Artist Guest of Honor
One of the benefits of being the chairperson for a distinguished convention like World Fantasy is the opportunity to get to know the guests. I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to know David Cherry over the past couple of years, and my life is richer because of our friendship. I
recently asked him to write a 500-word bio for our souvenir book. He said, “What? Only 500 words? Do you know how old I am? It’ll take me two pages to get through grade school!” So I said, “Give me a 500-word bio for the book, but also write the full David Cherry bio and I’ll put it on our website.” Well, he took me at my word!
David has lived a lot of life, done a lot of stuff, won a lot of awards, and here he tells us all about it. He also gives us a few peeks at his relationship with his family, including his sister, C.J. Cherryh, who is also a guest at this year’s World Fantasy Convention. (Don't miss the adorable photos of her as a child!) I hope you enjoy reading this uncut autobiography as much as I did.
– Ginny Smith
AUTOBIOGRAPHY: EARLY YEARS—FAMILY AND EDUCATION—LEGAL CAREER
Starting at the beginning, I was born in Lawton, Oklahoma on the 14th day of the very last month of the 1940’s. Life has been interesting. And I have been very busy. I now live in Norman, Oklahoma, not all that far from Lawton as the crow flies, but a universe away from all that I knew back then. I am now known primarily as an American artist, author, and illustrator of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I could have done worse. Almost did. I started out as a lawyer. Of course I did the full range of odd jobs kids do growing up: gas station attendant, popcorn and candy vendor in a movie theater, life guard, short order cook, carpenter, roofer, postman, parcel post delivery man, sales clerk, and mason’s assistant –which means I carried the brick for those with the skill to lay it. It is important to do an assortment of such jobs in one’s youth. It provides perspective. To this day, carrying brick, mixing mortar, and doing the setup and tear down of the scaffolding was my favorite of all the jobs I ever had. It kept me fit, and it was super low stress. My thoughts were my own all day long, and the prettiest, nicest girl in the world was my boss’s daughter. Life was good. I often think that, if I could step back in time, I would go back to those days and that life. It is a favorite daydream. And I do miss the boss’s daughter terribly. But doing that would take away the life I have now, the life she has now. Perspective. The things we learn by living life and making choices. Perspective is important if one intends to be a storyteller. And after all, isn’t that what an artist is?
Speaking of perspective, to know me as an artist, it would be wise to know me as a man and know something about my family, what I came from. Who I came from. I may not have had good looks or a lot of money, but I had good, strong parents who were not always right but who loved me, loved my sister, and tried their best every day of their lives. Oklahoma was Indian Territory until it became a state in 1907. Dad was born only five years later, 1912. Mom was born in 1916. Both grew up on the red dirt roads of a small town that had been open prairie not long before. It was called Anadarko. That was due to a clerical error. It was actually named “Nadarko” after a branch of the Caddo tribe but some careless clerk put in the extra A, and it stuck. Both of my parents were well aware that the land on which they lived had, until recently, belonged to the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache. Dad, Basil Lafayette Cherry, lived in town, Anadarko proper, such as it was. Mom, Lois Ruth Vandeventer, was a country girl and lived on a modestly prosperous farm just outside of town to the south. Her accent was thick enough to cut with a knife, but she was petite, sweet, tough as nails, and the prettiest girl in the county.
Dad was actually born at a bump in the road called Addington, Oklahoma, when his father, Robert Edward Cherry was sixteen years old. Grandpa and Dad’s mother, Georgia Gertrude Scanlan, split when Dad was still a baby, and Dad was raised at first by his father’s mother, Louisiana Carolina Cherry. It is likely that great grandmother Lou served as midwife at the birth. There is a Basil Scanlan in the records of nearby Scanlans, so it is likely that Georgia named her baby for him, possibly a favorite grandfather. But Lafayette? For years no one in the family could figure that one out. With the advent of the internet and Ancestry.com, we now know. It came from the other side of the family.
