Author Archives: Darlene

Darlene’s Design Tips: Characters Per Line

In reviewing some design portfolios of candidates seeking layout work in the RPG genre, I was very surprised. From the samples I have seen thus far, I wonder if anyone has any feel for using type at all!

The last portfolio I reviewed, there were only two readable pages among twenty. Only those two pages used flush left/rag right alignment and the ratio between the size of the type versus the length of the line was finally correct. Unfortunately, it was all wrong on his other sample pages.

If this person were a student of mine (I used to teach graphic design to University underGrad students), I would point out some things he did that are not reader-friendly, such as his persistent use of justified text. According to Wikipedia, when justifying text type, “the minimum number of characters per line (cpl) is 40 characters; anything less than 38-40 characters often results in splotches of white spaces (or rivers) or too many hyphenations in the block of text.”

Apparently, this designer does not know that using the optimum number of characters per line (cpl) greatly impacts legibility. Basically, anything from 40 to 75 characters is widely regarded as a satisfactory line length for a single-column page set in a serifed text face in a text size. The 66-character line (counting both letters and spaces) is widely regarded as ideal. For multiple column work, a better average is 40 to 50 characters. Font sizes need to be adjusted up or down to achieve it.

Therefore, if designers insist upon using one column of type across an entire page, they must strive to make the type conform to 66 characters per line. Otherwise, the page will look like the suspiciously small type within a lawyer’s contract. Longer lines (between 85-90 cpl) may be acceptable for bursts of discontinuous text, such as in bibliographies and footnotes, but for continuous text, lines with more than 80 characters is unacceptable. On the other hand, study participants preferred shorter lines over long lines, likely because they feel more at ease with the format. Also, short text, such as ragged marginal notes, can be as little as 12-15 cpl.

Whatever the format, the text should be always be inviting and easy. Avoid the mistake of presenting a wall of text with no breathing room. Don’t make leading–the space between the sentences in a paragraph–too tight. Think of the leading as the road that brings the eye back to the right to read the next line. The pathway of white should, at the very least, be 20% of the font size, or two points above the size of the font. That’s what is meant by 10 on 12 (written 10/12). It means to set the text using ten point type with twelve points of leading. The same paragraph set solid is written 10/10.

The designer would be cruel to the reader to set a paragraph solid with a justified type alignment. When the text is set as thick blocks, it becomes an almost impenetrable wall. Reading is slowed and comprehension is compromised. It’s also a recipe for a head ache. I wonder why this mistake is done so often in the RPG genre? Why is there so little regard for making texts legible and accessible to the poor reader? Is it possible people are unthinkingly proliferating the mistakes created by others before them?

Another portfolio I perused showed the complete opposite. This designer used the page like a canvas. Also being an illustrator, she used the text to accentuate her art. She made a statement about not liking there to be too many lines of text on a page. That’s ok if she was also the author. If not, I would hate to be someone who was trying to communicate something vital in the midst of visuals competing for attention. This designer was self-serving, showing off. Her allegiance was not true to her role as designer: to accentuate the meaning of the text.

A good designer makes sure that everything is accessible to the reader. The page is not a canvas for the designer to express himself–that takes away from the purpose of the page and spread. Nor is it a contest to see how many words can be crammed onto a page because printing is expensive. In good design, the words always take precedence. They are supported. Information is easy to find. Reading becomes a joy. Good design is reassuring to the reader. Good design is invisible. It does not call attention to itself. It faithfully supports the meaning of the words and looks easy.

Successful graphic design is Zen.

Sources: Bringhurst, R. (1992). Horizontal Motion. The Elements of Typographic Style, pp 25-36. Point Roberts, WA: Hartley & Marks.

Art created with pencil, colored pencil and grease crayon

For much of the art I have created for AdD&D, I used the medium of pen and ink. It was the preferred medium for the RGP genre, a hold-over from the print technologies of the past, before the digital age. Back then, it was simply easier to reproduce illustrations for offset printing where black was black and white was white–with no grey-scale in-between. Obtaining the illusion of grey-scale using only black was possible, (like stipling with dots) but very time-consuming.

