Sunday, June 17, 2012

Second Generation DnD Illustrators

I consider Parkinson, Elmore and Caldwell to be premiere members of the second generation of DnD illustrators.  Technically proficient, that group of artists raised the bar when it came to the quality of art appearing in Dungeons and Dragons publications.

But while they brought a more professional look to DnD game materials, their skill came at too high a price.  Dungeons and Dragons art became increasingly disconnected from the game itself.

Fewer and fewer covers and interior illustrations reflected what Dungeons and Dragons was all about. 

Instead, we had posing and posturing of highly fantasized personalities. 

Here are three illustrations, by Parkinson, Elmore and Caldwell, gracing the covers of Dragon Magazines, that are representative of the second generation of Dungeons and Dragons art.


Yes, these are excellent examples of fantasy art, but none provide any insight into, or reflect the major themes of, Dungeons and Dragons.

16 comments:

biopunk said...

80's hair is a terrible, terrible thing...

Aaron E. Steele said...

As grandpa simpson would say, it was the style of the time. What about stirrup pants and leg warmers?

Keith Davies said...

Indeed, Aaron, the hair was not necessarily the worst thing about 80s style. Not as hot as the 70s look (Farrah Fawcett yum!), but the bad 80s hair wasn't so common.

Stirrup pants and leg warmers, and padded shoulders? Not for me, thanks.

Oh man, as I recall this was a really good time in Dragon content, too.

Roger the GS said...

Do not begrudge, unto the driver of the customized van, the waxed and gleaming thighs of the foxy sorceress lady.

Timothy Brannan said...

I don't know. While you say none of them reflected the major themes of D&D I look at those and remember the fire hose of ideas those exact images gave me.

The first was the inspiration for my character Crystal. I see the Elmore painting and think of the Scarecrow monster I created in college, and still use today.

To me those pictures are D&D.

kiltedyaksman said...

Agree with the Paladin.

Aaron E. Steele said...

Timothy Brannan said...

I don't know. While you say none of them reflected the major themes of D&D I look at those and remember the fire hose of ideas those exact images gave me.

The first was the inspiration for my character Crystal. I see the Elmore painting and think of the Scarecrow monster I created in college, and still use today.

To me those pictures are D&D.


I don't disagree that you could find those fantasy illustrations inspirational. But what DnD themes do they demonstrate?

Barking Alien said...

What exactly are these 'Themes' you speak of?

Adventure?

Anyone of these depict things that might motivate brave warriors and curious wizards to investigate what the characters in them are up to, why they are there and if killing them will give you cool stuff.

Magic?

That first one may not directly but the second one depicts a Druid/Witch type in my eyes animating a Scarecrow creature. Pretty magical. The last one...does anyone thing magic is not involved in that image?

Killing People and Taking Their Stuff?

The first lass seems pretty well off, owning a horse, a neat familiar, a cool sword and armor that would fetch a great price. The second lady perhaps not so much but that last gal? Seriously? Dibs on the staff.

So what exactly are these images missing that would make them more D&D-rific?

Aaron E. Steele said...

I would point you to my post on April 12, where I begin my musing on the nature of DnD Art vs. Fantasy Art.

Adventure and Magic are not unique DnD elements, as both pre-date the creation of DnD.

Consider 1001 Arabian Nights: it was complied at least 800 years ago and is ripe with adventure tales. 1001 Arabian Nights may have inspired Al-Qadim, but that does not make 1001 Arabian Nights "DnD".

Similarly, the idea of "magic" is found in all sorts of folk and fairy tales, all of which pre-date the publication of DnD. So magic is not a purely DnD element.

The same goes for killing monsters and taking their stuff. Think of The Hobbit: that was published in 1937, some 35 years before DnD, and is all about dragons and trolls to kill and treasure to be taken. So the idea of killing monsters and taking their stuff is not a uniquely DnD concept. And even if it were, I don't see any dead monsters and piles of treasure in the included illustrations.

Barking Alien said...

After reading your previous posts on the subject, I am still not entirely sure I understand.

If a good D&D image needs to be a picture of a Dragon in a Dungeon with a treasure hoard, well, that would seem to me to get really boring really quick.

Now, on the cover of a box or a rulebook for the game I say absolutely. But to have that be the only thing you can put on a magazine cover? Give me those ladies up there any old day.

I guess the themes of my vision of D&D are wider ranging and as such, my desire for a wider range of D&D art comes with that. Looking at your Venn Diagram, the D&D Art circle would be bigger.

Also, the Hobbit and it's themes predate D&D because, and I'm fairly sure on this point, it was one of the inspirations for D&D. No killing monsters and stealing their goodies was not invented by D&D, but to suggest art for The Hobbit wouldn't make good art for D&D seems kind of odd to me.

Just MHO of course but as an artist and a lover of fantasy art, I would want to open the possibilities and not limit them.

Aaron E. Steele said...

In my April 13 post, I quite clearly stated that Dragons, Dungeons, and treasure ARE NOT elements unique to DnD. So a "good" DnD image does not have to include those elements.

Hedgehobbit said...

I'm stuck by the total lack of any sort of menace or sense of wonder. Magic is just a sparkly special effect, dragons reduced to a cute little pet, and evil is nothing but a costume change.

These traits do reflect D&D and Dragon magazine as they existed at that time.

Barking Alien said...

OK, so now we know what are not themes of D&D. Reading through your material and specifically this post, I'll still have no clue what you think they are.

Can't you just tell us? Is it a secret?

I am more inclined to go with HedgeHobbit above. These images are what D&D and Dragon were focused on in that era. I disagree with him on the sense of wonder and menace though. That Witch on the October cover is subtle but menacing. There is indeed a sense of wonder to me in the bottom image as I am thinking, "Man that is a lot of sparkly special effect. Wonder what she's casting/doing."

Aaron E. Steele said...

The journey is more important than the destination.

Let me put a question to you.

Which of the two images on my blog(James Branch Cabell's The Silver Stallion and Phil Foglio's Dragon 282 Cover) are DnD, and why?

chuck said...

Agreed with you Aaron - Great fantasy art. Only vaguely related to the central themes of Dungeons and Dragons, however.

Black and white filler art from many of the earlier TSR RPG products - now that is what I think of when I think canonical D&D artwork.

1-Hit Wizard said...

All three contain what could be considered familiars: pseudodragon, cat, and quasit.