Art in D&D

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pukunui

Adventurer
I like the 5e art, but I wished they also used black and white line art.
There is some of that in the 5e core books at least. Like the drawings for the conditions.

I started with 2e, so I think that the art styles of Elmore and Caldwell, et al, will always be my favourite.

However, I’d say 5e art is overall the best of WotC D&D art. As much as I dislike Dragon Heist as an adventure, I think it has some of the best art I’ve ever seen in D&D books. There’s some absolutely stunningly gorgeous art in there, particularly the two-page spreads of the urchins.

I also like that 5e art is better at portraying diverse cultures and (mostly) doesn’t portray women as pin-up eye candy for randy young men like Elmore and Caldwell always did. (Is that what people mean by “cheesecake”?)
 
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Zardnaar

Hero
Yes that's cheesecake, beefcake is the male version and it has some other undertones in the 80s.


Cheesecake- well done but still.
IMG_20191109_120507.jpg
 

Tallifer

Adventurer
My favourite fantasy art was some of the more flavourful stuff from 1st edition Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Renaissance woodcuts for the win.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
I quite like 5e's art. The inclusive depictions and practical armor are important for so many people to see. And I adore the ultra-stylish Hydro74 covers.

It's also hard to argue with the Four Horseman of 1e and 2e. I could stare at Elmore's skies and rolling scenery all day. And the Otus/DCS/Trampier era is absolutely evocative in its black and white moodiness.

But, I also love this horrid bit of art from the earliest days:

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Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
My favorite artist of D&D is probably Erol Otis with his weird drawings and crazy hats. But most editions have something cool. Though I didn't like the straps, buckles, and spikes 3e aesthetic and I skipped 4e. The trifecta of Elmore, Parkinson, and Caldwell are hard to top as well. The 5e stuff is mostly good though I hate the modern halfling.
 

DWChancellor

Kobold Enthusiast
I do think of DiTerlizzi and Planescape, WR & Eberron, and Brohm & Darksun, but those are setting - not D&D as a whole.
I don't understand what you are trying to say.

All the editions post WotC had a ton of design work done in terms of style guides, etc. Lockwood was brought on not just to paint dragons but do all sorts of work. What does a goblin look like; how are we going to dress up and layout book pages; what are each line of books going to look like in terms of covers; etc. Schindehette wrote up all sorts of explanations and has talked in interviews about the design and style ethos of 4E. I paid less attention to 5E's process but it seems more self-consistent, not less.

This wasn't confined to settings like in 2E. Core 3E, 4E, and definitely 5E have clear style guides. IMHO half of the push-back on the Acquisitions Incorporated book is that it subverts the 5E style guide (not that it was originally conceived as a first party product).

Sorry, what am I missing? I'm not saying that this was done to some extent earlier, just that it was both more thorough, more professional, and (eventually) of higher quality in the last few decades. You can hand a sheaf of illustrations to me and I expect I'll have a good chance of telling you whether they come from 3rd, 4th, or 5th.
 

Celebrim

Legend
On the subject of 'cheesecake', I'm fairly sure that there can be no adequate definition of it.

One of my favorite MtG artists, Rebecca Guay, tends to feature centrally female models that are provocatively posed and could be said to be erotic. As far as I know she's heterosexual and not painting 'cheesecake', but it's not even really maiden aunt safe to provide a link to her studio.

So while I agree that there is 'cheesecake' in earlier eras of D&D art, I'm not sure I'm on board with identifying every centrally placed attractive female that isn't as well covered as a nun as a 'cheesecake'. There is a lot of, for example, Larry Elmore with an attractive sturdy female protagonist that isn't 'cheesecake'.
 

