Art from Magic: The Gathering card by Tony DiTerlizzi. (Tony DiTerlizzi)Link
Illustration from "Planescape Monstrous Compendium" by Tony DiTerlizzi. (Tony DiTerlizzi)Link
Illustration from "The Factol's Manifesto" by Tony DiTerlizzi. (Tony DiTerlizzi)Link
Card illustration from Magic: The Gathering game by Tony DiTerlizzi. (Tony DiTerlizzi)Link
"AD&D Monstrous Manual" illustration by Tony DiTerlizzi. (Tony DiTerlizzi)Link
Children’s book author and artist Tony DiTerlizzi hit the jackpot with his first paid job out of art school: He got a one-way ticket to the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Though his career has taken him to places far beyond the worlds of role-playing games, DiTerlizzi’s heart has remained with those monsters and heroes. And now he’s returning again for “Realms: The Roleplaying Game Art of Tony DiTerlizzi,” a hardcover collection of his early work from Dark Horse Comics and Kitchen Sink Books coming in June 2015.
Years before DiTerlizzi was known as the co-creator of “The Spiderwick Chronicles” or the “WondLa” books, he was an artist fresh out of the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale who loved playing Dungeons & Dragons and needed a gig. On a lark, he sent a portfolio of monster drawings to TSR, the game’s developer, but was rejected.
“I spoke with the art director, Peggy Cooper,” DiTerlizzi recalled in a phone interview Wednesday. “She said, ‘You drew a bunch of monsters, but they’re not doing anything.'”
So DiTerlizzi drew another batch of monsters, this time in the midst of fighting various heroes, and he got the job.
“One of my friends said you should draw the player characters as cool as the monsters,” he said. “I held onto that.”
From 1992 to 1994, he drew hundreds of monsters for Dungeons & Dragons, but in 1994 he was selected to be the exclusive artist on a new campaign setting called Planescape.
“That was a big turning point,” DiTerlizzi said. For the next five years, he helped shape the world based on suggestions from the game’s designers, led by David “Zeb” Cook.
“It was like a big feature film production,” DiTerlizzi said. “They had all the pieces and concepts and I had to pull them together and help make them into a convincing world.”
Unlike the traditional vaguely medieval setting of Dungeons & Dragons, Planescape was a mixture of all kinds of worlds, including Greek mythology, Celtic lore and even the underworld of “Dante’s Inferno.” The art drew inspiration from Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano (known for his work on the “Final Fantasy” series of video games) and Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi, known for his fictional prison drawings.
“I started to see how those elements interlocked to form a convincing world,” DiTerlizzi said. “The clothing and the costumes and the setting and the artifacts set the stage for my children’s books.”
Though DiTerlizzi has moved on, he’s never stopped drawing his beloved monsters from the game — Beholders, mind flayers and owlbears.
“I’d draw scenarios, characters, monsters,” he said. “It’s my comfort food.”
The book will collect his art from his Planescape days, as well as work he did on the Magic: The Gathering card game and illustrations he did for Changeling: The Dreaming, a game published by White Wolf.
“There will be a lot of sketches,” DiTerlizzi said. “And photos of the models I used. Stuff you don’t normally see.”
– Patrick Kevin Day | @patrickkevinday
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