Hello adventurers! This week, we’re taking a moment to shine our spotlight on the members of the player community who help us make Tunnels & Trolls™ Adventures a reality. Our ‘Community Spotlights’ are about YOU: a chance for us to introduce the rock stars of the community who have contributed their stories, artwork, music, and other talents to Tunnels & Trolls, and the first of our Adventure Architects.
Our Adventure Architects are the group of players at the heart of what we’re building: the creative minds behind every adventure we’ve built thus far, contributors to new adventures on the near horizon, and the players we aim to empower with our Adventure Creator. Whether crafting a story or sharing artwork with other storytellers to use in their own adventures, our Architects are the awesome players who create, share, and ultimately partake in the success of their work!
Today, we’d like to introduce you to one of our first Adventure Architects: an artist who has played a big part in our recent adventures and one of the latest contributors to Tunnels & Trolls Adventures. JACK HOLLIDAY is an artist out of the United Kingdom who has already provided several pieces to our adventures—particularly in Overkill and The Ascendant. In fact, we loved his work so much that we used one of his pieces as the cover for The Ascendant—the first adventure many players dive into and the first chapter of the ‘Crown of Klade’ campaign arc.
You’ll be seeing much more of Jack’s work in our adventures coming down the road, but we wanted to take a moment to look at his career as an artist leading up to his debut in Tunnels & Trolls Adventures. We recently interviewed Jack to learn more about his background, his process, and his superpower of choice.
This is the first of many Community Spotlights coming down the road as we continue expanding our creative community. If you’re interested in contributing to Tunnels & Trolls Adventures in the future, feel free to contact us at email@example.com with a sample or link to your work and a way to contact you!
So without further ado, enjoy!
Who are you and what do you do?
Hi! My name's Jack Holliday. I'm 26, I live and work in Birmingham in the UK, and (at the moment) I'm a man of many things! I enjoy photography, craft beer and motorbikes, travelling and exploring, and I've just moved into a new house, which means I’m introducing myself to the joys and frustrations of “do it yourself” and gardening.
What’s your background in art? How did you get started and how did you develop your skills over the years?
I imagine I started the same as many others: I used drawing as an outlet for what I was picturing in my mind when reading, playing games, or messing around with toys—a way to let it loose on the world. It's quite hard to explain, but say I was reading a book on the First World War: I knew I couldn't be there doing what they were doing, so instead I tried to capture it on paper. The idea of capturing that which isn't real (or which can't be real) kind of channeled my attention to fantasy. It was always a source of personal enjoyment, though it took until university to be able to tie my art education into my own intentions and direction.
I ended up graduating from Birmingham's Institute of Art & Design with First Class Honors in Illustration and a Vaughan Oliver award to my name. During my time there, I developed my skills in digital media while refining my working process; and by the end, I knew exactly the means and methods that would yield me the best results going from an idea and a blank page to a finished and rendered concept.
What role do you think art (in general) or your art (in particular) plays in the world?
Art, in general, has played innumerable roles at countless points in humanity's existence. Pre-camera, it was used editorially and as a means of recording everyday happenings or occurrences. It has been used to entice, advertise, flaunt, persuade, argue…the list is literally endless.
What really excites and interests me, though, is how art has always had a tie-in with the imagination. In ancient history, the Egyptians carved statues hundreds of feet tall to honor their gods, Vikings carved runestones with their own sagas and stories—a pictorial record of their achievements interwoven with myth and legend. When the church was all-powerful, great artists were commissioned to paint scenes from the Bible and carve statues of heroic beings. Always, it has been the same: taking something that isn't real and breathing life into it. That's what really excites me, and is what I'm really passionate about.
What’s your preferred medium? Do you prefer working with digital art or do you like working in physical mediums?
I love sketching in pencil and biro: using the biro to thicken the lines and add tone, a black sharpie to block in areas of shadow, then white-out pens to make alterations and add highlights. It's really fun and feels "risk-free." There's also the fact that I can take my sketchbook and pens out of the house and round with me wherever I go, which I can't do with my computer.
When I was in university, the biggest and most lucrative market was for digital art; there's no drying time for paints, it's easy for clients on a different continent to see the finished product, and there's no shipping difficulties or transportation. Even traditional paintings nowadays are edited and "fixed" on Photoshop, so I decided to take myself mostly digital. It was a method I found where I could get the results I wanted without sacrificing too much of my style or workflow. I will still often start with a pencil sketch, then will build it up organically in Photoshop in much the same way other artists paint in watercolors. A lot of my images aren't seen anywhere outside of a monitor or screen anyway, so it's nice to paint them and see exactly what the client or public will see.
