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Top Ten Favorite Dungeons & Dragons Artists

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Published on June 9th, 2014 | by Nicole Jekich

Last week all the covers of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition were released which made me reminisce over the art and artists that drew me in to the hobby. The cover art and character art are very important with attracting new and old players-the art, the cover is D&D‘s first impression. Art is a large part of roleplaying and tabletop games for me and it transcends editions.

Below are 10 of my favorite artists whose art graced the cover and pages of Dungeons and Dragons since the beginning. While I don’t pick a side in the edition wars, most of the art comes from 4th edition as that was the one that I have played most. This list is to document my favorite artists, which aren’t necessarily the most iconic or the most well known, but they have all played an important role in molding my love for Dungeons and Dragons:

 

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William O’Connor:

Picking a favorite William O’Connor art piece is as difficult as choosing my favorite barbarian power-they’re all amazing! Together with Wayne Reynolds, those two carried 4E with their bold and action-driven covers, settings and characters. His most notable work in 4th Edition (after being the main concept artist for the line, of course) was in the first Player’s Handbook where he designed all the heading art for each starting class and most of the starting playable races. These images were so iconic that they were used in multiple Essentials character cards. If you were lucky enough to visit PAX during 4E’s run, many of the character promo cards featured in the WotC booth were those same images.

William O’Connor even gave life to some of the most odd and hard-to-conceptualize characters and classes of 4E like Dragonborn and all the Psionic classes.  His color schemes are vivid and he favors the orange/warm vs blue/cold motif a lot in his illustrations especially when there are magic items and powers involved. He also has a distinct armor style that is very attentive to the different classes and their armor preferences. When I began illustrating my own characters, it was his work that I referenced the most. Though his websitedoesn’t include all of his work, you can find almost any piece of his in a Google search including his contributions to the Accordlands RPG/CCG/LCG (the setting of my first ever D&D campaign).

 

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Brom:

I couldn’t go any further in this article without mentioning Brom. Looking at his portfolio, I couldn’t believe that his art was ever part of this franchise because it is so gothic and so stylistically different from the current D&D editions. Brom’s art in general has a way of unnerving the viewer. His black and white contrast in his characters serve as an unsettling reminder that we have both good and evil in ourselves.

Brom’s most notable contribution was to Dark Sun in 2nd edition, which is a place of deserts, bandits and devoid of high magic. Characters in that setting were wild and survivalist. His art style was perfect for depicting the characters of this setting and they definitely have a Mad Max, surrealist quality that really set that world apart and made it different and interesting to gamers. Brom is and always will be a legend in the D&D art realm. Meeting him in person was a day I’ll remember forever. To see his illustration, prints and other publications, visit hiswebsite.

(EDIT: Thanks geneome for catching my error. The first image in the Brom header is actually a piece by James Ryman called “Dark Sun Witch”:  http://namesjames.deviantart.com/art/Dark-Sun-Witch-44823672)

 

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Larry Elmore:

Here is another Godfather artist of D&D! Larry Elmore is responsible for giving Dragonlance its medieval fantasy world filled with dragons and knights. His paintings were always more grand in scale. Instead of a character portrait, he was better known for having posed adventuring characters in front of a dragon or evil that the heroes must combat on a snowy cliff or outside of a castle. He inspired thousands of other artists to pursue creating fantasy art and made the most iconic cover of D&D: The Red Box of the revised basic set of Dungeons & Dragons. Elmore continues to attend cons and is a wonderful person to chat with in person. To view his past and current work, please visit his websitewhere you can also find prints of your favorite Elmore D&D piece.

 

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Wayne Reynolds:

It’s hard to keep up with just how hundreds of unique characters this man has brought to life since first illustrating for Dungeon Magazine in 1999. Reynolds is known for his ultra-detailed, fully-armored adventuring characters that players want their characters to emulate. He illustrated a ton of cover art and inside art for D&D 3.5 and 4E, especially with Eberron. Reynolds is also well known for being an artist that portrays mostly equal amounts of female vs male and white vs non-white characters in his illustrations. By creating such detailed and unique designs for everyone, characters of color are more than just a sidekick and his female characters are more than just a set of boobs.

He is currently the man behind the art of Pathfinder but in spite of that, I can appreciate his art for both games without getting into the nitty-gritty of what system goes with them. He also has an art book coming out which I am insanely excited for! Find more info about the book and his illustrations on his website.

 

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DiTerlizzi:

I actually never would have crossed DiTerlizzi’s art if it hadn’t been for my interest in Magic the Gathering cards a couple years ago. I was very interested in another artist’s work, Rebecca Guay, and her watercolor illustrations that felt right out of a children’s book of medieval tales about knights, princesses, magical creatures and nymphs. Luke told me that I would like DiTerlizzi’s work because it was of a similar style.

