The decorative foot on the front was removed and dropped down to the bottom. Now I needed to fill that space somehow. Those two spindles you see leaning at the bottom of the organ were off an old chair I found in the garbage, they were cut to fit, drilled for dowels and filled that space like they were meant to be there.
After I got the height issue fixed, I just needed to start putting a desk inside the box. I added a shelf at the bottom and the desk top. A drawer fit in the space where the keyboard used to be. I had a set of drawers from an old priest's wardrobe I got out of a abandoned convent.

Here it is with all the parts pretty much in place. I realized the shelf space at the top for the monitor would not work, so I had to cut the top of the organ so it would not be right in my face. I also wanted to fill in the bottom under that shelf and decided to reuse the parts where the organ pedals used to be. It would just be a shelf at the bottom (turns out it makes a good foot rest). There were also some decorations from those parts I wanted to use for the drawer.
With the top cut to make room for the monitor I need a header piece- it probably had one originally. I got a piece of walnut and sketched a few designs based on other organs I found online. I settled on the one above. I carved designs in the blocks that matched the simple designs in other areas.
You can see the drawer front now has two inlaid blocks I salvaged off the top of the foot pedal bracket that got cut off when I added it below the shelf. They added a nice design and also covered holes in the drawer front from old handles. The sheet music rest became the drawer pull (unfortunately while it is a pretty drawer pull, it also catches dust, eraser bits, crumbs and beard hair).
I had realized while building this that the old shellac finish came off pretty easily with scraping and sanding, so rather than paint it I could stain it. Since I used pine, birch, poplar in other areas I would have to do some creative staining to get it all even.

It stained up pretty well actually. The areas that were lighter got a brushed on tinted polyurethane to even it out.
Those weird looking things on the outside of the organ just to the left of the drawer were originally supposed to hold candles. While I will not be using candles I did use one of them to clamp a desk lamp to.
Here it is today in full use.  Keyboard and mouse on the top can be pushed back out of the way if needed. The computer and scanner/printer are on the lower shelf. You'll notice on the tablet screen that I am coloring the art I did for Rethem.
I mounted my digital tablet on a telescoping arm which allows it to be moved out of the way or be pulled over for drawing. I can use the monitor to display reference or for watching Netflix while I work.
One part I am still working on is the "analog" drawing desk. Currently I have a panel under monitor shelf that I can pull down for sketching and drawing. It works pretty well. I may move it above that shelf so it is a bit higher. I will then add flat file storage under that shelf. I will post an update when I figure it all out. Below you can see the board put away and pulled out. I'll stain it like the rest when I'm finished.

I am pretty happy with the desk. I will say for about two weeks after switching to standing I thought I had made a terrible mistake. My feet were killing me and it seriously wore me out. I eventually got used to it. Now I think my posture is improving, I have less knee issues and shoulder pain and it keeps me more alert.
My only regret is that I wish I had made the desk top a bit wider deeper so I had more room.

My set up is in the basement next to two south facing windows, so I get some good light during the day. I am glad I'm kind of hidden away since a stand up desk mixed with music can result in a dance party at any moment. Some New Order just started playing on the online station I am listening to and things got a little crazy.