Art, Car Wars, Dragon Magazine, Dungeons & Dragons, Fantasy, Modern, OSR, Paranoia, RPG, Science Fiction
I generally assume that my taste in RPG art is not the general taste. For instance, I am not a fan of Larry Elmore’s work. I won’t claim that it lacks technical merit or that it lacks soul or that there is something wrong with it. What I do know is that it doesn’t turn my crank at all. It’s one of the elements that makes me not enjoy the 1983 BECMI edition of D&D, instead loving the weird art of the 1981 B/X edition.
There’s another artist on my list though that I note whenever I come across his work. He’s back in circulation these days with Goodman Games at least, and maybe other publishers too (but so far I’ve only noted his work with Goodman these days). I was reminded of him when I posted the cover of Chagmat two days ago.
I love his style. It’s corny. It’s funny. It’s pretty fucking cool.
It totally doesn’t work for D&D for me.
Part of the problem for me is that he is THE iconic illustrator of Paranoia. His style is PERFECT for that game because I swear the game was written to his art even more than his art was drawn for the game. The piece I always flash to, however, isn’t even a Paranoia piece. It’s a piece he drew for a fan article for Car Wars published in Dragon #117 (remember when Dragon was about non-D&D games too? Even that late in the run…)
Tanks for the Memories.
Click on it to see it in a nice large view. It is glorious, overly-detailed and full of fun.
Michael Desing said:
I don’t know why, but I find Holloway’s art perfect for my view of classic D&D… I especially love his color work; the cover to Dragon Magazine 74 (dragon battle – the first issue of Dragon I ever owned), a later-era Dragon cover (with a frozen dwarf- couldn’t find the issue number and my Google Fu is weak this morning) – and the cover to EX1 (Dungeonland) portray the adventurers the way I always envisioned them. These guys are just barely a cut above normal people who threw on some gear and went out to slay monsters and loot dungeons. His heroes always looked to me like my friends and I would if we were suddenly dropped into the realm and were granted some supernatural powers to fight evil.
mike monaco said:
Blasphemy? I dunno, there is not much orthodoxy about RPG art even within the OSR (despite the efforts by some to create a party line). Well maybe Trampier and Otus are revered beyond reason, to the point of religious fervor (and I say that although I like them a lot too).
I forgot about Holloway’s Car Wars art — great send-up of the Road Warrior aesthetic, among other things.
Angry Monk said:
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Now I know that I’m not crazy (or that crazy). I agree completely. Elmore’s art leaves me cold. His women look look like they should be attending a Poison concert with the feathered earrings and the cleavage. But Jim Holloway’s art…I associate it with 2nd edition AD&D…and I hate it. Whenever I saw his illustrations in a Dragon magazine, I wouldn’t bother to read the article associated with the picture. I hated its goofiness, it’s MAD magazine Don Martiness (I love Don Martin, but not for D&D), I hated his bumbling little halflings jumping over things. I hated the black rings around the eyes. He’s the reason I can’t stand using the Monster Manual II. Look at the Table of Contents page! Look at the creature with crossed eyes. Every creature he’s drawn is one that I won’t use.
I’m sure he’s a lovely man, and I know many people that adore his art, but for me “Holy Scheiße!” I can’t stand it. And you, Mr. Dyson, have made me feel better about that. Thank you.
John Stater said:
I dig Elmore’s black and white work, and I love Holloway’s color work, but not vise versa so much. Honestly, though, my conception of perfect D&D artwork seems to change with my mood – anything that gives me a cruel idea for something to do to the players works for me.
Holloway’s art is Dom DeLouise doing a spit-take. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s not to my taste for gaming art generally, but that’s just me. And anyone that shares the opinion.
Why he never drew for Mad Magazine, I’ll never know.
Kevin Wright said:
Egad, I’m glad to hear someone else say they don’t like Elmore. I think it is a bit soulless. And bland.