At that time, turning in art using pencil was frowned upon because reproducing grey-scaled art for print via Photo-Mechanical Transfers depended upon the skill of the camera person. The results were not always happy. Often, the subtle details of the art was lost in translation, making the art appear lacking in the printed version. If artists wanted their work reproduced accurately, they defaulted to pen and ink.

But that was back then… This Gallery displays art I’ve created using different types of pencil.

Art created with pencil, colored pencil, and grease crayon

These are from my Sacred Places Series:

Gallery of 12 Calligraphic Art Works

By no means exhaustive, the works within this Gallery were chosen for their unique qualities–like utilizing paper Darlene made herself, her experiments in combining calligraphy with photography, non-usual layouts, calligraphy etched onto glass, type face design based on calligraphy and angelic alphabets, etc..

GALLERY of CALLIGRAPHIC WORKS by DARLENE

Although Darlene started dabbling in calligraphy early on in high school using a Speedball pen and guidebook, officially, she dates learning calligraphy “properly” when she stayed in London in 1974 as her Field term at Beloit College. Her teacher was Dorothy Hammond, Craft member of the prestigious Society of Scribes and Illuminators.

Many years have passed since that time. Darlene has learned her craft from the “who’s who” in the Calligraphic Arts–Shelia Waters, David Howells, Ian Reece, Donald Jackson, and Thomas Ingmire to name a few. Along with a myriad of different scripts, she also learned quill making, vellum preparation, paper-making, Medieval Gilding techniques, marbling and book-binding. Darlene’s also taught calligraphy and helped to co-found The Wisconsin Calligraphers’ Guild. Her calligraphic works have also been published in several books.

About works within the Gallery:

Flower of Darkness. Darlene wrote out in calligraphy several depressing poems using different colored inks for each poem–pale blue, black, crimson–on black paper she created herself. Darlene also hand-bound the book which fits within a box she made in the shape of a coffin. The binding incorporates the accent of a paper sculpture on both the cover and coffin-shaped case. 1986.

Flowering Tree Roundel. After Darlene researched the different flowering plants associated with the 12 months of the year (according to Sun Bear), she arranged the information in a roundel, combining illustration with calligraphy. Likewise, the colors she used for the calligraphy were also associated with the months. 1988.

Albert Einstein Quote. This calligraphic piece, which incorporates illustration with text, was published on the front of the Wisconsin Calligrapher’s Guild Newsletter. It is one of her favorite quotes from Albert Einstein. 1981.

Dragon Alphabet of Decorative Caps. These Capital Letter project combines two things Darlene loves: letters and dragons. 2003.

Photographic Calligraphy. Darlene used her favorite Einstein quote in her photography class at Indiana University. The piece was created by brushing photo-emulsion onto a piece of paper and exposing the portrait image through a layer of acetate that she had calligraphied. When exposed, the places where the light could not get through shows up as reversed lettering. 1986.

Pasolini Quote. Darlene stayed in Italy, attending a 4-month Artist Retreat when she created this calligraphic piece on paper which she made herself. As the time wore on, many of her fellow artists got fairly depressed and this quote somewhat reflects the mood. 1983.

Manjushri. This is a fairly straight-forward calligraphic piece dedicated to Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. In Mahayana Buddhism, his name means “Gentle Glory.” 2006.

Voyagers of the Light. The calligraphy was etched on Glass. 1987.

Osiris, the Plant of Life. This calligraphy was produced using different ink colors for different lines of an ancient Egyptian poem. 1998.

The Power of Love. This is not calligraphy–this is a typeface Darlene designed based on calligraphy. It’s included it in this gallery because it looks fairly convincing as hand-work. 2006.

Troubadour Poem. On the occasion of a marriage, Darlene created a calligraphic piece reminiscent of an illuminated manuscript page, complete with borders and illustration. The illustration is also crammed with hermetic symbols. 2001.

Ophanic Characters. Darlene re-designed a 16th century angelic alphabet, known as Enochian but re-named as Ophanic, according to the principles of character readability. 2009.

