Ego Check with The Id DM – Matt Dixon on Illustrating Hearthstone

Matt Dixon
Matt Dixon

Matt Dixon talks about his career as a freelance illustrator and his work in digital spaces leading to his work with Blizzard. He talks about starting on the World of Warcraft TCG and how he got hired again for the Goblins & Gnomes expansion in Hearthstone. He has been a contributing artist to Hearthstone since that time and talks about his creative process. He shares his influences and explores how technology has changed the way he approaches illustration. He talks about his need to bring “life” to an image and how he was drawn to computers and pixels at a young age.

He speaks about specific illustrations completed for Hearthstone and what fueled their origin. He indulges me as we discuss one of my favorite pieces of art in Hearthstone, Hecklebot, and he references his earlier work on Annoy-o-tron as when Hearthstone “clicked” for him. We conclude by talking about his recent “speed paintings” and his stunning personal work on his series, Transmissions.

Enjoy the 53rd episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!

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Art & Arcana Will Galvanize Your Fandom of Dungeons & Dragons

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana over the weekend by the kind folks at Wizards of the Coast and Ten Speed Press. My review and discussion of the book could be influenced by the fact that I was given a copy at no cost. However, I am confident I would find this book amazing if I paid the full price for it.

I was anticipating the mail over the weekend because I knew I would be receiving a copy of Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History, which is authored by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer; the book also has a foreward by Joe Manganiello. The mammoth book contains nearly 450 pages that span the game’s entire history. The one-page press release that accompanied the advance copy summarizes Art & Arcana well:

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill “art of…” book; rather, it’s more of an archaeology project that involved lots of needle-searching in haystacks….

The author team spared no expense in finding these pieces; unearthing sketches, memos and internal drafts of some of the game’s most iconic material; locating and interviewing early artists whose names had since been lost to D&D lore; gathering pristine products and obscure advertisements; and obtaining hard-to-get-licenses – a labor of love all leading to a previously unavailable visual archive and untold story about how D&D truly came to be. No matter what edition of D&D you play or played, or even if you are just a casual observer or pop culture enthusiast, this book will have something special for you.

Honestly, after I read the press release I wanted to immediately delve into some dungeons and fight some dragons!

Dungeons & Dragons has been in my life off-and-on for close to 40 years in some capacity, and that history is very important and personal to me. I even celebrated the classic art from early D&D modules by decoupaging my gaming table with those images, which still stands proudly in my home. So it feels wonderful to hold a study, well-produced tome that captures – and celebrates – D&D’s history!

Art & Arcana is a feast for your eyes as every page is lovingly curated to highlight moments from over four decades of Dungeons & Dragons history. From crude concept designs to massive, pristine spreads of iconic images, Art & Arcana will trigger those nostalgia neurons in your brain and cause your heart to skip a beat. No area seems taboo or off-limits as the book presents an overview of the rise and fall of Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) with never-before-seen artifacts such as personal communications and invoices. The sale of D&D to Wizards of the Coast is also covered in detail as Art & Arcana provides commentary and context for the movements and development cycles of the game over the years. It’s clear the authors adore the game, though the book is willing to examine (and delightfully poke fun at times!) D&D’s potential shortcomings. The treasures in the book provide a feeling of, “Whoa!” as nuggets of information are organized in a visually pleasing and accessible manner across the pages.

Art & Arcana is beautiful to consume visually, and it is also quite educational. I imagine there are new details in here for even the most hardcore fans of D&D. For someone like myself that skipped about 15 years during the 2nd and 3rd Editions, the book is a master class on how – and more importantly, why – D&D evolved over the years. Art & Arcana also has a sense of humor about it that makes the book fun to read, and I read every piece of text before writing a review; I encourage everyone to do that same! It has everything you could ask for from a visual history – classic advertisements, screen shots from computer games, pages from manuals, pictures of miniatures and toys, black-and-white photos of Gary Gygax and company, glorious maps of dungeons and cities, and an enormous collection of the best pieces of art that have been created for the game – quite simply,  Art & Arcana will galvanize your fandom of Dungeons and Dragons.

