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John Latta

I love having too many projects to do. Doing nothing but commission work can become overwhelming. Being able to disengage and switch into different modes and produce something that still aligns with my goals or progression is important to me. I have become so much more aware of the training and practice I have neglected.. Basic drawing mistakes I haven’t readily recognized. Things feel like they’re coming to a head now, because I feel like I’m trying to make up lost time. Trying to find some anchor points to not get overwhelmed has become important to my process and approach.

In this case, two things are aligning.
Happy with recent progress on form and structure basics, I’m moving to conquer my anxiety involving digital colouring. I love painterly effects, and I’d love to be able to align my capabilities to produce work like that. But, baby-steps first. One of those is capturing the basics of light and shadow lying on surfaces by using simpler cell-shading techniques. Since I’m also in need of updating my banners for Twitter, Facebook and business cards, I’ve redrawn my plate-wearing aarakocra with the crazy beaked mace for the occassion (the wings on the original creation from 2017 looked like what happens when you leave chicken far too long in the fridge).

Next step is Bob Rossing the new birb on the block.

I’ve got enough on my plate to last awhile now. The next Wednesday update may end up waiting a week or two.

*cracks knuckles*
Signing off, for now.


#weeklywednesdays

As I’ve mentioned, I am planning to reengage in a more well-rounded manner with my inner monsters – the ones that I have pop into my head during moments I spend drawing… eating, sleeping, pooping, walking, shopping… remarkably, a lot. So I took a day to get acquainted with NaturalCrit’s Homebrewery, a tool that formats tabletop roleplaying content in the style of the current D&D Fifth Edition ruleset, and converts to .pdf format.

You may have seen the creature I’m going to share here. It was a concept developed during #Orctober (or, #Orktober if you prefer) in 2017. I was sick with flu, home from work leafing through the Monster Manual, and in particular looking at the orc entries. Wandering later into the drow entries, I decided that it was a shame you could find a creature as chaotic and insidious as the drider, but amongst the orc- nothing comparable?

I recall sneezing several times, and then scrambling for pen and paper and feverishly scribbling out a really sad version of what I would later call the “orcorpian”, an orc torso blended with a scorpion’s body. It was a year later that I put together a creature stat-block concept that broke down the key pillars of the monster: orcish savagery mixed with an insectoid predator armored by chitin, pincers and an almost lethal poison. I drew the orcorpian two more times after that. This past weekend, as I started typing up the stat-block out using the Homebrewery toolset, I looked at the art I had done, and realized I needed to accurately reflect my current style, and started drawing it again:

It feels good to look back now and see where I stand today in my art progression (versus the previous version, part of my “#Inktober & #Orktober” post) . As you can tell, this is still a work in progress that I’m weaving into my schedule and weekends around my regular commission duties. I will eventually have something complete and embedded into that Homebrewery document to share with you all as a PDF either through a Patreon Creator account, the DMsGuild, or DriveThruRPG (I still have to look at the metrics before making that decision).

Doing this work has forced me to engage with it as more than just another drawing, but as something that needs story, a reason to skitter across a cieling, or burst out of false walls and covered pits at your player characters. As a long-time dungeon master, I’m thrilled to be doing this.

I can’t wait to finish it and share the link with you.
#weeklywednesdays

I’ve been neglecting my baby.

I haven’t been using this site as actively as I could, and I’d like to make today the start of a regular update schedule where I’ll be sharing content with you guys weekly. Hold me to that. I will art-dump all over you guys.

A freakish amount of change occured in late 2018: September 14th marked my last day in retail, officially closing that chapter of my life to begin work doing what I love: full-time, freelance art. I made a bunch of headway getting my art to stand out in front of thousands on my various social media platforms, (FB, Twitter, Instagram), and there I connected with two long-term content creators who seriously loved what I produce, and have been clients since May 2018. One of those creators, Caley McCready, publishes an open beta TTRPG system called “Elemental D6”. In the words of its author: “Elemental D6 is a roleplaying system that allows players to explore the Ardemare galaxy from the bow of their ship, sailing through the deep ocean of space, propelled among the stars by the galactic winds. It features strategic combat and playful, creative experimentation with control over the elements via ki manipulation”. The world has been an expressive, fresh take on the usual TTRPG fantasy campaign setting, with Spelljammer-esque physics and Trek-like discovery. The world is meant to be cerebral, vital and unfamiliar, and Caley has given me a ton of leeway when it comes to the creatures I’ve produced for him.

Supported by patrons, Caley requested a recent piece to reference the face of Krystina Arielle (cosplayer, TTRPG nerd, Sirens of the Realms, Critical Role, Ironkeep Chronicles) depicting the human form of his Nahuali race, an anthropomorphic being that shifts through three different forms (still a work in progress – if you love cats, you’ll appreciate the last picture):

These pieces were produced on my new Cintiq 22HD, purchased just before the Holidays (I wouldn’t want to be without it now). I couldn’t be happier with the responses I recieved from both Caley and Krystina, or the leaps my art has made by taking time for real development. Investing my time into the things I want to do is happily paying off.

I promise to keep you all updated as the weeks progress. #weeklywednesdays

-John

If you’re a dungeon master, and you love orcs, this post is for you.

As many artists realize, this is the month of Inktober. Produce an image per day. Inked. There are some prompt words to jog the imagination (and speaking as a commission artist that draws nearly 100% from description, adjectives go a long way drawing on hidden inspiration). You get to post stuff, and be part of a community that rewards itself with likes, re-tweets, shares, etc. I like those things. All of them, I really do. But I’ve been crafting this website, and there were unforeseen hiccups, and finishing of commissions, and unfortunately, my version of #Intober2017 turned into #whatcanihopetofinishbeforeimexpectedtowakeup2017. Not nearly as catchy, or productive.

