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D&D General Tony Diterlizzi appreciation thread

As Tony DiTerlizzi was inexplicably eliminated in the survivor:artists thread, I thought I'd make an appreciation post. He's really my favorite, bringing the aesthetic of Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Leon Carre, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Brian Froud into the world of dnd.
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ersatzphil

Adventurer
Hear, hear!

My personal favorite D&D artist as well, even if I sort-of understand him being knocked out of the surivor:artists thread. As fantastic as his art is, it's evocative of a specific kind of D&D, and not very "generic D&D".
 



Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
I wanted him in my final 2. Unfortunately politics got in the way. :(

Love his stuff though.
Politics? I haven't read that thread, so I don't know what happened, but I have a hard time thinking politics had an impact on his elimination.

Tony is a great artist. That's not in doubt. But he's an artist specializing in children's books. That's his background, and that's the style he wanted to bring to D&D. So it's easy to see how some people just don't prefer that style in D&D (Just like some people like the alien-esque style of Otis while others do not). Whimsy is great, and has it's place, but we can't expect everyone to like it. Different strokes for different folks.
 

Tony DiTerlizzi is in significant part why I got an A in A-Level Fine Art (which was then as good as you could score), because his art was so inspirational to me personally, it kept me excited about Fine Art-style art (together with Velasquez and a few others), and attempting to replicate the style and create my own stuff in it taught me a ton, and it also expanded my ideas about what good art could look like.

On top of that, his art in Planescape was unquestionably what got me, and thus my group, back into AD&D after Planescape came out. If it wasn't for that we'd certainly have abandoned AD&D/D&D entirely for the rest of the 1990s, because nothing post-Planescape was particularly inspiring to us, but Planescape was enough, and then we got a lot of the other later-'90s stuff because we were still playing AD&D. Otherwise it'd have been WoD and Cyberpunk 2020 all the way I think, together with a few other games, and I doubt we'd have been keen on 3E. It's even possible we'd have drifted out of RPGs entirely, though I somewhat doubt it.

I really hope we see more from him in the next few years of D&D. I'll be honest - I would literally buy any D&D product he worked on significantly - in actual physical format too, so no doubt WotC would get a double-sale from me as I'd want to buy it in digital as well.
 

Scribe

Hero
Politics? I haven't read that thread, so I don't know what happened, but I have a hard time thinking politics had an impact on his elimination.
People voting for him, targeted another person who was low on points, and so they weakened and killed each other off. :)
 


Tony DiTerlizzi is in significant part why I got an A in A-Level Fine Art (which was then as good as you could score), because his art was so inspirational to me personally, it kept me excited about Fine Art-style art (together with Velasquez and a few others), and attempting to replicate the style and create my own stuff in it taught me a ton, and it also expanded my ideas about what good art could look like.

On top of that, his art in Planescape was unquestionably what got me, and thus my group, back into AD&D after Planescape came out. If it wasn't for that we'd certainly have abandoned AD&D/D&D entirely for the rest of the 1990s, because nothing post-Planescape was particularly inspiring to us, but Planescape was enough, and then we got a lot of the other later-'90s stuff because we were still playing AD&D. Otherwise it'd have been WoD and Cyberpunk 2020 all the way I think, together with a few other games, and I doubt we'd have been keen on 3E. It's even possible we'd have drifted out of RPGs entirely, though I somewhat doubt it.

I really hope we see more from him in the next few years of D&D. I'll be honest - I would literally buy any D&D product he worked on significantly - in actual physical format too, so no doubt WotC would get a double-sale from me as I'd want to buy it in digital as well.

His work for planescape in particular is a perfect mix of dark, urban, victorian danger and whimsical faerie fantasy, and I think fits well with dnd because it recalls the aesthetic of late nineteenth century fantasy. But his work for the monster manuals is also great--his monsters are both scary and strange.

In general, I respect all the artists whose style is distinctive. I was never into dark sun, but Brom is the same way, as are some of the early dnd artists (Otus, Elmore). Whereas wotc editions are more about the cohesiveness of the art direction rather than the vision of particular artists. I don't think the art is bad by any means, but the cumulative effect for me is to make the aesthetic of the books a little generic.
 




Uni-the-Unicorn!

Adventurer
Yeah, the inexplicable animus towards him vs generic or unknown artists totally put me off survivor threads. Madness.

His style is genius, really wish it was used in Witchlight. It might have persuaded me to buy the book.
I don’t have any animus toward him, but his style simply is not my taste and wouldn’t land in my top 5 D&D artists. But I completely understand that is a subjective opinion.
 



Uni-the-Unicorn!

Adventurer
I don't know what to call it then, but I see it as just part of the game of getting 'your' choice to the finish line.

If your looking at the thread there are some patterns of behavior that at least seem to me, to be consistent. :)
I haven’t looked at that tread so I can’t really give my opinion on it. It was just that your limited description did not delve into what I would consider politics.
 


His art was such a striking departure from what came before when he came to prominence with Planescape. It fit the zeitgeist of the time so well, in a way that the mullets, mustaches, and 80s hair other artists were still depicting well into the 90s didn't. Don't get me wrong, I love the works of Elmore and Easley, but DiTerlizzi (and Brom) felt more contemporary to the period. And yet his sense of whimsy also harkened back to some of the even earlier works of D&D art.

Don't get me started on the Spiderwick movie adaptation. They took a series deeply steeped in real folklore and had faeries defeated by ketchup.
 
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If I got into the mind of my character, DiTerlizzi's monsters are not things that I want to fight. He retains the whimsical strangeness of a monster without losing the sense of danger. For example, this observer could be read in a number of different ways


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It looks like a deep sea creature, weird and alien, but not necessarily hostile. A more typical depiction would be almost cartoonishly aggressive, with exposed teeth and an aggressive stance. But this illustration really seems like a random encounter, a creature minding its (alien, incomprehensible) business on its own plane when out of nowhere comes a plane shifting human. He manages to use the single, gigantic eye to create an expression that is in turns curious and predatory, as if the creature is still deciding how to respond. Yet it's also somehow cute and fantastical?

Not that he can't do hostile, as he often does with various lower planar creatures.
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But again with these images, I'm not thinking, "ok let's fight," as I might with a monster in a more traditional action pose. Instead the viewer is more inclined to think, "let's back away slowly...maybe it didn't notice us...now run!"

His NPCs are similarly worth engaging. They are confident, savvy, powerful, and clearly have a lot going on that is not related at all to the PCs. If you were going to sit down with these characters to have a drink, you would have to be both sociable and guarded as you try to figure out what schemes they are up to.

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All together, it worked really well for PS's urban portal fantasy, one that was supposedly a lot more about negotiation and problem solving against forces infinitely more powerful than you. (In fact, I'm not sure the setting materials and adventures ever really lived up to that premise, and maybe dnd is the wrong system, but that's another thread.)
 

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