A couple of weeks ago the local theatre 'What's On' guide popped through my letterbox. I flicked through it and immediately came across a very familiar image ... the Oliver! logo I designed back in 1998 for a local production of the famous musical, now being used to advertise a brand new 2018 production by a completely different company. Only, it wasn't quite what I originally designed, it was a crude copy - though this too has become just as familiar to me thanks to its use by a large number of amateur theatre groups over the past few years.
The copy is pretty horrible - at some point, possibly around twelve years ago, someone saw my version online, small and low-res, and decided they needed to make their own print-res copy, obliterating much of the detail in the process (perhaps by tracing the low-res file into a vector format). This version got whisked up the Google Image rankings higher than my original, and it has been found and used and re-used, and sometimes re-copied or edited with even less detail, by countless others. I can't help but think, what does it say about the quality of your show if you're happy to use such badly rendered graphics to promote it?
Comparison detail of my original (left) and the most often-used copy (right). License my original!
But the first time I came across an unlicensed use of my Oliver silhouette it was a fully detailed copy of my original artwork. Once I started looking I found others, both good and bad copies, in shows from the smallest school production right up to professional youth theatre shows and displayed inside and outside big city venues.
That's what led me to start up my Logos For Shows website - licensing my theatre images to fit the budgets of amateur companies and schools, not so much with the intention to make money, but to protect and assert my copyright and moral rights, and to promote the idea of copyright and legal use of artwork (and sure, the pocket money helps a bit too).
Part of this process included writing to some of the copyright infringers and informing them of their transgression - a task I have never relished and in which I have always been as polite and understanding as possible. Almost without exception the theatre companies have written back saying they had no idea they were breaching copyright and that they just handed the art task to their designer.
Sometimes the theatre company in question just ignores me. One of the earliest infringements of my work I found dated back to 2003, and the same company had used my artwork again for further productions in 2004 and 2008 (their 2013 and 2018 productions, after my letters, do have a new design). Their rehearsal space includes large posters of my design up on their walls.
I'm sure it's true - most amateur theatre groups take artwork from the internet in ignorance, not with any malicious intent. But that doesn't make it right. It's very simple - copyright is the right to copy something. If you don't have that right (and you'll know if you do), then you should not use or copy someone else's work. Amateur theatre companies do know about rights and licensing because they cannot produce a play or musical without paying a fee and licensing the work from the publisher.
Artwork for promotion is no different. If in doubt about the value posters and artwork have then I can point to the company who were incensed that I'd requested the venue take down my artwork until we'd come to an agreement, claiming that every day their posters weren't up they could be losing sales. So ... artwork has value, then?
The photos below show some companies that have used my work without permission and perhaps this gives an indication of how important the visual element of promotion can be for a show.
Since starting up Logos For Shows, my original Oliver! logo has risen up the Google ranks, this time with my copyright notice attached. And for anyone who licenses my artwork, I request that they credit my art and provide a link back to my site as part of the terms and conditions (though, in fact, many forget to do this). This means that most people who search Google for Oliver! artwork and use it without permission have probably seen the 'copyright version' and have thought taking it from somewhere else was okay, or have thought the poor copy of my artwork was not in breach of my copyright - which is not correct, it is still an illegal copy of my work.
Sometimes the reaction to me asserting my copyright has been surprise that I would worry about small amateur companies using my design. But I am a self-employed illustrator - art is my livelihood which I use to try and pay my bills and feed my family. If Samuel French, Music Theatre International and Musicscope don't give their plays away for free, even to amateurs, if artwork has value to help promote a production, appearing on posters, banners, tickets, t-shirts, balloons, pennants, websites, adverts and in videos, then I think that creative work should be recognised and valued.
The Oliver! dancing trio silhouette artwork is © Garen Ewing 1998 and 2018 and is available to license for a very reasonable fee from Logos For Shows.
I won't say any more than they've released, which is that it's coming out in September 2018 and contains four new expansions for the game which can be added separately or combined together. The set includes four character cards, 18 adventure cards and 10 terrain cards.
Once again I had the pleasure of creating the artwork for Peer Sylvester's excellent game - and I can't wait to play the expansions myself!
The game's author, Peer Sylvester, wrote a nice introduction to its creation over at Spielbar (in German, English Google translation here), and I thought I'd write a little bit about the art side of things.
