Art Evolution, the project to catalogue great fantasy RPG artists over the past thirty years depicting a single character, began here, and the tenth master is detailed below.
With the inclusion of a ‘Battletech Lyssa‘ I’d done it, landing nine of my ten artists and only Erol Otus still holding out. What to do next? I emailed Erol, told him I had a venue for market, all nine other artists signed on, and we only needed him to complete the project. Erol promptly denied me again…
Still, nine representations put me over the moon. I looked back at my bookshelves and decided to try and live inside the mantra of my own lofty dreams. It was time to break out of the boundaries of money and convention and just go for it.
I pulled down Iron Kingdoms and rediscovered Matthew D. Wilson, a favorite of mine since the day I first saw TSR’s Forgotten Realms supplement The Unapproachable East. I broke out my D&D 3rd Edition Players Handbook and tripped over myself for not already including the works of Todd Lockwood. Going with Tony DiTerlizzi’s advice, I dipped into the early nineties with my collection of Dark Sun boxed sets and decided Brom was an absolute must.
For the eighties I found my basic D&D Gazetteers with the covers of Clyde Caldwell as well as the incredible Forgotten Realms soft-cover supplements done by Keith Parkinson. In my deluge of art I began pulling out the lettered and numbered module series from TSR’s earliest days with the talents of Bill Willingham and Jim Roslof. The nostalgia was almost overwhelming, and as I looked over a dog-eared copy of A2: Secrets of the Slavers Stockade I knew Jim Roslof had to be included as well.
There was Middle Earth Role-Playing and the noble imagery of Liz Danforth, Vampire the Masquerade and the unreal inks of Tim Bradstreet, Alternity and the vinyl-gothic of R.K. Post, Rifts and the shiny cyborgs of Kevin Long, and of course there were others, too many to count and I started my process all over with renewed vigor.
These were all the masters, the creationists who defined not only my adolescence, but my adulthood, career choice, and tastes.
While I’m speaking here, I want to clarify that there will never be a series of perfect endings, and those I desperately wanted for the project didn’t always agree to participate, that’s life, but if there is someone you as reader think should have been included when this project ends, trust me, I asked them and they said no thank you.
First on my new contact list was the now Eisner Award winning comic book genius Bill Willingham. He asked the same questions as Erol Otus two months before, but this time I had the right answers and he committed to help define the styles of the late seventies TSR covers. However, after a month of dialogue he fell off the edge of the world and I didn’t hear from him again.
Clyde Caldwell, although notable for his incredible female forms, declined to do the project, but did offer up some nice insight into the mid-eighties landscape of TSR.
Matthew D. Wilson, who was currently working on producing a movie while also heading up his own miniatures company at Privateer Press, loved the idea and put me into his schedule.
Once Matt was involved, I went to work cataloging his work. He was a visionary of sorts in my mind, an artist who now owns his own successful gaming company and is a producer, writer, and all around jack-of-all-trades.
Working with Matt gave me a greater appreciation of the business end of the industry and how an artist can transition from being behind the brush to a front-man boss. He also took me into the world of Magic: The Gathering artists; and it wasn’t until this point that I realized the great majority of post 1990 artists had grown up together doing conventions and Magic tours for the now venerable CCG giant.
While TSR created fantastic relationships and shared talent pools in its ‘pit’, Wizards of the Coast produced the same effect in bringing together so many Magic artists, all of whom grew into the industry together as the game dominated the marketplace over the final decade of the twentieth century.
For me, my fanboy world was rapidly expanding, and one thing that kept coming to me, especially in the case of Matt, was just how small the RPG industry really is. I’d heard a quote from a VP at Hasboro that went like this, “The role-playing industry is a tiny player in the gaming market with the ego of Microsoft.” While that might hold water, it didn’t take into account that there is also a family feel about those who work in it, and that camaraderie is a shared shield against the disapproval of a truly judgmental world.
Thanks to Matt, I was reminded that success can be self-propelled, and I embraced that. This fantastic artist and entrepreneur was my next contributor, and I now had ten.
Lyssa, by Matthew D. Wilson
Click image for larger version. (Artwork Copyright Matthew D. Wilson, Character TM Privateer Press, INC. Used with permission.)
Matthew D. Wilson came forward with an oil fury that led him beyond simple paint and into the teeth of digital art as the first decade of the new century wore on. His contributions to WOTC’s Forgotten Realms, especially in the unparalleled wrap cover of The Unapproachable East, gave form to barbaric nations, but Matt’s true power lay in his ability to create physical form from a two dimensional canvas.
Matt’s designs helped create Privateer Press’s Warmachine and Iron Kingdoms, and those figure-based systems mirrored the brute force of GamesWorkshop’s stranglehold on miniature gaming. However, unlike GW’s non-role-playing base, Wilson expanded the miniature format with the rich fantasy-punk universe of his own conception, the Iron Kingdoms RPG.
Wilson’s guns-and-swords artistic style brings a brawler’s edge to all his creations. He defines the style of neo-anime oversized weapons and his cumbersome armor plods across landscapes on muscled mortal frames. His art forms a catalyst of conceptualization that makes a viewer almost feel the tremors of mechanized feet as they strike across a war-torn battlefield.
He is a wizard of smoke and powder, and he is perhaps the first of his generation to utilize computers to wage his war on the naked eye. We are immersed in his combat, cloaked in the shadows of his tight-knotted cities, and whisked away on steamboats bound for inland kingdoms unknown.
Here, Matt combines WarMachine with the concepts of this project, creating a character both well known to that world carrying the name ‘Kommander Sorscha Kratikoff’, and also mirroring Lyssa as she is portrayed in white and gold here for the first time. I’ll call her my Iron Kingdoms Lyssa, assuming of course she’d been created in this fantastic Privateer Press world. On another note, this is the only piece of art that Matt produced to date in 2010, so we should all feel pretty special we get to see it!
To view Art Evolution 11 click here
Current Status: Matt is a very busy man. His work never stops, and although Privateer Press rumbles on with incredible miniatures and games, Matt is also working tirelessly on a new short film and you can view the trailer here.