mercoledì 6 giugno 2018

Fantasy Visuals: Jeff Easley

Jeff Easley belongs to the TSR group of artists who worked on D&D products in the 80s and 90s. His work is as famous as Larry Elmore’s, and has come to be associated to the “classic D&D” style.

Easley was born in 1954 in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Since childhood he was fond of drawing, especially monsters, a passion that he carried on all his life. His favourite artists was Frank Frazetta, who had a great influence on his style. In 1977 he graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts at Murray University in Kentucky. It was probably in these university years that young Jeff met with Larry Elmore, 6 years older and also graduated in art in Kentucky (in a different university, though): the two were just acquaintances at first.

Moving to Massachussets with his wife, also an artist, Easley started working in the comics (Marvel, Warren) and advertisement industry, the first being his passion and the second the way to pay the bills. Everything changed when Elmore was hired by TSR and moved to Lake Geneva. Easley immediately asked his friend if the company was looking for other fantasy artists, and it was: in March 1982, four months after Elmore was hired, Easley also started working in the company.

Easley’s work went directly into the Red Box manual of D&D, and here are some excerpts from that milestone. I’m sure most of you have seen them:

Jeff continued to work on all D&D and AD&D products in the years to come, focusing mostly on Monster Manuals, his delight. His favourite and most successful pieces were all about dragons and undead.

His work is also notable on the Dragonlance series, where he painted many covers and calendar pieces.

Not to mention the saga of Drizzt the Dark Elf.

After TSR was acquired by Wizards of the Coast (1997) he continued painting cards for Magic: The Gathering.

He left WotC in 2003, after 21 years working for the company, and started freelancing.

Easley’s favourite technique is oil, much like Elmore. While obviously following the standard elements of D&D art, his style owes much to Frazetta, with great attention to movement and muscles, and limited palettes that work on the contrast between light and dark. Backgrounds are minimal and light is used to focus on the main scene occurring, very often a scene of action.

Easley was a master of dynamic scenes and his work has fittingly become iconic of a period of Fantasy art. He was one of the great American Fantasy artists of the 80s and 90s. Below are some of my favourite pieces by him.

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