I was contacted by Duncan Molloy from Osprey Games in March 2016, though due to technology getting the better of my initial replies perhaps it was a close-run thing that I was involved at all. Thankfully we overcame our computers' resistance and I got started on the cover at the end of July. Here are some of the early sketches ...
And below is the finished cover illustration, including box sides. Osprey's final design has featured a Tintin-style title graphic, which, along with my (not quite) clear-line artwork, seems to have resulted in it pushing the right buttons to give off that lovely high adventure vibe.
Next came the characters. At one point, early on, it was discussed (perhaps not too seriously) whether this could be a Julius Chancer game, which - although tempting - I wasn't in favour of. Firstly, it would probably limit the game's audience and, secondly, The Rainbow Orchid had been finished for four years and was now, naturally, seeing a decline in interest and sales.
As an aside, this was not the first time that Julius Chancer and his chums had been considered for a board game. In 2013 my publisher, Egmont, had a visit from the game designer Reiner Knizia and he expressed an interest in my book, the result being that they agreed to adapt his board game Tal der Abenteuer (Valley of Adventure) into a Julius Chancer game. Lots of possibilities come and go when you have a book, but this one got pretty far along, I think, before it petered out and entered the graveyard of dreams, where all the other might-haves and could-have-beens now lie.
Anyway, it was the right decision for The Lost Expedition because the characters that Osprey settled on are fantastic - they are all based on real people and I probably used up far too much of my time on research as they have such a fascinating backstory each, and there's some welcome diversity within the group as well. Here are my initial character sketches ...
In the game you only play three of the characters (though all six are involved in competitive mode), picking one with navigation expertise, one jungle specialist, and one with camping skill - there's male and female of each. My six-year old's favourite is Bessie, and I like her too - it's always a little more painful when she meets some grizzly end in the jungle, so try not to get too attached to them!
Illustrating the deck of adventure cards was the next phase, and probably the most daunting. Sixty-five cards in all (yes, I know the game only includes 56 ... so watch out for some bonus promo packs out there!) and the biggest workload of the project - but enormous fun, even if, sometimes, the research involved looking at some rather nasty stuff! I think initially the cards were intended to be smaller, my original brief mentioning 'poker-sized' cards (63.5 x 88.9 mm), but they've ended up being larger, at 78 x 119 mm, which seems to have had a largely favourable reaction from the gaming community.
The adventure cards are the engine of the game. The mechanics are fantastic and can, at times, be quite brain-taxing, but another big part of the enjoyment of The Lost Expedition is creating a narrative and telling the story of your explorers' jungle trek as you go along, and I like to think the illustrations play a big part in bringing that aspect to life for the players.
For instance, in the trail pictured below we find our adventurers risking the danger of a steep path, causing some serious injury but avoiding the lair of the looming crocodile in the process, and then finding themselves further on in their journey than they thought. They are then caught in a sudden tropical storm, meaning they have to set up camp quickly! When it's over they find the path they had intended to follow has been transformed, perhaps for the better - perhaps not. Hook worms - actually avoided thanks to the torrential rain in this example - must normally be dealt with either by having to stop and camp, taking damage from the infection, or using up valuable ammunition to burn them out. A nest of swarming insects means a sudden change in direction, using up navigation resources, missing the next encounter, and gaining new expertise of your surroundings. If the last card had come into play, then the vantage point would have been a bit of struggle to reach (loss of health) but would have allowed you to change upcoming events to your advantage and gain new knowledge of the terrain. You perhaps also spot something tasty for lunch - though you'd have to shoot it first!
The final component of the game for me to illustrate was the map cards. Although I had a basic idea of what the game was about, I didn't know the rules, so I was a little unsure about how to do these at first. At one point a miscommunication meant that I spent over a week drawing the cards in the wrong orientation (landscape instead of portrait). Osprey, kindly trying to accommodate, were going to look into adapting the artwork somehow, but I didn't want my art out there, on my first game, to be compromised or even fudged in some way (though I'm sure, with their standards, Osprey would have made it work), so I took a deep breath and redrew them - the right decision!
When you play The Lost Expedition you can play an easier game with seven map cards, or do the full trail with all nine. The cards are numbered on the back, and you place them in order, with number nine featuring the ruins of the lost city you're aiming for. But, actually - on the redraw - I designed the cards so they can go in almost any order (in pairs), and still match up.
