Monday, 14 February 2011

Brain Eater

My primary artistic influence has always been comics. I devoured them as a child, reading them cover to cover then grabbing a pencil or pen and drawing my own stories on any bit of paper I could find. It's fair to say, however, that I was also influenced and inspired, in no small part, by the imagery of fantasy gaming. Now, since I was a bit of a solitary sort, this meant that I spent a lot of time reading issues of White Dwarf with no real understanding of what the articles were about, as I wasn't playing the games. For kids like me, there was also Fighting Fantasy, which allowed us to pretend we were playing Dungeons & Dragons, even if we had no mates. The books also had some great art -- and let's be honest, the art was often much better than the story/game in the text -- and because the British game industry was a bit isolated and incestuous back then, you'd see the same artists popping up in different publications from different companies. As a result, British gaming products of the time developed a unique look, quite distinct from the visual style of the American gaming culture.

So while the Americans would be getting this:

We'd be getting this:

No contest.

One of my favourite artists from that time was Russ Nicholson, whose work combined an eye for fine detail with a talent for making the fantasy seem eldritch and strange. His style wasn't all that similar to that of John Blanche or Ian Miller, but they all shared a proper evocation of the weird that you just didn't see in American fantasy art.

I was pleased to discover that Nicholson was not only still working, but had started a blog, and when he ran a competition to win a piece of original art, I jumped at the chance.

I won:

I've never been one for chasing original art, and I'm not sure why, as it's great to have a piece by one of my favourite artists. Thanks Russ!


  1. Somehow I completely missed out on Russ Nicholson back in the day. I never owned the Fiend Folio, I started reading White Dwarf right after it became a house organ, and I missed out on the Fighting Fantasy books in favor of Lone Wolf. Discovering his work through aficionado bloggers and his own blog has been a revelation. Congrats on picking up an original! Very cool!

  2. Russ Nicholson may just be my favorite D&D artist for precisely the elements you point out. Every time I look at Sickly Purple Death Ray's banner I drool uncontrollably.

  3. One of the greats in my opinion, so it's wonderful to see him so popular nowadays.


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