If great grandmother Lou did serve as midwife, it is likely that both she and the mother gave the baby a name. A little research revealed that Louisiana’s father was named Lafayette. He went by “Lafe”, but that is definitely who Dad was named for. Great grandmother Lou was a Boone from near Fayetteville, Arkansas. Her father, Major Lafayette “Lafe” Boone (1834 – 1900), was in the Confederate forces with Stirman’s Sharpshooters at the Battle of Corinth where he was partially paralyzed by shrapnel from cannon fire during the Civil War. Lafe’s father was Dr. James Monroe Boone (1788 – 1856), a veteran of the War of 1812. Jame’s great, great grandfather was Benjamin Maugridge Boone who had a brother named Squire Boone, who had a son named Daniel Boone. Yep, the famous one. So my great grandmother Louisiana Carolina Cherry was the legitimate, albeit distant, cousin of Daniel Boone.
Photo credit Tara Gray
Her husband, William Pinkney Cherry (Robert Edward’s father) had been living with the Creek and Sauk-Fox Native Americans on their lands near present day Shawnee, Oklahoma prior to statehood . He and his father, David (who had a place in Grayson County, Texas), bought and sold cattle between Texas and the Creek and Sauk-Fox Nations in Oklahoma. My grandfather was William’s youngest son and worked for him as a trail hand, driving cattle from point to point. So, grandpa Robert Edward was an honest to goodness cowboy, and that is what he was doing at age 16 when he gave baby Basil to his mother, great grandma Louisiana, to raise.
Mom’s family, the Vandeventers, emigrated to America long before the Cherrys. In 1662 Jan Pietersz van Deventer and his wife, Maria Hoogeboom, emigrated from Bunninck in the Bishopric of Utrecht in the Netherlands to Brooklyn, New York (named for a town in Utrecht called Breukelen). There they joined the Reformed Dutch Church of Brooklyn. In 1673, Jan and Maria moved to New Utrecht (now the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn). All that being the case, I found the following quote from The Collegiate Churches of Kings County, Brooklyn, 1928, by J. Frederic Berg to be fascinating:
“Midway between New Amersfort and Breuckelen a settlement soon arose to which was given the name of Midwout or Midway Woods, later became Flatbush. . . . By reason of its central location, Midwout (Flatbush) was chosen as the site of the first church edifice on Long Island. The spot selected was that on which the Flatbush church still stands, now the corner of Flatbush and Church avenues, almost the exact geographical center of the present city of Brooklyn.”
The more well to do side of the Vandeventers ended up owning many square blocks of prime real estate in what became downtown Brooklyn, New York. Many of those folks became bankers, and I imagine it was one of their lines which produced Willis Van Devanter (a variant on the Dutch name but in our line). Willis was appointed by President William Howard Taft as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1910. As was the case with the Cherrys, our side of the Vandeventer family did not find the custom of primogenitor so much in their favor. Our Vandeventers followed more agrarian pursuits. First in Virginia, then moving west into Kentucky and by flatboat up the Mississippi to St. Louis and finally settling in Kansas City where the family made and sold a commodity greatly needed in the growing West—brick. Eventually, several of the brothers of that family spilt to make their fortunes on their own. That group included my mother’s father, Floyd Vandeventer, who bought lands from the Kiowa in Oklahoma near Anadarko to establish a farm.
When I was growing up, the farm was owned and run by Mom’s mother, Ida , then later by Mom’s brother, Jack, and his wife, Chlorine. We drove to see them almost every weekend. The road in front of the house was still a dirt road which had to be graded from time to time. When it was, the next rain would always reveal a bumper crop of arrowheads. The farm was near a creek and had been a favorite camping ground of many of the natives. In fact, on the other side of the creek there was an old tree big enough to be a sort of landmark in the area, and one of the stipulations the natives made when deeding the land to grandfather Floyd was that they would retain the right to stop and pow wow there as had been their custom for many years. That practice continued for years. One of my favorites of the stories my mother used to tell was of the time her family had gone to Church in town only to find, on their return, that the tribes had set up camp by the big tree across the creek, and two young native American men and an elderly native woman were sitting in the living room of Floyd’s home. Of course, no one ever thought of locking their doors in those days. Grandpa didn’t speak that much of their language, but one of the young men spoke a good deal of ours. He apologized for the intrusion and explained that they had felt the need to take the woman out of the sun because she was suffering from the heat and from their long journey to reach the camp. They had gotten fresh water for her and a cold cloth for her forehead. It was obvious that she was a person of considerable importance to them. So much was evident in the deference the young men afforded her. So that Floyd and his family would appreciate what an honor it was to have her as a guest, the young man explained, “She is very old and honored among our people. She rode with Geronimo.”
