Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Triumphant Return! With Artwork By Tony DiTerlizzi!

So, I've been a little waylaid with illness, work, and hospital trips, so I've fell behind on the blog.

This will not stand!

So, to start us off - some Tony DiTerlizzi artwork, and some art-critique from a man who couldn't get into art school, and so became a scientist.

"Yess, my good gentledwarf, finest Salarian Mind-Wyrms. I ssqueezzed them mysself jusst thiss afternoon. Ffive jink. Or perhhapss the Yithhian crystal is more to Ssirs liking, eh? Only 20 sstingers."
Did you ever need a truly pimpin' Mind Flayer for your Planescape game? Simply add fez. Seriously though, this Ulithard looks like the most perfect trader in the more unusual of magical artifacts in any Planescape/Spelljammer game. DiTerrlizi adds little touches and artifacts of a character who does stuff outside their image (the fez, the useful-looking pouches), that creates a real sense of character - not just some unrealistically-proportioned model in barely-there armour sneering menacingly and swinging the most impractical-looking sword you ever laid eyes on (Wayne Reynolds, I am looking at you so fucking hard right now)... I mean, compare the above with this:
I smoulder with generic rage.
I mean, just fucking look at it. It shares more than a few things with the DiTerlizzi piece, things I applauded not but a few lines ago. For example, those "little touches" that spruce up a piece of artwork, and add character - this guy here has a billion of them. The little rings on his clothes, the weird "many-belts" wrist guards, the dagger and potion on his belt, and the wands at his hip, and his little fire-bird-bat-thing, and his awesome, cool, impractical-looking sword, and...
There's just way too much stuff going on. It distracts from any one of thee elements, making a mish-mash of half-formed ideas about what this character does.

Also, his right hand. Look at it. Look real hard. Hands do not work that way. Like... is that a pinky or a thumb at the right-hand side there? The artist certainly doesn't know. And, for that matter, do pecs or chests ever look like that, barring shit like Marfan's Syndrome? Also, why does he have little clip-clop cloven feet? Dude's ostensibly human, but look how tiny his little feet are!

Now what would a Halfling want with a massive, hungry-looking cobra? I have no idea, but I can think of a ton of suggestions. Firstly, he's clearly in discourse with it - not the feared expression of someone trying to convince it not to eat him. He seems open, relaxed, even - like he's attempting to barter with it. What would a sentient cobra want to buy? Or what could it be selling?
The main reason that I like this is that I plan on introducing a Stygia-equivalent into the next old-school game I run, with full rules for snake-clerics and weird magics based off human sacrifice. Part of that would be the massive snakes rumoured to lurk in the depths of the land - ancient, intelligent creatures, favoured as pets to dark sorcerers. The idea of a race of intelligent snakes has always been pretty cool to me, especially filling the role of creepy conduits to the dark Gods of a forbidding continent. This pic just gives me ideas about how to make them more "humanised".

Apparently, this is a Tasked Genie from the Al-Quadim setting, but to me she looks far too human. Not a bad thing - she demonstrates DiTerlizzi's fantastic fashion sense. Each element of the outfit flows with the rest, and makes for a great Thief-type, "street smart" character. The style fits surprisingly well with the artwork DiTerlizzi would produce for Planescape, one of the most fantastically-illustrated fantasy settings of all time. The mix of neo-Victorian, Renaissance, and a more modern eye towards composition make the DiTerlizzi fashion choices a little dated, but in a charmingly retro way.
 When DiTerlizzi was pulled to illustrate the 2e Monster Manual, it was a breath of fresh air from the somewhat lacking quality of 1st Ed/AD&D's artwork. While they got across more character than later artists, the less than professional quality of the art made the whole game feel a little... gonzo
DiTerlizzi, however, brought both character and great technical talent together, to create an almost fairytale feeling to the game. Take, for example, this Helmed Horror - a classic D&D "trap" monster.

"The room is bare, aside from several suits of armour, all alike."
"I try and see if the suit of armour will fit me, or if I can scavenge some parts of it for myself."
"As you lay hands on it, it turns and takes a swing at you. Roll initiative!"

Now, modern artists will go down the root of an obviously evil suit of ridiculously spiky armour with evil fire pouring out the eyeholes and a gnarly-looking weapon. But DiTerlizzi's take on it has a whole lot of charm. It looks like a suit of armour you might find lying around - and that's the point of the monster. It's not something that looks obviously evil, because then it would be entirely pointless. It's designed to catch you out. A nicely understated piece. It does, however, highlight one of the issues I do have with DiTerlizzi's style - all his weapons are so thin. That sword looks like a rapier/foil, and not a particularly sturdy one at that. Go check more of his art, and count how many of the weapons look like they'll break at a strong breeze.

 This guy is a Sandman. He's a man, made of sand. Yeah. However, Al-Quadim being the weird, Arabian Nights-type place it is, he's also an evil slaver who puts people to sleep before kidnapping them. It saddens me to say that Ive seen weirder monsters, but there you go.
What I like about this guy is that he's pretty much a perfect fit for the Dust Genasi race - from the awkward angles of his head, down to his dour expression and slightly "gritty" texture (DiTerlizzi love him some good linework), he looks pretty awesome.

Now we get to one of my favourite pieces - a linnorm (a massive, dragon-like wyrm from Norse mythology). Where other artists have made them just look like big, ratty, extra-evil dragons, DiTerlizzi's linnorm looks positively ancient, a true ancestor to the great Dragons - something different, yet recognisable. The shaggy hair and almost root-like tail help to add to the sense of age, and the mottled skin looks really good in DiTerlizzi's ink-and-wash style.While they are not as intelligent as dragons, this specimen seems to at least hold a sense of cunning - the hint of a smile and the extended finger make it look like it's just caught some unwary adventurers in a lie, or perhaps is about to reveal some less-than-wanted news. All in, a pretty cool piece.

So yeah - I advise you go check out Tony DiTerlizzi's website, or, if you can get a hold of them, dig out some of his 2nd Ed work. It's awesome and you won't regret it!


  1. Tony's stuff is great, he has been a huge influence in my own pathetic art scribblings.

    His characters just exude life and story. But then again it also represents a different era in gaming.


  2. Something I really like about DiTerlizzi, besides his awesome art, is the fact that he is willing to admit the faults he has, especially on older pieces. That Genie's anatomy looks laughably wrong and there's no way going around that. I recall somewhere DiTerlizzi actually mentioned that lot of his earlier art, and I'm paraphrasing here, 'the anatomy was pretty bad, so I drew all kinds of clothes, scarves and trinkets to try and cover it up'. Gee, does that remind you of anyone? (*coughRaynoldscough*). Yet isn't it strange? When DiTerlizzi adds stuff on his characters to cover for lack of anatomy skills, it looks good and charming and characteristic. When Wayne Raynolds does it, it just looks cluttered.