The Glen

Adventurer
Give me the old school art any day. I just love the variety of it. Elmore, Eisley, Caldwell, Valucek, then add Lockwood, Parkinson, Bromm and DeTerlizzi and you have iconic art for dragonlance, Dark Sun, planescape and mystara. All the fifth edition art Blends together you can see the formula they're using. Everyone is dressed the same. The women are either in full plate or neck to ankle full length dress. The halflings are hideous. With few exceptions you don't get the Charming stuff that we got in 2nd edition like a party being proud of killing a baby dragon or the Barbarian grabbing the ogre by his nose ring after she chopped his Club into pieces.
 

dave2008

Legend
I don't understand what you are trying to say.

All the editions post WotC had a ton of design work done in terms of style guides, etc. Lockwood was brought on not just to paint dragons but do all sorts of work. What does a goblin look like; how are we going to dress up and layout book pages; what are each line of books going to look like in terms of covers; etc. Schindehette wrote up all sorts of explanations and has talked in interviews about the design and style ethos of 4E. I paid less attention to 5E's process but it seems more self-consistent, not less.

This wasn't confined to settings like in 2E. Core 3E, 4E, and definitely 5E have clear style guides. IMHO half of the push-back on the Acquisitions Incorporated book is that it subverts the 5E style guide (not that it was originally conceived as a first party product).

Sorry, what am I missing? I'm not saying that this was done to some extent earlier, just that it was both more thorough, more professional, and (eventually) of higher quality in the last few decades. You can hand a sheaf of illustrations to me and I expect I'll have a good chance of telling you whether they come from 3rd, 4th, or 5th.
I am simply saying that when I think of a particular edition of D&D, it doesn't conjure up a particular "style" of art. I don't think of each edition having its own particular style, that is all. I think of artists having a particular style, but not editions themselves.

To be clear, I am not saying there are not style guides and like in place now (or in the past), but to my eye, the more important part is the artist's own style. For example: compare and contrast the art for the 5e MM Balor and Pit Fiend. To me, those are very different styles of art.
 

Celebrim

Legend
@happyhermit : The barbarian with the tiger is much more in a "cheesecake" style - bare midriff and high thigh - than a lot of Larry Elmore's work, especially his work on the Basic line or for Dragonlance. Really, if you look at the classic artwork, only Clyde Caldwell regularly did a lot of work that I'd consider "cheesecake" and has that look as a consistent part of their oeuvre. A lot of the featured women in old school art are attractive but clearly sturdy and strong figures that don't look like they stumbled out of a boudoir nor are they likely to stumble into one.

I still insist that what's making that barbarian and tiger not trigger a sense that it is "cheesecake" is that the art is rougher, less finished, less polished, and more obviously not real, and that this less polished style applied to both men and women avoids the problem while still presenting more or less the same content.

And that doesn't even get into the issue of how different women will want themselves represented or how they would choose to represent women themselves. I won't even begin to try to address that except to say that it is a thing. What I will say is I'm uncomfortable just claiming old school art as whole was "cheesecake", and in particular dropping that conveniently as a label on every male artist working at the time, some of whom I don't really feel deserve the label.
 

Aebir-Toril

std::cout << "Hi" << '\n';
@happyhermit : The barbarian with the tiger is much more in a "cheesecake" style - bare midriff and high thigh - than a lot of Larry Elmore's work, especially his work on the Basic line or for Dragonlance. Really, if you look at the classic artwork, only Clyde Caldwell regularly did a lot of work that I'd consider "cheesecake" and has that look as a consistent part of their oeuvre. A lot of the featured women in old school art are attractive but clearly sturdy and strong figures that don't look like they stumbled out of a boudoir nor are they likely to stumble into one.

I still insist that what's making that barbarian and tiger not trigger a sense that it is "cheesecake" is that the art is rougher, less finished, less polished, and more obviously not real, and that this less polished style applied to both men and women avoids the problem while still presenting more or less the same content.

And that doesn't even get into the issue of how different women will want themselves represented or how they would choose to represent women themselves. I won't even begin to try to address that except to say that it is a thing. What I will say is I'm uncomfortable just claiming old school art as whole was "cheesecake", and in particular dropping that conveniently as a label on every male artist working at the time, some of whom I don't really feel deserve the label.
I agree with you points. Excellent response.
 
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