Book Covers designed by DARLENE for Stephen E. Crockett



This Gallery displays eight recent book covers designed by DARLENE for author, Stephen E. Crockett. Stephen’s subjects and themes are drawn from the mountains and foothills of his North Carolina home and each story is its own little slice of psychological horror…

About Stephen E Crockett:

Before turning his attention to autobiographical, truth-based fiction novels, Stephen E. Crockett started his writing career back in 2001 with the publication of  “The Prophet Code” by Aethyrea Books, which he followed up with “Bible Prophecy” in 2006.

In 2010, he published in Kindle, “The Dark Man” followed in 2012 by the biographical story, “Black Tar: For the Love of Heroin.” Then came “Ocular: The Monster in the Mirror” in 2013;  “Knob Hill: The Grey House Murders” in 2014 and “The Island” in 2015. “Ouija: The Devil’s Doorway” and “Diary of a Drug Addict” were both published in 2016 while “The Puppet Master” was published in 2017.

Stephen’s works are only available as Kindle ebooks on Amazon.com in the Kindle bookstore. Just use your ebook reader and do a search on Stephen E Crockett, or click on the titles below. 

For anyone interested in knowing something about any of his books, here are their descriptions:

BLACK TAR: FOR THE LOVE OF HEROIN

  • Black Tar is a biographical look at the use of heroin and the toll it takes on the addict. It is written from an addict’s perspective and details the day to day existence of one junkie as he lives from fix to fix and watches as his life spirals from alcohol, pills, and Cocaine to heroin and intravenous drug use. His attempts to free himself and live a sober life are always half-hearted at best and so his casual drug use spirals from a clean life, with a job and the hope of a family to a heroin addict; living hand to mouth–unemployed and desperate on the mean city streets. In this smack-tinted world, our junkie bounces back and forth between the extremes of overdose and withdrawal, both of which have the ability to kill him. Life is desperate for a junkie and all too often, they find themselves dangling between the fix that will kill him and the sobriety that will let him live.

DIARY OF A DRUG ADDICT

  • A heroin addict looks back over a life of misery and addiction. From his earliest days experimenting with “gate-way drugs” to his spiraling descent, through every available illegal drug – into the hell of heroin addiction. He gets pushed by his addiction to heroin from a manageable addiction that he can control, through the loss of everything he owns and holds near and dear to his life. Heroin becomes his ever-present companion and over the years it turns him into a homeless, jobless heroin addict living under a downtown highway bridge. At his lowest, suicide seems to be the only way out, but when he finally hits rock bottom he realizes that in the mess, the muck and the blood that his life has become, salvation may still be possible. If only he can stay away from the needle and be as successful sober as he had been as a drug addict.

OCULAR: THE MONSTER IN THE MIRROR

  • Within every mirror, there is a reflection; and within every reflection, there is a world. It may be as simple as your face in the morning or as complex as the world behind you. But not every mirror projects a reflection of whatever you place in front of it. Some mirrors have depth and in that depth, there hides another world–a realm you will never see unless you go looking for it. Sometimes you can find it, most times you don’t. Those that do open themselves up to a realm beyond our physical world, a place where dreams hide and nightmares come true; where monsters are real, and a man can quickly find himself hunted by creatures he knows nothing about and has no control over.

KNOB HILL: THE GREY HOUSE MURDERS

  • Following Hurricane Donna, a struggling family of four follows their dream to own a house. They run the real estate gauntlet, never finding anything they like until their agent shows them the last house on her list. A run-down Victorian style mansion sitting all alone on a piece of property the locals call Knob Hill. It looms over the valley like some giant gargoyle and is known to the locals as a place of mystery and great horror. Undeterred, the family buys the house and begins remodeling it. But just as they are settling into their new home, the nightmare begins. A silent, residing evil force reaches out to the oldest child and establishes a connection that slowly but surely guides him through the house’s violent past. When he is commanded to exact the same horror on his own family he does as instructed, skillfully killing his family members until there is no one left but himself and the demon who then drives him to suicide thereby reclaiming the house that has been its all along.

