Art in D&D

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Parmandur

Legend
That may be the intention, but the piece does not convey it. I've run G3 twice and all I see is a random Fire Giant in a contrived position. The sense of space and movement is a mess. The central character appears to be trampolining upwards and is perhaps casting a spell but it's just a vague glow which conveys nothing. And that's the entire problem - this is a mediocre piece on any level (at least zoomed in like this) and it's a genuinely bad choice for the cover of the PHB. It will not be remembered fondly.

The DMG has a solid and appropriate choice, albeit it could stand to be sharper and more dynamic, and the MM has a good choice.
Disagree entirely. This is already an iconic image.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I think that all this thread has proven is that different art appeals to different people. Personally I'm not a big fan of a lot of modern art but some people go gaga for it.

Good art, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Speaking of beholders, the art for those guys really did improve starting with 3E.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Spoken like a man who doesn't understand how art and visual design work on a profound level, in my opinion.

You're in the wrong here. It doesn't matter what the original piece, zoomed out and uncropped looked like, because that isn't what is being presented. That’s almost completely irrelevant. What matters is what the cover of the PHB actually looks like. And that is a weird mess, I would say, and I suspect you at least partially agree, given this peculiar line of argument. An art director, himself an artist, made the artistic decision to make (or have made) this crop and this overall design, approve it, and have it printed. He took arguably decent art, and by editing it, changed it into bad art.

Anyone who has worked in actual image editing as a job, or heck, anyone who has done any kind of art involving other people's images has themselves seen that this is something that happens, something that with taste and talent and the right choice of source images, you can generally avoid (though not always). You will, quite rightly, be judged on the final image you deliver, not the source image.

At the very most you might argue that the original artist is more talented than one would credit from looking at the cover of the PHB. I might even concur. But "5Es art" in any honest sense is what 5E actually delivers in actual products, after the art director and editors have been at it. MtG has art director and even tricker space to use art and they do a great job.
I'm going to quote the OP here;

The question is: Do you like 5e's art-style, or do you yearn for the art of yesterday?
What are your criticisms of 5e's art, and where has it been successful?


The question is about the art style, it isn't about how the designers try to refit it to fit the cover. I'll admit the piece looks better when you can see the whole thing, but I think that standard hold for all of 5e's covers, and most covers in general, because a wide-scape typically looks better than a narrow one.

And even cropped, the art is certainly not bad. Your main criticism of it is completely nitpicky and honestly nonsensical. It's clearly a giant running at two adventurers, one jumping/flying with a spell ready, another sword drawn. Most people can look at that cover and understand that the giant and jumping person are in motion and that's why they are in the position they are, and frankly it's a lot more dynamic and interesting that many of editions covers previously where everything is still.
 
criticism of it is completely nitpicky and honestly nonsensical. It's clearly a giant running at two adventurers, one jumping/flying with a spell ready, another sword drawn. Most people can look at that cover and understand that the giant and jumping person are in motion and that's why they are in the position they are, and frankly it's a lot more dynamic and interesting that many of editions covers previously where everything is still.
What utter rot. :p

It certainly isn't clear and you're really proving my previous point by saying that, calling the criticisms "nitpicky" (which they assuredly are not, from any artistic standpoint), and attempting to push this ridiculous idea that we should be judging art based on what it might look like not on an actual product.

If we were discussing the specific artist in question that would be valid, even necessary.

We are not.

We are discussing 5Es art, which is what happens after the art director massacres a decent piece with bad decisions. I'm willing to bet most of the dodgier pieces in 5E have a zoomed out or uncropped version that looks somewhat better, but that's not what is actually there! That he is choosing to use an artist he is then having to rather massacre is part of the problem, note.
 

Parmandur

Legend
What utter rot. :p

It certainly isn't clear and you're really proving my previous point by saying that, calling the criticisms "nitpicky" (which they assuredly are not, from any artistic standpoint), and attempting to push this ridiculous idea that we should be judging art based on what it might look like not on an actual product.

If we were discussing the specific artist in question that would be valid, even necessary.

We are not.

We are discussing 5Es art, which is what happens after the art director massacres a decent piece with bad decisions. I'm willing to bet most of the dodgier pieces in 5E have a zoomed out or uncropped version that looks somewhat better, but that's not what is actually there! That he is choosing to use an artist he is then having to rather massacre is part of the problem, note.
Ignore the uncropped art, which is meant for computer wallpaper purposes. Just the book cover itself, is great. Doesn't suit your individual tastes, fine. Doesn't make it less than awesome. Love the dynamic scene.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
What utter rot. :p

It certainly isn't clear and you're really proving my previous point by saying that, calling the criticisms "nitpicky" (which they assuredly are not, from any artistic standpoint), and attempting to push this ridiculous idea that we should be judging art based on what it might look like not on an actual product.

If we were discussing the specific artist in question that would be valid, even necessary.

We are not.

