As I continue to work on projects which I can't show yet, I am reminded of the many projects that have come and gone over the years that I've never been able to show. These would be paintings in limbo. Sometimes, projects get cancelled mid-stream. Sometimes they are indefinitely delayed. Other times, the product is published but the art is not included for a myriad of reasons (and sometimes, that art may reappear later). Often, publishers get First Publication rights, which means just that--if they haven't published it, I can't. Sometimes they get around to letting me show the work under stipulations that I not discuss what it was used for. Sometimes they go bankrupt and the contacts and rights go into a second legal limbo. I might be able to regain the ability to show the work, but by the time it's clear that it's time to try, I've moved on in my art and wouldn't much care to show it off anymore anyway.
Here, then, are a few of the pieces that come to mind which are stuck in one form or another of publishing limbo:
- Since 1994 I think there have been... at least 12 pieces done for Magic: the Gathering that went into limbo. I asked and was allowed to show two of them over the years without really saying they were for Magic.
- Of the above, 4.5 of them were alternate versions of cards that released. Early in my career I would sometimes do the approved sketch and then mid-stream come up with another idea and so just paint that too, then submit them both for publication, letting them choose. Card art was smaller and faster in those days. One I know was killed because the art sucked--it was published having been reassigned to another artist who, interestingly, got a different/better description than I got, apparently.
- The .5 piece is the "Ascendant" half of "Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant," which was killed when mid-assignment, the Art Director liked the rune-in-the-sky interpretation of one illustrator doing another of those flip-cards, and asked the rest of the artists to swap out their Ascendant side to match that theme.
- One of them is an alternate version of "Tempting Licid" which was actually more of the Art Director's fault than anything. I understood the AD to have approved the sketch, and painted it. As I neared completion I was told that it had not in fact been approved, and I ended up having to start again....Wizards has implemented much tighter and explicit controls around this since those days.
- In 1995 I painted the cover to an old WotC-published magazine called, "The Duelist." There is an alternate unpublished cover to that. I turned in the original and the Art Director was fine with it but not loving it as much as I'd hoped, so I immediately painted another cover and they much preferred that and ran it instead. I preferred the second attempt better, too. Note that I always did this sort of thing on my own dime, in the interest of trying to satisfy my client, without being asked. If I'd been better as a younger illustrator, of course it would have been completely unnecessary.
- A couple of early pieces for Vampire: the Eternal Struggle card game were painted but the cards killed in production. This was my first professional gig. A couple of later pieces had alternate versions produced in the same manner as above...I was not particularly confident as a young illustrator.
- At least one illustration commissioned for Netrunner was similarly killed in production.
- Over the years a couple of Dungeons & Dragons spot illustrations were moved from one book to appear in another. A couple, as far as I know, were never published.
- A couple of early World of Warcraft cards were cut. Let's just say it took a bit for a lot of artists to get the hang of Blizzard's very peculiar style. There was a lot of art cut out of that first set, across the board.
- Some illustrations for an educational graded-reader.
- One licensed Star Wars-related painting.
- Multiple illustrations for 2 mobile games, one of which had production killed before release, the other of which may have been published but the foreign client is no longer responding to emails about it to confirm.
Although, in doing a bit of research on this, I did find out that at least one piece was finally shown so I can talk about it, so perhaps I'll do that next!