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D&D 5E About the artwork...

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I don't buy many 5e products but most of the cover art, including Tasha's, I find really tepid. Of course, it's incredibly well done, but it doesn't excite me at all.

One exception would be the Ghosts of Saltmarsh cover, which I'm pretty fond of.

I noticed when I was flipping through the Art and Arcana book, the later art just seems to lack any charm to me. The early stuff is really goofy, but very endearing. The mid period is much better and I generally like. The latter stuff is very proficient, but it just seems boring to me. I'm not sure why exactly.

I would agree with you. The 5e art (like most of 5e stuff, really) is superbly effective: it just works and its really well done. But, its a little dull. Like, in 20 years, I'm pretty sure I'll still remember some specific pieces of pre-5e editions art, even some from edition I never played, but I'll just have a vague memory that, in general 5e was good, but without lasting impression. Anyway, time will tell.

Strangely, while 4e had the most boring presentation of content, I absolutely adore the semi-over-the-top art. Without being really well done, they were evocative, with is a requisite to give a lasting impression IMHO.
 

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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I don't buy many 5e products but most of the cover art, including Tasha's, I find really tepid. Of course, it's incredibly well done, but it doesn't excite me at all.

One exception would be the Ghosts of Saltmarsh cover, which I'm pretty fond of.

I noticed when I was flipping through the Art and Arcana book, the later art just seems to lack any charm to me. The early stuff is really goofy, but very endearing. The mid period is much better and I generally like. The latter stuff is very proficient, but it just seems boring to me. I'm not sure why exactly.
Yeah, I know what you mean. Such iconic images in the old books like this one
McLean_comic.JPG
 

oreofox

Explorer
Yeah, I know what you mean. Such iconic images in the old books like this one

Not the biggest fan of the art in much of the 1e books (not sure if this came from one of the Basic books as I have never looked at them). But they worked fairly well. Not visually amazing. 2e had some really great art imo, 3rd's was hit and miss. Thought a lot of the 4e art was ugly (the person who did the art for the different races in the PHB doesn't have a style I particularly enjoy). 5e is hit or miss, with more miss for me.

There's one particular artist, and I think he is still commissioned by WotC, who's style makes that elf in the OP look like the greatest piece of art ever. As stated by me previously, I don't care for the image of the elf. I think it looks very unappealing. But I'd rather have that hanging above my computer (and use it as my desktop image, too) than look at this particular artist's images. Hell, I'd rather have all the art in 5e to look like the image @Oofta put in the spoiler.
 


Maggan

Writer of The Bitter Reach
I don't buy many 5e products but most of the cover art, including Tasha's, I find really tepid. Of course, it's incredibly well done, but it doesn't excite me at all.
For me I guess it comes down to an embarrassment of riches. When I started gaming, there were very little fantasy artwork available to me to look at, so the art in my rpg books very much shaped my taste. I instantly took to Elmore, Parkinson and Caldwell. And Whelan, of course.

Then, more and more art became available. What was once fresh and new was now same old, same old. And so I started enjoying other kinds of art, more strange and experimental. What was once seen by me as just weird or strange, is now wonderful. Like Otus, Trampier and Sutherland.

Now I go back and forth between what is exciting to me, and what isn't. Reynolds once excited me, but now I am sort of done with that style, looking for other stuff.

I don't know, this didn't turn into an answer to your post, but rather some thoughts on what excites me when it comes to D&D art.
 

SkidAce

Hero
Supporter


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Yes, I see. To be perfectly frank, I hate them. They have gigantic heads and bizarrely tiny legs and feet. As a pieces of cartoony art they're fine, but as attempts to depict anatomy of a creature I very much do not like them.
You know, I had a thought about this. Please don’t take this as me trying to challenge your opinion of the concept art - it’s absolutely valid and quite understandable to dislike it! But I thought this would make for an interesting thing to discuss deeper.

A lot of people strongly dislike the elf because of his strange facial proportions. A lot of people dislike early 5e depictions of halflings because of their highly exaggerated body proportions. I’m a big Dragon Age fan and I remember a ton of fans flipped out over the redesign for elves in the second game, which made them inhumanly thin and altered their facial proportions, especially in the eyes.

There seems to be a common trend of people not liking depictions of fantasy races that look too far off from basic human proportions. That’s understandable as our brains are wired to find the human form aesthetically pleasing, and there seems to be something of an uncanny valley effect when a form looks nearly human but differs just enough to make it clearly inhuman.

But it’s interesting to me that the argument that D&D races are “just humans with rubber masks” if they aren’t different enough from humans only seems to come up in discussions about ability scores and alignment, but not in discussions about their physical appearances.

