Diablo Fan Art Watch #300 SpecialWelcome everyone to this very long delayed and incredibly special installment of the Diablo Fan Art Watch. This time around as with the Special #200 interviewing a fellow artist we up the ante with an interview with artist and former D3 Community Manager Kimberly “Kymba” LeCrone (Vaeflare).

    Q: How did you get into Blizzard?

    I started at Blizzard back in 2009 on the Community Development team as a Forum Moderator. The title wasn’t something that sounded particularly flashy, but I enjoyed the work for the most part, and I likewise enjoyed moving away from forum moderation and into other more specialized areas of community. 😉

    Click through to see the full interview.

    Vaeflare with Steinir

    Q: Introduce yourself.

    Heya! I’m Kimberly “Kymba” LeCrone, otherwise known as Vaeflare or KLeCrone online. I’ve worked in the entertainment industry in various roles, and am currently an artist at Blizzard Entertainment in California. Prior to that, I was a Community Manager for Blizzard.

    In my personal time I’m an artist, sculptor, and writer. I keep myself quite busy with a vast assortment of creative projects and interests!

    Q: What are your tools of the trade?

    At work I immerse myself in our game clients and editors, as well as the Adobe suite and other development, film, and video tools. At home I do a fair amount of work digitally in Photoshop and ZBrush, but I also work a lot in real media too.

    For sculpture, I’ve actually created a guide which covers many of the materials I use for sculpting, as well as a number of walkthroughs, including ones for my dragon sculptures, Monarch Brightwing, Yak, and the one I’m currently working on, “Sashah’s Song.” For 2D work I use all sorts of tools: pencils, watercolor, gouache, markers, acrylic: you name it! I really enjoy trying new things, though sometimes it’s a struggle to keep everything properly organized in my art and writing room because so many of my interests take up space!

    For long-form writing, like the series of novels I’m steadily chugging away on, I heavily leverage the power and versatility of Scrivener, which has all-but replaced Word for me.

    I also do a lot of tracking to record my progress on my spreadsheets and Productivity Tracker, and use all manners of spreadsheets and wikis to keep myself or my written worlds organized.

    Q: Who’s been your inspiration for your artwork?

    Too many to count, I’m sure! I don’t really have any individual artists that I feel I strongly share a style with, but I certainly have many I look up to! We’re always so influenced by those around us, and some of the artists who I find deeply inspiring from include James Gurney, Stephanie Law, Ellen Jewett, and Keith Parkinson.

    I also work alongside some incredible artists like Laurel Austin, John Polidora, and Luke Mancini at Blizzard. And count myself blessed to also be surrounded by a further community of artists who I consider dear friends, such as Cynthia Reep, Emily Coleman, Anastasia Korochansckaja, Jessica Johnson,  Melita Curphy, Jennifer Miller, and so many more. I love seeing what everyone creates, and it’s been fantastic to watch us all blossom and grow as artists over the years and try new things. I love seeing everyone’s own unique voice in their work.

    I’ve also certainly been influenced by two of my close friends who unfortunately passed away well before their time Caroline Muchmore and Kevin Kanai Griffith, who worked on World of Warcraft and Diablo III. I can only hope that I can carry a candle of their artistic legacies forward.

    Q: How long have you been working with sculptures?

    Not very long, actually! I did some pottery in elementary school, but I really didn’t do much sculpture until rather recently. While I had loads of art supplies laying around the house, I didn’t own any clay or sculpting tools until 2008, when I had a friend over for the weekend and we decided to do some arts and crafts just for fun. I ended up buying some clay and sculpting one of my old story characters and created a bust of him. For not having done any real sculpture to speak of, I had a lot of fun with it, and wondered if I should try another project sometime. I’m still proud of the mane on him. 🙂

    The following year I was hired at Blizzard on the Community Team, and before Diablo III, before StarCraft II, way back during Wrath of the Lich King, we announced the Cataclysm expansion. At the time, we had about three or four pieces of concept art we premiered at that year’s BlizzCon. Even though there wasn’t yet a cinematic or in-game character model for him, I really loved the concept art I saw, and I decided I would enjoy maybe working on a fan art side project of him in my spare time.