Looking at his vast portfolio of work from Planescape, I fell in love with his work for its gracefulness. So much art in D&D portrays the fighting and gritty aspects, but DiTerlizzi’s showcased another side of the world where a distant plane and adventuring setting can be fantastical like a world in a fairy tale. DiTerlizzi continues to create illustrations and inspire artists and fans alike mostly and unsurprisingly in children’s books, but you can still find his older work on his online portfolio and blog.

 

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Sarah Stone:

This artist is certainly not a household name compared to others on this list. What is so special about her art is that a lot of people have seen her images (thanks to /tg/ and tumblr) and know her art style, yet her name isn’t synonymous with or recognizably tied to her art. She has an amazing grasp of light and electricity in her character work that makes her characters feel like they are actually wielding magic. I have tried to illustrate wizards and mages before, and it is a lot more difficult than people think to create a magical character that looks believable.

Sarah’s characters draw from anime influences and style with elements like vibrant color profiles, exaggerated character silhouettes and dynamic line work. Sarah has a deviant art page that has been more recently updated than herblogspot-which unfortunately has a ton of broken links in her portfolio that were the D&D and Pathfinder art commissions-making her work even more difficult to find.

 

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rk post:

It is difficult to write about Post’s work without being overwhelmed by all his amazing work done on the other massive WotC franchise, Magic The Gathering, but I’ve found his art in both franchises to be very inspiring when creating characters in D&D. Each of his characters appear to lean towards the evil alignment spectrum or at least provide a neutral  first impression. Each character he creates feels like he or she has an epic backstory- they never look like just an evil mage or just a peasant.

rk post’s most recognizable piece in D&D would have to be the lovely lady in the center: The Lady of Pain. Post is by far the funniest and most charming artist I’ve met in person. He really likes art and talking with people at cons. He continues to illustrate and updates Facebook and Twitter regularly with sketches and token cards. He also has recently developed a line of playmats featuring his iconic art from Magic the Gathering which are available on his website.
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Jeff Easely:

Easley is the artist on this list whom I know the least about. He always had a fascination with monsters and creatures which shows in his paintings. He brought to life many creatures that many gamers would encounter while playing D&D like dragons, undead, skeletons, evil sorcerers and more. I know many of my friends remember Easley’s work because of its prominence in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Like Elmore, Easley had many famous and well recognized paintings associated with D&D but is probably best known for his Dragonlance and Red Dragon images for AD&D. All of Easley’s work past and present is on his website.

 

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9. Eva Widermann:

Eva Widermann’s colorful characters feel like they were pulled right out of a history book. She isn’t afraid to keep her fantasy characters rooted in clothing styles and colors of different eras to make her illustrations feel real.  While searching though 4E books, players will come across many of her illustrations. She is best known for her eerie cover illustration for 4E’s Underdark book featuring the iconic Illithid or Mind Flayer. She continues to work as a freelance illustrator and while her websitedoesn’t have all her characters that were featured in 4E, there are some vibrant illustrations for other WotC properties to see like Kaijudo.

 

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Ralph Horsley

No one can create such a dynamic and tense image like Ralph Horsley. He has tons of covers, chapter headings and more illustrations throughout 4E’s run of adventuring characters encountering a room full of skeletons, battling through trapped dungeons and taking on creepy creatures hiding in a forest.

Horsley’s mid-battle illustrations are detailed and as realistic as they come. A room full of people, plus a dragon, plus environment effects, etc are tons of elements to include in a painting but Horsley’s interpretations shine and add depth and movement to make his illustrations the most memorable. You’ve probably also seen his artwork on the covers of Fantasy Flight games like Talisman which also feature adventurers fighting dragons and exploring dungeons. His website features his art from a wide range of franchises and companies he’s produced art for.

 

While I may not be sold on collecting the 5E books, I am looking forward to the new art coming out that will inspire a new generation of gamers as the previous editions did for me. Clearly I could talke about art for HOURS and would love to discuss who your favorite D&D artists were. I clearly left out some of the greats on my list because they weren’t my favorite but Kieth Parkinson, Todd Lockwood, Daarken, Eorl Otus are other iconic artists worth checking out. Who is your favorite?

