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A Daily Jaunt Through the Planes (Farewell)

As the week ends, I find myself back at the beginning of my work for the role-playing game, Planescape. The first color illustration you see in the Player’s Guide, found in the original campaign setting, is of a halfling showing his adventuring companion how to make the portal to another plane open.

Portal from “The Planescape Player’s Guide”

So I thought it would be fitting to redraw this one from 1994. It was one of the first finished images that I created for the line.

“Portal” drawn today

Ang and I went to see Sting in concert down in Florida during the time that I was working on Planescape, and I remember that I really liked how he had reinterpreted his old Police songs. It showed that the music was original and could be played in many variations but still be the same tune. I have felt that in redrawing and sharing some of this early work of mine has been like that – there were obvious technical advances on my part as an artist over the years, but the design ideas and imagination that went into the imagery for this game still held up over a decade later…and I am proud to have been a part of it.


Friday Fan Art!

Yeah, its Sunday, but I have been SO BUSY with the Spiderwick’s Giant Problem art, that I haven’t had much free time. (And I’ll wrap up my trip down “Planescape memory lane” today or tomorrow too).

Anyways, we got a photo of this really cool model of the Stray Sod from Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide from Manuela in Germany. It was made out of suede(!)

Stray (suede) Sod by Manuela

I love seeing my work transformed into three-dimensions, I think because that’s how I see it in my head. So thank you Manuela, this is awesome!


A Daily Jaunt Through the Planes (Pit Fiend)

Dante’s Fiend

Planescape’s underworld was, of course, modeled after Inferno in Dante’s Divine Comedy. I haven’t read that book since college, but a good pal of mine sent me a newly translated version last year – and I am finally starting to read it. Written a little more…”cleaner”, this version still retains the poetic verse and I’ve enjoyed it so far.

Anyways, here’s Dante out on a solo adventure speaking with a pit fiend…I think he’s asking where a good restaurant might be.


A Daily Jaunt Through the Planes (Factions)

I’ve been doing some characters from the various Planescape factions over the last few days, and I thought I’d post what I’ve done so far. Most are just a little more simplified and lively than their predecessors. I realized I added lots of clothing, armor, belts and tassels, to hide my cursory figure drawing back then. I guess after 10+ years I was bound to get a little better.

Member of the Bleak Cabal

Member of the Dustmen


Member of The Fraternity of Order


Member of the Transcendent Order


A Daily Jaunt Through the Planes (Denizens of the Netherworld)

Yugoloths, baatezu, tanar’ri, devils, or Screwtape’s peeps…whatever you’d like to call’em, Planescape had A LOT of them. To be completely honest, I really enjoyed rendering those creepies – but again, I think I lacked the maturity as an illustrator to push their designs to the fullest potential.


The most obvious flaw in the PS illus. is that they are all perfect specimens. After eons of fighting off adventurers, good guys from Mt. Celestia, and each other – well, they would show the effects of such a battered existence, and I think these wounds would add greatly to their grotesqueness.


Of course, I looked at 15th century painter of all things nightmarish, Hieronymus Bosch for inspiration. But I think the best devils I have seen rendered are by alien painter/genius Wayne Barlowe. His work is great – his imagination is AMAZING!

Okay, enough reminiscing, I am off to bed. Hopefully no succubi will invade my dreams


A Daily Jaunt Through the Planes (Githyanki)

Fiend Folio, 1981

Ah, the nefarious, notorious githyanki. For us older gamers, we first saw these Astral killers on the cover to 1981’s Fiend Folio – and fell in love with their rich backstory and bizarre appearance. They always reminded me of some alien race on Star Trek, like the klingons.

Anyways, I got the opportunity to render them, and their githzerai cousins, quite a few times for Planescape starting with the first Monstrous Compendium. In fact, I still remember one game reviewer saying that my Planescape art reminded him a bit of Dr. Seuss (*see my postscript). I wonder if he was looking at my Grinch-like githyanki design?

Githyanki, 1996

Actually one of the key Planescape game designers, Zeb Cook, showed me some books he had recently purchased from Japan on an artist named Yoshitaka Amano. Of course, the artwork totally blew me away. Back in ’94, I don’t think many knew of his work here in the states, but now his work (rightfully) is much more known thanks to the availability of his lavishly illustrated books. His costume design and patterning were certainly an influence on my githyanki images.

Githyanki head sketches

This morning, I played around with the original Fiend Folio cover pose while incorporating bits of the original and my Planescape design. In my attempt of maturing as an illustrator, I veered away from the “look I am evil. See my evil face?”, and created a more alien, otherwordly look. Besides, the actions of these villainous rogues certainly define their alignment.

Githyanki, 2008

PS – Speaking of nonsense children’s book authors, did you know that the githyanki’s main weapon, their vorpal sword, was originally created by none other than Lewis Carroll for his poem “Jabberwocky” in Through the Looking Glass? That’s so cool…


A Daily Jaunt Through the Planes (of my past)

Old Sketch, New Tiefling

No, my dear old gaming fans, your eyes do not deceive you. This is a tiefling which was sketched yesterday and inked today.

I am not working for TSR/WotC/Hasbro, in fact; I am drawing and inking away on the upcoming Spiderwick book, A Giant Problem. Part of my routine, when I am on such an intense deadline (and this is one), is “warming up” with some sketching to get my brain-eye-hand-coordination up to speed before I begin the final illustrations.

Planescape Campaign Setting

And I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic. This year marks the 10-year anniversary of my farewell to the Planescape role-playing-game (my last book was the third Monstrous Compendium in 1998). As I have said before, I really enjoyed working on that game – despite the insane deadlines. Children’s stories were always my big career goal, but my involvement with Planescape helped me understand how to visualize and build a fantastic world for characters to dwell.

So, over the next week or so, as the urge hits me, I’ll revisit some of the old people and monsters that I drew all those years ago…and I hope you’ll enjoy them.

This gal was actually transfered from the original 1996 sketch. I made some obvious changes as I inked her with a Hunt 102 nib and FW ink – the same medium that I used back then.

Old Sketch

First off, I actually have her doing something. In the original she was just posing, as I likely copied the pose from a fashion catalog – which I used often in those days. Here, she is holding out her necklace and casting some no-good-spell. Also, I hinted at the shadiness of the area she is hanging out in by scribbling in some “Wanted” posters. Her look and attire, as it was then, was inspired by Pris, Daryl Hannah’s character in the 1982 film Blade Runner.

PS–Let’s see if anyone can remember what book this gal is from…I’ll send a set of my d20 character sheets to whomever posts it first:)


Friday Fan Art!

Neil sent us this illuminated letter some time ago. What I like here is that if he is not satisfied with the sketch he redraws it. What a novel idea – he should be teaching in art school.

Neil’s letter

His letter is great. This is how my story manuscripts look before my editor gets a hold of them.

Thimbletack and Hoggy by Neil

He also did a couple of drawings of yours truly. One with I-just-woke-up flattened hair:

“Tony D take 1″ drawn by Neil

and another, more accurate, stressed out version. See how I am looking at my drawing table? What you can’t see is the calendar taped down to it with the deadline fast approaching.

“Tony D take 2″ drawn by Neil

Right around the time Neil’s letter arrived, Maxwell also sent in a portrait of me. Clearly this was rendered after I have finished a project deadline. You can tell because the hair is good, there’s no beard, no red eyes, and I am smiling.

Tony D drawn by Maxwell

Have a great weekend!