Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Warriors & Warlords: The Art of Angus Mcbride

Art has always been a powerful motivator for me in terms of creative thinking. It has served as a shared medium among friends when I use an illustration to show something instead of explaining what something looks like.

Among those artists whose skills I find to tweak my particular taste, Angus McBride is right up there. I probably first saw his work, as many fantasy role players might have, in I.C.E.'s old Middle Earth line. Angus seemed to do a lot of work for I.C.E. back in the day, even covering their Rolemaster line with a series of great illustrations using the same characters for each cover.

The strength of the art, for me, is that it looks 'real'. While some artist like Wayne Reynolds are popular today, and they do pieces I enjoy, don't mistake that, I find that sometimes the art is so far from the subject matter that it makes it actually harder to relate to the art and the subject as opposed to easier.

When Angus illustrates two miles, the Latin term for warrior, and shows two French miles with mail hauberks and large Norman shield with spear and sword, he also includes a peasant on the side with an axe whose son is arming a hunting crossbow. In the background a bird flies easily while out at sea, gulls swarm around a boat. Some might find it too mundane, too earthly. However, perhaps due to some of my own roots as a fan of older sword and sorcery material, ranging from Conan and Fafrd, I'm okay with not every illustration being some crazy horned woman whose body couldn't exist in the real world due to the exaggerated pose.

The art of Angus is well worth a look, especially if you can find his fantasy based material. The only problem you might have though is that it appears some of it goes in and out of print. The Warriors and Warlords book for example? It's out of print. While it's not deep on details, it does have enough to speak the imagination as well. When players come up with terrible sounding names, a quick look through the historical section shows that we have such naming conventions as Alexander the Great, El Cid, Sala al Din Yusif ibn Ayyub known as The Victorious,  pr Sa;adom.  'Arthurian Age', the ship names Long Serpent or Iron Beard... these are real names. If they can exist, how silly is Rus the Red or something along those lines?

Anyway, if you're looking for inspiration or how things might have been and how they might have looked, The Art of Angus Mcbride should be right up there on your reading list.