Times were certainly different back then. So was the world. And that little girl who sat in her living room chatting with the woman who had ridden with Geronimo was the woman who loved and raised me and taught me how to deal with the world.
Mom rode a horse to school each day. To the one room schoolhouse at the top of a hill a few miles away. She was so small and petite that, even at six years old, she had to sit the saddle without stirrups because her legs would not reach. Her best friend was Irene Harris. She rode her horse as well, and they would meet each morning to ride together. One day Mom’s teacher asked all the students to go out onto the hilltop because he had something to show them. From the hilltop they could see a large herd of cattle streaming into town from the south. “This is important,” the teacher said. “I want you to remember this. You will never see it again. It is the last cattle drive up the Chisholm trail”. [To be fair, that drive cannot have been one of the big ones from Texas which made the tail famous. Those had ended in the late 1880s. But there were still no interstate highways, as such, in that part of Oklahoma in the 1920s (assuming Mom was 8 or so), and local cattle drives could still be made. I imagine that this was one such drive which chose to use the familiar route of the old Chisholm Trail. I also imagine that the town fathers of Anadarko had permitted it but stipulated that no allowances would be made for such drives in the future. That, at least, would explain what the teacher said and what my mother saw.]
One family story that sounds too exotic to be true but definitely is has to do with how my mother met my father. Dad was a local football hero in high school. All-State Guard two years in a row, etc. He was handsome with dark wavy hair and an athletic build. To keep in shape, he worked in the Anadarko ice house delivering 50 pound blocks and helped the neighboring farms load hay and such during harvest. When Mom was about 17 or 18 and starting to date, one of her father’s farm hands accompanied her into town to pick up supplies and ice. He said there was someone he wanted her to meet. While at the ice house, he introduced her to my Dad. The farm hand’s name was Younger. He was the nephew of the famous outlaw, Cole Younger. Mom also said he was a thoroughly nice fellow, a good hand around the farm, and always a gentleman toward her.
So now. See what I have done? I have given you perspective. (I know, bored you to death too but. . .) Now when you see my art and I tell you about all the things I have done, you will have the understanding that I grew up with a broad, twangy, hick-ish Oklahoma accent (which somehow faded as I grew) and had red sand between my toes pretty much all the time. That is who I am, and proud of it.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY: EARLY YEARS—FAMILY AND EDUCATION—LEGAL CAREER
During World War II, my parents had obtained government jobs and moved in winter in a rickety old car on bad roads from Anadarko, Oklahoma to Baltimore, Maryland. Dad worked as a Field Representative for The Social Security Department, and Mom took the bus each morning to Washington, DC where she worked in the mint making twenty dollar bills. They were all modern now. No horses. After the war they wanted to go home and applied to be stationed closer to Anadarko. They settled in St. Louis, Missouri for a while. At that point they had a baby, adorable little Carolyn Janice Cherry. Carolyn was so cute that people would stop and take pictures of her when Mom took her out. She had natural curls that made her look very much like Shirley Temple.
Seven years later the family had moved to Joplin, Missouri and then finally obtained a posting to Lawton, Oklahoma—just down the road from Anadarko. Then they had me. Sis was mildly amused but lost interest when Mom and Dad wouldn’t let her name me Berry. She swears to this day that she was not the cause of my slightly lower IQ and that the whole dropping me on my head thing was entirely unintentional.