Jason Packer said:
Hmm. Hmm! I say. I can definitely see where Elmore’s work might not suit some. It may in fact be that it is technically too perfect. There’s no room for error or improvisation in his work, which winds up feeling more like a mechanical drawing or a photograph. It’s more Rockwell than most folk are happy with these days, I think. A little too Romantic Realism, maybe (sorry, I did a study on Nazi art in college – I wrote a defense of the artistic merits).
I have to agree that Holloway’s work is automatically comic to me. It isn’t intended to be taken seriously, or I hope not. It makes everything that he illustrates immediately less serious – and that can totally work for some people. Me, I find that there’s already enough goofiness at the table without the artwork subtly injecting more into my players’ psyches.
The Holloway piece above reminds my of Jason Yungbluth’s work:
(and @bygrinstow – JY does work for MAD)
Troy Truchon (Capheind) said:
I love Elmore, but I think its more due to my relationship with the hobby than any genuine attraction to the aesthetic. In my teen and preteen years I alternated between a year or so of heavy gaming and several years of little to no gaming during which time I was mostly reading D&D and Shadowrun novels. And of course Elmore, being the cover illustrator for many of TSR and FASAs novels, is burned indelibly into my brain.
That aside… He’s almost wholly responsible for the post WoW era stripper-wear on elves.
Jim Mc said:
Actually, I think the Chagmat art was done by Roger Raupp. I have room for Larry, Jim and Erol (and lots of others) but maybe my tastes are too broad.
Angry Monk: That’s cutting off your nose to spite your face. A little childish, don’t you think?
Angry Monk said:
Oh, completely childish and irrational. That’s why I thought I was alone in my dislike of Holloway. But I just don’t like his drawings. I guess I take my game a little more seriously (I like to have laughs and jokes, but I don’t like corny). Also, I guess it was his ascendancy as de facto artist for all TSR products that was one of the reasons I turned away from the hobby at the time. Did I miss out on good stuff? Oh yeah. Do I blame his art? Oh yeah. I’m human and sometimes I’m not rational.
Jim Mc said:
I like Holloway in doses, but not in large chunks. He hits my threshold pretty fast.
I actually have similar feelings about Otis. I like him in doses, larger than Holloway, but still I can get too much Otis in a book. It’s a different threshold, Otis has a wonderful weird feel but I end up wanting a bit more realism.
I like Elmore overall. Though looking back he had a real affinity for 80’s hair styles that dates a lot of his work. But some of his pieces are among my favorites.
Russ Nicholson is one of my favorites. Normally artwork as busy as his would put me off, but when he does it, I find it practically hypnotic.
Sutherland and Trampier are my gold standards. I never get tired of them.
Angry Monk said:
“Russ Nicholson is one of my favorites. Normally artwork as busy as his would put me off, but when he does it, I find it practically hypnotic.
Sutherland and Trampier are my gold standards. I never get tired of them.”
Yes, I love Nicholson, especially the stuff he did for Fighting Fantasy books and Fiend Folio. Trampier is awesome as is Rosloff. DSC…I know has all the classic cover art, but some of his interior work isn’t great.
Angry Monk said:
Sorry, I meant DCS, not DSC.
Edward Wilson said:
I thought Holloway’s style was perfect for Paranoia. For me, Trampier is probably the D&D artist I remember most fondly.
No, I’m with you there. Elmore is highly overrated and presents a strangely fetishized female form, repeating the same woman over and over in a way that seems to coerce the viewer into participation in the artist’s obsession in a non-consensual fashion. That might be good art or it might not (R. Crumb, notably, got away with it), but is definitely not good for illustrating game books.
Jim Holloway belongs in Paranoia and nowhere else (he almost ruined B4 and MegaTraveller, but those were strong enough to finally overcome his aesthetic; he did ruin The Orcs of Thar, though that was also a casualty of the whole TSR editorial culture at that point).