PEOPLE BEHIND THE SCENES: Spotlight on Den Beauvais

The Imaginator - Zest for Life


An Exclusive Interview by Raya



Whoever thought up the word "prolific" must have had Den Beauvais
in mind. Den (whose nickname is "The Imaginator") is a senior
artist at Vanguard. He is one of the artists who created the PC characters,
plus many of the NPCs for Vanguard, and a man who thrives on work--his
output is staggering. His own "highlight of the day" describes
his state of mind. When I asked him what his highlight was, he replied:

"Waking up to do it all over again. When truly
inspired, art has that kind of power that keeps you up late at night and
wakes you first thing in the morning with a childlike excitement and curiosity
that you'll never know what you'll create that day. Every day becomes
exciting that way."

And this is the drive that has powered Den through 25 years of producing
art on a professional basis. I kid you not about the output. Take a look
at Den's own catalogue of what he has done. And these are just the highlights.

align=left>"I have been a self-taught freelance artist
since 1980. Got my first cover on Dragon magazine, followed by 15 more
Dragon covers over several years. Also did lots of game covers for TSR,
Inc., the original publishers of the rule set for Dungeons & Dragons,
card art for SpellFire, interior art for the Dragonlance series [ed. note:
the authors of this series, Margaret Weiss & Tracey Hickman, also
wrote the very popular Death Gate series]. I also did several hundred
concept game covers for their distributors' catalogues for pre-orders,
and those concept illustrations would then go to the other assigned freelance
artists or in-house artists such as Larry Elmore, Jeff Easley, Brom [ed.
note:
both Easley and Brom did some freelance conceptual artwork for
Sigil's Vanguard].



"I freelanced for TSR for about 15 years. Throughout that time I
also illustrated many scifi / fantasy book covers and was nominated by
my peers for a Chesley award for Best Paper Back/Hard Cover Artist in
1992 and 1994."

Has his energy tired you out yet? There's more.

"Following
my condensed 5-6 years book cover career, I pursued a career in the comic
book industry. Created an alternative black & white comic, 'Warlock
5,' for the 13 issues published. The success of that comic caught the
eye of people at Dark Horse comics, which resulted in my creating Dark
Horse's first color comic book mini series 'Aliens.' Went on to illustrate
many Alien products, including Aliens 4 toy designs for Hasbro toys. Received
the Eagle award for Best Comic Book cover of the year for 'Aliens' book
#1 in 1989.



"Immediately following Aliens, Mike Richardson
(Dark Horse publisher) wanted me to help them break into movies and obtain
movie licensing rights...so we got the license to start a series of the
classic Universal Monsters to adapt to graphic novels. Mike wanted me
to start off the series by adapting the classic 1931 B&W Frankenstein
with Boris Karloff. I agreed to do it...only if I could do the whole book
by myself. So I proceeded to adapt the classic to comic book format--a
process that would take about 4-5 months, including layout, editing, illustrating,
lettering, cover art, as well as transparency photography.

"Throughout illustrating Frankenstein, I created
a video set up to film the development of a graphic novel and afterwards
edited a video 'The Making of Frankenstein,' a 1.5 hour video explaining
the whole process of how this graphic novel was created, along with narration
on my painting style and tips. Continued to do several comic book covers
for such products as Predator, Starship Troopers, Star Wars, Star Trek,
Time Cop, etc."

Wait…there's still more!

"Sometime around then I also did Guardian
Cards with Keith Parkinson, as well as other card art for Topps (Star
Wars), Spellfire Cards for TSR and a few other publishers I vaguely remember.

 

"Throughout those years and it's hard to say
exactly when...but I developed an interest in 3D...started playing with
a Cad 3D program on my Atari computer around 1991. I was thinking that
someday it would be possible to create 3D characters to pose as references
for illustrations. Almost 10 years later I convinced Dark Horse to let
me create four Ghost covers completely rendered in 3D using Animation
Master by Hash Inc.

 

"I then realized a calling to pursue a career
in 3D fulltime. Freelanced for several companies creating various 3D props
and characters such as Super Buddies for AOL, low poly characters for
NotVirtual, Aliens and Predators for Fox Interactive, set design for Trivial
Pursuit, props and characters for Disney's Castle Builder...etc. Two weeks
after 911, I started my own little short animation 'Alien Parade'...which
turned out to be probably the most demanding project for me at that time.
What started as a cute little 3D animation idea...pushed my abilities
beyond what I expected...but was very satisfying on completion. I created
over 150 cute alien characters, choreographed the animations, created
the sound track and learned all about avi and mpeg compression so as to
display Alien Parade for that Christmas...only two months after starting.
I intend to develop that into a full feature someday…'Alien Circus.'"