Is fantasy a favorite theme in your art? What kind of themes do you enjoy working on/creating the most?
Ah, I think I answered this one above. Yes, I *love* fantasy. I wrote my dissertation on it, I've studied it; I watch it, read it, and play it…
I think even if I didn't paint or draw, I'd still love fantasy. It just so happens that I do, so a favorite interest of mine naturally comes through in my art. As a [tie to] fantasy, I also enjoy the subjects of nature, landscapes and history. Fortunately forests, mountains, rivers and armored knights fit perfectly well together into the fantasy genre!
From where do you draw inspiration when creating your art? Explain a little about your process.
Unfortunately—when working on illustration full time—it can feel like a lot of inspiration takes a back seat to "read brief, translate brief into image, get image approved, repeat." This is quite disheartening! I think it's important to read, watch, play, and just see! It's impossible to play around with forms, create a cool pose for a warrior, or make a house look haunted if you don't know what they actually look like. So I [draw inspiration from] a lot of photography I found inspiring—it's so accessible now!
Video games are [just about] the closest thing to a “real fantasy world” there is, so I think playing them and seeing the visuals and effects used can be very inspirational. Other artist’s work is also a mainstay; you need to know what the pros are producing, as that's who you're competing against!
How do you know when a piece is “finished?”
Ha! Normally because another job comes in or the deadline is near. Often a painting reaches a point where I realize I'm just noodling—adding nothing of value to the piece as a whole. That's when to stop, as it can suck all the life out of a piece. Sleep on it, look at it the morning after; if it still looks good, it's finished.
Do you have a favorite piece of artwork that you’ve created? Tell me about it; what makes it your favorite?
If I had to pick one, this would be it…but it's a very tough choice!
I have lots of images with lots of memories or senses of achievement associated with them. There's one I painted of a dragon during my last year of university which sold at my Graduation exhibition and got published in a monthly Fantasy Art magazine; that felt incredible. But the above one was the first fully-rendered painting I created after leaving university. I put all the knowledge of form, composition, color…everything I'd taught myself into this one picture, uploaded it online, and it actually led to one of my first clients getting in touch with me. I consider it the image that snowballed my illustration career, as that client passed my name onto another, and another, and so on. So I have a lot to thank this one painting for!
Who are your favorite artists? Whom do you look to for ideas, feedback, or inspiration?
Favorite artists: Samwise Didier, Daarken, Kekai Kotaki. They can do things with their Wacom's I can only dream of—pushing the ideas of form, color, composition and implied details. I love it! I have books and prints by all of them, and they're incredibly cherished items of mine. Feedback is generally taken care of by Art Directors or Publishers, and in a snag—if I need inspiration—I need look no further than my bookshelves, Instagram or Pinterest, there's always something new out there.
What kinds of projects are you working on now? (Anything you can talk about or tease?)
Probably the strangest answer thus far… I'm currently working on a big interior and exterior design project: my house! I've just recently moved in, so I’m designing garden layouts, color swatches and pairings, and making it a cozy place I can come home to—with bookshelves and ornaments everywhere. There's a moderate amount of woodworking and landscaping, and it's nice to be getting my hands dirty and doing some physical work, so to speak.
What do you hope to do in the future? What are your aspirations in the art world and/or in the world as a whole?
Art is on the backburner for the moment. I've been focusing on establishing my independence and making myself self-sufficient. It has been a hard slog [with] a lot of ups and downs, but it does feel like I'm getting there.
I aspire to always see more; I want the time and means to travel and see some of the amazing places in this world before I'm too old to do so!
What is your biggest pet peeve in the art world?
People who cover a lack of technical skill with the excuse that "it's their style."
What are your hobbies outside of art?
I enjoy reading, gaming, going out and about on my bike, and I’m only just opening my eyes to the world of photography and how fun it can be finding the perfect shot.
Any self-promotion you want to do for your art, sites, or otherwise?
If anyone wants to check out my Instagram, it's full of its namesake: books, bikes, and booze! Plus, some landscapes and photojournalism from my travels:
- Instagram: @booksbikesandbooze
Finally, the most important question: what superpower would you have and why?
Definitely invisibility. The locked doors of the world are all magically open to you when nobody knows you're there!
A huge thanks to Jack for taking the time to answer our questions and provide some insight into his process.
In the meantime, we’ll be back next week with a new adventure! It's a familiar one to all you Tunnels & Trolls experts, but with the MetaArcade twist. We'll talk more about it next week, but here's a little teaser of what's on the way!
Have a great weekend, and happy delving!