I did still produce some work, but more specifically I found out during my twitter time that the word October is missing a letter. A big, fat, “K”. That K is important, especially when you drop it between the Or-tober.

I love orcs. As an artist, they are creatures that might make you stand still, completely absorbed in its structural anatomy, fully missing the almost assured incoming decapitation as it runs straight at you. A while ago I started work on a concept revolving around hybrid monsters, inspired by Dungeons & Dragons infamous driders. “You know what would be cool,” I said. “A drider with the body of a scorpion, like the Xen’drikar scorrow, but with the upper half of an orc.”

Except, I didn’t say that. It was only later that I found out about the scorrow, and only after I had learned of the manscorpion of AD&D fame. Either way, I was super excited, and I drew this piece:

Scorcion? Orkorpian? I can't even...

I’m planning on creating a Dungeon Master’s supplement that focuses on Orcs; monstrosities, variants, etc. Whenever I can find a chance between all the #Inktobering, I’ll keep you guys updated.

How have I never been to Fan Expo? I’m a fan of things. I like Expos.

Friends have been going on about this for years and years and I’m finally going to attend. I have no idea what awaits me, but at least I have some people going with me to act as guides.

Maybe I’ll see some of you there.

It has been awhile, but if I had to pinpoint an exact weekend…September 24-25, 2010 was the first time I ever ran a Dungeons & Dragons session, with a group of eight long-time friends (which has ballooned up to ten) in Newmarket, Ontario. It was my inaugural experience running or being a part of any sort of table top RPG experience.

Let me introduce you to my group: the “Dan Cheung Adventuring Experience, Feat. Kris Morrison” (or DCAEfKM) has been playing once a month for the past seven years, or whenever we could find time to meet up. It has been and remains one of the highlights of my tabletop RPG experience. First, that I find myself DMing for what amounts to two full groups of players; second, that I have forged consistent, memorable moments with people I call friends:

The Players:
(James) Soulja-Boy, variant human evocation wizard
(Andy) Tender-Vittles, forest gnome valor bard
(Megan) Kettu Palon, half-elf arcane trickster rogue
(Elyse) Muckluck, half-elf war cleric of Bahamut
(Kris) Krom, tiefling hunter ranger
(Dean) Gamblor von Baltazar, brass dragonborn oath of devotion paladin of Bahamut
(Freddy) “Susan”, goliath berserker barbarian/ El Lunchador, Jr., half-elf luchador, way of the open hand
(Dan) Gang-Wu Bo, longtooth shifter monk, way of the open hand
(Phil) Dareus En’Migilar, half-elf fighter-rogue
(Matt) Tholin Stronginthearm, dwarf totem-warrior barbarian

The “Dan Cheung Adventuring Experience, Feat. Kris Morrison” has become a fable. I would love to be able to share it all with you, but ain’t nobody got time fo’ that. Here’s some of it:

•Early in their career, the DCAEfKM took ownership of a bar, and renamed it the “G-Spot” (the ‘g’ stands for gnome). The number of times I’ve been asked to point out on a map exactly where it is…

Soulja-Boy and Tender-Vittles, casting “Magic Missile” and “Vicious Mockery” as a combined spell, resulting in “Magic Mockery”… (this is totally doable on a shared initiative count + readying an action, and the lowest damage rolls of each spell combined).

•“Susan”, rolling a 1 THREE TIMES IN A ROW trying to extract himself from glue shots. (“You try to extract your ankles using your hands… your hands are now stuck to your ankles…You try and use your teeth to extract your hands… your face is now stuck to your feet… you’ve fallen over and are in what can only be described as ‘incumbent fetal position’”).

Kettu Palon interrogating my NPCs and villains with the use of her hand-crossbow, and lack of empathy (“You’re running out of hands, knees, and time, but my crossbow still has bolts”).

Muckluck and Tender-Vittles arguing in-character with each other about party tactics. The one thing both of them agree on is that stealth is never an option.

•Our paladin, Gamblor, whose player arrived late to one session, tried to catch up to the team, via horse-back. In order to quicken his pace, the seller also offered him a vial of something to pep his horse up. Sitting atop the horse, Gamblor paid his coin, then watched to his horror as the seller took the top of the vial off, and plunged it into his horses’ backside. Gamblor made it in time, though he barely passed his CON save. Don’t ask about the horse.

•Giving Krom, the neutral evil character in the group, an evil, sentient, artifact weapon.

Some things I’ve learned along the way playing in D&D Fifth Edition, and in particular with this group is:

1) Long campaigns are a really bad idea.

2) Tighter, simpler focus on story elements and not “crossing the streams” of planned campaigns with ten compelling back-story narratives.

3) Not giving away magic items like candy, though I blame starting out in Fourth Edition for that.

4) Always be snacking.

5) Always remember to take insulin.

6) No matter what you do, it’s still ten people playing. Things are assuredly going to go off whatever counted for rails at some point.

7) Playing as a sentient artifact weapon in conjunction with a PC is so much fun, I don’t know where to begin.

8) Sometimes, you just have to do every single dumb voice for the NPCs and villains during that one session.

I’ve enjoyed myself immensely delving into the world of TTRPGs. Aside from D&D, I’ve played in the “Savage Worlds: Hollow Earth” campaign setting, some “Pathfinder”, and a very small amount of “Vampire: The Masquerade”. But whatever comes next, playing with these people has given me a load of happiness and inspiration combining Story and Art together. You’ll see some of these characters mentioned above depicted in the art of my gallery.

Playing D&D, and more recently getting involved in the Fifth edition community over the past year has helped me focus those two things in a way that allows me to now approach all of you reading this with the work you’ll get to check out here on this site. From commissions through personal work, I hope you enjoy looking at it as much as I have creating it.

-John