The main reason I like the halfling concept art is that they look distinctly like their own race, instead of just short humans. I liked the Dragon Age 2 redesign of elves a lot for the same reason - no longer were they the human model but shorter and with pointed ears, they were a visually distinct race with their own body and facial structures. The elf under discussion in this thread I’m still not the biggest fan of. I assume his pinched face was supposed to make him look elf-y, but for whatever reason it doesn’t really do it for me. But I don’t fault the artist for trying.

Again, folks are more than welcome to disagree with me about this. I just noticed this apparent incongruity between how close to human folks want other races to be statistically vs. visually.
 

You know, I had a thought about this. Please don’t take this as me trying to challenge your opinion of the concept art - it’s absolutely valid and quite understandable to dislike it! But I thought this would make for an interesting thing to discuss deeper.

A lot of people strongly dislike the elf because of his strange facial proportions. A lot of people dislike early 5e depictions of halflings because of their highly exaggerated body proportions. I’m a big Dragon Age fan and I remember a ton of fans flipped out over the redesign for elves in the second game, which made them inhumanly thin and altered their facial proportions, especially in the eyes.

There seems to be a common trend of people not liking depictions of fantasy races that look too far off from basic human proportions. That’s understandable as our brains are wired to find the human form aesthetically pleasing, and there seems to be something of an uncanny valley effect when a form looks nearly human but differs just enough to make it clearly inhuman.

But it’s interesting to me that the argument that D&D races are “just humans with rubber masks” if they aren’t different enough from humans only seems to come up in discussions about ability scores and alignment, but not in discussions about their physical appearances.

The main reason I like the halfling concept art is that they look distinctly like their own race, instead of just short humans. I liked the Dragon Age 2 redesign of elves a lot for the same reason - no longer were they the human model but shorter and with pointed ears, they were a visually distinct race with their own body and facial structures. The elf under discussion in this thread I’m still not the biggest fan of. I assume his punched face was supposed to make him look elf-y, but for whatever reason it doesn’t really do it for me. But I don’t fault the artist for trying.

Again, folks are more than welcome to disagree with me about this. I just noticed this apparent incongruity between how close to human folks want other races to be statistically vs. visually.

I like non-humans having somewhat non-human anatomy. To my issue with these halfling concepts is that to me they don't look like beings with different anatomy, they look like caricature humans. And for that reasons as art pieces they're fine; they would be perfect illustrations in some childrens' book etc. But as representations of actual alternative anatomy they fail.


This picture looks to me more like an actual semi-realistic depiction of a humanoid of small stature rather than a mere caricature of a human.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I like non-humans having somewhat non-human anatomy. To my issue with these halfling concepts is that to me they don't look like beings with different anatomy, they look like caricature humans. And for that reasons as art pieces they're fine; they would be perfect illustrations in some childrens' book etc. But as representations of actual alternative anatomy they fail.


This picture looks to me more like an actual semi-realistic depiction of a humanoid of small stature rather than a mere caricature of a human.

I agree. A couple of things stand out to me about the equipment and clothes. The boots are extra tall, almost oversized. The pouches are also oversized, the blade feels extra wide, the hair is voluminous. All of that with a slightly exaggerated head size gives you the sense of a small person without relying on external visual queues.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I agree. A couple of things stand out to me about the equipment and clothes. The boots are extra tall, almost oversized. The pouches are also oversized, the blade feels extra wide, the hair is voluminous. All of that with a slightly exaggerated head size gives you the sense of a small person without relying on external visual queues.
Well, the boots, the pouches, and the blade are all external visual cues. I’d argue the book looks kind of oversized too, which is also external. Her clothes are tailored kind of oddly too - everything fits her very loosely, and the sleeves come down pretty far.

The cues that are inherent to the character’s body are pretty effective though. Her shoulders and limbs are quite broad compared to her torso, which is very slender. Her right arm is a little long. Her head is very round, and her facial features small and pursed, with her eyes rather wide-set. It looks like she’s narrowing her eyes, but that if she opened them wider they would be pretty big. Her feet are a little large too, though not unrealistically so. Hypothetically that could be due to the boots being too big for her though.

Overall the effect definitely communicates her size well, but I do wonder how effective it would be if her equipment wasn’t quite as exaggerated in size. Not that I mind her equipment looking the way it does, I actually rather like the approach, especially since 5e doesn’t have specially-sized equipment for Small characters. The piece overall definitely works for me. I’d prefer an approach like this over what we ended up with in the PHB.
 


pming

Hero
Hiya!

Yeah, I know what you mean. Such iconic images in the old books like this one

Love it! I am also fond of the "Micky Mouse Wererat Infiltration Scheme"...you know the one. ;)

On a more serious note...

The above cartoon is, imnsho, superior art for one reason. It tells a story and conveys an emotion. The OP's original two pictures, of the witch and the elf/hawk? Boring. They don't tell any story. They show no personality. They don't convey any emotion whatsoever. It's just like far, faaaaar to many "modern day artworks": technically proficient, but with no 'soul' and not anything to be proud of. They are almost all equivalent, in my mind, to something one would do for a freelance job where the potential employer asks "Ok, do you have a grasp on colour, lighting, texture, etc? Show us a quick sketch of that. Then we'll move on to other things like composition".

