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Author Topic: Fantasy art - then and now  (Read 1534 times)
BRZA21
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« on: December 08, 2012, 06:49:44 PM »

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 Smiley, 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.
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« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2012, 10:22:20 PM »

I hadn't really thought about it but I see where you're coming from.

Personally, I'm more annoyed that so often when I search out fantasy art to use in my games what I find are mostly manga and not something more realistic.
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Beta Ray Bill Cosby
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« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2012, 09:33:53 PM »

Wayne Reynolds does a lot of the work for Pathfinder, this, for example is his stuff for D&D.

Here's the cover for Planescape.

and both of those are actual D&D books

So, yes, there are plenty of elves and dragons, but there are books with non-traditional art.

Also there's always exalted
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« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2012, 12:05:43 PM »

Personally, I'm more annoyed that so often when I search out fantasy art to use in my games what I find are mostly manga and not something more realistic.

I actually like a variety.  The art style helps convey what kind of character it is just as well as a description.  I have actually commissioned art for one of our groups before with every character done by a different type of artist, with my own character being a manga/"Batman: The Animated Series" style because she was extremely cheerful and a tad delusional (driven half mad by her magic). 
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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2012, 12:09:22 PM »

Yes, manga is very popular. It certainly has its own feel to it. I just don't prefer it.

Personally, I would like to read comics where everything is photo-realistic. But that wouldn't be practical and, as you say, sometimes the art needs to match the tone of the book or game.
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BRZA21
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« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2012, 01:32:45 PM »

Rodrigo I suppose you're right - sweeping generalization don't do any favors.  And with art like that, you might catch me running an Exalted game (or at least hording the source books.)

What do you think of the art in MtG? I certainly feel like it is less stylistically varied than it used to be. You don't see this sort of thing anymore:

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« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2012, 01:48:34 PM »

It just doesn't do anything for me. It looks cluttered and too similar in palette.

I had to look at the picture a couple of times to figure out what I was seeing. But the payoff was unimpressive.
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BRZA21
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« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2012, 05:16:25 PM »

Well, ya know what they say about mileages and variance Smiley I tend to enjoy more abstract art, with a focus on pallet and tone (Impressionism) - the use of realism (or "verisimilitude" to quote another Mathewism) in fantasy art seems very straight-jacketed. If something is fantastic, why does it have to appear realistically? For me, Mishra's Factory carries emotions (strangeness, wonder) far more than a "realistic" picture of what some crazy magical factory might look like. But full disclosure: this was the area of Magic I played with, so part my attachment is sentimentality.
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« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2012, 07:17:09 PM »

I agree that we are often influenced by our earliest experiences with something.
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Beta Ray Bill Cosby
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« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2012, 10:30:54 PM »



What do you think of the art in MtG? I certainly feel like it is less stylistically varied than it used to be. You don't see this sort of thing anymore:




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BRZA21
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« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2012, 01:34:17 PM »

Okay, I will concede that those are totally awesome (especially the Traumatic Visions).
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