You thought I was finished? Still more.

"Also created a historical Sea Serpent one
dollar coin design for the Canadian mint. There's obviously lots I've
left out and lots I forget. But that's some of the highlights so far.
BTW...didn't mention anything about Wildlife artwork, Costumes, Sculpting
and Molding, Wood works, Sword forging or the two music albums I created."

I asked Den what exactly he did at Sigil. His reply was another jaunt
through action-packed artwork.

"Well, here we go...so far I've created all
the character races several times till perfected for our needs in this
MMO. Created meaning...concepting along with Keith's input, modeled and
textured. Created all the clothing and armor sets. Created several NPCs
as well...modeling and texturing, and now, due to Keith's passing, the
hope is that I can offer suggestions to help keep the character creation
team in line with Keith's vision."

He thought for a moment. "Keith can't be replaced...but
we try to push on with what he instilled in us...his enthusiasm and zest
for creation. So I try to ensure we put out the quality that he'd be proud
of."

Before we left the topic of his Vanguard work, I asked him what he was
working on now.

"The amount of stuff I created for Vanguard
stuns me even,"
he said with some wonder. I was surprised
that he was surprised. Obviously, this is a man who enjoys life and reaches
for it with delight. You can tell this when you are talking to him, this
transplanted Canadian who had a dream and persevered long enough to make
it come true.

Den was born in 1962 in Ottawa, the capitol city of Canada, at a time
when art careers were shaky and fantasy art as a career was unheard of.
Den's mother was the artist in the family and he kept bugging her to draw
pictures for him. She finally said, no, you could do it. With that unquenchable
energy of his, he learned to draw for himself. Neither of his parents
was all that keen on him choosing an art career. But he had a knack and
kept on drawing. When he was in 6th grade he drew pictures for his classmates
and sold them for a quarter each for lunch money, his first art enterprise.

Backtracking a little, he won his first art award when he was seven with
a fire prevention drawing of what NOT to do. His next award, more meaningful
to him, came at age nine.

"We had to draw what we envisioned the year
2000," Den said. "That was cool…looking so far ahead back
then. I didn't think I'd be around by 2000."

I asked him if his vision had been close.



"No, not really...mostly Jetson-like...flying
cars and elevated building," Den replied. "I might have drawn
computers though."

The award was a certificate and some money.

"This was a big event back then," Den
recalled. "City of Ottawa thing."

As far back as he can remember Den always drew. He spent several years
drawing by himself, after school, designing hot rods mostly. He had a
paper route that financed his art supplies. From ages 13 to 16, he did
pretty much nothing but draw "cool cars."

"I had them plastered all over my room, sort
of a gallery. My parents always dragged their friends into my room to
see," Den said. He chuckled. "I should have charged admission."

I asked him if it bothered him that his folks did that.

"Was cool...I liked the fact that that was
the most noticeable time that my dad was proud of my art," Den answered.

Between ages 16 and 18, he began doing a lot more fantasy stuff-dragons,
babes, guys in armor-but it was off and on until he was 18.

At age 18, he encountered his own personal epiphany. Den had dropped
out of school when he was 16. For some reason, he still didn't see art
as a career, but more a hobby to pass the time while he got involved in
things he loved, like rock 'n roll. He got into bad crowd and, by the
time he was 18, there were some rough things going on in his life.

"I met a lot of characters I didn't want to
be like," Den said. "I knew I had a talent...was time to explore
it…professionally before I ended up in jail."

One of the things he did at age 19 was paint the backs of jeans jackets
for pocket money. He developed quite a talent and created a nice demand
in that line alone. Determined to make professional art a go, he buckled
down and in no time at all had a box of rejection letters before getting
his break. I asked him how he felt about his first sale.

"Like I found my calling," he said. "It
was great. Kim Mohan gave me my big break. He was the chief editor at
Dragon Magazine back then…great guy. I knew this was the beginning
of what I was meant to do."

He paused. "I found myself...weird, huh?"

One cover led to another, and as he worked and sold his art, he got better.
His first cover looks pretty crude to him now, but when I saw it, I thought
it looked pretty good, certainly a lot better than I could ever do.