    So I did some reading on sculpture and how to make an armature, and I decided I would work on him on the side during my breaks and on lunch while at the office. I really didn’t know what I was doing, and I quickly realized I was in way, way over my head, but I had fun trying to learn on the fly! I had never sculpted a dragon before, and I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to sculpt the different materials he was made up of, such as scales, metal, and sort of molten bits.

    Soon after I started, however, someone whose opinion I valued suggested that perhaps I should reconsider working on it at my desk because it didn’t look very good starting out. It hurt to hear that, but, true to my gut, I just kept working on it off and on over the course of three months. It ended up growing into something I was proud of! It also exceeded any and all expectations I had of myself and my abilities. And even if it hadn’t: I knew I gave it my all.

    I think it’s incredibly important to encourage artists, no matter their skill, and over the years I’ve used this story to remind people to never give up. Someone even turned it into a Buzzfeed article!

    Since that Deathwing fan art sculpture, I’ve created a few more sculptures, but admittedly it’s a bit slow going because I have so many projects crying out for my attention. With each one I try to learn and grow, and the one I’m working on currently is of one of the main characters in my series of novels who is a werewolf enchantress. I still have a lot of work to do on her, but when all is said and done, she will hopefully be casting a semi-translucent dragon illusion spell, and she will be stepping on stones over a rushing creek filled with water and a creature I call a dragon koi. I’m really excited to keep working on it and to try to push my skills even further! I hadn’t tried to do a dynamic pose, drapery, or environment like hers before, so there’s certainly been a lot of lessons learned along the way!

    Sculpting for me is really time-intensive, and I’m usually content to do them in bits and pieces over the course of months rather than in short bursts. While I’ve never taken any formal sculpting classes, I did take a wonderful ZBrush course from Gnomon taught by Madeline Scott-Spencer in 2013. It was my first exposure to using ZBrush and it really taught me a lot and gave me a much-needed boost of self-confidence in my art. By the end of the course, I was starting to question if maybe a more creative career direction might be something I should consider down the road.

    Q: How did you get into Blizzard?

    I started at Blizzard back in 2009 on the Community Development team as a Forum Moderator. The title wasn’t something that sounded particularly flashy, but I enjoyed the work for the most part, and I likewise enjoyed moving away from forum moderation and into other more specialized areas of community. 😉

    I graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in the Cinematic Arts: Production. Prior to Blizzard, I worked primarily in film and television in various art departments. Probably the show that would be most familiar would be the prime time reality television series “Super Nanny,” of which I acted as an Art Director. I also worked as an on-set dresser for the feature film “The Fall,” as well as a bunch of other smaller productions and roles. I enjoyed the travel at first, but eventually I wanted a more stable job, which is what led me to look for opportunities in Southern California outside of film and television. While I enjoyed art at that point in my life, I respected that my film and television portfolio was in no way up to Blizzard quality, and quite frankly, the type of work I did in entertainment really didn’t translate well into the gaming industry. I can assure that my role as an Art Director was nothing remotely close to those that have that title here at Blizzard, and for good reason.

    But back in those days, one of the things I was doing in my spare time was work that was quite relevant to the community position I’d later apply for. I wrote blogs about World of Warcraft, raided competitively, played PvP at a high level, created YouTube videos, and helped manage websites, forums, and communities for some of the guilds I was a part of. I did fan art and formed close ties with a growing community of artists and creators.

    I really enjoyed doing it, and while I never grew up thinking I wanted to get into community, the interest formed a very natural progression that led to me apply to Blizzard. I definitely don’t regret the change. 🙂

    Q: What was it like being a community manager?

    Overall I enjoyed it! I worked on the community team for a little over six years, and over the years there were a lot of changes as the company and our games grew and evolved along with the community landscape. We launched StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, Diablo III, Mists of Pandaria, Heart of the Swarm, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, Warlords of Draenor, and Heroes of the Storm all while I was on the community team. We started using Facebook, Twitter, and all sorts of new and creative ways to interact with the community on Twitch and Reddit, as well as at all sorts of conventions.

