Welcome to a MULTIVERSE Q&A with CHET MINTON.
Q: How did your journey as an illustrator begin?
CM: There was never truly one day, when I turned around and decided that I was going to become an artist or an illustrator. Drawing, painting, sculpting and other creative actions have always been my first language. From the time when I could first hold a pencil or crayon, I was expressing myself. I consider myself more a storyteller than an artist. Instead of using words to spin a tale, I use pictures.
Q: It’s been said that all journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. Where are some of the places that your art journey has unexpectedly led you to, and what were those experiences like for you?
CM: I was a shy kid to some degree. Still am a bit of an introvert until I am comfortable with people. Immersing myself in the fantasy art world allowed me to break free from the shell. I hopped on planes to Chicago to show my work, drove countless hours to comic cons, and I’m no longer hesitant to friend (and talk with) hundreds of people on social media, all in the pursuit of sharing my work.
Q: Which fantasy illustrators had a profound influence on your art attempts at creating art?
CM: There are so many artists, and so many sources of influence, I could talk all day about it. If I had to give a short list, I would start with the old-school Dungeons and Dragons artists. Trampier, Dee, Otus, just to name a few.
I first discovered D&D through my friend’s older brother. He had a group of friends who he was enjoying the hobby with, so it was only natural for me to be curious, and to check it out. Flipping through those books and adventure modules changed my life forever! I discovered worlds of creatures, gods, and monsters.
It was not just the art that grabbed me. I was struggling in school, had difficulties communicating, and was dyslexic. I was always in summer school and getting into brawls. My parents had a challenge on their hands, to keep me from being “left back” in school each year. D&D gave me a new passion to read. I developed a healthy thirst for knowledge about mythology, history, geography and of course…everything about Dungeons and Dragons! My grades went up. I went into more advanced classes. Being able to communicate with my mouth, instead of my hands, became easier.
Michael Kaluta was a huge artist in my eyes. I remember picking out my first fanatsy artbook called Dream Makers by Paper Tiger, excited to see Bernie Wrightson and Charle Vess illustrations….and I discovered Kaluta. It was love at first sight. His mermaids are still my favorite. Even with all the great Merfolk art today, when I think of mermaids, I think of Michael Kaluta; an artist whose work I spent hours trying to copy as a kid!
As I grew up, I was influenced by comics, Japanese animation, Frazetta art, Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, and any adventure/fantasy genre stuff I could get my hands on. Then I discovered ElfQuest! ElfQuest was a series of graphic novels. It was a vivid, imaginative world based around elves and wolves who were all one pack; one family. Their hardships, their discoveries, and their personal triumphs were so intense. Their evolution and growth through the ongoing stories mirrored my own growth. The art of the story (and the art of the images by Wendy and Richard Pini) made me want to be a graphic storyteller.
One more notable artist who I should mention (not exactly fantasy) is the king of Art Nouveau – Alphonse Mucha. Mucha showed me the power of ink, the power of movement through design, as well as the power of soft and bold lines. His compositions, his style, and his perspective ignited a fire in me.
Q: You mentioned Trampier, Dee, Otus, and Frazetta. In a few words, what is it about each of those four artists, that catalyzes your creativity?
CM: Trampier, Dee, and Otus were so different from one another. Trampier’s style is emulated by so many artists today. His line work is amazing. He could take a basic sketch of a Fire Salamander, capturing both the desire and the need to have that creature be part of your story.
Jeff Dee was probably my favorite D&D artist when I was growing up. His style had a comic book type feel that I absolutely loved. I spent hours and hours trying to redraw his work. You saw his drawings of halflings, and you wanted to play a halfling!
Otus….Erol Otus created madness and chaos! He created the most far out scenes and monsters. I love Otus more now than ever!
Frank Frazetta goes almost without saying….a master painter and draftsman. His epic pictures brought respect and a huge following to Fantasy. The guy could do anything with a pencil, pen, or brush!
Q: You also mentioned Mucha. Of Mucha’s art pieces, which three do you enjoy most, and why?
CM: That is a hard question with the volumes posters and paintings. The Dancer, Zodiac, and Princess Hyacinth come to mind first.
Art Nouveau broke a barrier between applied art and conceptual art. It was a platform that entwined pattern work and the figurative. It broke the rules of proportion and perspective without a conflict in the viewer’s eye. Many of Mucha’s works employ similar compositions with a central shape, like circles or crescent shapes.
These repetitive patterns are often repeated throughout the picture, and yet in a masterful balance. He uses a varied line technique (believed to be influenced by stained glass windows) to control movement or emphasis.
It is those sets of elements I most find appealing and … he was a master draftsman; evident in these three pieces.
Q: How would you describe your art style today?
CM: Graphic Modern Nouveau
Q: How did the name of Long Hare Studios come about?
CM: I wanted to create some symbol, like a dragon or animal, that could easily be identified. I wanted a branding icon that could be recognizable as my artwork and projects evolved. It is so easy for people to glance over a name and forget it, but symbols often trap their attention.
After I left Military Service, I grew my hair back out. I’ve had long hair most of my life. For many years I have had people call me “Long Hair”. So it was basically a play on words, using Long Hare. Also, I see my art like a trip “down the rabbit hole” into worlds of madness and adventure.