OUIJA: THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY

  • A group of young friends form a club to investigate occult subjects. From witchcraft, to mysticism, to magic. They get together on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. In the beginning, nothing much comes from their persistence. But then, one of them suggests they test the Ouija Board to see if there is any truth to its fabled abilities. Their main objective is to see if they can use it to summon invisible forces from the other side. Their experiment is successful, but quickly gets out of hand. All but one abandons the project. The last standing member of the group takes the Ouija Board home and continues using it to contact spirits. Demons or Angels? He can’t be sure until they leave little doubt in his mind as to what forces he has been dealing with.

THE DARK MAN

  • Scott Clemmons lives in a world of hurt. Abused by an alcoholic father who murders his mother when he was twelve years old, Scott must deal with his own increasing paranoia and insanity. A big black bird shows up, invades his sanity, helps him murder his father to avenge his mother’s death, and then attempts to protect him from attacks that Scott believes is launched by his father’s disembodied soul. As he spirals into alcoholism, he must defend himself from “The Dark Man” who haunts the family farm and seeks to destroy everything that Scott holds dear. Scott fights hard to live a normal life and for a few short years is able to do so. However, as time passes “The Dark Man” consumes each and every part of his life, from his sanity to the love of his life and in the end this evil aberration consumes Scott as well. This story contains graphic depictions of demonic possession, domestic abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse, murder, death and suicide.

 THE ISLAND

  • On a small island off the Carolina coast, there lives a beautiful woman whose life is marred by grief and tragedy. Her world is dark and loveless. Her marriage is miserable and the pain of losing her only child has almost destroyed her. Her pain is as real as the ocean that surrounds her and she has long made peace with the idea of committing suicide. And then a chance encounter with an uninspired writer turns romantic and although she’s married, she allows this stranger to swept her off her feet and into his arms with promises of a Summer she will never forget. For a time, their affair is a whirlwind of sex, wine, and cocaine. A life of excitement and pleasure await them at every turn and their secret affair is all consuming. As they share their darkest secrets she lets slip the fact that her husband is the island’s cocaine kingpin. He is a shrewd, evil man with illegal resources and no weaknesses. Once he learns of their affair he swears revenge and they are suddenly in great danger. As more and more details of the affair emerge, her husband’s contempt boils into a rage he cannot contain. They know their disappearance would be nothing more than passing gossip and the question is not IF he will seek his revenge but WHEN and, as she knows far too well, his actions will destroy everything and completely.

THE PUPPET MASTER

  • On a south-eastern Virginia farm, a dirt-water, back-woods rendition of fundamentalist Christianity dares to rear its ugly head. Heavily influenced by a little red book–based solely on a deep misunderstanding of basic religion and Biblical principle–written by a mysterious missionary, one believer’s brain is being cooked. He uses his Bible with the little red book to terrorize his family in the name of religion and stews in a vat of ignorance and superstition from which springs forth a most unholy doctrine. He’d totally inflict his insidious beliefs on his family were it not for his wife, who would stand for none of it. She’s ready to protect her children from what she believes is her husband’s religious insanity. And then the puppet master appears. Revealed as the author of the red book, he arrives with extensive plans to build a network of churches based on the dictates of his little red book. The farm is sold and the family reluctantly moves from Virginia to North Carolina where the first church is to be built. It is here that the shellacking begins. The church attracts its fair share of attention, however, nobody hangs around for long as the church evolves from great hope and possibility to empty pews and bankruptcy.

Just Finished 10 Health-Related Affirmation Cards

Lately, I’ve been consumed with understanding and defeating my auto-immune condition of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I’ve been so focused on the subject of late that my creativity got involved. The result was the radical idea to create a line of Greeting cards based on Affirmations to promote the Health of different parts of the body.

People may, or may not understand, that their unpleasant emotions from the past are stored in various parts of their body and create conditions of dis-ease in the area where it’s stored. Some of these emotions are anger, resentment, fear, hatred–all the usual suspects. Interestingly, the places inside the body which store each negative emotion seem to be consistent in all human beings. But the longer these emotions stay unclaimed or dealt with, the malady will continue to fester until the body manifests an actual disease.