    I’ve always viewed our role as being a direct connection between our player base and the developers, funneling information back and forth between the two in order to strengthen them both. We have some absolutely incredible players, and I loved being able to interact with them at conventions as well as on the forums, Reddit, and social media. I’m a very extraverted and social person by nature, so I love bringing people together.

    My work prior to Blizzard definitely helped in this regard. I spent years having to self-moderate YouTube comments and they are… rarely a pretty place, but I feel like that helped me realize a more fundamental lesson I’ll share here:

    There are all sorts of people in the world, with different life experiences, different ages, different backgrounds, different stories. And over the years, I’ve tried my best to come into situations from a place of respect, and knowing that the person on the other end of the forums or comments is there because they are passionate about whatever they are typing about.

    Maybe their language is too harsh, maybe they were quick to attack their fellow players, or can’t see the bigger picture, but at the end of the day, I tried to keep in mind that treating people with respect was (and in my experience, is) the best way to work through conflict.  I try to be patient and have been more than happy to try to talk through things with people who perhaps disagree with a change or don’t see eye with their peers because I want to better understand where they are coming from so that hopefully we can better understand each other.

    So by and large, I believe that until proven otherwise, most people out there are worth that time and respect, but there are also people out there that simply want to ruin it for others, and are totally in it for themselves. They aren’t trying to provide feedback; they simply want to shake the beehive.

    Being able to identify the difference between those two types of people led me to be a lot happier person both on the job and outside of work. You only have some much time and energy to spend, so it is incredibly important to spend it on the right people.

    In terms of what was it like being a community manager: just like any job out there, there are highs and lows, and by far the highs outnumbered the lows. I think the biggest high for me was feeling like I was empowered to help the development team(s) better understand what players were feeling at any given time, while also being able to help inform players about not only the changes happening in any given game, but also the incredible communities surrounding them. I really enjoyed highlighting the wealth of talent present in our community, from singers and songwriters through to fan artists, cosplayers, and more. Part of the heart of “community” for me is just that: the community.

    I especially appreciated the opportunity to stretch my creative muscles while I was a part of community, whether by toiling over creative writing for blogs, spearheading community projects, helping with video projects or fan art contests, featuring cosplayers, or even fun little projects like helping with Lewt, the Papercraft Treasure Goblin, creating holiday art for Diablo III, or running the Heroes Twitter Takeovers for Heroes of the Storm. The variety of tasks I assisted with over the years made me really proud of our department and my own contributions.

    But somewhere in late 2014 and early 2015, after the passing of my dear friend and fellow artist Kevin Kanai Griffith, I felt like someone had shaken me awake to get me to really sit down and think if I was happy with the trajectory of my career as a Community Manager at Blizzard. In truth, I was content and I certainly enjoyed a lot of the work I was doing, but I kept finding myself wondering if I was selling myself short by not even letting myself consider the possibility of a more creative career in the arts.

    The thought was terrifying, and then after a time, it was inspiring. What could my life be like in another five or ten years if I let myself pursue the arts? Would I even be capable, qualified, or skilled enough to change careers and find success in something so different? Would I have to leave Blizzard to progress?

    In the early half of 2015, I didn’t talk about it, but behind the scenes, I gave it my all.

    I applied to a job at Blizzard as a Media Artist within Story and Franchise Development (formerly known as Cinematics) and Video and Post Production with every ounce of passion I had. I spent countless hours on my cover letter, resume, portfolio, and then threw myself into the art test and preparing for the eventual interview.

    I got it, and I haven’t looked back.

    I’ve got to tell you: I am so much happier. I have so much more creative energy both during and after work, and feel like I am just buzzing with ideas. I feel like myself again, in the best possible way. I love being surrounded by so many creative individuals, I am digging my new work/life balance, and I am so excited for where the future will take me. I’m glad I dared to make the change, and that I had the opportunity to join such an immensely talented, passionate, and wonderful team. I’m thrilled to be helping on so many diverse projects across our spectrum of games, and I love seeing what my team and department are accomplishing.

    While there are certainly aspects of working on the community team that I will miss, the change was definitely a worthwhile change for me.  To quote Overwatch: “Never accept the world as it appears to be. Dare to see it for what it could be.” Dare to challenge your own horizons. If you’re not happy with where you are or what you’re doing: do something about it. It’s never too late to take the reins on your life and find out all that you’re capable of, and then some. 🙂

    Q: How was it working on the Fan Art Contests?