1 and 2 always need to start, and 9 must always go at the end. 3-4 and 5-6 must always stay as pairs to match up, but they, along with 7 and 8 on their own, can be put in any order. So, you could go 1-2, 7, 5-6, 8, 3-4, 9 (pictured below). It doesn't make any difference to the mechanics of the game, but you can produce some different landscapes with it. (Incidentally, working out the card edges and the bleed for this system almost fried my brain on several occasions!)
I've played the game a handful of times now, in all of its modes, solo, cooperative, and competitive, and greatly enjoyed them all. I know I might be biased, but this game is right up my street anyway. I think Peer and Osprey have produced a really fine game with a ton of replayability.
The rulebook is available for download here (and even in Chinese, here) and Watch It Played did a great video overview here. With the UK Game Expo and Origins largely out of the way (it's the last day of Origins today), a few reviews are starting to creep out too - see here at Co-op Board games, here at Geek Girl Authority, here at Go Fatherhood, and here at Geek and Sundry for starters.
Go and grab yourself a copy - but be careful ... it's a jungle out there!
Edit: There is a short interview with me over at More Games Please about The Lost Expedition.
Created by Peer Sylvester, The Lost Expedition sees you leading a team of three explorers in an attempt to reach the ruins of El Dorado (or 'Z'). To win, all you have to do is reach the lost city with one of those explorers still alive! You can play solo, collaboratively, or head-to head. The box contains six character cards, nine map cards, and 56 adventure cards, as well as playing pieces and various tokens - plus the rule book, of course.
I will blog about it in more detail closer to the release date, but for now you can get a good idea of how the game runs with this video review from The Dice Tower, this comprehensive guide to the rules from Watch It Played, or this blog review from Geek & Sundry. I'm relieved to see that the art has received a mostly positive reaction - you get so close to these things that you lose all objectivity pretty quickly. Osprey have done a lovely job in the presentation.
Something to leave you with ... I wonder if you knew that Colonel Fawcett appears in The Rainbow Orchid? Can you find him? At the time I'd just finished reading The Lost City of Z by David Grann, which has more recently been adapted into a film starring Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson and Sienna Miller.
The Lost Expedition is released on June 18th 2017.
The audio adventure will be released on June 16th 2017, but pre-order now and you can get a taster track in advance. It will be available on double CD or as a digital download.
The Scarifyers, created and produced by Simon Barnard and co-written by Paul Morris, follows the 1930s adventures of D.I. Lionheart (the late Nicholas Courtney), Harry Crow (David Warner) and Professor Dunning (Terry Molloy) as they investigate mysterious goings-on and attempt to foil plans concocted by dastardly occult-dabbling villains. It's absorbing, exciting and very funny - give it a listen!
I've not had any involvement in this year's project, but my talented wife, Elyssa Campbell-Barr has. She was involved with Arni when she was commissioned later on to add rhyming couplets to the pages for a very limited edition book after it had completed its screen run. With Monkey Mischief she has co-created the story and written the words, with the art this time being the beautiful work of illustrator Alison Edgson.
If you're out and about over the next few weeks you should be able to spot Monkey Mischief on JCDecaux's screens across the country at train stations, shopping malls, bus stops, road sides and airports, etc. Follow Beframus on Twitter or Facebook to see the story unfold online.
On the subject of Arni, there was a little bit of chatter about how this year's Waitrose Christmas TV advert somewhat mirrors our tale of the little Norwegian Pine Grosbeak. After watching it, I can certainly see it has a few points of remarkable similarity - a little bird making the long trip from Scandinavia to the UK, getting hunted by a hawk, crossing the sea and ending up on a ship after being battered and almost drowned (and rescued) in a storm, and we could even say meeting a little girl at the end who provides it with food after the long journey.
I wouldn't go any further than just noting the similarities though - there are many differences as well, of course. Waitrose commissioned a book of the story written by world-class author Michael Morpurgo and wonderfully illustrated by Kerry Hyndman (and published by our friend, David Fickling) - plus 50p of every book sold goes to Crisis, the national charity for homeless people.
I didn't create the game, that was done by people far cleverer than I - but I did illustrate the map and all 100 locations - rather a mammoth task (especially all those cathedrals!), but enormously interesting, fun, and educational too.
