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The Devil Made Me Do It
Dragon's-Eye View
By Jon Schindehette

W hen it comes to visual representations for devils and demons (or what I like to call the evil D&D guys), we're all over the place. That's no big surprise since these guys come in all shapes and sizes. Their appearance is usually limited only by the imagination of the writer, and it seems they keep dreaming up weirder and weirder creatures all the time.

I banged my head against a wall for quite a while trying to come up with something to write about on this subject. The truth is simple: Since these guys are pretty much all over the place visually, it is nearly impossible to define a core look of a demon or devil, and rather than try to accomplish such a daunting task, I figured I'd just have a little fun.

A couple of years ago, I ran a challenge on ArtOrder around the idea of visualizing an assassin devil. It was a fun challenge. I provided a simple art description and then let the artists run amok. The great thing about fantasy artists is that they have a lot of fun trying to breathe as much life into an art brief as allowed.

So the brief was pretty simple:

Assassin Devil:
—6 feet tall
—Devilish humanoid
—Female
—Indigo skin
—Unappealing devil face with the left half covered by frightening iron mask that looks like a demonic face
—Two horns
—Lithe but muscular
—Wears dark leather armor with iron parts that resemble demonic body parts (iron pauldron with iron horns sprouting from it)
—Wears a cloak made of shadows and darkness
—Wields a black longsword made of shadowstuff
—Had devil feet like the two devils on page 60 of the Monster Manual

They were asked to go beyond the version depicted by Zoltan Boros and Gabor Szikszai.


Here are a bunch of the entries I received for the challenge (click below for a larger view).



So, other than a visual feast for the devil fans out there, is there a reason for me to showcase this art?

There is.

As you'll note, the art description lays out most of the details. Almost all the visual decisions have been answered in the description. This is often the case when I get an art request from R&D. There aren't too many cases where I get an art request that says "I need a cool new devil, and the art director and artist have total free reign on the visual development." While I love it when I get a blank check for creativity, I know that we often have to stick to a bit of written lore. If anything, that is where the art director and the artist really earn their money. How do you take a description that is over twenty years old and breathe some fresh life into it? How do you give it a contemporary feel without breaking the lore and disenfranchising the fan base? In a lot of ways, that is what many of the articles on Dragon's-Eye View have been about, but here is a great example of how such a situation plays out.

You've had the opportunity to read the art description, and now you've had the opportunity to see a large number of artist interpretations of that art description. The question for you now is simple.

 Which artist, in your opinion, fulfilled the art description the best?  
Adam Lane
Alex Dai
Anita Night
Anna Christenson
Arturo Aguirre
Autumn Rain Turkel
Brian DeClercq
Brian McElligott
Brian Valenzuela
Brynn Metheney
Chenthooran Nambiarooran
Chris L. Kimball
Christian Schwager
Christopher Johnston
Christopher Reach
Christopher West
Claudio Pozas
Cori Dietsch
cornelius cockroft
Craig J Spearing
Dace
Dana Henderson
Daniel Kling Lorentsen
EAST
Eric Belisle
Eric Collins
Felicia Cano
Florian Stitz
Gee Hale
George Semionov
George Vega
Gordon Napier
Grant Cooley Illustration
Hrvoje Colic
illworx
Jason Juta
Jason Zampol
Jeff Lee Johnson
Jennifer Kearney
Joe Wilson
Jonathan Roberts
Jordan Patchak
Joshua Venis
Kari Christensen
Krisztian Balla
Lee Smith
Liz Clarke
Luis Vazquez
Lukasz Jaskolski
Lydia Rae Black
Mark Molnar
Mathias Kollros
Matt Hansen
Micah Stone
Michael Ng
Nate Furman
Nathan Stoltenberg
Nick Egberts
Nico Photos
Nicole Jekich
Noah Bradley
Patrick Jones
Pedro Jorge Magalhalles
Peter Lazarski
Peter Reed
Ryan Fox
Ryan Hall
Ryan Harasym
S.C. Watson
Samuel Flegal
Sean Sullivan
Stan!
Stuart Hatt
Thom Scott
Timothy Phillips
Tracy E Flynn
Travis Neal
Victor P Corbella
Zach Schoenbaum

