Art Evolution 8: Wayne Reynolds

Art Evolution 8: Wayne Reynolds

dungeon-121-254The Art Evolution project is now in full swing, with every era of RPG art — beginning in 1979 and ending in 2009 — represented in the previous articles here.

My High Draconic Lyssa by Easley was complete, and Tony DiTerlizzi was encouraging me to join Facebook because he thought I could connect with other artists on the site.

I reluctantly did so as Tony had also become a mentor as the process grew. He was always asking questions, wondering why I wasn’t including names like Brom and Tim Bradstreet.

Jeff Laubenstein thought the same thing, but they hadn’t seen my overall list and I couldn’t put out spoilers. I mean, I was asking myself how big could this thing really be? Each new artist I included seemed to want another artist involved that was their inspiration or friend. I pushed such considerations aside and continued with the plan I already had in place.

the-freeport-trilogy-254I intended to ‘domino’ Easley into Larry Elmore, but Larry was a tougher cookie because he had what I called a ‘gate keeper’, which is to say a personal assistant who monitored his email. I wasn’t getting anywhere with her as I put out feelers, but I did get a hint about contacting Elmore from a random Easley email.

Jeff was headed to Illuxcon in Pennsylvania. Elmore would also be at the convention, so I asked Jeff if he might mention the article to Larry and see if he was interested.

This was another step in the waiting game, but I was heady with my current string of success. I wanted to push the envelope, and that meant going for the pinnacle.

The ‘evolutionists’ I currently had were huge names, but none were currently appearing on mass market RPGs in 2009. I wanted a current champion of the industry, and for that purpose there was only a single name that stood out, Wayne Reynolds.

eberron-players-guide-4e-254At no point in the history of RPGs had the two largest competing companies in the industry put all their cover art into the hands of a single freelance artist, but at this point both TSR’s D&D 4th Edition and Paizo’s Pathfinder were almost exclusively Wayne Reynolds property. If I got Wayne, I would crown the project, and that was all I could dream about in the later days of 2009.

Wayne lives in England but I’d met him twice at GenCon here in the U.S. Those were great meetings, but totally fan oriented without a mention of me being a writer. Reynolds, for all his talent, is a classic self-deprecating artist, having told me both times I met him that he’d often look at an unfinished piece and think ‘this is complete crap’. However, he was always welcoming, accommodating, and appreciative, something I was going to have to depend on heavily when I made my pitch.

By this time in the process my artist proposal was well defined, and I decided to customize it to appeal to Wayne’s love of gaming. As an interesting side note, only about twenty percent of all the artists in this article actually play RP games, but Wayne was one of them and I hoped that might sway him to take a serious look at my project. I sent the email.

I waited a couple of days, tried emailing Larry Elmore again to no avail, and then Wayne got back to me. He said something along these lines, the actual quote too technical to include here; ‘I can’t possibly do what you want, but I’m really flattered to be in the above company of artists. Having said that, I could do something more basic for you; assuming Larry Elmore signs on because I really would love to work with him as well as the others currently included.’

skinsaw-254Ok, so Wayne was on the fence, and I decided to push the envelope. I emailed him back and spoke about a love of the industry, swinging for fences, taking your shot in an unprecedented project like this. I’d tried this tactic with Erol Otus to no avail, but I figured sometimes persistence pays off and other times it turns you into a stalker. My prayer was that having met Wayne, he’d think the former.

After a week of corresponding he said yes even without Elmore having signed on and that he would contribute one of his Pathfinder ‘Iconics’, which is about the most spectacular modern RPG image out there. To his inclusion in the project, all I could say is ‘Cheers, Wayne, you are both a scholar and a gentleman’.

Lyssa, by Wayne Reynolds

Click image for larger version.

For the first decade of the new millennia, Wayne Reynolds still reigns supreme as the gold standard of RP art. No artist has created more than Reynolds in this tenure, and his art has become so powerful that to put him on a cover instantly sells product.