I liked Lawton. It was an Army town, close to Fort Sill, one of our major artillery bases. A number of my friends were children of officers. One just two doors down from me had a father who was a pilot. Most evenings we would stand in the front yard and wait for him to fly by and wiggle his wings to say he was done and coming home to dinner. Often he would buz so low we thought he was going to hit our television antenna. When I was about 5, I rode my bike farther from home than usual and found this cool dirt road that ended in this big field which had mounds that were fun to ride on. I told Mom about it when I got home and almost got a whipping. I was sternly made to promise I would never go near that place again. Apparently I had wandered onto one of the Fort Sill firing ranges and the mounds were berms to stop shells. Mom said I was lucky it had not been in use at the time.
When it came time for me to go to kindergarten [Isn’t it odd that we used a German word for that grade when we had been in such a fierce war with Germany not 10 years prior?] Anyway, Mom explained that I had a choice. I could go to kindergarten at B. C. Sweeney Elementary (which was literally just around the corner on the street behind ours) or I could stay home. I, of course, said I would rather stay home. She said that, if I did that, she would make me spend two hours each day learning things that I would need to know in school later on. That didn’t sound too bad, so I committed to it. Mom being Mom, she had taught me my colors, my address, my phone number, my parents’ names ( I was amazed to learn that they were no just Mom and Dad), my city and state, where Grandpa Cherry lived, and such all before I was 5. I could also read some of my bedtime books. But we went to the T.G.& Y. on the corner and picked up some workbooks for little kids like me. Those covered all sorts of interesting topics. By the time I hit first grade, I was reading at a fourth grade level, could add and subtract, and had learned at least a little bit of American history. Of course, it was all seen through my little kid filters. If you had asked me who the founding fathers were, I would have probably said Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone.
Remember my mother’s friend, Irene Harris, who had ridden to school with Mom on horseback? She had married and moved to Lawton as well. I was fortunate to have her as my third grade teacher at B. C. Sweeney. She taught me cursive. We were right in the middle of that when Dad let us know that he had been promoted and that we would spend the Christmas holidays finding a new house in Oklahoma City and moving there.
It took a while to settle into Oklahoma City, but I came to love it dearly. Except for one six month period, I lived in the Oklahoma City area from 1959 through 1999.
Oklahoma City is the 8th largest city in America by land mass. It sprawls. Bicycles won’t cut it. Cars are essential. My sister used to live on the other side of the city from me, and it would take me an hour and a half to drive there and back. Just “across town”. It is now becoming uncomfortably crowded in many parts of town. Out of all the cities in the United States, only 26 have more population. But when we arrived in 1959, it was just right. We lived in a part of town called The Village, just a mile or two down the road from Britton, where John Marshall, the local high school, was located. Growing up, those were the “stomping grounds” for Sis and me. Think Ozzie and Harriet. Think Happy Days. Visiting today I am shocked at how small that territory actually is. It once seemed vast to me.
My schools were Andrew Johnson Elementary, then Ridgeview Elementary, Herbert Hoover Junior High School, and John Marshall High School. Go Bears! At John Marshall, I did take an art class, but that was not where I learned art. That class was fun, taught by a wonderful man who wanted us all to enjoy art and have fun with it. But to tell the truth, I only took that course to avoid a study hall in the cafeteria where I was likely to get in a fight. We had fun making things with the materials, but if we learned anything, it was inadvertent. The art that I wanted to learn would have a lot more discipline and structure to it. I once heard someone say “Discipline and skill have no place in art. Art is freedom and simply happens, often without thought or intention.” Ok. To each their own. But I wouldn’t try selling that philosophy to Da Vinci or Michelangelo. The art that I do and that my peers do will never “just happen” on its own.