The only situation that comes to mind that is comparable to how I felt after devouring Art & Arcana is my reaction after watching the documentaries about the making of The Fellowship of the Ring on the Extended Edition DVDs. I had previously read The Lord of the Rings and even taught a class on the books along with other modern mythologies while in graduate school. I enjoyed the film, but seeing how much care and devotion went into the making of the movie increased my adoration for the franchise. My wife and I even traveled to New Zealand back in 2012 primarily because we fell in love with the locations from hours of watching those films get made. I’m a much bigger fan of The Lord of the Rings because of those documentaries, and I believe Art & Arcana will have a similar effect for fans of D&D.

I just wonder where I should travel now that Art & Arcana has me fired up? Watch out, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, here I come!

If you are a fan of Dungeons & Dragons, then treat yourself to this book. I cannot imagine a material plane of existence where you would be disappointed.

Now, please enjoy my in-depth musings on Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History.

Continue reading “Art & Arcana Will Galvanize Your Fandom of Dungeons & Dragons”

Ego Check with The Id DM – Episode 24 – Deven Rue

Deven Rue bio pic
Deven Rue

Deven joins me to discuss her art, approach to cartography, and her interactions with the roleplaying game community. She talks about being introduced to Dungeons & Dragons at the age of 14 and the importance of finding a hobby and community that felt comfortable. She details her visual impairment, and how that has influenced her personal and professional life. She discusses how she transitioned from painting to woodburning to illustration in recent years, and how she drew the attention of the larger roleplaying game community. Deven talks about the initial pressures of interacting with fans, and how that has subsided over time. She closes by talking about her efforts to monetize her talents including how recent proposed changes to Patreon caused her to adjust her process.

Enjoy the 24th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

You can also listen to the show right here:

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show.

New episodes are released the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month. The first episode of 2018 is scheduled to post on January 2nd.

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.

Ego Check: Scott Taylor, Creative Director for Art of the Genre & Gygax Magazine

Scott Taylor
Scott Taylor

During the life of this blog, I have been fortunate to interview interesting members of the roleplaying game community in addition to professionals from other fields. It has been a great way to learn more about the RPG industry and discover some of the history I have missed along the way. The following interview is with Scott Taylor, who was kind enough to communicate with me about his numerous roles over the years in the fantasy art world. My fondness for old-school fantasy art is on display in my home everyday, so I was eager to dive into the interview and learn Scott’s perspective on a number of topics related to fantasy art.

Below, Scott explores trends in the RPG art industry, and discusses his list of the most important artists throughout his years in the business. The interview closes with an overview of his eighth Kickstarter campaign, The Folio, which is a throwback to old school modules that now adorn a table in my house!

Thank you for sharing your time and discussing your work in fantasy and science fiction. It is my understanding that you have worked as an art director, editor, publisher, writer, and agent in these realms. I’m curious to learn more about those different hats! How did your career in fantasy and science fiction get started?

Well, I suppose I got into this career like most folks, first as an avid gamer, and then slowly working my way into publishing with fantasy publications like Black Gate, then Wizards of the Coast, Privateer Press, and finally Gygax. That is the short answer, and I guess the longer one would be a lifelong obsession with fantasy art. I found that if you work hard enough, artists that you once thought were gods on high, could be accessible. When I began making friends with people I had looked up to since childhood, new avenues and opportunities appeared, namely my own business at Art of the Genre where I get to work first hand with legends in the field.

Continue reading “Ego Check: Scott Taylor, Creative Director for Art of the Genre & Gygax Magazine”

The Decoupage Dungeons & Dragons Gaming Table

Before moving away from my Dungeons & Dragons gaming group, I enjoyed the unique privilege of routinely playing sessions on The Ultimate Gaming Table. The purveyor of the “Avenger” table also hosted a huge assortment of miniatures and terrain, and I no longer have those tools at my disposal. The task I set for myself – now that I’m firmly on the ground in my new surroundings – was to purchase or build a gaming table for my house.

My new gaming nook.
My new gaming nook.

I briefly flirted with the notion of buying one of the amazing Geek Chic tables for the targeted gaming space. Even their “less-expensive” models are north of $2,000 so while it was fun to daydream about the Emissary in my house – it was never a realistic option. As I was lamenting the cost of a gaming table in a conversation with my wife she provided the following support, “I will help you decoupage our old table.” I began to think about how her idea might provide a “gaming” table that was not just a space to draw grids and maps but a proclamation of my nerd interests and a celebration of artwork I adore from old D&D modules. The following post provides a step-by-step guide for how to build your own eye-popping, inexpensive gaming table for less than $50 through the wonders of decoupage.

