Inspiration, Swiping, and Copying


This full page illustration by Darlene in the original Dungeon Master's Guide always fascinated me. It represented a type of fantasy that was being replaced by darker, heavier fantasy by artists like Frazetta and that is more of the norm these days. Now, I loves me some Frazetta. I have almost every art book, and am constantly on the lookout for every Frazetta image I can find to add to my inspiration folder. However, I sometimes wonder what books would look like had this more classical type of fantasy become the norm in gaming. Oh, we still see plenty of classic stuff, but it is definitely in the minority.

This drawing Darlene made reminds me of the great late 19th century illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, and he drew a composition that is quite similar. I wonder of she got some inspiration from this?



Composition by Aubrey Beardsley for The Lady of the Lake telleth Arthur of the sword Excalibur, from 'Le Morte d'Arthur' by Sir Thomas Malory.
1893-94 (lithograph)

In the illustration field being inspired, or what is called "swiping" is common and not frowned on by professionals. Everyone does it, even the legends like Norman Rockwell. We all stand on the shoulders of giants, as the saying goes, and there are hundreds of years of art history we learn from, draw inspiration from, and add our little bit to. In fact you can learn a lot about the artists you most admire by looking at the artists they admired.

This post almost belongs on my art blog, but D&D fans are most likely to be familiar with this illustration. Also, I do occasional fan art here that is my interpretation of old school illustrations that inspired me when I was a kid learning how to draw. This is quite different from literally copying or tracing other artist's work and calling it your own.

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