Some Artists who ought to illustrate your next indie RPG product

No, I’m not posting this to flog my own pony… although I ought to at least provide a link to some of my own stuff here:

One of my complaints about the trend in OSR artwork is that most of it seems to be kind of ‘same-same’ to me (note that this is also a criticism I would apply to my own stuff). Too many things produced by the OSR community seems to be to make it look like it belongs in the circa 1978-1980 TSR catalog (right down to the fonts and page layout). I’d like to see more products try for different aesthetics. Please step away from the ‘Magic The Gathering’ inspired digital tablet art, or the goatees and spikes of the 3e era, or the ‘ready for the cover of the next Forgotten Realms novel’ of 4e or the line-by-line, pose-by-pose aping of what has been published before (yes, guilty as charged). And for god’s sake, NO MORE royalty free clip-art. I’m sick of seeing Romantic 19th century illustrations from some forgotten edition of Ivanhoe with stoic knights and weeping damsels in books that are supposed to be about ogres and trolls and fireballs blowing shit up. How about something new and different?

Sean Aaberg has done some work for Labyrinth Lord (notably the devils and demons in the ‘Advanced Edition Companion’). Check out his Flickr pages He also frequently contributes to ‘Eaten By Ducks.’ I love the bold lines and crazy shit going on; it’s got a Trampier meets Rat-Fink in a punk rock zine feel that doesn’t take itself too seriously. He is one prolific son-of-a-gun, making zines, posters, buttons, stickers, t-shirts, etc. When does he find time to sleep?

Fukitor” draws Hard R/X rated semi-pornographic, lurid, tasteless and horror-absurd comics which seem to center around beheading, torture, mutilation, satanism, sexploitation movie themes and other nastiness. Basically, it looks like everything that ‘Fuckus on the Family‘ thinks can go wrong with people letting their imaginations run too wild seems to be fair game to this guy. I don’t know if he has done any RPG work, but I think he seems like a natural fit for it.

Not for the faint of heart, and, needless to say, Not Safe For Work (unless you work someplace pretty unusual).

I’ve mentioned Skinner before, so I won’t do more than mention him today. Visit his site. That’s what I am talking about. If Max Beckmann had been born in Polynesia instead of Germany and done a lot of acid instead of serving in the First World War and studied under Jack Kirby instead of the German Impressionists it might have looked something like that. Or not. The guy sells paintings of wizards in pointy hats to art collectors. I’m sure he could do the cover of your next adventure.

Peter Mullen has done a lot of work for Swords & Wizardry, Goodman Games and others. I love and admire his unique work, with his goofy, desperate, skinny heroes, hallucinogenic monsters and creepy settings. All his pictures seem to tell a story, with figures often pointing at some unseen threat out of frame, critters ready to pounce from some unseen place and other madness. I love his line work and his sensibility. Some of the stuff has a real Peter Max vibe to it (in a good way) — simultaneously threatening and deceptively whimsical. If I was hiring artists to illustrate something Swords & Sorcerorish, his name would be on the top of my list.

OK, that is all for now. After this dose of inspiration, I need to get back to work.

Please add your favorites in the comments section — I’m always looking for new talent to steal from. Full disclosure: I don’t personally know any of these people (but I have traded emails with a few of them)… so there is nothing in this for me other than I think they do good work. And if you hire any of these guys to illustrate your next publication, I won’t charge a finder’s fee.

12 Comments on “Some Artists who ought to illustrate your next indie RPG product”

  1. Brunomac says:

    Interesting. I'm not even an artist (by a long shot) and I had some similar thoughts today, mostly by being one of the only dissenting opinions on the Dwimmermount art, particularly “The knight and the crone.”

  2. Timeshadows says:

    I cannot praise Peter Mullen enough as far as his ability to bring a fresh look to any given piece (I hired him for about 30-40 pieces in addition to the Urutsk colour covers), as well as his interest in understanding just what the hire is asking for.

    On top of that, he's a genuine human being.

  3. Drance says:

    I'm sick of seeing Romantic 19th century illustrations from some forgotten edition of Ivanhoe with stoic knights and weeping damsels in books that are supposed to be about ogres and trolls and fireballs blowing shit up.

    Dude, amen to the 10th power. I have been seeing that crap and I'm just thinking…what??

  4. ClawCarver says:

    Since I was a sprog in the '70s reading 2000AD, I've loved the work of Mick McMahon. His Judge Dredd work is legendary, and his art for Sláine is simply astounding:

    His style has mutated many times over the decades, but in my book he's still the best there is. If I were in the business of publishing fantasy RPG material, I'd give him a call.

  5. Drance says:

    Oh, and I am all about Mullen. Love that stuff.

    As for this whole thing about not just imitating the original material's artwork, I think I partially agree. I think there was a place for that when the first clones came out and the OSR was new. But I would agree that now there needs to be some branching out and exploration of some new ways to capture the old school feel in artwork without just aping what came before.

  6. Thanks for posting some more recent work from these artists, since for folks like Aaberg (and to a lesser extent Mullen bc of White Box and LotFP) I associate their style with work that's several years old. That Aaberg piece is much cleaner than the AEC stuff (though I like that stuff as well). The same goes for your recent work Senor Limpey. It's good to be reminded that the current artists are developing their execution, and have more to offer than the last thing they did in 2008.

    Jolly good.

  7. Limpey says:

    Rereading my original post, I realize that I am in no position to try to tell people what they should or should not want for whatever it is that they are putting out. If someone wants to make something that references back to what came before, fine — it just feels like people are possibly missing an opportunity of creating something that might be different and new and kind of cool, which seems like a shame to pass up.
    One of the bits of 'TSR' history that amuses and disappoints me is when I heard Gary Gygax saying that some of the work I really liked (like the Trampier, Wham and Erol Otus stuff) was the work TSR could afford rather than the work they wanted — he (Gygax) much preferred Elmore and similar… which made me think, “You are fucking kidding, right?” I mean, I know lots of people love the Elmore stuff, but to me it just looks tame in comparison to what they did get… stuff that had a look and a style of it's own. When I was 12 I despaired over the fact that I couldn't draw things like a horse or a woman's lips 'correctly.' Now I'm more interested in seeing how it comes out when I draw it.

  8. Jagatai says:

    I feel compelled to mention my wife's art here, she'd love to be working on fantasy games instead of doing art for SCA publications and Pagan magazines. Her deviant art gallery is here-

    It is a small sampling of her work.

  9. Hey Stefan, I posted on this.

  10. I agree there's lots of room for new styles in RPG material. It might not be due to out and out copying of the old style either. I know it filtered into my 2D style due to seeing so much of it as a kid.

    I hadn't heard of Fukitor or Skinner before. I'll have to check them out more. I enjoy Mullen and Sean's work. I'm also fan of Huth and Fat Cotton

  11. migellito says:

    I love Jed Dougherty's stuff.. totally badass.

  12. migellito says:

    I should also say that I like referring to different types of art for different purposes in gaming. For example, I'll often show people an Andy Simmons piece ( during a Greyhawk game when I say “you see this..” but I would never consider using something like that for an illo in a rulebook or adventure module.

    I also often look at art to try to inspire myself when thinking up adventures. If only these guys were a possibility for commissions! heh
    Simon Bisley
    Richard Corben
    Rodney Matthews

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