Tags:Art, Dungeons and Dragons, Featured, Opinion, Role Playing Game, Wizards of the Coast


About the Author

Nicole Jekich

Nicole Jekich came from humble beginnings as a Boise suburbanite with a love of Cranium and Trivial Pursuit. She attended an open board game day three years ago and is now an avid gamer and fantasy artist. Her interests are primarily in Dungeons & Dragons, dice placement and Roman-themed tabletop games. Nicole is also a fan of playing games that let her release her inner barbarian. Her favorite game currently is Far Space Foundry.



Sours: http://www.acrosstheboardgames.net/nicole/top-ten-favorite-dungeons-dragons-artists/

Dungeons and Dragons rose to popularity in the late 1970s and early-1980s riding the wave of paranoia that culminated in what’s been called the “Satanic Panic.” This period began with the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III in August of 1979, when the young, D&D-playing Michigan State University computer science student mysteriously disappeared. Theories began to circulate that the game had blurred the young man's sense of reality and that he may have psychologically turned into his character, becoming lost in the labyrinthine steam tunnels beneath the university in search of adventure.

A media circus ensued which brought this formerly esoteric, hobby-channel game to the pages of the New York Times and other mainstream media, with sensationalized mentions of fantasy cults and bizarre intellectual games. While Egbert turned up a month later and his disappearance had nothing to do with D&D (he had just run away), the media spotlight did not dim. This incident led to an increased level of scrutiny around the game, especially from parents, who quickly discovered the game books that their children were playing featured rules for casting spells and illustrations of demons and other examples of occult-type imagery.

This in turn led to the game drawing the ire of all manner of religious and censorship groups and culminated in lots of bad mainstream press, including a 1985 60 Minutes segment with Ed Bradley where the game was vilified. But D&D proved the adage “all press is good press.” During this period, kids flocked to the game, no doubt due in part to the mystery and perceived dangers now surrounding it. It became the game your parents didn’t want you to play. And it's had remarkable longevity.

Its staying power is explained in a new coffee-table style book, Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History, out October 23. In it authors Mike Witwer, Sam Witwer, Kyle Newman, and Jon Peterson take a look at the history of the game, how it evolved and went mainstream, and how the merchandising has grown the brand. VICE talked the four over email about key elements that made and make it sticky hit with an ever-there audience, and their own relationships with the game.

Intro to the Game

Mike Witwer: I started playing D&D when I was around six or seven years old. My older brother, Sam, [was] introduced to the game by a neighbor and decided he wanted his own set of D&D books. Fortunately for us, that same neighbor had tired of the game and was selling. I remember going with my father and brother over to inspect the impressive stack of AD&D books. The collection included the original Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, Dungeon Master's Guide, Unearthed Arcana, and several modules including Tomb of Horrors, The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, Danger at Dunwater. My father shelled out a princely sum of $80 to secure the books and our D&D lives had begun. Sam became the obvious choice as Dungeon Master. We were too young to understand the mechanics, so Sam took care of those. We were reckless and bloodthirsty and Sam usually made us pay for that. D&D quickly became one of our favorite pastimes and nurtured our passion for storytelling and the dramatic.

Sam Witwer: When D&D came out, it was such a radical new concept and it was damned near impossible to explain to newcomers. Is it a board game? How do you win? The art was hugely instrumental in bringing accessibility to the game. The earliest art was mostly home brew stuff done by local amateur artists and it illustrated simple concepts and ideas, like weapons and monsters. Many of these monsters had rarely or never been illustrated before, so these drawings provided visual uniformity and a thematic baseline for the shared universe. As the game grew in popularity and spread out to wider audiences, the art became instructional in nature, helping players not only conceptualize the landscapes, equipment and inhabitants of the imagined world, but also how they might be used in the context of the game.

Breakthrough Module

Kyle Newman: One reason Keep on the Borderlands was so popular is that it came with the Basic Set around 1980, the time of the game’s meteoric rise. Because the Basic Set was meant for beginners, the module itself was very much meant to be a character-builder and to allow players to work their way into the game. Dungeons and Dragons was a tremendously impactful part of my youth. My older brothers would play it with their friends on weekends and I was allowed to watch, much like Elliot in Steven Spielberg’s seminal E.T. The Extraterrestrial. It was dangerous, disruptive and heavy metal. I pored over the books long before I ever played. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve just hanging around with pals on a weekend rolling dice and “role slaying” as I used to call it.

Art and D&D

Jon Peterson: Todd Lockwood, along with Sam Wood, took D&D art a step back from the high fantasy of the 1980s and tried to show us a more grounded world of fantastic adventure. They thought a lot about what people and weapons would look like in the worlds of D&D games. The iconic characters Todd and Sam created for third edition D&D also illustrated character class and race in a way that made the game easy to pick up and get immersed into. I see it as something so big, [it] changed modern popular culture.

