Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Character Portraits in Gaming

When I was a boy, way early on in my role-playing odyssey, I'd flip through the pages of those early Dragon magazines and look at the artists' ads where they offered to draw a character portrait for $17, at least that's the one I remember the most, and I'd just wish I could afford one. But, instead, I'd often spend hours at a table drawing a picture of what I felt my character would look like, except my internal vision rarely matched the external one.

To say that my artistic ability left something to be desired is akin to saying that Mountain St. Helen's had a slight geological history. However, it has always felt important to me, as a gamer, to have a solid visual to my character, in addition to whatever narrative that I supplied, and I think a lot of folk felt the same way.

After awhile, it seems, it become common place to say, "Oh, well he/she looks like [INSERT ACTOR]." While the imagery of what was worn, how it was worn, was relegated to narrative, the face and build had more of a real attachment to it, but it was nothing like having that picture and gamers seemed to know that, which has led to a revival of the artist seeking patronage.

Recently I decided that I wanted a picture for a play-by-post character that I've on EN World, the picture is by J. Cayne and I could not be more pleased. Although my character was well described and fleshed out, I knew I wanted to have that portrait, which was well worth the fee of $50. Not only do I have a smaller version for posting, but I've a larger version for printing that is just very well done.

If you check out EN World's Marketplace, specifically the Art Services, you will find others offering their services, so you should be able to find artists that fit what style you're seeking. Also, there are plenty of artists out there who aren't on EN World, such as Sean Kennedy, an old DM of mine, perhaps the best DM I've ever had, who happens to be a phenomenal artist and drew quite a few of my earliest portraits.

Personal gaming illustrations have always been so connected to gaming, so desired, that many younger folk who do fantasy art probably got a start by doing their own portraits and illustrations, which is pretty cool, too, when you think about it. How do you feel about character portraits, are they important to you or could you live without them?

Here is Kael Saern, as visualized by J. Cayne:

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