Tony DiTerlizzi is an award-winning children’s book illustrator and author–his WondLa trilogy is a favorite in my household, and we’ve got several of his pictures books as well. But before The Spiderwick Chronicles, before his Caldecott Honor for The Spider and the Fly, DiTerlizzi was a geeky kid who loved playing Dungeons & Dragons. And, like many geeks, he copied drawings from the Monster Manual and drew his own monsters.
What makes this story interesting, though, is the part where DiTerlizzi, at the urging of his D&D buddies, sends off a portfolio to TSR and eventually gets a job making illustrations for Dungeons & Dragons. He was the sole illustrator for the Planescape campaign setting, and went on to create artwork for a little card game you may have heard of called Magic: The Gathering.
Today, Kitchen Sink Books (an imprint of Dark Horse) is releasing Realms, a beautiful hardcover collection of DiTerlizzi’s roleplaying game art. Organized roughly chronologically, it includes artwork that spans two decades of his work (plus a few samples of monsters he copied out of the Monster Manual as a kid). DiTerlizzi introduces each section, explaining how he got involved in the project, and there are also notes about his artistic process, a few photos of his models, and plenty of sketches. The book includes some never-before-published paintings, as well as the original versions of paintings that were modified before publication.
Even though I am not a long-time RPG fan–I’m relatively new to tabletop gaming, in comparison–I’ve been a fan of DiTerlizzi’s work for quite some time. But I’d discovered him through his children’s book illustrations, not his earlier work for adults. Realms was an amazing journey through the earlier parts of his career, and you can see the common elements that lead to The Spiderwick Chronicles and WondLa.
The book also includes brief appreciations from a number of people–game designers and publishers, authors, comic book artists, illustrators, and more. Flip through Realms and you won’t be surprised that so many people have wonderful things to say about DiTerlizzi’s work, which is often compared to Arthur Rackham and Brian Froud, among others. It’s astonishing to me how many different types of techniques and media DiTerlizzi has mastered, and even though the book showcases art from early in his career, they’re still breathtaking.
Whether you remember DiTerlizzi’s illustrations from D&D or you’re a newer fan like me, Realms is a fantastic window into his imagination.
Disclosure: I received an advance PDF of the book for review purposes.