Over the past four years, I’ve struck up a friendship with Nick Parkinson, son of the late fantasy and D&D artist Keith Parkinson. We both live in San Diego and it is always nice to share thoughts on the sweeping industry of games as a whole.
One thing very few people understand who look into fantasy art is that the bulk of all artists DO NOT play RPGs. Of the ‘Big Four’ for TSR (Elmore, Easley, Parkinson, and Caldwell), only Keith actually played Dungeons & Dragons.
Todd Lockwood was a D&D player until he started working at TSR in the late 1990s and he often speaks about how the ‘magic was gone’ once he started actually designing the game. That is a subject I’ll look at another day, however, although it is intriguing.
Anyway, I’m getting a bit off target here, so let me refocus. Nick and I had a conversation where I was looking to acquire a few old character sheets from ‘famous’ players for an io9 article a friend was writing and he said he’d just seen some of his father’s old sheets when he’d moved a few months before.
A week later, I didn’t get the character sheets, but he did send over a nice grouping of old TSR photographs and I was very interested to see the ‘process’ of how these great creators worked together to make some of the famous images we all know and love.
I’m sure some of you have to wonder just how they did what they did, and it’s a perfectly sound question. I mean, was it all in their minds, just spilling out on the page in a wellspring of oil paint?
Well, in some cases it did (take Easley for example), but for the most part, these painters had to use reference material, and who better than the accommodating folk at the desk next to them?
In the shots you see here, three of the Big Four work to find a way to put some perspective on what they are preparing to do.
I thought I’d take an opportunity to share these great photos with you so that you might better understand just how it all went down, and exactly what life was like at TSR studios in the early 1980s.
In these images we see just how ‘odd’ fantasy art creating can be, how ‘real’ the painters are, and a small sliver of the overall process, but I think it is worth sharing.
If you like what you read in Art of the Genre, you can listen to me talk about publishing, and my current venture with great artists of the fantasy field, or even come say hello on Facebook here. And my current RPG Art Blog can be found here.