So where did I learn how to draw and paint? For most of my life my teacher was Carolyn. C. J. Cherryh. I don’t think many people realize that, in addition to being a world class writer, she is a musician (first chair flute in high school) and a really talented artist. Check out her website at www.cherryh.com. I think she has a couple of her sketches up somewhere on the site. I standardly tell people that I am self-taught. That is largely true, but from the time I was little on up through high school, Carolyn and I lived in the same house with our parents. And whenever I would run into a snag on a drawing, I could take it to her for advice. She taught me a lot about perspective, anatomy, and standard measurements for things. At thirteen she herself lucked into an art class taught by a very good artist who was also an excellent teacher. C. J. would help commit her lessons to memory by going home and practicing endlessly but also by teaching her six year old brother. As a result, I was probably the only first grader at B. C. Sweeney who knew the color wheel, could draw a realistic human figure (as well as horse, deer, etc.), and knew to make his people seven and a half heads tall. I mentioned earlier that she was my Latin and Ancient History teacher in high school and that she had a Master’s Degree in classics. Given that plus her interest in art, you can imagine the wonderful library of books she had on hand. It is no accident that my favorite period in the history of art involves the amazingly realistic Helenistic sculptures or that my favorite painters are people like Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Jean Leon Gerome, both of whom were academy painters whose works filled my sister’s books as illustrations of life in ancient Greece, Egypt, and Rome. My love of art and understanding of what it is comes entirely from my sister’s influence in my life.
When it was my turn to go to college, I too attended the University of Oklahoma. I wanted to study art, but I changed my mind when I saw that what passed for art at the university then consisted of projects like throwing different colors of paint at a board and melting toy tanks over it in protest to the war in Vietnam. To me, art was something different, so I decided I would do better if I just kept studying on my own. That still left me with a degree to obtain while in college, so I majored in Latin and tossed in as many courses as possible in Greek, French, German, and Ancient History. I graduated in 1972 scholastically in the top ten percent of the nation with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Latin, General Honors, and admission to Phi Betta Kappa. I then entered the University of Oklahoma School of Law and graduated with a Juris Doctor degree in 1975.
From 1975 through 1982 I practiced law in Oklahoma City and Edmond, OK specializing in Transportation Law before the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. In 1976 I finally found out what Sis had been doing with her weekends and evenings for the past decade. She had been writing at a furious pace and submitting science fiction and fantasy novels for publication. In 1976 two of her novels were published by DAW Books and she won the coveted John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Author of the Year. She also became a member of The Science Fiction Writers of America. She asked me to go with her to the 1976 World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City where the award would be presented. She was going to be surrounded by fans and be hobknobbing with luminaries such as Bradley, Norton, Heinlein, Asamov. I was to be an emotional support. I was touched that she would want to share this with her pesky kid brother.
I had never even heard of a “Worldcon” much less attended one. But once there I was glad I had come. I met many writers, editors, and publishers as well as a number of the artists who were doing paintings for science fiction and fantasy book covers. One in particular, Michael Whelan, stood out. I already knew who he was since Michael had done the art for C. J.’s book covers as well as the art for the cover of the Marion Zimmer Bradley book which I happened to be reading at the time. The original painting was on display in an art show at the convention, and I was able to buy it at auction. After putting mybid on the Whelan painting, I rushed back to the hotel room, excited to tell C. J. all about it. When I got there, I found Sis having a conversation with another writer. Sis said “Marion, this is my brother, David. David, I would like you to meet Marion Zimmer Bradley.” I was dumbfounded. And I went all fan boy telling her how much I loved her stories, that I was reading one now, and that I was even bidding to buy the original art used for the cover. Later, C. J.’s publisher, Donald A. Wollheim of DAW Books, took everyone out to dinner, and I was able to meet Michael Whelan socially. I was impressed. Here was an intelligent, well-bred young man who was painting the style and subject matter which appealed to me, and he seemed to be both enjoying the work and making a fair living at it. Wow. I immediately wanted to pick his brain. It took a while, but that meeting opened my eyes to entirely unimagined possibilities.
C. J. and I went to the next Worldcon as well in 1977. It was called Suncon and was held at the Fountainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. Robert Silverberg was Toastmaster. Kate Wilhelm won the Hugo for Best Novel of the Year: Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. Isaac Asimov won the Hugo for Best Novelette for “The Bicentennial Man”. Joe Haldeman won the Best Short Story Hugo for “Tricentennial”. The Best Professional Artist Hugo went to Rick Sternbach. George Lucas won a special award for Star Wars. Andre Norton won the Gandalf Grand Master Award. And my sister won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer of Year. Wow. She was definitely starting to run with a high-powered crowd. Not bad for a high school teacher from Oklahoma. I was tremendously proud of her and happy for her.