    Quite a lot more work than most people would realize! Months and months of work! I helped with all sorts of contests over the years, everything from the World of Warcraft 5th anniversary mosaic, through to the Diablo III: Reaper of Souls and Heroes of the Storm fan art contests (the last two of which I was acting as the project lead for). Because I have such close ties to many artists in the fan art community, I did not participate in the judging phases of most of our contests because I didn’t want to risk being biased.

    The biggest thing about fan art contests is they are so subjective. Judging contests like this takes time, in fact, quite a lot of time if you are considering thousands and thousands of entries, so coming up for a process to vet and judge the pieces with an appropriate panel of judges was often tricky because, well, art is subjective. Fifteen people will give you fifteen different opinions, and so on.  But just like any of our contests, we do our best to judge them as fairly as possible, and to hopefully reward the winning artists in fun and compelling ways as well.

    One of the projects I was proudest of was probably the Diablo III: Reaper of Souls fan art project. Blizzard hadn’t done anything to that scale before, and the idea that we would be flying the grand prize winner out to have a special tour of Blizzard which we would film and share with the community was… ambitious. One of the things I overlooked was the possibility that the winner might not speak English, which created some logistical hurdles for both the tour and video, but I was incredibly thankful that one of our fellow artists, Tamara Bakhlycheva, was able to help translate for our winner from Russia!

    The tour I arranged was probably one of my highlights of working at Blizzard so far. The winner got to meet with artists and developers from the Diablo III team, as well as members of our Consumer Products team, Blizzard Art Academy team, Library, Hearthstone team, World of Warcraft team, Heroes of the Storm Team, StarCraft II Team, Cinematics team, Creative Development team, Storyboarding team, and even Mike Morhaime himself!

    It was an absolutely jam-packed day where I felt like we were always running just a little bit behind schedule with our camera crew following us around, but it was a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience. We certainly can’t give a tour like that to everyone, but I really hope that the final video and interview showed just how much all of us here appreciate our global community.

    Moments like that made all the work we put into those contests so very worthwhile.

    Q: How is it working on the cinematic team for all the games?
    The videos linked below Kymba had captured most of the in-game footage or contributed heavily to them.

    Fantastic! I love the fact that one day I could be helping out with a featurette for World of Warcraft: Legion, and the next day I could be filming footage for Diablo III or Overwatch! It changes every day, and it’s great seeing the incredible wealth of content we’re creating to support our diverse assortment of games.

    Our overarching department is called “Story and Franchise Development” and it contains a number of teams, including Blizzard Animation, Sound, Video and Post Productions, Creative Development, and Consumer Products. We’re constantly working on all sorts of projects, from fully pre-rendered stuff and in-game cinematics, through to promotional videos, books, comics, plushies, sculptures, action figures: you name it.

    It is great to be surrounded by so many creative individuals in such a powerhouse of a department, and I’m excited to see what we’ll be creating in years to come! It really feels like the sky’s the limit, especially with so many IPs to dive into and stories to tell!

    She was also responsible for beautifying the Skype room they would use for many interviews.

    Q: Any final thoughts or comments?

    I’ve loved Blizzard and our diverse and passionate art community long before I came to Blizzard, and I love it still. It’s been a wild ride for me, and I’m excited to see what the future holds both in my professional career as well as in my many creative pursuits in art, sculpture, and writing! Thank you so much for the honor of a feature. 🙂

    I love connecting with others online, so you’re welcome to follow me on the following social media sites:

    Thank You to Kymba for her time, and for sharing everything, and all her hard work as a community manager. Also for all the future work she does in the Story and Franchise Development (Former Cinematics Department).

    If you enjoy Fan art and want to contribute to this growing community, please stop by the Fan Creations Forum. Many artists visit frequently, posting works in progress looking for feedback and conversation. You don’t have to be “arty” to join in. If you have any questions, comments or have some fan art related news on the web please send me a PM or on twitter with @Holyknight3000 and I’ll get back to you. Also check out the wiki page for more art from the archives.

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