Get to know Featured Artist Christopher Burdett in this Q&A
Christopher Burdett is one of our three Featured Artists for Gen Con 2020! Get to know him and his work in this Q&A, then check out his work this year at the convention!
The Art Show is a special section of the Exhibit Hall where more than 80 artists display and sell their work. The artists are selected by an independent jury and work primarily in fantasy, sci-fi, comics, horror, and gaming illustration.
For over twenty years, Christopher has designed and created monsters for the entertainment industries. Beginning with special makeup effects, he was involved at every level in the production of creature effects for numerous television and film projects, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly.
Since 2005, Christopher has worked in tabletop gaming, where he has specialized in monsters. From book illustrations, to trading cards, to miniatures, his work can be found in Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, and many of the Star Wars games.
For the past several years, Christopher has been focusing his attentions on his first book of monsters and stories. Set in a world first conceived in 1998, The Grand Bazaar of Ethra VanDalia explores the many creatures and beings that call the Grand Bazaar their home. The book will be making its debut in 2020.
More information at christopherburdett.blogspot.com.
What inspired your interest in art and illustration?
When I was three years old, my parents took me to a new movie. I clearly remember it: It was like nothing I had ever seen or imagined, and for me, it changed everything. I did not know what it was or how it came to be, but I knew I wanted to make things like this movie. The movie was Star Wars.
Later, I discovered Godzilla and Ultraman, which showed me a new type of monster. When a copy of the original Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual fell into my lap, there was no going back. There were worlds of monsters out there to explore, and I was ready. By the time I discovered D&D, I was designing and sculpting monsters and telling stories about them. There was no going back.
What’s the first step in starting a new piece?
For me, I need an idea, a hook, some sort of narrative to focus the pieces around. When I have that, I can see the completed illustration in my head. Everything after that is merely working towards that vision. That said, the work involves shooting reference, doing sketches and thumbnails, working on the final illustration, and making any needed changes and edits. But it all starts with an idea in my head.
What’s the best piece of technical advice you’ve been given about making art?
The best advice I ever received and the advice I always give is DRAW MORE. No matter if you are just starting or have done this a hundred years, you need to draw more. If you are a painter or work in pen and ink, you need to draw more. No matter what, you need to draw more. The artist that gave me this advice changed the direction of my career with those two words. You need to put in the time to get better. You need to have a pencil on paper if you want to become a better artist.
Making the marks you wish to is paramount in being an artist. Artists communicate ideas and tell stories through marks on a surface. We create a visual language with graphite and paint, and to be able to be effective communicators, we need to hone our skills through practice.
Do you listen to music while you work? What’s your favorite record lately?
When I work, I have television and movies playing. I wear headphones and have the screen out of my direct line of sight, but close enough if I want to glance. I lean towards things I can listen to that do not require watching, such as British crime dramas and detective shows. I listen to all of Star Wars regularly, and I have lost count how many times I have played through the entirety of the Clone Wars series. I have made a LOT of art listing to the Clone Wars.
What’s the best thing someone could say to you about your work?
I love to hear that my art made their game more exciting and fun, especially if it added to the enjoyment of the time shared with their friends playing a game. Was the battle exciting and fun? Did you narrowly survive? Did my card provide you with a win at a tournament? These are the stories I like to hear, that my art was part of their adventure. I also enjoy hearing if my art inspired them to make art and to pursue working in the industry. I have been lucky enough to meet and, in some cases, work with the people that inspired me. And that is an extraordinary moment.