Five years later, I was 30 and had become less enchanted with getting up each day to argue with people who were paid to disagree with me. C. J. was encouraging me to switch from law to illustration. At her suggestion, I agreed to do the cover and interior illustrations for “Ealdwood”, a fantasy novella C. J. was bringing out with Donald M. Grant Publishing. I enjoyed the project so much that two years later, in 1982, I closed the doors of my law firm and concentrated on increasing my skills with pencil and paint. My problem was that the work on “Ealdwood” was pretty much the only color work I had ever done. As a painter, I still had much to learn.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY: 1982 TO 2000—ARTIST–FREELANCE ILLUSTRATOR — AUTHOR
Again, it took a while, but by 1984 I began to have some confidence in my work and in 1987 I took home two Chesley Awards, one for illustration and one for my fine art. Both were color works. I would always strive to improve, but I had become a painter.
The Chesley Awards (named for Chesley Bonestell) are presented annually by ASFA, The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists to honor excellence in the field. In the years to come, I would be nominated for sixteen more Chesley Awards, six of which I would win. I somehow managed to win virtually every other award available in the field except the Hugo Award for Best Artist. I would be nominated for that award 10 times, a decade of near misses, but that one award would prove elusive.
I had become a member of ASFA in 1983. In 1988 I became President of ASFA and held that office through 1990. During those years, being an attorney, I helped ASFA obtain its certification for 501 (c) (3) status, drafted formal rules for the operation of the Chesley Awards, and solidified arrangements to have the award ceremony held annually as a regular part of the World Science Fiction Convention’s program.
Another important landmark in my career occurred in 1987. The Donning Company Publishers published a book of 40 of my paintings along with a treatise I had written showing step by step instruction as to my painting technique at that time. The book was entitled Imagination: The Art and Technique of David A. Cherry. In 1988, that book was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Non-fiction Book of 1987.
In 1991 I wrote a science fiction short story, “The Odd Man Out”. It appeared in the anthology, THE WAR YEARS: THE JUPITER WAR, edited by William Fawcett and David Drake, published by ROC Books.
In 1993, Ballantine Books was preparing to publish a coffee table book entitled The Art of Michael Whelan in tribute to Michael’s powerful career and the wonderful art he had created for Ballantine Books over the years. I was surprised and pleased when Michael called one evening and asked me to help prepare part of the book. The publishers had asked him to come up with an article outlining his career, but Michael thought it would be best to have a gallery owner, an art director, and a fellow artist each interview him about his career so the article would provide multiple viewpoints. He asked me to interview him as his “fellow artist”. I did, and it was great fun. I was very honored.
In 1995 FPG Cards published a fifty card set of trading cards entitled David Cherry Fantasy Art Trading Cards. That same year Artist’s Market published a lead article I had written entitled “Research Turns Fantasy Into Reality.” In it I gave an insider’s view into the day to day effort involved in operating a successful business as a freelance illustrator.
1995 was also the year I received the singular honor of being invited by The Fellows of the Smithsonian to appear at the Smithsonian Institution and give a presentation about my art and career. Also in 1995, I was selected as one of the jury for Spectrum 2, an annual publication of Spectrum Fantastic Art. 1995 was a heck of a year for me.
