RW: You worked for a while doing freelance work for TSR before accepting a full time position in the mid 80s. What finally made you decide to work for TSR? Was the working environment a lot different than when you worked freelance?
CC: I did quite a few Dragon Magazine covers, plus a painting for TSR's 1982 Days of the Dragon Calendar, in the 3 years prior to my taking the job as a staff artist. I was living in my home state of North Carolina at the time and was pretty happy freelancing. TSR offered me the job several times and I didn't even consider taking it. The third time they offered to fly me to Wisconsin for a job interview and I thought it would be a good opportunity to go meet Kim Mohan and the Dragon Magazine crew on TSR's dime. I wasn't seriously considering taking a job at TSR and moving to wintry Wisconsin.
When I got to TSR I was really impressed with the Art Department. I was most familiar with the artwork of Jeff Easley, since both of us had done fanzine work at the same time (and for some of the same zines), and I was aware of his work for the Warren Magazines. I enjoyed meeting Jeff and he invited me over to his house that night. Larry Elmore came over and we all talked for hours about fantasy art and TSR.
In North Carolina I had felt fairly isolated as far as my interests in fantasy & science fiction and comic art were concerned. It was great to meet a group of other artists with the same interests...so the idea of taking the job at TSR quickly started to make sense to me. As a freelancer in North Carolina I had to do a lot of advertising art, in addition to my fantasy & science fiction assignments, to make ends meet. My desire was to do fantasy & science fiction art full time, since I really didn't like doing advertising art. So the TSR job looked to be a way to fulfill my ambition.
Since there was a recession going on in the early 80's and the thought of receiving a steady paycheck sounded really good, I took the job and the rest is history.
The TSR working environment was difficult for me at first. I'm pretty shy and was used to working alone. Though I enjoyed working with the other artists, I wasn't used to everyone in the company stopping by and looking over my shoulder as I worked.
RW: Did TSR make you grow a beard as a condition for your employment? (Note, please see the Bruce Heard interview for background on the Mystery of TSR Beards) Did you have a beard before working for TSR?
CC: I grew my first beard in graduate school at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I shaved it off for awhile, leaving a moustache, but my daughter thought I looked funny without the beard, so I eventually grew it back. I had the beard when I took the job at TSR and have had it ever since. I probably wouldn't recognize myself if I shaved it off now!
RW: I recall reading, that the artists (Larry Elmore, Keith Parkinson, Clyde Caldwell) at TSR in the mid 80s got together and decided to set a defining style that linked their artwork together. Is there any truth to that statement? And if true, can you elaborate more on what was discussed? Did you have to change your style to match the "other" guys?
CC: I don't recall any of us getting together and deciding to set a defining style for TSR. I think management had that in mind when they hired us, and tried to put together a team whose styles were similar enough to establish a "house style". I'm sure the artists wanted to be viewed as individuals and would have fought any attempt to get us to homogenize our styles. We all saw our work as totally individual and different from the other artists, but since we were working together every day in the same studio, I'm sure we influenced each other's work. I know I learned a lot from the other artists.
RW: While you were working at TSR from 1985 to 1992, did you feel like you had made into the big leagues? Was there a vibe that you were in a new exciting, expanding industry at the time? Was there a lot of camaraderie with your coworkers?
CC: I think I started at TSR in July of 1983. Truth to tell, we always felt that we were working in a vacuum. We would get a bit of fan mail, but nothing that would make us feel like we were in the "big leagues". The most attention we got was at the yearly GenCon, where we actually got to meet fans of our work. And occasionally we were asked to be an Artist Guest of Honor at other conventions. But that felt more like being big fishes in a small pond.
At the time, the gaming industry was sort of considered the red headed step child of the publishing industry as far as art was concerned. We looked up to the book cover artists as the guys who had "made it". But we were working to prove that our work as gaming artists was every bit as good as the artists in the book publishing side of things.
There was a lot of camaraderie in the TSR Art Department. We had a great time working together and laughed a lot. We were all working hard, and in many cases, long hours...but I remember having a lot of fun. When I left TSR to freelance again in 1992, I really missed working with the other artists.
Jeff Easley and I still live near each other and are still good friends. We stay in touch and get together for lunch whenever our schedules line up.
RW: Is the module "B9 Castle Caldwell and Beyond" named after you?
CC: Yes...though the legal department at TSR had some misgivings about it, as I recall. So it was less evident than it otherwise would have been.
RW: You have a distinctive symbol you place as a signature on your paintings. Is there a story behind the symbol?
CC: When I was freelancing in North Carolina, as I mentioned earlier, I was doing both fantasy & science fiction artwork and advertising artwork. I was signing the ad work with "Caldwell" and decided to differentiate my fantasy & science fiction work by signing it with a symbol similar to that used at the time by Jeff Jones. He signed many of his paintings with a "J" surrounded by a box.
I was doodling at my drawing board one day and drew a "c" followed by a period. I then extended the "c" over the period with a sort of tail. I then drew a line around the whole thing. It took only a second or two...it was very spontaneous. I liked it and started using it as my signature for my fantasy & science fiction work.
When I later started working with an agent, he wanted me to drop the symbol and go back to signing my name, saying that no one would ever know who did my paintings. My point of view was that if someone was interested in who did the cover painting, they would take the time to look at the artist's credit in the book.
My father always thought the symbol looked like a fish.
RW: Has your method of work changed any with the advent of the Internet, personal computers, digital image editing software, and the like? What is your preferred medium and process for making your art?
CC: I felt like I was old enough to be able to ride out my career utilizing traditional methods rather than trying to make the change to digital. So I don't do any digital illustration. When I finish an image, I like to have a physical, one of a kind, original painting or drawing that I can hang on my wall, sell, or what have you.
That being said, I have a website and do some preliminary manipulation and putting together of images in Photoshop...mostly for sketches. So the Internet and computers have come to play a part in my process.
But my paintings remain oils on illustration board, done in much the same way as I've done them for the last 40 years or so.
RW: If a fan wanted to buy some of your artwork, where should they go?
CC: My website: www.clydecaldwell.com
RW: If a fan wanted to meet you for an autograph, where should they go (for 2013)?
CC: I haven't been doing too many conventions in recent years and have no plans to do any this year.
RW: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about? Something you are up to? Maybe a kickstarter or the like?
CC: I'll be 65 on February 20th, so have slowed down my output a bit as I've gotten older. My wife, Sharon, retired a couple of years ago, and we've wanted to spend a little more time together. However I'm still doing the occasional book cover, taking on quite a few private commissions and have just finished my first personal painting that I've had time to do in 10 years, 'Dark Temptress'. I'm hoping to offer a limited edition print of 'Dark Temptress' through my website soon. I'm working on a private commission painting even as I type this.
We're discussing attempting a Kickstarter career spanning art book at some point in the future...but so far, that's just in the talking stages.