The Art of RPGs: Curator’s Statement

This month and next at Krab Jab Studio we are featuring the Art of Roleplaying Games show that I curated with Julie Baroh. We had a great opening the weekend before GenCon and now on Thursday night we are doing another event. This one is a meet the artists mixer and it’s happening on the eve of the Penny Arcade Expo here in Seattle. Many of the artists whose work is in the show will be there, and there will be beer, wine, and snacks. For more details, see the Facebook event page.

Julie and I wrote curator’s statements for the show. For those of you who can’t make it down to Krab Jab, I thought I’d share mine here.

Curator’s Statement

From the beginning of published RPGs in the early 70s, art has played an important role. The words described the rules and evoked the worlds, but the art helped bring it all to life. I got into RPGs in 1979, when I was 10 years old. Certain pieces of art, like the cover of The Village of Hommlet and A Paladin in Hell in the AD&D Player’s Handbook, were burned into my brain forever. Later, I encountered artists whose work defined entire game lines, like P.D. Breeding-Black on Talislanta and Tony DiTerlizzi on Planescape.

In the early 90s I started my career in the game industry as a freelance writer. At first I had no say in the art that accompanied my writing. Then in 1995, when I was working on a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay book called Dying the Light for Hogshead Publishing, I got to write my first art order. It was exciting to conceive something in my mind and then see a talented artist interpret it in the final book. In my first company and then in the early days of Green Ronin Publishing, I had the chance to art direct many books and that was a new challenge. Not just writing the art orders, but recruiting artists and working with them to produce the final work gave me a true appreciation for the work that goes into a RPG book beyond the text. It also made me realize that while I could art direct a book, there were folks far better at it than I. That’s why I brought in Hal Mangold as a partner, and he has art directed and graphic designed almost every Green Ronin project for the last ten years.

When I joined Krab Jab in 2011, I was just looking for a co-working space to do my writing. I loved the idea of working in a creative space instead of a soulless cubicle. I wasn’t thinking in terms on curating a show, but one day I suggested to Julie Baroh that a show focused on RPG art would be awesome and we decided to curate it together. As far as I know, no one has attempted a gallery show like this before. The response from the artists and the public has been tremendous and I’m thrilled with how the show came together. We’ve got work from 30 years ago to today and from a wide variety of artists. Here’s the thing though: this show only scratches the surface of what’s been done in RPGs in the past four decades. RPG art has rarely appeared in galleries but I think the skill and imagination on display here make it clear that it should.

I hope you enjoy The Art of RPGs and get some of that inspiration I experienced as a 10 year old. Even more, I hope we get to do this again!

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