Thursday, April 12, 2012

Having Fun With Venn Diagrams

As some have already argued, the relationship between Fantasy Art and Dungeons and Dragons Art can be represented by the Venn diagram, above.  We can quibble over whether the DnD Art circle is fully contained within the Fantasy Art circle, or whether a tiny portion of the DnD Art circle extends beyond the Fantasy art circle.  However, I think it is reasonable to suggest that all (or nearly all) DnD Art is Fantasy Art, but not all Fantasy Art is DnD Art. 

I make this observation knowing that some people will suggest that Fantasy Art and Dnd Art are (or can be) the same.  When those people make that argument, they confuse viewer inspiration with creator purpose.  An art consumer can be INSPIRED BY a piece of fantasy art, and use that fantasy art to construct a Dungeons and Dragons character, encounter or milieu.  What I am referring to, when I speak of DnD Art, is fantasy art whose PURPOSE is to reflect, elaborate or highlight the fantasy elements unique to Dungeons and Dragons. That purpose must be reflected, back, as a clear representation of Dungeons and Dragons; most or all viewers should be able to agree that the fantasy art is also DnD Art.

Having established what I mean by DnD Art, I'm posting two illustrations, below.  The first illustration is a classic piece of Larry Elmore art, which appears on the cover of the Mentzer Basic Dungeons and Dragons Red Box.  The second illustration, by Wayne Reyonds, appears on the cover of the Pathfinder Beginner Box.

Which of these two illustrations is DnD Art (or "more" DnD, if you are still on the fence regarding my explication, above) and why?  For the purpose of this exercize, please ignore the color of the Dragons.



Here is another combat with a Dragon.  Why is the illustration below "more" DnD than either of the two illustrations, above?


13 comments:

James Smith said...

I'd give the win to the Pathfinder box. The Elmore piece looks like it was specifically designed to market a D&D product. The action appears kinda static and framed a bit too neatly. I do like the dragon's rather evilly insane face, though. :)

Overall, I prefer the Pathfinder pic. It's more of a snapshot of the action, where the Elmore piece is a pic "about" action. But, while I like some of W. Reynolds' work, I really, really don't like Elmore. So, there ya go!

Christopher O'Dell said...

They both seem to fit into the "characters clearly inspired by D&D classes fighting a dragon, which is on a pile of gold that is probably the reason for the fight in the first place" category. I'd say they're both D&D art, unless I'm still missing something in your definition of D&D art.

John Foster said...

I can't differentiate between the two. I understand what you are saying, but to me both seem to equally fall within DnD art. But I also only deal with primary, secondary and tertiary colors, unlike my wife. :)

James Smith said...

P.S. I think they both reflect D&D fantasy about equally, as far as the components go, but I gave PF the win for better reflecting the excitement of D&D combat.

Svafa said...

I can't differentiate between any of the three either. They're all equally D&D art. I might prefer the Pathfinder art over the other two, but that has to do with my preference to style; the third is a little too dark, while the first is too bright and lacks the depth of detail displayed in the other two. The first and third also seem to have more awkward posing than the pathfinder one- like they're staging action, rather than caught mid-action.

mwschmeer said...

The Red Box art. You don't see the fighter's face, thus you can imagine that it is YOU fighting the dragon. Notice that the image is drawn in such a way that we cannot accurately tell if this is a male fighter or a muscular female fighter. We can't see the fighter's torso. While those familiar with D&D know that Elmore gets crap for oversexualizing women, this is actually nicely done in a way to appeal to both male and female gamers--although no one knows for sure if this was done on purpose.

Also, notice that the Red Box image low-balls magic use. The fighter's sword seems to be slightly glowing, but that could also be seen as a reflection of the gold off the steel. The other two images show a reliance on magic-users to defeat large enemeies--in the bottom image, EVERYONE is aglow with magic and magic weapons. The unspoken message: you need magic to take down a dragon--tactics & strength aren't enough.

Also, the dragon in the Red Box image seems less beastial and more intelligent--it's not relying purely on a scary appearance to be menancing, as the other two images are. The Red Box dragon looks menacing because its eyes and stance tell us that it knows something the fighter does not know.

That's why I go with the Red Box image. It's just this one character taking on a dragon. Will the character succeed? Roll the dice, baby, roll the dice.

Rognar said...

Elmore's work was so prominent in my earliest gaming experiences (even moreso than Otus) that his art will always be D&D to me.

Having said that, I think the adventuring group in the third image is the only one with a chance in heck of surviving the encounter. The wizard in the Wayne Reynold's piece is about to become a tasty meat snack.

Roger the GS said...

My gut response was:

Picture 1 has over-the-shoulder identification but not an adventuring party or treasure.

Picture 2 has 2 adventurers and treasure but not over-the-shoulder identification.

Picture 3 has 3 adventurers, treasure and over-the-shoulder. Therefore it is the most D&D. However it is also the least compelling of the three. (D&D should not just be a synonym for awesome.)

Durn said...

The Elmore pic is the reason I started playing D&D and it continues to be purely inspirational. Everything mwschmeer said is pretty right on (I'd never thought of it as gender neutral before). I would add that the treasure fading into the distance has always been very evocative to me. A sea of gold!
The others... meh.
That's preference though. They're still all "D&D" I guess.

A Mutant Biker of the Atomic Wastelands said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bard said...

Like others, I'd say that these could all be considered D&D art to some extent. If I *had* to rank them, I'd say the third image is "more" D&D than the first two. The third image is claustrophobic and confined; it's dark and dimly lit; it suggests a labyrinth (the various cave passages going off in the distance); it stresses the party rather than the individual (unlike photo #1), and it presents a "fighters-up-close-spell-casters-safely-behind" set-up (unlike photo #2). In these senses, it seems specifically call to mind what has always been (for me) the play of the game itself. Of course, others' gaming experience may vary...

Eric Wilde said...

DnD Art, is fantasy art whose PURPOSE is to reflect, elaborate or highlight the fantasy elements unique to Dungeons and Dragons

Ah, well then. When you use that definition not all fantasy art is D&D art. I find the distinction rather pointless, though.

Lee B said...

Three paintings, same subject matter...but the layouts offer a clue. Reynold's work is a panorama, with the PCs dwarfed by the dragon and sharing about the same canvas space as the loot. Looks like a video game screen cap. The other images have the classic triangle layout, where the focus is the "point". Elmore's fighter is the point in his work; the black dragon is the focused subject in #3.