There really weren’t fantastic medieval war games for sale before Gary Gygax put out D&D with Dave Arneson in 1974. The whole game took place in a conversation, not on a board or whatever—you just talked about what you wanted to do and the dungeon master told you what happened. It was all about running a character who gets more awesome as the game goes on, unless you die. There just wasn’t anything like it. It took over people’s lives.

Fan Favorites

Sam Witwer:Dragonlance was the brand’s first deliberate multi-media approach. It featured the pinnacle of D&D high fantasy art and put the dragons back in Dungeons and Dragons. Before Dragonlance there weren’t that many opportunities to actually introduce a dragon into a game without ensuring a total party kill. Dragonlance created many new in-game opportunities. What’s so amazing about those little pre-generated character cards that came with the modules is their size. The information is cleanly laid out and so simple. It’s a reminder that the rules were simple enough in those days that a whole character could be distilled down to just a few stats and lines so much so that you can put eight to a page.

Kyle Newman: I am a massive fan of R.A. Salvatore’s game-changing Icewind Dale Trilogy. That series, along with the success of Dragonlance, [brought] hoards of new fans.

Jon Peterson: Ed [Greenwood] had the most amazing home brew campaign, he was one of those dungeon masters who thinks up a fantasy world that would already be great for a novel, and then parachutes some characters into it. He was that rare obsessive DM who just seemed to have more ideas and energy to pour into his world than even the folks at TSR did. Naturally when TSR was shopping for new campaign worlds as part of their cross-media strategy, they had to get the Forgotten Realms. RA Salvatore took Greenwood’s world and created characters and stories for it that made him a bestselling author and sustained TSR as a major fantasy book publisher.

Dragons and More Dragons

Mike Witwer: Dragons are arguably the most majestic and dangerous of all fantasy creatures. They were among the few monsters that just about anyone could conceptualize and visualize. From ancient religious scriptures to Tolkien, the dragon was a very well-established idea and needed no explanation, so tying the game to dragons was very smart from a strategic perspective. Dragons also looked great on covers and allowed for really dramatic fantasy scenes that could draw would-be players into the game, especially those who loved fantasy fiction.

Ironically, the in-game experience rarely featured dragons as they were so powerful and deadly an encounter often meant the death of one or more players. I think D&D became so popular because it was so immersive. It really set the stage for do-it-yourself world-building and shared imaginary gaming experiences. It was the first role-playing game and developed foundational gaming concepts such as hit points, leveling, and cooperative play in a shared imaginary universe, becoming the basis for the later multi-billion-dollar industry of MMOs and computer/video RPGs.

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Dungeons And Dragons: 10 Best Dragon Fan Art

Ah, dragons. The second most popular thing in Dungeons & Dragons – after dungeons, of course. Chromatic or metallic, hatchling or ancient, everyone agrees that dragons are cool. Beyond even D&D, dragons are some of the most well-known mythological creatures in the world. There are countless depictions of them in hundreds of cultures, and that hasn’t stopped today, even if people no longer actually believe they exist (I’m still holding out for space dragons, personally). Artists will be artists, of course, and what artist in their right mind wouldn’t want to get their pens, tablets, and paints on something as cool as a dragon? Buckle up for ten of the best pieces of dragon fanart that D&D fans have to offer.

RELATED: 10 Successful Character Builds In D&D For Beginning Players

10 Black Dragon

Via VegasMike on DeviantArt

This multi-headed black dragon is totally about to stomp that white-haired mage standing on the edge of that cliff.

The style of this piece brings back a memory of some of the older art of D&D, from the very beginning editions of warriors fighting ferocious beasts and dragons. Although, this dragon looks to be a mixture of both, covered in fur and scales alike, and its main head looks almost like a wolf or some other carnivorous mammal. Let this inspire you to add some cool and interesting new dragons into your future campaigns!

9 D&D Fanart

Via William Montalvo on ArtStation

Though the dragon depicted here is smaller than most depictions of dragons, it will most certainly mess you up just the same.

Though, by the look of this angry green dragon, it might be a young dragon. Its horns aren’t very long, and its hoard looks like it doesn’t even cover the room. Maybe the brave adventurer down and front is taking a chance on a young and inexperienced dragon, and defeat it before it can grow up and really start terrorizing the land.

RELATED: 10 Dungeons & Dragons Logic Memes That Are Too Hilarious For Words

8 Dnd – Brass Dragon

Via Barbariank on DeviantArt

One of the very rare depictions of a nice dragon! Look at how friendly it is!

