After college, as I continued to explore narrative illustration, the themes that interested me continued to be fairy and folk tales, but I also wanted stories that were wholly American. What I discovered is that in spite of having a college education, which included both state and national history, as well as civics classes, and even classes about the art and literature of the United States, I had really no idea what America was. As I started prodding that realization, the first things that came to mind were the Civil War, and Appalachia. I didn’t know where to go from there. Then, a few years ago, I got a commission from a small-press game company for a cover a role-playing game cover. The concept was “What if there was a school for wizards like Hogwarts in West Canaan, Texas”. Here was a hook to start exploring not only how magic was different in America then in Europe, but also for exploring what America meant to me.
Cut to Hex Games and American Artifacts. Europe has wizards, magic rings, and swords. America has movie stars, muscle cars and flaming, star-spangled electric guitars. We have faith-healers, hoodoo gurus, shamans and hedge-witches, and they’re all fueled on moon shine. This is an amazing country with some crazy stories all its own, it just takes a little digging below the surface, and it turns out that the Civil War and Appalachia were a good place to start after all. Hahaha.
The first cover was Robert Johnson with the crossroads guitar. Johnson was great, but he carried a curse. Quite literally. The second cover we wanted to show some amount of hope. William Faulkner following a map through time and space as he hunts the devil was the story we wanted to tell. There are hero’s out there, fighting for our reality. This week I finished the cover illustration for the third book, and I’m pretty excited about it.
“Wooooooah. It’s like Harry Potter, except with a demon moose.” Was my daughters glowing review of the cover for the third American Artifacts book. So, it’s come full circle. How did we settle on Theodore Roosevelt fighting the Devil with a spectral bull moose? I don’t remember, but I’m glad we did.
Until next time, take care and be good.