Originally posted by Rich on the V20 Blog
Last time I posted, I mentioned how wonderful it is to be able to work again with the talented artists that helped make VtM the aesthetic benchmark that it was. One of my favorite illustrators, and favorite artists to art direct, has got to be William O’Connor. We first worked together when he was doing black & white interior art for Ars Magica, and when he branched into color paintings it just seemed natural to start assigning him covers: Bill is not only one of the best illustrators I’ve worked with, he’s a consummate professional. So much so that I relied on him when I needed those tricky assignments: “It’s a two page spread, but also I need to pull four covers out of it as it’s the capper for a series. So each section has to work compositionally as a painting, as a cover so it needs room for a title, and they all need to come back together as a complete scene. And it needs to be here Friday.” And the clever bastard always made it work and on time.
So when the the V20 Dev team decided to sprinkle passages of the Book of Nod through the book, I hit on the idea that we could use larger sections of BoN text as the intro spreads for the three “books” that VtM has been traditionally divided into. Who better than Bill to illustrate those passages that needed to have their own identity to help divide the book. I really didn’t know if he’d be into it, he’s done a lot of covers in a lot of other fields and these were interior pieces, even if they were cool interior pieces. So I floated the idea past him on Facebook. He wanted more info, so I sent him this:
Here are some details. Would you be up for 3 full color, full page pieces illustrating scenes from the Book of Nod, see below the possible quotes, all due June 1 and paying?…<redacted>
Talk to me
#1: Cain kills Abel and is cursed to be the first vampire.
I cried tears of love as I,
With sharp things,
Sacrificed that which was the first part of my joy,
And the Blood of Abel covered the altar and smelled sweet as it burned.
But my Father said,
“Cursed are you, Caine,
Who killed your brother.
As I was cast out so shall you be.”
In the beginning there was only Caine
Caine who [sacrificed] his brother out of
Caine who was cast out.
Caine who was cursed forever with immortality.
Caine who was cursed with the lust for
It is Caine from whom we all come,
Our Sire’s Sire.
#2: Caine creates a society of vampires, still in “biblical times”.
Each created a Brood
In order to claim the glory of Caine.
Yet we did not have his wisdom or
A great war was waged, the Elders against
just as Uriel had said,
And the Children slew their parents.
They rose up
Used fire and wood
Swords and claws
destroy those who had created them
The rebels then built a new city.
Out of the fallen Empire.
they collected the Thirteen clans
had been scattered by the Great War,
and brought them all together.
Still, Caine knew what he must do. and a
named Enosh. who was the most beloved of
begged to be made Son to the dark Father.
And Caine, mindful though he was of
seized Enosh. and wrapped him in the dark
And so, it came to pass that Caine beget
Enoch and, so doing. named the First City
And. so doing, did Enoch beg for a brother,
a sister. and Caine. indulgent Father,
gave these to him, and their names were
Zillah, whose blood was most-favored of
and had. whose strength served Caine’s arm.
And these Kindred of Caine learned the
of making Progeny of their own. and
they Embraced more of Seth’s kin. unthinking.
#3: Scary Gehenna prophecy.
When Lasombra’s dreams come true on the day when the moon runs as blood and the sun rises black in the sky,
That is the day of the Damned,
When Caine’s children will rise again.
And the world will turn cold and unclean things will boil up from the ground and great storms will roll,
Lightning will light fires,
Animals will fester and their bodies, twisted, will fall.
So, too, our Grandsires will rise from the ground.
They will break their fast on the first part of us.
They will consume us whole.
Bill responded somewhat laconically with:
THat sounds fine. I’d love to paint them to appear like a Tryptych. I’ll get started , and I assume you are art directing this?
I answered his question and figured I’d see some sketches in a month:
Cool- sorry if I wasn’t clear- yes, I’m ADing this and it’s great to be doing it again after three or four years. I’ll send you out contracts and the general art notes to go with the specific sets of quotes in the last email.
What’s your mailing address for the contracts?