The witch, for example...it's just a chick standing there holding a magic book, casting a spell. So what? It's like taking a close up picture of your cat sleeping on a pillow. It doesn't SAY anything other than...."Here's a cat. Sleeping on a pillow". The above cartoon, however? Scene is set in a bar, folks are drinking, an adventurer at the bar is surprised, as well as bar-helper, and the bartender is DEFINITELY surprised! The axe in the wall next to the bartenders head shows that there is some action going on that needs attending. The story is obvious, even without the caption; "Someone in the bar is getting rowdy for some reason...and people are nervous".

I find that this new'ish "style" of art is what is I call "studio setting poser art". I can imagine there is a director and behind the artist is a bunch of people, like shooting a commercial product placement advertisement. There's the artist/director telling the witch... "Ok, Susan? Yeah, hold the book a bit higher...bit more....perfect! Ok, wind guy? Get some wind coming up from below...too much...still to much. Try half power. Great! Right...Susan, can you make that illusionary snake coming out of the book more dramatic? OH! Hey, make it fire! It will light your face, right? Yeah...excellent. Look down into it, like you're reading the book, the flames are from the writing in the book. Now, almost there. Oh, raise your left hand up a bit. More....more...more...too much. How about down, right below the edge of the brim of your hat! PERFECT! Oooo! Add some illusionary flames circling her left hand! Niiiice....! Ok, artist...paint that. GO!". ... ...

;)

That's what I see when I see almost any art done by newer artists for D&D or Pathfinder or any other "modern, high-quality artwork RPG". Better than I could do...but boring and with no 'soul'.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

dave2008

Legend
Hiya!



Love it! I am also fond of the "Micky Mouse Wererat Infiltration Scheme"...you know the one. ;)

On a more serious note...

The above cartoon is, imnsho, superior art for one reason. It tells a story and conveys an emotion. The OP's original two pictures, of the witch and the elf/hawk? Boring. They don't tell any story. They show no personality. They don't convey any emotion whatsoever. It's just like far, faaaaar to many "modern day artworks": technically proficient, but with no 'soul' and not anything to be proud of. They are almost all equivalent, in my mind, to something one would do for a freelance job where the potential employer asks "Ok, do you have a grasp on colour, lighting, texture, etc? Show us a quick sketch of that. Then we'll move on to other things like composition".

The witch, for example...it's just a chick standing there holding a magic book, casting a spell. So what? It's like taking a close up picture of your cat sleeping on a pillow. It doesn't SAY anything other than...."Here's a cat. Sleeping on a pillow". The above cartoon, however? Scene is set in a bar, folks are drinking, an adventurer at the bar is surprised, as well as bar-helper, and the bartender is DEFINITELY surprised! The axe in the wall next to the bartenders head shows that there is some action going on that needs attending. The story is obvious, even without the caption; "Someone in the bar is getting rowdy for some reason...and people are nervous".

I find that this new'ish "style" of art is what is I call "studio setting poser art". I can imagine there is a director and behind the artist is a bunch of people, like shooting a commercial product placement advertisement. There's the artist/director telling the witch... "Ok, Susan? Yeah, hold the book a bit higher...bit more....perfect! Ok, wind guy? Get some wind coming up from below...too much...still to much. Try half power. Great! Right...Susan, can you make that illusionary snake coming out of the book more dramatic? OH! Hey, make it fire! It will light your face, right? Yeah...excellent. Look down into it, like you're reading the book, the flames are from the writing in the book. Now, almost there. Oh, raise your left hand up a bit. More....more...more...too much. How about down, right below the edge of the brim of your hat! PERFECT! Oooo! Add some illusionary flames circling her left hand! Niiiice....! Ok, artist...paint that. GO!". ... ...

;)

That's what I see when I see almost any art done by newer artists for D&D or Pathfinder or any other "modern, high-quality artwork RPG". Better than I could do...but boring and with no 'soul'.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
Ya the "soul" of a piece of artwork is pretty subjective though (as is the quality of art). I actually think both of the pieces of art in the OP tell a story and have a soul, but it leaves more up to the viewer than the cartoon. Which I think is a good thing. Now, do I think both pieces could do more on that front, sure. But I don't expect or want every piece of art to tell a grand story. For me there are enough of those for my taste in 5e art, clearly your tastes differ.
 

dave2008

Legend
Yes, art preference is mostly due to preference. I love Erol Otis and others hate him. I think the art in the 2e reprints is garbage, and others like it.

But sometimes it's objectively bad by any metric you're evaluating, like this.
I don't know where that is from, but it reminds we of a lot of 3e art and why I avoided that edition
 

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