Affirmations, in and of themselves, don’t represent the only answer towards healing an illness, but they represent a means to focus the mind on a different, alternative dimension of healing. Maybe you are among those who have already resolved their diet, their environment, the job and other stress factors in life. What remains are one’s own internal blockages which sabotage all healing processes. We may not understand entirely where we received these blockages. But by making affirmations, sooner or later, the core incident will arise from the unconscious for one to see, acknowledge and correct.

Thus far, my ten different affirmation cards address Back Pain, Cancer, Foot Pain, Heart Conditions, Joints, Liver, Neck Pain, Nervousness, Skin Problems and Stomach problems. If you know of a loved one who could benefit, send them a card so they know you care…

Click here to view the Cards in a Gallery Format

At my zazzle store, I call this card line “SACRED ART of the SACRED HEART”

Following are links of the affirmations for different ailments:

For the Relief of Back Pain

For the Healing of Cancer

For the Healing of the Feet

For the Healing of Heart Disease

For the Healing of Joint Pain

For the Healing of the Liver

For the Healing of Neck Pain

For the Healing of Nervous Energy

For the Healing of Skin Problems

For the Healing of Stomach and Digestive Issues

 

Fantasy Maidens and Beasts Creative Coloring Book

MaidensBeastsCover-loI’m really proud that the debut of my “Fantasy Maidens and Beasts” Creative Coloring went so well at North Texas RPG Convention during the first week of June this year.  My hat’s off to Texan hospitality!  I am also pleased with the very favorable and encouraging comments I received from everyone who found their way to my art table at the con. Thanks for buying a coloring book! You guys are awesome!

What I think is particularly innovative about my coloring book concept is that it invites participation in story creation. Colorists can give names to the maidens and the fantastic animals associated with them. They can also make up narratives about who, why, where, when or what may be happening on the page.


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Thanks for your patronage!

 

DARLENE’s “Jasmine” card game–about the Mid-Realm

On June 2nd and June 5th, within the hallowed halls of the NTRPG Con (North Texas Role-Playing Games Convention), DARLENE will take exceptional individuals (who have signed up) on a journey through the Mid-Realm via her 1980s JASMINE: The Battle for the Mid-Realm card game. There can be only one victor.

For a glimpse into the realm, here is the lay of the land:

Within the Mid-Realm lies four Kingdoms. The rulers of each kingdom have different strengths and weaknesses depending upon their nature. The experience of playing JASMINE: the Battle for the Mid-Realm collector card game differs depending upon the faction played.

BLUE FACTION TARRANT is a very large kingdom on the tundra in the northern most regions of the Mid-Realm. It is ruled by Thorgall, a cold-hearted man who has built a tremendous fortress of ice and snow. Thorgall regards all other factions with cool indifference, secure in knowing the icy reaches would claim any of their armies long before any weapon could. Thorgall lives in a crystalline ice palace, deeply immersed in the secret which keeps his icy kingdom intact.

RED FACTION A very different Kingdom lying in the Mid-Realm’s west is ruled by the ruthless Queen of Fire, Melantha. She is effective because she knows the value of infinite patience. As silently as a spider, Melantha weaved a powerful web so she can study her enemies and identify their weaknesses. Her magic is strong, but her armies are weak. She may have plenty of demon minions, but they are of little use in battlefield fighting. Besides relying on her magical skills, Melantha also schemes, such as making alliances to have someone else eliminate a mutual enemy. Her Castle Ildshoii was built within the side of a volcano.

PURPLE FACTION Like the fire queen, Bardulf, the dark prince, knows how to use cunning and guile to attain land and privilege. He has already stolen Jasmine’s ancestral kingdom of UR and rules it from his Castle Swartzborg which lies to the East. Bardulf has been to known to dabble in the practice of magic, which luckily granted him the protection of a powerful dragon called Gryth. But he much prefers stealth to being on the open battlefield. His armies consist of spys and assassins who work behind the scenes to obtain control for their master.

YELLOW FACTION Jasmine, along with her father the king, have lost the Kingdom of UR. She escaped Bardulf’s abduction attempt and has made her hiding place within the crystal caverns her Castle. To survive, the princess has had to quickly learn the power of diplomacy and rediscover her enormous aptitude for magic. Now she’s at the point where she can boast alliances between the Dwarves, Battle Maidens, Mounted Warriors who, all together, have impressive fighting skills. They perform their best when Jasmine or their own leaders are with them.