We are discussing 5Es art, which is what happens after the art director massacres a decent piece with bad decisions. I'm willing to bet most of the dodgier pieces in 5E have a zoomed out or uncropped version that looks somewhat better, but that's not what is actually there! That he is choosing to use an artist he is then having to rather massacre is part of the problem, note.
Well, can't account for taste I suppose.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I agree with what you're saying. My opinion (earlier in the thread) was that I preferred the early D&D art, because while some of it was awful, some of it was transcendent.

Either on purpose, or by accident, I think 5e has settled on a house style of "Consistently good, but never great." There are worse things.
I’d say “always at least workable, rarely great, usually pretty good to really good”, but otherwise agree.

The PHB halflings barely meet “workable”, as does the phb gnome pic with her flat topped cranium. Some other pics have amateurish hands or the like, but are evocative nonetheless, etc. There is an elf with badly proportioned eyes, IIRC.

But there is also some gorgeous art in, E.g., Eberron Rising.
 

Parmandur

Legend
Everyone's tastes are different, perhaps yours is a bit off. 😜
Well, granting for the sake of argument the proposition that there is no objective aesthetic judgement (which is not true, but beyond the scope of this discussion), the only meaningful measure becomes the commercial viability of art.

The 5E is a perennial best-seller on Amazon and at hobby stores (my FLGS keeps increasing the shelf space and presence for 5E), and us now available in Target stores after 5 years of release.

While the cover art is not the only or even a prime reason for this, it hasn't hurt, and isn't sowing confusion and dismay in the buying public.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Like, these guys fit my image of "Halfling" much better than most any previous Editions art:

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They’re fine for a dnd cartoon where everyone has odd proportions to better grab the eye and make distinctions immediately obvious in order to tell stories more efficiently using both visual and plot cues.

Doesn’t look like a real creature in a living, non-cartoon, world.
 

Parmandur

Legend
They’re fine for a dnd cartoon where everyone has odd proportions to better grab the eye and make distinctions immediately obvious in order to tell stories more efficiently using both visual and plot cues.

Doesn’t look like a real creature in a living, non-cartoon, world.
Personally, that's the vibe I'm looking for in D&D art.

I'm curious how they will do Halflings in the event of live action movies.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Personally, that's the vibe I'm looking for in D&D art.

I'm curious how they will do Halflings in the event of live action movies.
I’m really hoping they either simply employ some of the many very talented Little People actors, or if they won’t do that, do something like they did in the lotr movies.

If they do inhuman proportions at all, I’d rather see 3e-4e style halflings than 5e style.

And I dearly hope for no hobbit feet.
 

gyor

Hero
I love cheesecake. I'm a man.
There are also plenty of women that like and even love cheesecake. There is nothing wrong with cheesecake art, and I have always pushed back against the haters. Bring back Elmore and Cadwell, and artists like them. Skimpy armour and 80's hair for the win. I don't care if it's impractical (the armour or the hair), as long as it's FUN, it's a fantasy, not actual battles so who cares.
 

Parmandur

Legend
There are also plenty of women that like and even love cheesecake. There is nothing wrong with cheesecake art, and I have always pushed back against the haters. Bring back Elmore and Cadwell, and artists like them. Skimpy armour and 80's hair for the win. I don't care if it's impractical (the armour or the hair), as long as it's FUN, it's a fantasy, not actual battles so who cares.
There are a few situational exceptions, but as a general rule, he isn't wrong. WotC is afraid of sex appeal.
Having good standards of decency that don't objectify people ≠ being "afraid of sex appeal".

A lot of that older art is creepy and off-putting, Caldwell more egregiously so than most. I for one am very glad that WotC is doing the right thing now.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
There are also plenty of women that like and even love cheesecake. There is nothing wrong with cheesecake art, and I have always pushed back against the haters. Bring back Elmore and Cadwell, and artists like them. Skimpy armour and 80's hair for the win. I don't care if it's impractical (the armour or the hair), as long as it's FUN, it's a fantasy, not actual battles so who cares.
I for one do not find the objectification of women "fun." And what you specifically describe is a male fantasy, and it's important for modern D&D to be easy for anyone to play and feel respected.
 

happyhermit

Explorer
...
We are discussing 5Es art, which is what happens after the art director massacres a decent piece with bad decisions. I'm willing to bet most of the dodgier pieces in 5E have a zoomed out or uncropped version that looks somewhat better, but that's not what is actually there! That he is choosing to use an artist he is then having to rather massacre is part of the problem, note.
AFAIK there hasn't been an art director for D&D that could be referred to as "he" since 5e came out.
 

gyor

Hero
Keep the anti-male conspiracy theories elsewhere, please.
I for one do not find the objectification of women "fun." And what you specifically describe is a male fantasy, and it's important for modern D&D to be easy for anyone to play and feel respected.
There is nothing disrespectful in that art work and "objectification" is just made up crap to demonize men, often by hypocritics such as buzzfeed who will complain about the objectification of women and then write an article about the genitals of man athletes in the same issue.

And their are tons of male depictions of rip dudes, so until you start demanding more barbarians with beer bellies, I can't take your arguement seriously.
 
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