Continue reading “The Decoupage Dungeons & Dragons Gaming Table”

1st Annual Iddy the Lich Art Contest Results

Thank you to each artist who submitted an entry for what I plan to become an annual feature of my blog – The Iddy the Lich Art Contest. I was pleasantly surprised to have eight great entries!

The contest features three prizes – one decided by me, a second by the readers of the site and a third by the artists who submitted an entry. One artist swept all three categories!

Winner – Jimi Bonogofsky

Congratulations to Jimi Bonogofsky!

I found Jimi’s submission to be a fantastic mixed-media representation of Iddy the Lich. The text background was unique and the painting captured the original, slightly whimsical design for Iddy. The image also makes me wonder, “Who’s skeletal hand he is holding?” Perhaps Iddy has a long-lost love interest, which drove him to the dark arts to bring back his true love? Or perhaps it’s just the last person he melted with his vile magic in pursuit of unholy goals? What do you think?

It was a tough decision as each entry was wonderful, but she earned my vote. She was also voted as the readers’ choice and the favorite of the other participating artists. A clean sweep!

Visit Jimi’s website to learn more about her and view galleries of her work and offer your congratulations on Twitter. She provides the following description of herself:

I am an illustrator and animator, with a passion for storytelling. I am a proud geek, and spend much of my spare time playing video games or Dungeons and Dragons. I love to write fiction stories in the first person and nerdy or angsty folk songs.

I learned that these three key words describe me: Purple. Earth. Domestic cat.

Sounds like a wonderful person to game with; once again, congratulations!

Winner – Jesse Pyne

I previously considered that the same artist might win the votes of myself, the readers and the artist. To break the tie to award the other two Dragon Chow dice bags, I relied on the voting completed by the readers. The other winners – as voted by the readers – are Jesse Pyne and Melissa Johansson. Congratulations!

Jesse created an image that I immediately thought could be used as a wallpaper for my laptop computer. The design takes the cartoonish look of Iddy and morphs him into a realistic lich with a Spawn-like flowing cape. I have a soft spot in my heart for those early Image Comics and I always thought Spawn was an interesting character, although I lost track of the series around issue #50. It is a very cool side view of Iddy, and the purple background adds to his overall regalness.

Winner – Melissa Johansson

Meanwhile, Melissa remained close to the cartoonish Iddy design but created a slightly menacing look for him. His pose also suggests that he is beckoning the viewer to come closer if they dare. The expression on his face is rather taunting, and it adds up to a great image.

Each winner will receive a custom-made Iddy the Lich dice bag created by Dragon Chow. I wish I could give something to the other five entries in the contest. I enjoyed all of them and will certainly feature them in future articles throughout the year (if the artists find that acceptable).

Thank you one final time for each entry and for all of the voters who placed votes over the past week. Let me know if you’d like to see this as a yearly feature.

First Annual Iddy the Lich Art Contest

Last month, I announced an art contest and I had no idea what to expect in terms of a response. I asked for submissions on art depicting the blog’s official mascot, Iddy the Lich. Throughout the month of September, I was pleasantly surprised to receive eight entries into the contest. As I mentioned, there will be three winners; each winner will received a custom The Id DM dice bag created by Dragon Chow.

Iddy the Lich

The winners will be decided by three voting processes. The first is quite simple, I’m going to select my favorite. The second will be a free-for-all, open-to-the-public voting period that will begin today and conclude next Monday, October 15th. The third will be a private vote from each of the eight artists who submitted an entry (and they cannot vote for their own entry).

Before displaying the entries, I want to thank each artist for sending me their rendition of Iddy the Lich. I was happy to receive each entry throughout the month of September; it always brightened my day when a new entry arrived in my inbox!

Please consume the Iddy the Lich entries and vote for your favorite. Also, please investigate the talents of each artist through their website or Twitter feed – I have included the links below.

Continue reading “First Annual Iddy the Lich Art Contest”