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Chuck Lukacs Interview

This interview of Chuck Lukacs was conducted in March, 2016 in anticipation of the April release of the D&D: Curse of Strahd - Tarokka Deck.

We continue our fraternityofshadows.com Curse of Strahd interview series, moving from the writing to the art. We have all loved the evocative art of the Ravenloft products (and host some wonderful fan-produced art in our Portrait Hall as well). From what we've seen, the upcoming products are delivering art that fits right in with the high standards of the setting. Today we present an exclusive Q&A with the one of the new team of artists bringing our favorite world to life, Chuck Lukacs....

Hi Chuck, thank you for joining us. We understand that you are new to illustrating Ravenloft. Can you tell us a bit about your prior work?

Thanks for having me, this is quite a packed and extensive site ! I started working for D&D around 16 years ago, illustrating characters, creatures, and settings for the magazines Dungeon & Dragon. Then I went on to illustrating for Magic: the Gathering when the Lorwyn deck was produced, and I've authored and co-authored a number of fantasy art tutorial books, Fantasy Genesis being the one still on the shelves. =)

And what have you been involved in illustrating for Curse of Strahd and its related works?

I only recently have illustrated the cover of Dragon+ online magazine which features a big Raven, and of course illustrated the whole of the Tarokka Deck for Ravenloft.

What was your first experience with Ravenloft?

I first saw a couple Ravenloft modules on the shelves of a buddy of mine in school, with Clive Caldwell's covers and Stephen Fabian interiors. I think the Anne Rice books were at their height before the movies, everything was Vamps & Werewolves, and although we never played those modules, I remember sketching some villainous vampires, and working some animal/human hybrid anatomy into my sketchwork as well.

Who are some of your favorite D&D artists? Has any of the previous Ravenloft artwork influenced you? What else would you say influenced you for this project?

Way too many to mention, but I grew up with Jeff Easley, Tom Kidd, Steven Hickman, Fred Fields.. Former Ravenloft illustrator Mark Nelson's line work is always brilliant to behold, as is Tim Bradstreet's horror work, and I'm always trying to keep up with the newer digital stable of artists, so Tyler Jacobson and Daarken's work always influence me.

How would you describe how you envisioned the genre for this project? Were you aiming for dark fantasy? Gothic? Horror? What kind of guidelines for style were you given?

The guidelines and concept samples were fairly specific, so I'm basically aiming for what will be continuous with the stable of artists and brand for any project I work on, and Ravenloft was no different in that sense.

We love all the little eerie flourishes in your tarokka art (the sewn eyes of the The Executioner, The delightfully creepy Marionette depositing a drop of poison into its chalice, etc.). Do any details like that have interesting stories behind them?

With a project that needs a tight turnaround, like the Tarokka Deck, it's difficult to spend a lot of time on the Content, but my partner appears in The Healer as she's an Acupuncturist by trade, and I had that image planned the moment I saw it. The pose on The Swashbuckler is a sort of homage' to the scene in OS Star Trek where Sulu turns into a shirtless Swashbuckler, as well.. =)

What were some of your inspirations for the tarokka deck? Did you refer to the previous decks that have been produced? or did you prefer a fresh start?

Richard Whitters and I came up with an aesthetic looking both Traditional & Digital at the same time, after I gave him a wood engraving I did long ago, on my hand made paper. If I had the time, I may have carved wood engravings for them all, which would have looked far more symbolic and suited the time period a bit better, but would've also lacked most of the details I put in these illustrations. In the end, I used thick chunky lines for certain areas, and highly detailed grayscale painterly marks on the faces and hands of most Characters, so I think that aesthetic panned out nicely. =)

The suit cards of the tarokka tend to feature a corresponding number of items related to the suit in the art (e.g. five coins depicted on the 5 of Coins card), which of those was the easiest to work in those items? Which was the hardest?

The higher numbers on the Glyphs and some Swords were by far the hardest because of the scale of the symbol on such a tiny illustration. Let's see, easiest were probably the Coins, as they could generally appear as simple circles and ellipses.

54 cards is a huge art order! How did you get through it? Were you ever tempted to just give up and draw something sunny and colourful?

I illustrated most of the finals on summer break, as I was teaching for the first leg of the project, and yeah, the work load was rivaled only by the series of Theros Heros Cards I did for Magic the Gathering 2 years before. I'm kind of used to drab and overcast living here in Portland, but what surprized me was the lack of horror nightmares that will sometimes follow the creation of these dark characters.

What do you listen to as you draw?

A lot of Audio books and Comedy/Political podcasts. I can even look back at certain cards and paintings and sometimes remember the portions of story from books, as if the passages were "painted in".

How did you produce the art: was it physical or digital?

I'll always sketch up traditionally whether I'm working Traditionally or Digitally. These illustrations were basically sketches that were made to look like woodengravings, then "painted" digitally to finish them out.

Finally, what's your favorite piece that you created for this project?

Oh I like a couple; The Thief, The Temptress, The Dark Lord (reminds me a bit of Ronnie James Dio), The Horseman, The Beast, The Raven eventually turned into the current cover illustration for Dragon+ online. Can't pick a favorite.. =)

Thank you so much for your thoughts on the Tarokka deck, Chuck. We look forward to shuffling it up and telling some fortunes real soon.

The Curse of Strahd - Tarokka Deck is available for pre-order from Gale Force 9's online store. You can find Chuck Lukacs's website at www.LightPusher.com, or visit him on Facebook. He is a contributor to charity blog Portland Stink-Eye (for the Raphael House of Portland) and his own Fantasy Genesis blog, focused on teaching techniques from his book, Fantasy Genesis. Chuck also gives D&D and MtG prizes away every quarter on his Mailing List.

Thanks again, Chuck, for helping to bring our darkened corner of the D&D multiverse to new life!


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