His inclusion into WOTC new 3rd Edition helped define what the company was looking for. Wayne creates conflict, but most importantly he envisions true role-playing scenes on the page. He is a dungeon-delving master and his characters are the richer for it.

 reynolds-lyssa-300When you look at his work, especially what he considers his ‘iconic characters’, you see pen and paper RPG sheets reflected back. One key component to fantasy and science fiction art is a love of the genre, but that doesn’t always translate to a love of participation in RP. This, at its very core, sets some artists apart from the pack, but in Reynolds’ case, it defines him in the eyes of his fans. Reynolds is a RPer, and it creates the golden touch to his art.

For all his magnificent dragons, towering giants, muscle-veined orcs, and remote landscapes, Reynolds’ trademarks are his characters. He sets the bar higher than anyone before, and each time you look at his creations, your eyes start counting the quarrels in the quiver, the daggers tucked in sheaths, the potions dangling from chains, and the heavy weapons bound to backs and cradled in strong hands.

It’s as though Reynolds, with full knowledge of the game, has taken a character sheet and transferred it to canvas. His acrylics sing, and each stroke tells a tale of dungeon delves and experience points won. All players know how silly their characters must look with all the items they’ve collected on countless campaigns, yet we keep adding stuff to those sheets. In his way Reynolds pays us all homage with his skill to somehow make it all work.

This is his draw, and although his talent far exceeds that of his characters, he still propels his art forward with them, and we are all rewarded for it. This is the crowning achievement of the genre and current step in the evolution of RP art. Art is a creation for the players, not the company or the art directors, and Reynolds embodies that practice. Certainly more styles will arise, but one cannot recreate the wheel.

Reynolds, for all his innocence to the subject, has captured the very essence of what RP should be, the reflection of the players themselves. His connection creates a mirror, and he helps us remember all the things that inspired the industry in the first place.

To view Art Evolution 9 click here

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 here or even come say hello on Facebook here. And here’s a view of my current Kickstarter

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I’m glad you were able to get Wayne Reynolds; I’m a big fan of his, and I count him as an influence for my own illustrations, too. Looking forward to the next installment.

Daniel Nyikos

This has been my favorite of this series so far. You’ve done some of my other favorite artists, but I felt this writeup (as well as Reynolds’s interpretation of your character) were great. The way you describe his career and style is nothing short of poetic, both a tribute and a great introduction for those of us who have only enjoyed him as “that guy who does the Pathfinder covers”.


Another super-cool image of Lyssa. You know, I love seeing the evolution of this brand of art through all these artists. It gets more and more intricate as the years progress. Very cool. Thanks!


Just checked out this series today and it kept me awfully busy during a slow period at work. Loved the articles and loved the art! I, like you, frequently buy RPG source books for their artwork. I have every Pathfinder book, but haven’t had the pleasure of playing it. You can blame that one of Mr. Reynolds. =)
Hopefully if I get my big break you will feature me in a future article! Keep up the good work, Mr. Taylor.


Mr. Taylor: Slow workdays I usually spend doing homework or sketching. Most of the time I sell the art for more than I would have made at my job. It is something simple that fits in with my college schedule and helps pay the bills. So yes, much more important!


Wayne reynolds art is simply stunning. I think his art help 3.5 eberron so much. He might have surpassed Todd lockwood as my favorite…maybe…

[…] now I had a ‘Pathfinder Iconic Lyssa‘, and life was good, but the more I went over what I wanted from this project the more it became […]

[…] After devoting the appropriate time to rubbing the assignment in Ryan’s face, I jumped a flight to Seattle and the rain and gloom of the northwest. While airborne, I contacted Wayne Reynolds who was featured in Burnt Offerings and the rest of the Rise of the Runelords series. I figured if I was going to do this, I better include some never before seen art, and as Wayne did the Iconics, why not see what he could come up with from his files. Note: Wayne did a Pathfinder Iconic for Black Gate that can be found here. […]


Cool article, and nice to get another few tidbits on how things work at Paizo!

JJ is definitely one of the greats and everything he touches in the RPG industry seems to turn to gold. Runelords was definitely one of these and in fact is still the favorite AP so far of my group (a close second is Council Of Thieves). As sad a day as Dungeon and Dragon going away, in retrospect I believe it was a definite turning point in gaming history.

[…] To view Art Evolution 8 click here […]

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