Battle Maidens within Jasmine's Faction.

Battle Maidens within Jasmine’s Faction.

GREEN FACTION The King of UR (along with his army of mercenaries) and the Nomadic Barbarians will also add their strength in battle to any faction who successfully negotiates with them.

When the game gets started and the factions mix it up, interesting things happen. Then, for a completely different gaming experience, switch factions!

btw- The original game is still available online

TIM KASK Interview with DARLENE, May 2016

This interview first appeared in Tim Kask’s blog: DRAGON GRUMBLES on May 17, 2016:


DARLENE, best known for her iconic work in illustrating AD&D (1E) and the Greyhawk maps, and I go back a long way together. Even before TSR was buying her art, I was buying it for Dragon Magazine. We share many interests and it was with great delight that I found out about her involvement with this unusual system and that she was “back with us” in the gaming field. 

For the remainder of this piece, we will only use initials—less typing. Tim Kask

TK: So, D, what have you been up to lately?

D: I’ve been up to my share of mischief. But what I have on my mind to talk about today is my artistic contribution to a (virtually) new 336-page hard-back fantasy role playing game published last December, 2015.

TK: So tell us…

D: The book is called Mythos Arcanum and its game system was inspired by old school D&D.

TK: I have skimmed it, mainly to see all the gorgeous art; what makes this different from all of the other clones?

D: The author, Joe Aragon juxtaposes modern day rules with allegorical content. It’s different from older fantasy role playing games in that, during the course of the game, it encourages players to explore meaningful self-reflection with their characters. The first concept behind this game is to have fun. Joe Aragon simply broadens the basic package of fun with a new, mind-expanding component. By allowing philosophical queries of illusion and reality to surface, Mythos Arcanum becomes a gateway for young minds to explore the nature of reality.

Q: How did you first get involved with the project and the author?

D: Joe sorta courted me…

TK: “Courted?”

D: (laughing) In a chivalric sense and only as an artist. I have never personally met Joe Aragon. He contacted me around 2010 via email asking me to create a logo for his company, Mythos Arcanum Games Imagined (MAGI), which I did. After that, he persistently raised the possibility of me creating interior illustrations for his book. We e-mailed back and forth for a spell. At the time, I was closed to that possibility and tried to communicate my reluctance to return to RPG illustration. Joe pointed out that my endeavors in fantasy illustration were not just relegated to the past. He indicated that a lot of people would welcome seeing new RPG art from me.

TK: Wasn’t I telling you that very thing?

D: Yes, you were. You pointed out that people still remembered me even though I was out of the loop for 30 years. Many fans honor the Greyhawk maps as classics and still relate to my illustrations as integral and formative to their early gaming experiences.

Tim, it’s due to your prodding as much as Joe’s that we are even having this conversation today. You have a leading role in my return to the RPG fantasy scene. That’s why I thought you’d appreciate hearing about my new RPG endeavor.

TK: I do. Continue.

D: Initially, I refused Joe as I had not done any serious illustration work for over 25 years. With a full time job, I felt I did not have the time. Then there’s the fact that monetary compensation for RPG interior art in the industry is notoriously low–at least compared to rates in the real world.

TK: What made you finally decide to work with Joe?

D: I relented after I finally grokked (Oooh, a Heinlein reference) Joe Aragon’s innovative concept behind his new game system. In Mythos Arcanum, Joe Aragon improves upon an issue that has never been satisfactorily addressed in RPG game settings. Consequences exist for the taking of life. Joe calls it, “philosophical role-playing” and explains it like this:

“In a standard fantasy role-playing game, a knight might kill a group of bandits. For this, he is awarded treasure and experience points. In Mythos Arcanum, in that same situation, the knight might have to face up to that what he’s doing constitutes murder and that killing the bandits may not be the right thing to do.”

As in real life, it does not matter if the unfortunate man who met his demise was a thief or murderer. Nothing ever condones the taking of life. The laws of karma are in full play.

