Is anyone else a little disappointed in the generic look of fantasy art these days? Replace the cover of pretty much any D&D rulebook/fantasy novel/comic book of the last 15 years, swap it with a completely unrelated work from the same genre, and you would be hard-pressed to tell anything had changed. Most likely it will still feature a fairly photorealistic elf-babe in dramatic lighting clutching a sword, either riding and/or battling a dragon.
Well alright, maybe it isn't the subject matter
that's changed since the 80s
, but I honestly love the classic cartoon-y look of Erol Otus and Willingham back in those 1st and 2nd edition Monster Manuals. Aside from the realism, I feel like the color palette and medium have gotten much more restrictive as well - you don't often see the sort of color pencil and pastel illustrations that dominated my book shelves as a kid. I saw a similar change in Magic the Gathering, roughly around the time WoTC was purchased by Hasbro - compare Arabian Knights and, say, Mirrodin: it's clear that Hasbro wanted to have a unified style, which sadly killed a lot of the creative license given to the artists. It like somewhere around the 90s the industry decided that fantasy should be serious business
, and gave some universal dictate to their art departments.
Am I just being a crabby old man, or does this bother other people? Can anyone think of some works that have bucked this trend? The best example I can think of at the moment might be Pathfinder - Paizo's art is almost universally wonderful, and they seem to give their artists a good degree of freedom to pursue different styles.