How did you break into the gaming industry?

TD: After graduating art school in the spring of 1992, I began gaming again with college pals, and decided to submit samples of my work to TSR…I was rejected.

Most of what I sent to them was lots and lots of sketches of monsters. I just couldn’t draw enough of them. And they would be just sitting there, floating on a blank sheet of paper (a la the Monster Manual). It was like I threw out all that I had learned in art school about setting, mood and action and was just concerned with re-interpreting their designs.

With some help from my gaming buddies, I then went on to send sketches of player characters (dwarves, elves, hobbits, etc.) to TSR – I was rejected again.

Their first criticism was — nice monsters, where are the people? So, I sent them drawings of the player characters and they felt that they were a little weak. A good friend of mine suggested that I really try to make the characters as well designed and interesting as the monsters, and then it all clicked into place for me.

My last submission had the player characters doing things: fighting monsters, finding treasure, and exploring environments. Finally, in the fall of 1992, I was asked to illustrate a boxed set for TSR’s Dungeon & Dragons line entitled Dragon Mountain. It had taken me almost a year, and 3 separate submissions, to finally get in.

The following summer I went to the Gen Con Game Fair which is a huge fantasy and gaming convention (at that time) held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There, I met with many art directors from various gaming companies and other artists working in the field. After sharing my portfolio there, I was on my way to illustrating many games including Werewolf, Planescape and Changeling.

This period of my life was detailed in the book Realms: The Roleplaying Game Art of Tony DiTerlizzi.

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Never Abandon Imagination Tony DiTerlizzi: Never abandon imagination.

Imagination is a world of possibility that exists within each of us. It is what makes us uniquely human. It is our creative fingerprint that touches and influences the world around us. Imagination is essential to art and science; to innovation and prosperity. It gives us hope, calls us to action and leads to change.

Whether it’s fairies, dragons, robots or aliens, all of my children’s book characters are siblings born of my imagination – an imagination strengthened through years of encouragement from family, teachers and friends. While so many others abandoned it during their transition from childhood to adulthood, I fiercely held onto mine, hoping for a day when I could share it to inspire the next generation of dreamers. Innovators. World changers.

Imagination empowers us to envision and create a reality of what could be. We must hold it dear, foster it and never abandon it.