Artist: Stefan Poag
When I was in 5th grade, I attended a sleepover at a new friend's house, John B. There were a bunch of kids there, some of whom I knew and some of whom were strangers. The most memorable experience from this sleepover was John's older brother (I think he was 12) showing us his copy of the Monster Manual for Dungeons & Dragons. Since this was 1979, this would probably have been the first edition. Even though I had never played D & D and at the time didn't even really understand the game, I was absolutely fascinated with the book and spent most of the rest of the sleepover sitting in a corner paging through the book while the rest of the kids goofed around. I have always been, and will probably always be, interested in the visual organization and classification of fantastic knowledge, so the Monster Manual, with its encyclopedic entries, lists of statistics, descriptions and habits of dozens and dozens of monsters, dragons, demons, devils and so on was like a godsend.
I've seen many later editions of the Manual and, as technology and printing have improved and become cheaper, those old black and white drawings from that first edition have been replaced by slick, colorful, more realistic and increasingly digitally born illustrations. I find them monumentally dull and much prefer those early, old school (in the truest sense of the word), black and white drawings. I love the fearlessness of those pieces, the willingness to completely embrace the fantastic nature of the subject matter, and the richness of the differing styles of the artists. A lot of that sense of wonder seems to be completely absent from not only Dungeons & Dragons material, but all fantasy these days.
So now it is 2014 and I am introduced to the artist Stefan Poag while I am at a speaking engagement at Oakland University in Michigan. He is a soft-spoken and humble guy, which I respond very well too, and a tremendous artist with a delightfully pure love of the fantastic. At some point we exchanged emails and I spent some time at his blog, looking at his work. Obviously, I was keen to see how Stefan would approach the idea of the Witch-king and a big part of that had to do with how his work seemed to draw from, echo, and elevate that wonderful old Monster Manual aesthetic that I treasured. Stefan worked on the piece slowly, but the wait was absolutely worth it and above you see his Nazgul. As always, Stefan gets bonus points for including a fell beast, and I have to say that I am just thrilled with this piece. To me, and I have no idea if Stefan intended this or not, it is a real bridge from the person I am now to the person I was as a ten year old, ignoring the party and flipping through the Monster Manual. This is a rare gift Stefan has.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
And people think Captain Ahab was obsessed. My biggest regret is not taking more photos of the blood.