  Which artist interpreted the assassin devil the best for use in D&D, without regard for the art description?  
Adam Lane
Alex Dai
Anita Night
Anna Christenson
Arturo Aguirre
Autumn Rain Turkel
Brian DeClercq
Brian McElligott
Brian Valenzuela
Brynn Metheney
Chenthooran Nambiarooran
Chris L. Kimball
Christian Schwager
Christopher Johnston
Christopher Reach
Christopher West
Claudio Pozas
Cori Dietsch
cornelius cockroft
Craig J Spearing
Dace
Dana Henderson
Daniel Kling Lorentsen
EAST
Eric Belisle
Eric Collins
Felicia Cano
Florian Stitz
Gee Hale
George Semionov
George Vega
Gordon Napier
Grant Cooley Illustration
Hrvoje Colic
illworx
Jason Juta
Jason Zampol
Jeff Lee Johnson
Jennifer Kearney
Joe Wilson
Jonathan Roberts
Jordan Patchak
Joshua Venis
Kari Christensen
Krisztian Balla
Lee Smith
Liz Clarke
Luis Vazquez
Lukasz Jaskolski
Lydia Rae Black
Mark Molnar
Mathias Kollros
Matt Hansen
Micah Stone
Michael Ng
Nate Furman
Nathan Stoltenberg
Nick Egberts
Nico Photos
Nicole Jekich
Noah Bradley
Patrick Jones
Pedro Jorge Magalhalles
Peter Lazarski
Peter Reed
Ryan Fox
Ryan Hall
Ryan Harasym
S.C. Watson
Samuel Flegal
Sean Sullivan
Stan!
Stuart Hatt
Thom Scott
Timothy Phillips
Tracy E Flynn
Travis Neal
Victor P Corbella
Zach Schoenbaum

  Which artist created your favorite image, without concern for the art description or appropriateness for D&D?  
Adam Lane
Alex Dai
Anita Night
Anna Christenson
Arturo Aguirre
Autumn Rain Turkel
Brian DeClercq
Brian McElligott
Brian Valenzuela
Brynn Metheney
Chenthooran Nambiarooran
Chris L. Kimball
Christian Schwager
Christopher Johnston
Christopher Reach
Christopher West
Claudio Pozas
Cori Dietsch
cornelius cockroft
Craig J Spearing
Dace
Dana Henderson
Daniel Kling Lorentsen
EAST
Eric Belisle
Eric Collins
Felicia Cano
Florian Stitz
Gee Hale
George Semionov
George Vega
Gordon Napier
Grant Cooley Illustration
Hrvoje Colic
illworx
Jason Juta
Jason Zampol
Jeff Lee Johnson
Jennifer Kearney
Joe Wilson
Jonathan Roberts
Jordan Patchak
Joshua Venis
Kari Christensen
Krisztian Balla
Lee Smith
Liz Clarke
Luis Vazquez
Lukasz Jaskolski
Lydia Rae Black
Mark Molnar
Mathias Kollros
Matt Hansen
Micah Stone
Michael Ng
Nate Furman
Nathan Stoltenberg
Nick Egberts
Nico Photos
Nicole Jekich
Noah Bradley
Patrick Jones
Pedro Jorge Magalhalles
Peter Lazarski
Peter Reed
Ryan Fox
Ryan Hall
Ryan Harasym
S.C. Watson
Samuel Flegal
Sean Sullivan
Stan!
Stuart Hatt
Thom Scott
Timothy Phillips
Tracy E Flynn
Travis Neal
Victor P Corbella
Zach Schoenbaum

Did you pick the same artist for all three? Did the subtle differences in the questions make a difference for you?

As the Creative Director for D&D, I have to keep these types of questions in mind all the time. There are times when I'll get a sketch or finished painting that I adore. The technique and content are just stellar. The artist hit it out of the park in every way . . . well, except for a small problem or two. Maybe the art didn't follow the art description and changed up an important aspect of the character or critter. Perhaps the artist didn't depict the character or critter in a manner that is appropriate for use in D&D. No matter how great the art is and no matter how much I love the art, if it doesn't hit these two necessary ingredients, I've got to kick the art back.

. . . even if it breaks my heart.

Previous Poll Results

How well does the halfling fulfill the vision of the halfling ethos outlined above?
I think the feel of the halfling is spot on. 1471 65.2%
I think that the halfling misses when it comes to the idea of a culture that holds home and community in high regard. 213 9.4%
I feel the halfling is lacking a childlike innocence. 109 4.8%
I'm really missing the idea of nature in the world of the halfling. 152 6.7%
I have additional comments, and I'll write them below. 310 13.7%
Total 2255 100.0%

Jon Schindehette
Jon Schindehette joined Wizards of the Coast in 1997 as the website art director. In the intervening years he has worked as the marketing art director, novels art director, and creative manager. In January of 2009 he moved into the role of senior creative director for D&D. Jon is a long time D&D player (started in 1978), and currently plays in a Tuesday night game and DMs a random pick-up game for younger players. He can be found on Twitter (@ArtOrder) and at theartorder.com.
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