As well as an online game, the map is appearing on JCDecaux digital screens across the nation over the next four weeks - so let me know if you spot one at a train station, airport, shopping mall or bus stop, etc.
It was very nice to be working with JCDecaux again - you'll remember that I did the Arni comic for them last November (see if you can spot Arni on the map). Both these jobs have been a challenge, but really rewarding, and both have given me the opportunity to up my game and increase my skills - so thank you to Russell Gower and Janet Guest and their team for that!
In the meantime, here's some process images, from thumbnail roughs, to pencils, inks and the finished design.
Edited by Jared Shurin, and with an introduction by John J. Johnston, Vice Chair of the Egypt Exploration Society (a portion of the proceeds of the book will be donated to the Society), it contains twenty short stories by a host of top-talent authors, including Paul Cornell, Gail Carriger, David Thomas Moore, Molly Tanzer, Roger Luckhurst and Jesse Bullington, to name only a few.
I was there because I was lucky enough to be asked by Jared to provide illustrations for some of the stories - eight in all. The drawings are in black and white, and I wanted a kind of clean Egypto-Art-Deco style, with something of the 1920s-era Vogue magazine in mind. I've also done colour versions of some with the idea of making prints available (I'll confirm this soon). I also created the book's title typography.
The Book of the Dead is available in two physical versions (as well as e-editions) - the regular paperback, and a limited edition hardback of 100 copies, complete with gold-embossed title on a dark blue buckram cover, wrapped in cloth and sealed with wax! The hardback also includes one of my favourite illustrations of the bunch, for Arthur Conan Doyle's Lot No. 249 - not available in any of the other editions.
Lot No. 249 - a story which features the first appearance of a reanimated mummy in fiction - also appears (without my secret illustration) in Unearthed, a companion volume of eleven classic mummy tales by the likes of Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe and Louisa May Alcott.
1) Script. I tend to plot out the story in a notebook and then type it up. I use Scrivener to type up and revise my notes and final scripts.
2) Thumbnails. These are usually sketched out as I script and are used to rough out the page layout and general composition of panels. Very rough!
3) Master artboard. I use A3 Goldline Bristol Board. Here you can see all the panels ruled out for this page. All I have to do now is simply fill in each box with a complete drawing ... easy!
4) Lettering guide. I scan in the empty-panelled artboard (3), put on the lettering in Photoshop, and print it out so I know how much room each speech balloon will take up. If I have more time I sometimes draw a second set of roughs on this sheet as well, but often the thumbnails (2) are enough.
5) Ballon guide. Each of those cut out square corresponds to the space a different size speech balloon will take up - 2 lines, 3 lines, 4 lines etc., as dictated by (4). I use it to mark out the space on the master artboard (3) so I know how much room they will take up in the panel.
6) Sketchbook. This is where I will work out difficult poses and compositions etc.
7) Tools. This is where I keep in-use pencils, pens, erasers and rulers. I use a clutch pencil with an H or HB lead for drawing the first stage of the finished art. I use an Edding 8404 Aerospace marker for most straight (ruled) lines, including panel borders (this is also the pen I use for sketching at conventions). As well as block erasers (usually a Pentel Hi-Polymer) I also have an ultra-fine eraser 'pen' (currently a Tombo).
8) Ink. Just above the number (8) you can see my inkwell - an antique brass holder with a hinged lid containing a ceramic well-pot (ceramic is easy to clean). I refill it regularly from a large 250ml bottle of Winsor & Newton black India Ink. On the far right of the number you can just see a tin pen-tray where I keep my dip pens. I have recently changed from using a Hunt 107 nib to a Hunt 102. There are also two or three water receptacles, for black ink and for coloured inks and an old jam jar with an assortment of pens and brushes - I use the brushes for solid black areas on the art (mostly a Royal Soft Grip SG 250 no.2).
9) Nibs. Above the number (9) is a little tin box for new nibs (Hunt 107 and 102), a scalpel, and another tin tray of various pens, spare pencils, pencil leads (H and HB), sharpeners and extra erasers.
Not numbered, along the top, are additional items such as coloured inks, reserves of India ink, compass, dividers, stapler, glue, and various shape guides (flexi-curve, circle stencil, etc.). I have a small low table next to my art desk where I stack in-use reference books (often piling up on the floor as well).