Talon Dunning: Where gaming and art find a home
After a busy convention season, we were able to to grab a few minutes of artist Talon Dunning’s time to chat about art, tabletop and the Fantastic Gallery.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Atlanta, GA. but spent most of my childhood in Miami, Fl. I’m a freelance fantasy illustrator and have been working primarily in the roleplaying game industry since earning a degree in Fine Art from Auburn University in 1997. My credits include Ravenloft and Mage the Awakening (White Wolf), the Star Wars Roleplaying Game (West End Games and Wizards of the Coast), Kingdoms of Kalamar and Knights of the Dinner Table (Kenzer & Co.), Mutants & Masterminds and Freeport (Green Ronin), and many others. I also self-publish my own game material under the name, Fantastic Gallery. I currently live and work in Atlanta.
We’ve been fans since you worked on WEG’s “Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game” in 1997. Can you tell us about how you got into illustrating RPGs and who you’ve done projects for?
That’s a long and interesting story. I got into gaming in high school, playing AD&D. My friend and DM, Paul Danner, was an aspiring writer. In college, I had an opportunity to do some work for a startup comic book company out of Montgomery, Al. While I didn’t get that job, during the interview, they mentioned looking for writers and I recommended Paul. While he only wrote one or two issues for them (the only issues they ever put out), it gave him publication credit, which allowed him to answer a call by West End Games for submissions to the Star Wars Adventure Journal. He landed that job and wrote a few short stories for them, as well as the Star Wars RPG supplement, Hives of Scum and Villainy. During the writing of that book, Paul asked me to contribute some NPCs from my own Star Wars games, which I did. Many of my characters and starship designs ended up in the book, but for contractual reasons, Paul was unable to credit me as a contributor. To make up for it, he agreed to show my portfolio to his contacts at WEG. A few weeks later they contacted me with a job, Star Wars Tapani Sector Instant Adventures. That was my first paying gig in the RPG industry. I did three more projects for WEG, including one for Men In Black that never got published, before the company folded. In 1999, I attended Dragon*Con and showed my portfolio of the art director of the Legend of the 5 Rings CCG, which was still under the auspices of Wizards of the Coast at the time. That landed me some card work. Around the same time, I answered a call from White Wolf looking for production staff. I didn’t have the graphic design experience required for the job, but they gave me an unpaid internship which taught me a lot about the RPG publishing industry. That lead to illustration work, which included a lot of Sword & Sorcery Studios projects, like Scarred Lands, Rappan Athuk, and, of course, Ravenloft. I worked pretty exclusively for them until 2006. By that time I was also doing work for Green Ronin’s Mutants & Masterminds as well as other small-press companies like Eden Games and Kenzer & Company. With the collapse of the d20 market, work became scarce enough that I had the time to work on my own projects. In 2008, I formed my own small-press publishing branch (I hesitate to call it a “company), called Fantastic Gallery. I worked with an online artist/writer named “T.Catt” to produce an adult-oriented d20 supplement called Sisters of Rapture, which we later translated into the Pathfinder system. I also wrote and produced a Pathfinder book called Children of Wyrms, featuring options for playing characters descended from dragons. We’re currently working on several different projects, all of which are published online through DriveThruRPG. In 2009 I started working the convention circuit, making regular appearances at Dragon*Con, GenCon and Origins Game Fair.
We have a question that we ask in every interview we do. The term “geek” has kind of expanded to any hobby, any behavior that you just absolutely go crazy about. What’s your geek?
I’m an old-school RPG gamer. I currently play or run in three weekly games and three monthly games, and am constantly working on game-related art or development projects. Interestingly, aside from my weekly Rock Band sessions and a few iPad games, I have almost no interest in video games of any sort. My other passions involve TV and movies (I watch a LOT of TV), and I love Star Wars. I even liked the prequels.
The other question we ask all the time, because we always get interesting answers – are there any projects, outside of what you’re doing, that you would love to do?
Not particularly… There are certainly games I’d like to work on, like D&D5, Magic the Gathering, or Pathfinder, but WOtC and Paizo are hard nuts to crack. I’d also like to expand Fantastic Gallery into an actual company, but that takes more business knowhow than I have, so it’s sort of stuck as a hobby business for now. I have an interest in character design, so working in Hollywood would be an interesting gig, but that’s not something I’d ever really be inclined to pursue.
We started our site to share our projects – cosplay and projects we’ve done to our home. Aside from your art, what is your favorite project and why?
I’m pretty proud of my Fantastic Gallery work, particularly Children of Wyrms. I have several upcoming projects that are poised to be pretty awesome as well. I like the fact that I’m not only illustrating these books, but am developing, writing, art directing, and producing them, which has really allowed me to explore different creative and technical avenues, and has really put what I learned at White Wolf to the test. Since it’s pretty much just me putting it all together, the work is really slow, but it’s a lot of fun and very satisfying when it all works out.
You can check out more of Talon’s work on his DeviantArt page, you can follow him on Facebook, and you can always swing by his booth at a convention for a custom piece!