Since 1980, I had lived on Pineoak Drive in Edmond, OK and worked out of my 400 square foot studio at that address, but in December of 1999 I moved to McKinney, TX, a suburb of Dallas. Once settled in, I accepted an offer from William Fawcett to do the cover and all of the interior illustrations – color and monochrome – for an oversized, coffeetable book for Ballantine Books which would be entitled The World of Shannara, a companion guide to the fantasy world created by Terry Brooks. Anticipated production time was an entire year doing little, if anything, else.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY: JUNE 2000 – 2008 CONCEPT ARTIST – MARKETING ARTIST – PRODUCTION ARTIST – AND 3D MODELER FOR ENSEMBLE STUDIOS/MICROSOFT
I was not quite half done on the World of Shannara project when I received an offer I could not refuse from Tony Goodman, the owner and CEO of Ensemble Studios, a Dallas based game company which was poised to begin production on a computer game called The Age of Mythology. The position would be Senior Concept Artist, and I would be responsible for the concept art for all of the minor and major gods and goddesses of the Greeks, Romans, Norse, and Egyptians. For a classics major like me this was a dream project. Shortly after I signed with Ensemble Studios, it was acquired by Microsoft.
The World of Shannara, by Teresa Patterson and illustrated by David Cherry was published by Ballantine Books in 2001. That would be the last freelance illustration project of mine for a long time.
The game, The Age of Mythology, by Ensemble Studios, Inc. was published in 2002 by Microsoft. During the development of the game, my job description at Ensemble Studios had begun to morph to suit the ever changing artistic needs of the project. In the development of a computer game, there comes a time when all of the art is complete but the design team and the programming team still have several months of work prior to release. For the Art Team, much of that time is spent preparing marketing materials: ads, brochures, magazine covers, etc. Fellow Ensemble artist, Sean Wolf, and I found that we had become the Ensemble Studios Marketing Department. Since I had close to twenty years of experience doing book and magazine covers, I was a natural fit for this part of the job. In addition to numerous magazine covers, I created the box cover for the game.
In the world of game production, the big marketing effort each year comes at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, known as E3 for short. It was a thrill and an honor for to have my art displayed seven stories tall directly over the entrance to E3 in 2001.
Eventually, I taught myself how to work in 3D Studio Max and joined the Ensemble Modeling Team. After Age of Mythology, I stayed with Ensemble through the production and release of its expansion pack, Age of Mythology: The Titans; Age of Empires III and its expansion pack, Age of Empires III: The War Chiefs; as well as the Xbox title: Halo Wars. I often had to switch between preparing marketing art and building game content in 3D. That was fine as I found both very fulfilling.
In 2008 Microsoft decided to close Ensemble Studios. I chose not to go to any other game studios. I had truly enjoyed the people and culture at Ensemble Studios and could not imagine any other company coming close to matching it. (Although looking back, Blizzard would probably have been worth a look. I had several friends there.) Instead, I approached The Guildhall at SMU. The Guildhall is a graduate school which offers a Master Degree in Interactive Technology. It was designed from the ground up to provide the same kind of support for the game production industry that law schools provide for the practice of law and medical schools provide for the practice of the healing arts. Law schools are taught by lawyers. Medical schools are taught by physicians. The Guildhall is taught by seasoned game industry professionals who know the appropriate tools as well as work flow to train students to perform at expected levels in the industry. Disciplines include Art, Design, Programming, and Management. Logically enough, I started out teaching traditional and digital 2D and 3D skills in the Art track. I began in 2009 and left on December 31, 2012. During my time there, I became not only head of the Art department but head of the Master Degree program for all students in the Art Track. Then I chaired a committee responsible for a total rewrite of the Art Track’s curriculum.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY: 2013 TO PRESENT – RESPITE
In 2013 I moved from Dallas back to Norman, OK. My daughter, Kassandra Leigh Cherry, was finishing college there at The University of Oklahoma, with high scores in true Cherry fashion. After many years of hectic schedules and sixteen hour work days, I decided to rest up, play video games, indulge my interest in Japanese music and manga, and spend as much quality time as possible with my daughter. Kassandra is also a talented artist, and I enjoy working along-side her. But even rest gets boring after a while. So, I am gearing up to create more paintings using traditional media. Having done so many for other people, I no longer have much interest in doing illustration. My goal from here on is to do art to please myself, and possibly to show the work from time to time if I am happy with it.
P.S. If you’d like to read the bio his daughter, Kassandra, wrote, you’ll find it here. - GS