In less than two weeks, I got this:
Looked over the style and art description and as I mention was immediately struck with the image of a tryptych alterpiece….
I’ve got a rough concept sketch to show you the idea I was going for…
panel 1. Cain slays Abel (aka: “The Last Sunset”)
panel 2. THe City of Enoch
panel 3. THe Children of Cain Rise Again.
Let me know you first impression as to whether this is a direction you want to go. be well.
Woohoo! And away we went with something physical to discuss; here are my comments to his sketch:
I love the direction- some thoughts on each panel:
1- I think we should try and stick with the Book of Nod depiction of Caine’s appearance for that climactic moment of the first murder as it has been impressed in all of our minds for years. That means that the way you’ve depicted Abel actually works better for Caine- long dark hair and beard. Abel was last depicted as smooth shaven and with long (potentially golden, but I’m not needing it to be) hair. I’m wondering if this is too John Woo, but I’d like a bit more symbolism in there to kind of push the semi-religious nature of both the passages and your triptych- what do you think of a flight of white doves that you could then echo and mirror in panel 2 with a flight of ravens?
2- The City needs to express a couple of things for me- dark grandeur in a pre-roman architectural way. More Babylonian, I think. And also the rule of the children of Caine over humans. Compositionally, I think this panel works for the triptych, but now I’d like to feel the things above when the details come together. Can you get tighter with the sketch before diving in? For example, right now the city aspect has a neo-gothic feel to me instead of that early civilization one I mention above.
3- Yes- same ideas as the note for panel #1- if that is Caine’s head surfacing at center- and it’d be cool if it was. I think linking the two panels with Caine adds a structural and symbolic connection that works. If these are the Antediluvians rising to consume their childer, I think we can get you some specific descriptions or traits that could be added to them so that they’d almost be identifiable in canon. Again, more of a symbolic ID to add to the iconographic nature of religious art.
And Bill’s somewhat embarrassing response (for me):
GREAT NOTES!! just the kind of gamer-geek detail I needed and didn’t know. According to research I had done the cain vs. abel parable has been interpreted by some scholars as a metaphor for human agrarian civilization conquering the hunter gather society, so I depicted Abel as a wild man with long beard. No problem making a change. (If you have reference for depictions you’ve used it could be helpfulI.) LOVE THE BIRDS!!!! That’s the best art note I’ve gotten in years! Doves and ravens will really make those two panels pop!
The Middle panel-I had no idea what enoch looked like so an ancient Aztec/Egyptian style is fine, thanks for clarifying. (Like at the end of Dusk til Dawn?)
I will send you revisions before I get started of course, this was merely an early draft.
THanks for the great direction as always, missed working with you.
And I clarify a few things, narrow down what we’re looking for:
Cool, glad the boids work for you. If you liked them in the side panels, would having flocks of them spiraling in the sky above the city be too much? Maybe- I don’t know if we would see them in the night sky.
I picked up on the shepherd’s crook for the keeper of beasts Abel, maybe a similar weeding, tilling tool on top of it to show Caine besting Abel? Some wooden rod with a stone jutting out at a right angle from the end- a tiller. Maybe too much
More Babylon/Sumerian/Assyrian than Egypt/Aztec, I think. Step pyramids maybe, if that’s where you’re going with that reference. But too much Aztec would be outside that “biblical” feel.
Looking forward to seeing the revisions- and yeah, great to be throwing visuals around with you again.
And now we play the waiting game…
I’m getting in more art that I’ll be posting here and then I’ll post the revisions on WoC’s sketches when they come in along with whatever notes go with them. Hope the peek into the art direction process was helpful and fun. Some artists need very little direction and just grasp what you’re looking for on an assignment, other need copious notes. I try to give just enough to match how they work best, to allow for their talent, skill, and creativity to shine through and not to drown them in more direction than they need. Other art directors work in different ways, but overall, I’m pretty pleased with the amazing art we’ve been fortunate to have in our products over the years- and V20 looks like a true high-water mark in the making.