March 3, 2015: Interview With Denis Loubet, The First Artist Hired At Steve Jackson Games
With the 35th anniversary of Steve Jackson Games just around the corner, I thought it'd be a great time to interview the first artist ever hired by Steve Jackson Games back in the 80s. He did cover paintings and interior illustrations for Space Gamer magazine, Fantasy Gamer magazine, and "games and supplements too numerous to mention." If you'd like us to do a live Google Hangout with Denis Loubet, let us know using the #SJGamesLIVE hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, or post to our Forums.
When did you first start working with Steve Jackson Games?
Well, I can tell it was in 1980, because that's when the Demon cover came out.
I was living in Houston working as a darkroom technician when my friends from college invited me to Austin to attend a feast put on by the Society for Creative Anachronism. They told me to bring my Demon painting because they wanted to show it to Steve Jackson, who happened to be the local Baron at the time. When, in medieval garb, I showed the painting to Steve, he looked at it and said he wanted it for the cover of the Space Gamer magazine. And so, surrounded by knights and ladies in waiting, I made my first professional sale to Steve Jackson Games for $250.00, and began my career.
Shortly afterwards, Steve decided to hire me as their typesetter and staff artist. That was half of a good decision. As a typesetter I sucked big time, but soon Steve was able to support me as full time staff artist. I was glad to leave the Selectric typewriter's frenzied golfball behind and work entirely on science fiction and fantasy art.
What was your favorite thing you worked on at that time?
I really liked doing the spot illustrations in Space Gamer and Fantasy Gamer magazines. The breadth of genres and themes for the articles forced me to draw all sorts of weird and unlikely things. Creatures from A.E. van Vogt novels to characters from Star Trek, it was all good. I was doing art 8 hours a day, and that improved my quality enormously.
I also learned a lot. I remember being very proud of myself for concocting a passable skin tone from two unlikely spot colors, and keeping my technical pens working in a wax-rich environment. (We used thin layers of wax to paste up the pages we sent to the printers. Wax that would instantly and permanently clog any technical pen that came in contact with it.)
What else did you work on?
Everything. I did counters for Car Wars, maps for Ogre and G.E.V., and insane numbers of Cardboard Heroes at very nearly actual size. Cover art and illustrations for Space Gamer, Fantasy Gamer, and Autoduel Quarterly magazines.
I also met a lot of amazing people there. It's where I met Richard Garriott, AKA Lord British of Origin Systems and Ultima fame, and the late Aaron Allston who later applied his talents and wisdom to Hero Games and became a New York Times Bestselling Author for his Wraith Squadron novels set in the Star Wars universe. Among the gaming industry folks in Austin, SJ Games became known as Steve Jackson University, because it seemed that everyone in the industry had to graduate from it at one point or another.
What are you doing now?
Since Steve Jackson Games, I worked as a freelance artist for many years doing illustrations for companies like Iron Crown Enterprises, Hero Games, and Origin Systems. But as I was debating whether to try my hand at comics and realizing it was going to be far too much work for far too little pay, I got the call from Origin Systems to be their Staff Artist.
After being the first artist hired at Steve Jackson Games, and the first artist hired at Origin Systems Inc, I remained in the computer game industry for the next 20+ years until today.
During that time, I've been an owner of some companies, an employee of others, and even contract artist at a few. I was there at the birth of the computer game industry, and have watched it evolve and grow with some misgivings. Now it's a hidebound adventure in staffing up, laying off, and outsourcing, and not something I want to be a part of any more.
What I'm doing now is trying to work directly for my fans. First, I'm trying to put together a business called DrawMyCharacter.com, where you can get your favorite roleplaying character drawn by a professional artist. I intend to have a cadre of hand-picked artists operating out of a slick website, but currently the website is not slick, and that cadre is me.
Second, I'm into Patreon. When the crowdfunding idea blossomed a few years ago, I eyed Kickstarter as a part of my future, but its intent didn't seem to match what I had in mind. However, last year I heard about Patreon, which is sort of an on-going Kickstarter that simply funds artists so they can do more art. The idea is that you become a patron of the artists you like, and fund them a few dollars each month. With enough patrons, the artist no longer needs to seek employment with a company, and can instead work directly for his fans and patrons. This also allows the artist to take risks he could never afford to take before. He can try new mediums, and new tools, and new approaches to his art without fear of financial ruin. Patreon is a potential game-changer for artists and musicians.
For me, Patreon means I can work directly for my fans. For instance, if they want me to create a new set of Cardboard Heroes, I can deliver! (With Steve's permission, of course.) If they want 3D printed Ogres, I can do that too. The possibilities are endless.
You can find my website at: www.denisloubet.com
You can find the closest thing to the Drawmycharacter site at: www.denisloubet.com/drawmycharacter.htm
And finally, you can find my Patreon project at: www.patreon.com/denisloubet
-- Rhea Friesen
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