TK: There have been a few occasions when thinking about our whole genre that I have been somewhat appalled by how casually we shrug off all the killing. I then remind myself that it is all make-believe. This game seems to be a lot less blasé about that.

D: The moral lesson (of there being consequences for ones choices and actions) is a vital lesson to learn deeply in today’s world–especially in the case of young players. So yes, I could easily devote my time and energy to produce something worthy and beautiful for the next generation of table top gamers. All could benefit from knowing some key life lessons.

Oh, yes–another reason I’m on board regards the game’s take regarding the nature of good and evil. He writes this about the issue (page 106): “The intended spirit of Mythos Arcanum is purposely designed to portray the universal struggle of good vs evil. Various archetypal character classes are created as symbols of these principles in order to play out scenarios of good versus evil in a medieval fantasy setting. As the heroes fight against monsters of darkness and villains with selfish agendas, they explore various fantasy realms of the imagination. It is assumed the players will play the side of good or at least neutral as they strive against the ever-present and destructive agents of evil, destruction and darkness. This is not a game to indulge an individual’s attraction to those things both dark and sinister… There are many other game systems designed for such endeavors.”

That’s why I think this is a fantastic RPG system to introduce to young people and why I went the extra mile.

TK: I have a slight issue with his characterization of other games indulging attraction to the sinister, but I still find the premise refreshing. On another note, you mentioned being worried about starting back up with doing illustrations. How did that go?

D:  Well, I got off to a very shaky start. That was five years ago. I was the opposite of prolific. I think I astounded Joe with my snail pace, averaging about one illustration every moon cycle. Since I had not touched pen to paper in years, it took me a while to get acclimated enough to find my groove. Once I finished the art, I scanned it. Usually, this is the final step, but I found it was but the first. Dogged by the perfectionist within me, I found myself “cleaning up” imperfections on the scanned electronic version. I’d readjust the proportions of figures, alter backgrounds and props, re-crop, re-define, and sharpen the lines.

TK: So you like using the computer.

D: Like it? My computer is more than an artistic tool. I love the fact that I can zoom in really close without straining my eyes physically. The best part is the computer’s ability to “undo” strokes–which is impossible with ink on paper.

Also, with the computer, I can contribute a lot more detail. In a piece of art, I love to balance richly textured areas with non-detailed areas. I seem to use the mouse in the same way I use a pen.

TK: Wait a moment–you don’t use a stylus? Don’t all computer artists use those?

D: Apparently not. I never invested in a stylus. I forget the reason. I simply learned to use what was at hand to work with. Every dot and every line equals one mouse click. It’s no different than the pointillist technique I did during the day, and takes about as long.

TK: Let me get this straight; you’re saying that all of your art in this gorgeous book was done using just a mouse? Including this one that looks like a woodcut?

Animal Friendship

Animal Friendship

D: Good eye! And I mean that in more ways than one. (Happy your eye operation was successful)…    Yes, I opted to preserve the mystique of something from yesterday-year. It was not hard because I seem to naturally drift towards doing a woodcut effect anyway.

TK: Wow, D–The book is profusely illustrated.

D: This was the result of a successful 2014 fall Kickstarter campaign. One of the stretch goals was to have me fill in the gaps. I am not the only illustrator. Between everyone, every monster, racial type, and character class is fully illustrated. Jim Holloway created the cover art and about 27 of the interior illustrations. The other artists who contributed are Rowena Aitken, Vaggelis Ntousakis, Laura Siadak and Martin Siesto. So all of a sudden, I had a bunch of illustrations to complete in addition to the book’s design.

TK: How many illustrations did you do?

D: Officially, I created 52 illustrations of various sizes. But while I was designing the book, I thought it would be neat if the Herb Lore section could appear like an old Herbological Guide Book. So I gifted the project with 34 small spot illustrations of plants. Simply to delight the reader, I also created 17 symbolic emblems in the Deity section to fill it out. I think these special little touches entice the imagination. So to answer your question, I did over 100 new illustrations for this book.

Q: Isn’t doing all this detailed work time consuming?

D: Very. But if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well, don’t you think? The successful Kickstarter helped to free me from the 20th century notion that “time is money.” In that world, it makes no economic sense not to declare a piece of art finished as quickly as possible. That doesn’t work for me.

