Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Paizo and the Art of Book Covers

 The older Planet Stories covers above are awesome.  Above is a selection from my library.  Most of the covers are by Andrew Hou.  The Kline covers are by Daryl Mandryk and Brandon Kitkouski, respectively.  The Moore cover is by Arnold Tsang.  Sadly, at this point, I'm still missing from my PS collection Brackett's wonderful Skaith books.  James Ryman did the covers for Paizo.  Let's not deprive ourselves of the pleasure.  Below is his illustration for Hounds of Skaith.

After the redesign of the Planet Stories line,  Kieran Yanner appears to have gotten a lock on the series.  I struggled a bit to get decent shots of them, so I took doubles.

Leaving aside any judgment on the two different formats (I'm truly torn on which I like best), the suspended series did a wonderful job of taking inspiration from the past and producing new, attractive art that generally was well-grounded in the contents.  When Paizo started its Pathfinder Tales line, it faced the new challenge of providing quality covers for the much smaller mass market paperbacks.  I guess it is not surprising that a line of new fiction, tied to the RPG setting would go with totally different artists than those used for the reprint line named for a classic pulp periodical.  But while I enjoy most of the illustrations, and they aren't bad, I generally haven't loved them like I have most of the PS covers.  Check out the line so far below.

 Of these, the best so far of PF Tales seem to me to have the same kind of feel as the best PS covers.  Those would be Lucas Graciano's for Master of Devils, Kekai Kotaki's for Death's Heretic, J.P. Targete's for City of the Fallen Sky, and Tyler Walpole's for Nightglass.  The latest volume, Blood of the City, unfortunately has the weakest PF Tales cover so far.  (While the colors are nice, and the attempt to at a high action scene is laudable, I don't think Adam Danger Cook pulls it off here.  Hopefully, this remains an anomaly in the series.)

So, this is my question for Ramblers who are more skilled in the criticism of art than I: what is that I am drawn to in these Paizo cover illustrations?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Two Great Tastes that Go Great Together

I finally picked up Richard Pett's Your Whispering Homunculus, published by Kobold Press when I was at The Dragon's Lair for Pathfinder Society Organized Play last week.  Man, this book is a thing of twisted beauty.  Reading through its imaginative jottings, many of which inspire guffaws, others extended flights of fancy, and some, occasionally, retching, I thought of how it could enrich your game planning or could be used on the fly to generate elements for your game.  GMs should definitely check this out.


It made me think of another fun book of tables, with which it pictured above.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Mini Maniac's Pathfinder Lodge

Hey all Jeremy here aka The Minis Maniac on Paizo.com. I thought I would share a pictures of my gaming room dubbed "The Pathfinder Lodge" as well as a look into my Pathfinder Battles addiction. So here is a little view of my psychosis.

So enjoy the images. I know I look forward to the next Pathfinder Battles release. So much so I am already planning to buy a second glass display case for when the one I have becomes too full.

I will also add a small guide to the large merged photo:

  • Under Golarion map are what remains of the old DDM line of minis in 3 large tupperwares and the blue drawer case which is about 3.5 feet high all packed full of minis
  • Beside window next to desk are 5 large boxes of Dwarven Forge Terrain which I will someday dig out and do pictures of when I have the time and energy

Sunday, September 16, 2012

With a Little Help from my Friends!

A big thanks to Dave for his guest blogpost considering the state of fantasy illustration from a young artist.  As you can see from the drop in my posting frequency, the new classes and departmental responsibilities at my new institution, while a great blessing, are cutting into the time and energy I have for Rambling.  I've got some things in the cooker, but my friends have noticed this, and in their expansive FaWTLy spirit, have offered to guest post from time-to-time.  Keep your eyes out for more of these contributions in the days to come, as well as some new posts from Yours Obscurely.  There efforts are going to enrich things around here.  Thanks a lot, friends!  This is not the first time or only venue in which you have gotten me by.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Fantasy Illustration: The State of the Industry in Brief

So the ineffable Theodric has requested I write a blog entry on the subject of the current state of fantasy art. As someone who occasionally thinks of himself as a fantasy artist, it seems I'm obliged to answer the call. In brief, we seem to have entered an interesting time in the world of fantasy illustration.

With the ever-rising popularity of role-playing games such as Pathfinder and D&D 4.0, the demand for fantasy illustrators has reached new highs. In addition, the influx of new material from major publishers has also caused a surge in the popularity of products produced by smaller, third-party companies. As a result, the market is becoming flooded with new artwork on a daily basis.

This, as I've come to find, is a double-edged sword. The glut of phenomenal artwork has driven a small number of talented illustrators to the forefront, with a much larger number pushed to the sidelines, or, more commonly, forced by the nature of the market to imitate the artistic styling of more popular artists. Illustrators like Wayne Reynolds, Tyler Walpole, and Todd Lockwood have definitively set the standard for others to follow, with somewhat mixed results. The competition for top jobs has led smaller-name illustrators to abandon their own artistic directions to follow in the footsteps of the industry trend-setters.

 One other side effect of this is that art directors, in many cases, will not give art orders to illustrators that they feel do not "fit" with their particular "style," meaning that artists who fit with more comic book-esque styles (such as Steve Ellis and Peter Bergting) or less realistic work (such as Jeff Laubenstein, and Kev Crossley) are not hired as frequently as those who imitate the big names.

Still, the market is still massive, and up-and-coming illustrators have more of a chance than ever to break into the industry through third-party publishers like Fantasy Flight Games and Headless Hydra Games. If you want to keep an eye on the next big thing, here are some links to the portfolios of a few up-and-coming illustrators in the field:

Noah Bradley
Mike Burns
J.S. Choi 
Hugo Solis
J. Edwin Stevens

- Dave Mallon, freelance illustrator and writer