Q: What’s your next trip “down the rabbit hole?” Starting a new art piece soon?
CM: I am starting work on concept and character illustrations for my storybook. Without revealing too much, it is basically a family-friendly anthropomorphic fantasy world. The main character, through misconception (and a strange encounter,) earns hero status. She is then politically forced into the service of a Frog King named Ulgart the Ugly. With a new quest forced upon her, she starts an epic journey of adventure and intrigue, all while trying to maintain the shaky peace between the kingdoms.
This world will have many city-states based around cosmopolitan animal cultures and shifting alliances. Readers will see various forms of magic (both natural and supernatural,) with a medieval feel to it.
Q: When creating illustrations of your own, what is your preferred art medium?
CM: Ink! Most definitely it would be ink.
Q: Which tools are in your illustrator’s toolbox?
CM: I prefer to start drawing with a light 4H Pencil on Bristol Board or Illustration Board. Then follow up with more specific detailing using a 2B Pencil. Once I am pleased with the sketch or it is approved by a client, I go into inks. I have always been fond of Rapidograph Pens. These pens have nips that allow for specific line thicknesses. After the inks are complete, I scan my work in using a large format scanner. From there, I do the color work (and the finish work) with Photoshop. If the piece is going to be used as a print, I do offset print tests and glossy photo luster print tests.
I used to color with watercolors and oil markers. I was hesitant to try computer graphics, seeing them as “cheats.” But, over time, I realized that things like Photoshop are just another set of tools to create with. And trust me, computers don’t paint the picture for you. Hours are spent perfecting each work, just like it is with the more traditional tools.
I’ve built up a library of reference books about Artists, Armor, Animals, Mythology, Oceanography and Biology. I’ve got a computer full of reference pictures, from countless hours of internet searching. Reviewing these prior to a big project happens often. Trying to visualize my piece before I go to sleep (and dreaming about my work) really helps.
Q: Had any cool dreams lately?
CM: I dream every night. Most are influenced by movies I just watched, or drawings that I was just working on! The latest episode of Star Wars Rebels was just on, and I had a cartoon-animated dream in which I was a droid. It then shifted into a dream where I was having problems interfacing with my laptop and couldn’t “link” to it!
Q: You got to be a droid? We’re jealous! What happened while you were a droid?
CM: Admittedly, that was my first and only “Droid Dream.” It was also rather boring! I was Galatic R2 like unit, but with a sphere-like base that magnetically allowed me to roll in a 360-degree pattern. I was on a transport deck, trying to have other mindless flying crane bots load cargo ships with large metal crates. I had to maneuver around the deck to constantly monitor and control them….almost like a video game. The main conflict of the dream were my annoyances with the metal rivets on the deck plating, and how it wasn’t easy to glide around. Now I want to draw droids….LOL!
Q: What are you illustrating now?
CM: I am starting to write and illustrating a fantasy story book idea. It may take a year or two to finish, but that is my sacred “me” project. I am also working on my first coloring book project that I hope to crowdfund/kickstart next spring/summer. I also have some ongoing work to complete with a friend, DM Misha who is writing his first module for GP Adventures. I am also working on a couple of tattoo designs for a few close friends.
Q: The coloring book project sounds great. What more can you tell us about that?
CM: The first coloring book won’t have a specific theme beyond it being fantasy adventure pictures. It will have a varied set of pictures that can appeal to almost anyone who enjoys fantasy. That project will have about 35 to 40 drawings. The crowdfunding will allow options for people to give me their concept for any fantasy drawings that they would like to see in the book. They then receive credit for the idea, along with the original inked artwork!
Q: Art of yours can be seen gracing the covers of Scott Taylor’s enjoyable FOLIO adventure modules. What’s it like working together with Scott?
CM: R. Scott Taylor is a natural storyteller. He has created a world full of great story concepts, characters and adventure. Scott is also a well-known Art Director. He first gave me a shot to do a black/white illustration for Gygax Magazine. Later, he offered me the opportunity to draw a few small illustrations for his adventure modules. After a few of these projects, Scott would present a concept idea and trust me to take it to the next step. Rarely did he alter or change anything. Working on the Folio modules has been a great influence on my development as an artist and creator.
Q: Art of yours was also recently seen on the cover of the Cookies Of Doom adventure module. How did that come about?
CM: Ha! Oafy the Chaos Moppet is becoming a cult classic in certain gaming communities. Originally created as a player character by Thessaly Chance Tracy (for one of her Tunnels & Trolls adventures,) the “Cookie Monster” image from the character sheet exploded on the internet. Various pictures of Cookie Monster were then used and shared by gamers (on social media.) I thought a mock cover would be a fun weekend project and add to the legend. I am hoping to do another one soon, time permitting! 🙂
Q: What do you enjoy most about the tabletop rpg hobby?
CM: The social experience. People from all different walks of life and backgrounds getting together to share in an experience. These ongoing games allow people to open up and share a part of their own creativity, imagination, and humor.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in 2017?
CM: Every year my artwork has opened new doorways. Through these projects and events, I have shared my work with tons of new people…. after all, sharing my pictures with people is what it is all about for me! I want to take that to a new level. My first coloring book will help me to do that by allowing folks to both interact with my work and share in the creative process. So I think that is probably the most exciting personal project that I’ll accomplish next year!