Sunday, September 8, 2013

Interview - Brett Barkley

For those lucky Fate fans who backed the Kickstarter, the PDFs of the Fate Worlds books are in their hands. It feels so crazy that something that was just an idea for a Fate game I had a couple years a go is now going to be immortalized in a setting book from the company that created one of my favorite rules sets. The book should be going on pre-order shortly. When paired with the first volume, you'll be getting a dozen settings from some of the best Fate designers out there.

To celebrate this fact, I did an interview with Brett Barkley, the cover artist of the book and the artist for the section on CAMELOT Trigger. Brett blew me away with his work on the project. You can see his enthusiasm in every piece. I can't think of any other artist that could fit the setting so perfectly, even as fans put together awesome character sheets featuring their own Armours. If you'd like to hear about how Brett came to be a part of this project, his interview is available after the jump.

How did you get your start as a professional artist?

I became interested in art at a very young age.  I was sick a lot when I was very young, and once when I was in the hospital around the age of four, my Dad brought in some comics for me to look at.  That was the first time I remember seeing comics, or really becoming aware of what could be possible with art.  That moment sparked something in me, and drawing and creating was something that became very important to me.  I eventually got an art scholarship to a small college, but their program was successful only in making me realize I didn’t want to do the stuff you find in galleries for the rest of my life.  I wanted to do the kind of stuff I found in those old comics.  I wanted to create worlds and tell the kinds of stories through images that a four year old boy somewhere, sick in a hospital bed, could instantly “read,” understand and remember for the rest of his life.  The professors didn’t feel what  I wanted to do was art, and therefore I began to think art possibly wasn’t a good fit for me.  I left the program and got a master’s degree in another career path.  But I never found a genuine fulfillment in my chosen career.  So I started working on my art again.  I’d stay up all night, working on comics pages, get up with three hours of sleep, work my day job, and do the same thing over again.  My art improved, and I eventually started going to conventions and showing my portfolio.  About the time my entire division at the day job was getting phased out, I got my first comic job.  But then I got hit by a drunk driver.  It completely changed everything.  I actually did my first comic project from bed because I couldn’t walk.  I spent the next several years going through multiple surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy.  I struggled a lot with pain, but the worst was the frustration of not being able to hold a pencil or move my hand over the page as steadily as I had been able to.  

  That was really tough.  But during this period I became a devout Christian and it changed my perspective on my entire struggle.  I renewed my efforts to get healthy again and shifted my focus to illustration (early on, trying to do a full comic was just too tiring) after a friend had suggested it to me.  The smaller, more condensed projects were perfect for me while I was still trying to recover, and best of all I would still be able to tell stories, to give life to new and different worlds, to create, like I had always dreamed.  I started showing my portfolio around at gaming conventions and found some fantastic contacts that opened doors for me to do illustration work in the RPG industry.  I’ve truly loved illustrating all the different worlds and settings I’ve had the opportunity to work on ever since.

What other things might fans know you from?

I’ve been illustrating for tabletop games, comics, book covers and advertising art for print and television for ten plus years, but honestly, aside from artists and their wives, I’m not sure anyone looks at the names of the contributing artists, so people likely won’t recall me from much.  

Why do you think picked you to work on this world?

Begging.  A lot of begging.  It was entirely me begging Fred, writing him annoying reminders to check on the status of the project--that kind of thing.  As soon as he had mentioned the possibility of the project, I made certain to regularly remind (to be read: annoy) him of my interest. 

How familiar are you with tabletop RPGs?

Honestly, though I’ve been providing illustrations for them for over a decade, I’ve never played one.  So, beyond being familiar with some very general aspects of how they work, I’m clueless.   I truly wish I knew people who played, though, as I’ve always wanted to try it.  But my kids are getting old enough to be able to play, and my sons are obsessed with mechs, so maybe I can make Camelot Trigger the first one we try.

What was your favorite element of CAMELOT Trigger?

The concept itself was the huge draw for me.  I absolutely loved the re-imagining of the Arthurian legend in this setting.  And combining it with mechs?  It makes perfect sense!  From the moment I heard the high-level concept, my mind was racing with ideas for the different possibilities.  For Camelot Trigger I actually did something I never do for a project; I worked up a number of concept and character sketches before I even got the assignment.  Being that this was an entirely new world, one that afforded me the rare opportunity of creating all the visuals from the ground up, and considering how excited I was about the concept, I was very motivated to breathe as much life into it as I could.

What would you liked to have drawn for the book but didn't get a chance?

That’s a tough one.  Honestly, I enjoyed my time in this setting so much the easy, immediate answer would be that I would have simply liked to have explored more of the setting.  There’s so much more I would have liked to have developed and delved into, because with a concept like this there are so many places you can go.  Personally,  I think this concept would work really, really well as a manga or even a film.  But I understand it is the nature of this type of project that the illustrations provide a glimpse into the world, leaving the rest of the world creation up to the imaginations of the players.  I think that’s where the magic happens.  But if I had my way, I would have liked to have done a story sequence, or explore some key story elements, like character origins, in a comic or comic strip form.  I think that would have been really fun.