This brass dragon almost looks to be made of rocks, which is a pretty good camouflage technique if what little background (mainly, the ground) we get to see is where it lives. While dragons have very little to actually hide from, it could use its coloring and scale pattern to its advantage when hunting. Although right now, it looks to be content talking to its friend. How sweet!

7 Iron Dragon

Via RalphHorsley on DeviantArt

This angry iron dragon hardly fits in its own cave. Maybe its mad because it needs a bigger house. The missing hoard could also be a reason the dragon is angry – maybe an adventuring party’s rogue got a bit too greedy with the Bag of Holding and scooped the dragon’s entire hoard away. If that is the case, that party better get away fast. They’ve got a furious iron dragon on their hands, and nobody wants to deal with an angry dragon. Of any color.

RELATED: 10 Awesome Subclasses From Xanathar’s Guide To Everything (D&D Expansion)

6 Queen’s Reign

Via PorcelainPoppies on Newgrounds

A majestic dragon on the side of her mountain home. She’s roaring, perhaps to dare the world the challenge her rule, glittering golden scales shining in the morning light.

As ferocious and dangerous as dragons are, there should always be time to remember how beautiful and awesome they are. They’re giant, flying, element-breathing lizards with magic powers, and they live basically until something kills them. If that isn’t the most amazing creature you’ve ever heard of, frankly, there’s something wrong with you. And there’s always beauty in something so dangers – the word “terrible” shares a root with “terrific” for a reason.

5 Rainbow Dragon

Via u/ManoelaCosta on Reddit

Another example of dragons being beautiful and amazing, this time with an added bonus of iridescence. There’s nothing cooler than a rainbow dragon. Think you can come up with something cooler? Rainbow dragon beats it. Unless that something is two rainbow dragons – in which case, go directly to Harvard, because you’re a genius.

This dragon also has the rare addition of antlers instead of horns. An underrated design, as well as a great way to make your dragon look friendlier. If you need an ally dragon for a campaign, try adding some antlers. Couldn’t hurt!

RELATED: 5 Ways Pathfinder 2e Is Better Than Dungeons And Dragons (And 5 Ways It’s Not)

4 Red Dragon Mount

Via 000Fesbra000 on DeviantArt

Killing a dragon? Okay. Befriending a dragon? Nice. Riding a dragon? Awesome.

Look, every adventuring party has killed a dragon. Yawn. It’s textbook, at the point. Check it off the “to-do” list. But how many parties can say they’ve allied with a dragon? Probably not very many – fewer have even tried. And among those parties that have allied with a dragon, how many of them have gotten a dragon to trust one of their members enough to let them ride it? More than one member? An even smaller percentage. That is was truly makes an amazing story.

3 Silver Dragon of the Forgotten Realms

Via Lucieniibi on Weasyl

This bright silver dragon is quite content to sit and relax, something that a lot of its cousins should take note of. Sometimes you don’t have to burn that village of helpless mortals to the ground. Sometimes you can just chill. Take it easy. Practice your grand speeches in case some adventurers stumble in to cause trouble. This dragon knows what’s up. This dragon is probably great at parties – if dragons even have parties.

RELATED: Dungeons & Dragons: The Best Feats For A Wizard

2 Slow Circles

Via Gorrem on DeviantArt

There’s a saying that states that if you put any two people in a room, you have politics. Well, if you put any two dragons in a room, you have an epic showdown. And a huge mess to clean up afterword., because two fighting dragons don’t care at all about property damage.

These particular dragons are likely fighting over territory in these craggy mountains, not enough space for the both of them to hunt or hoard or both. Although, that blue “dragon” appears to be a wyvern, with only two real legs. Red dragon is probably going to win this turf war. Bets, anyone?

1 Tiamat, the Goddess of Evil Dragons

Via Dragolisco on DeviantArt

And what a better way to end this article, if not with Tiamat, Herself? Even as horrifying and dangerous as all five of Her heads are, you can’t deny there’s a kind of terrible beauty in it all. Something so deadly, so fierce, so godly – a divine masterpiece of destruction, truly magnificent.

That poor guy in the bottom left probably doesn’t stand a chance. No halberd in the world is going to protect you for very long against the Goddess of Evil Dragons Herself, dude. You should probably just leave. She doesn’t look very happy to have visitors, anyway.

NEXT: Pathfinder Second Edition Is Out Now And Ready To Take On Dungeons & Dragons

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About The Author
Annika Ellis (15 Articles Published)

Annika Ellis is a writer of many genres, with a BFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University. When she’s not writing for TheGamer, she’s writing prose, poetry, and ever her own games, giving back to the things she loves. In her free time, she enjoys doing ballet in her living room, after 13 years of performing on stage.

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