I asked Den some of the usual questions I ask "people behind the
scenes." He was very forthcoming.

Raya: What was your reaction when you found out that you were
being hired by Sigil to work on Vanguard?



Den: Finally...a
chance to spread my wings as a 3D artist and also a chance to get really
consumed by one project over several years.




Raya: Without giving any secrets away, how do you feel about Vanguard
the game?



Den: Best-looking
game I've ever seen. The talented team we've assembled is truly remarkable
and it shows in our game. Creating characters for an MMO is much more
challenging then I expected...but, like anything else, the more challenging
the more satisfying when achieved. We've come a long way since its conception
and we've put a lot of effort into the quality and details. I'm very anxious
for it's release...I think fans are in for a real treat and for years
to come.

 

Raya: Anything else you'd like to say about your job?



Den: I love
what I do and we have a great character team. It's been quite a journey
so far. When I first got to Sigil it was necessary for me to switch 3D
programs, as at that time I was fluid in both Animation Master and somewhat
in 3D Studio Max...I had very little knowledge of Maya. But it's thanks
to several talented and patient co-workers who took the time to teach
me the ropes in Maya. I owe a great deal of thanks to Thad, Milo, Christian,
Kevin and Rob for their help and their continued efforts to ensure characters
get rigged and weighted properly. Thanks guys...you rock!!!

Den got married on Nov. 21, 2005. The happy couple had planned their
wedding to include the complete Las Vegas treatment, with the Little White
Chapel to exchange their vows and an Elvis impersonator to serenade them
between the vows.

"It was a blast," Den said. "A lot
of fun."

 

And guess who put the bee in Cindy and Destral's bonnet about the Las
Vegas package?

A delighted and delightful hobbyist, Den took up bonsai tree cultivation,
much to my envy. Bonsai trees are not that easy to keep.

"I had over 500 trees at one time," Den
said. "It helped me quit smoking at the time. Rather then go down
to my studio first thing in the morning with coffee and cigs, I'd go outside
and make a new bonsai. It worked...but the hobby also cost me about $5000
in supplies."

"Cheaper than cigs in the long run," I observed.

"Yup," Den agreed. "Fun too."

Another of his hobbies is music. Some years ago, Den created a couple
of albums under the name of Cyber Jammer.

"Music...well, I love all kinds but very fond
of techno. Influenced by Pink Floyd and Crystal Method," Den explained.
"I did two albums just for fun. Never sold in stores...just handed
out to friends."

 

Another passion of Den's is his love affair with Japanese swords--the
crafting, forging, and use of them.

"I got into knife and sword making a few years
ago," Den said. "Made lots of Japanese stuff as well as studied
Iaido for four years-that's Japanese swordmanship. My personal sword is
my prized work of art."

Den enjoys a close relationship with his son from a previous marriage,
14-year-old Kalen, with whom he has shared some of his delights in life.
One of them is his membership in a Quake Clan called American Bushido.

"My son has been gaming alongside of me since
he was 2 with Doom," Den said. "Now he's such a gamer…I
feel he'll become a game designer. He joined our Quake clan when he was
11." Den chuckled and added, "People hated having their butts
kicked by an 11-year-old. But he was that good...and getting better...scary
!!!"




The hour was getting late and I didn't want to impose on Den for much
longer. I asked him if he had any parting advice for aspiring artists.

He replied quickly. "Never give up your dreams."
He paused, then added, "There was a time when I'd encourage new artists...but
now the market is so saturated...it's very competitive. So I'm not sure
what to say...but the strong and the persistent will survive. It's a way
of weeding out the weak, I guess. But if you have a burning desire...keep
pushing."

Den
was a close friend of Keith Parkinson's for 23 years. Keith was the reason
he came to Sigil. He told me afterwards that Keith was the reason he stayed.
The two pals did a lot of work together before Sigil days, including collaboration
on the great Guardians cards. Once at Sigil, they worked together on the
races and characters. Like everyone else at Sigil, Den misses Keith, but
he is proud of the legacy that Keith left behind-not just his art, but
his values, his dreams, his mentoring, and his sincere and earnest friendship.

 

Den is a self-made man, and he made himself into the image he envisioned
when he was 18. It has been a learning lesson all his life, but the enthusiasm
and zest of this man made the lessons good ones, and now Den, in turn,
inspires others around him…just by being himself.


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Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.

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