Time is art. That’s my new paradigm. I added detail because I love the richness of juxtaposing different textures. Besides, I consider the time I devote on my illustrations to be a gift to my fans.  Locked into my work is the spiritual substance of my artistic focus, beneficence and devoted presence which can be felt through the images. Sensitive players can touch Joe’s strange and beautiful World of Rocheron within Mythos Arcanum.

TK: You mentioned designing the book?

D:  Before I came on board with the project, around 2011, the book was technically ready to go to press. However, the previous layout person made all the customary mistakes novices always make when they attempt to design a publication. Even if space is dear, people must avoid starting a new section in the middle of the second column of a left hand page. Equally bad is splitting up graphs and text so that a page has to be turned to glean important information.

Amateurs at design also tend to be horrorvacuists (having a fear of white space) so they are compelled to fill up every available area of every page. Unfortunately, this practice produces uninviting walls of text which are a chore to read (decipher). The alternative is to sculpt the white space to improve the reading experience. That’s why I urged Joe to reconsider publishing the book as it was.

TK: And you improved upon this?

D: Absolutely. I wanted the design for Mythos Arcanum to be the best the industry has yet seen.

I took a tremendous amount of care with the design of each page. Stylistically, I adopted the use of a medieval canon as the underlying grid design for the book. This resulted in a healthy amount of marginal white space bordering each page. A page’s superior readability depends on the correct interplay of positive and negative elements and shapes. When plenty of white space surrounds the text, readability always improves. Studies show, when something is more easily read, comprehend is improved.

The medieval layout template created for Mythos Arcanum is phi-inspired.

The medieval layout template created for Mythos Arcanum.

Another important thing about text columns most beginners don’t understand is the optimum ratio between the size of the font to the length of a line of text it’s set in. The optimal line to character ratio is between 50-60 characters, including spaces. That’s why 12-point type set solid in a one-column format is so difficult to read. The eye too easily loses its place when jumping down to catch the next line. The space between lines should be two points above the point size.

TK: Page breaks are sensible. There is an index. Information appears to be easy to find. The illustrations all seem to make sense in conjunction with the text.

D: Superior design never calls attention to itself. To serve the meaning of the text so that information is more accessible, great design steps away from the limelight… It’s neutral, invisible, subtle and unassuming.

TK: I can tell this subject is near and dear to your heart, but moving on…

What final things would you like your fans to know?

D: I went the extra mile in this book for my fans. I wanted to acknowledge and give something back to them for all their support throughout the years. I also wanted to pay it forward to the future generations of table-top gamers. Thus did I place all my time, effort, sincerity, and breath of creation into what I once considered to be my one final RPG project, my swan song.

TK: And now?

D: I’m sticking around. I’m staying.

TK:  OK D, it’s time for your plug. How may people obtain a copy?

D: First, I wish to be very clear. The copies I am offering are among those I already purchased from the author. The copies he may have available on his website are not a part of this offer. Since I am selling these books as collector’s items, purchases will directly benefit me as the artist.

In exchange for their purchase, people will be getting something special from me. For each book sold, I’ll create a special bookplate (ex libris) to be placed into the book, personalized with the name of the purchaser specially lettered by me. I would also affix my signature to the plate, making this a signed copy. Viola! Instant collector’s item!

TK: I get it.

D: I believe collector’s items are worth more if they remain in their original packaging. Therefore, each book sold would remain shrink wrapped. Each ex libris I personally create will be shipped in the same package as the book. I will spring for priority mail within the continental United States.

Mythos Arcanum cover back cover design, June 2015by DARLENE

Mythos Arcanum cover back cover design, June 2015 by DARLENE

Interested parties can send a $100 check made payable to: Darlene to P.O. Box 877, Mount Gilead, NC 27396

She can now accept credit cards on her darlenetheartist.com web site.  This is the link to the payment part of the site

TK: Thanks, btw, for my signed and personalized copy of the book.

D: My pleasure.

There you have it, fans of Darlene’s work.


You can email her at darlene@darlenetheartist.com