Sunday, March 12, 2017

Patreon Spotlight - James E. Shields

Today I’m trying something new, and not sure if it’ll recur, so let me know your thoughts.

James Shields has a cool Patreon through which he creates custom RPG Stock Illustrations. It’s been around for a couple of years, and involves his patrons giving feedback and input into what art is created. I interviewed James as well as asking him to provide information on his process. Check it out!

When I asked about James’ process, he responded:

So here is my ideal process. 
Somewhere there is an incredible independent creator with awesome RPG ideas but
without the budget to commission some of the illustrations they want. 
Somehow they learn about one of my Stock Art Patreon projects and jumps on board.
Every month I post and ask for ideas. 

Patrons are encouraged to comment on each others ideas to make the artwork more versatile. (Example: If the idea is for a Wild Elf with antlers, another patron may ask for moose antlers. If that's good with the original patron, I roll with the adjusted idea.) They then vote on each other's submissions by liking them on the post.
At the end of the month, I tally up all the submissions and votes. I then release a list of the upcoming art and the process starts all over again. On the 1st of month, patrons are charged their pledge level for each pack I released. After pledges clear, I send them links to the files for them to download at their convenience.

James also provided a FAQ:
What can I do if I can't afford X amount 3 or 4 times a month?
Patreon allows you to set a cap, or maximum number of creations you want to support each month. You will receive the packs that your pledge covered. 
What if my submitted idea was in a pack that my pledge cap kept me from supporting? I give my patrons the illustration from their idea anyways.
How many ideas may I submit?
As many as you want. In the future I may set a limit, but only if submissions get unruly. 
Can't I just get your art when you release it via Drivethru, RPGNow, TabletopLibrary, etc?
Yes. Yes, you can. The dilemma is -when-. Uploading stock art is time consuming, so
I don't release very often. As of this writing, I am somewhere over a year and a half behind.My patrons get the artwork first. Long before anybody else.
What are the license restrictions?
Ohhh... these are fun. Actually, I'm pretty liberal as far as this is concerned.
You can use the artwork forever. You just can't sell it as stock, posters, printable miniatures, or anything else where the artwork is the main product. You also can't use it in offensive projects. Other than that, just create something awesome.
You should also let me have a copy. Well, that part's not required, but I'm a gamer and
love to see where my art is used. 
Are there any restrictions to what ideas I may submit? 
Yes, but they aren't a lot. I don't illustrate nudity nor will I create provocative poses/images. I won't draw images of intellectual property, though I will do images inspired by them.
Also, a question that hasn't been asked that is totally viable- I'm not an independent game developer. Can I still support the project? 
Totally. There is nothing to stop people from submitting their RPG character for me to draw and them to see in printed RPG products. Totally cool. 
As of this writing I do have only one remaining Top Tier slot where I guarantee to draw one of their submissions every month. At $25, you can't get my art at a better deal.
Last thing I can think of. You are completely welcome to pledge to support my project just to see it from a patron's point of view and cancel your pledge as soon as you've seen as much as you'd like. Feel free to take and post any screenshots as a patron if you choose this route. I won't be posting any artwork for another two weeks so there won't be any charges during that time. 

Finally I asked James a few questions!

What is your background in creating art both for and not for RPGs?

My first intro to drawing RPG art was in my first roleplaying group as a teen. My parents convinced me to go to school beyond high school instead of trying to dive into drawing comics. After I graduated from the Art Institute of Dallas, I worked for a game company for a year and a half before they went bankrupt. Except for a few drawings here and there, that was the last I would create artwork for about 10 years. After my second deployment with the Marine Corps, my wife convinced me to use my artistic abilities for something, so I dove into freelancing. I didn't really know what I was doing but I did know that I loved to create artwork like the ones I had been introduced to in my teens, and as I developed as a freelancer I began focusing more and more on roleplaying because they were the projects I loved. I know it's not the smartest financial decision but these are the things I get excited about. Another artist pointed me towards Patreon and that's where I got the idea to provide something for independent game developers that would be in between pure stock and fully commissioned. I've been freelancing for over 3 years now and I love it.

What mediums do you use for your art?
Hard lead pencil on cardstock for sketching, followed by Faber-Castell inks.
I then scan and color in Photoshop. Occasionally, I'll paint digitally in Photoshop.
How do you respond when there isn't a lot of patron engagement?
I'll have to let you know when I get to that. The Patreon has always had patrons submitting ideas, but I recently moved the discussion away from a Google doc submission form to discussions and votes via posts on the Patreon website and interaction has exploded. Patreon sent me a message at the end of the year to let me know that my Patreon was more engaged than 95% of any other Patreon project. To answer your question more directly, all it takes is one patron to submit an idea for each category and I have content for the next pack. Occasionally I draw my own ideas, but that is rare and now if I have an idea I'd like to illustrate myself, I include it in the votes. I think it was in December, my youngest child (age 6) was talking about alligators, except it kept coming out as 'owl-igators' and I knew I just HAD to draw it, so I posted it as a submission for patrons to vote on. If it wasn't popular I wouldn't draw it, but they loved the idea enough that I got to include it.

Cool! Thanks James! You can find James' Patreon at If his work sounds interesting to you, go ahead and give it a look!

James also has genre specific Patreon projects:

Purely black and white fantasy art -
Purely black and white sci-fi art -

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