Updated Fri, Jan 02, 2009 by Shayalyn
PEOPLE BEHIND THE SCENES: Spotlight on Den Beauvais
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.
"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
"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."
"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."
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."
"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?
Raya: Anything else you'd like to say about your job?
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
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
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.