Thursday, February 17, 2011

My all-time favorite piece of fantasy art


The above artwork is titled Saving the Best for Last, and it's by artist Daniel R. Horne. It is by far my favorite of every piece of fantasy artwork I've ever seen.

Why?

To be honest, I'm not real sure. But I can speculate.

Looking at this painting as an individual piece of art, there is much I love here. The realism, for one. The colors are muted, which is something I appreciate considering the subject matter and the placement of the scene in a wintry forested mountainous region. There's also the fact there is a lot going on in this painting, and it might take more than one viewing or at least one longer viewing to take it all in. At first glance, this is a somewhat typical fantasy scene reminiscent of covers of Dungeons & Dragons books from the 1980s and early 1990s. But one thing that stands out is the protagonist is female, which was until relatively recently unusual for action-oriented fantasy art, and this particular female is not clad as nor appears in any guise as the more traditional damsel-in-distress nor as the chain-bikini-clad love slave common in fantasy art of the 1960s and 1970s. Represented here is obviously a woman of action, as evidenced not only by her use of the bow, which could simply be a hunting tool instead of an adventurer's weapon, but also by the existence of the sword in her enemy's side; admittedly, the sword might not be hers, as I see no evidence of a scabbard upon her, but her quiver is empty and her opponent has several arrows lodged within his undead form, which leads me to believe our protagonist has been at combat with this particular foe for at least some little time, perhaps only a few minutes or perhaps as long as a day. But this female appears somewhat like a ranger, an adventurous hunter, with her use of a bow and her lack of armor in favor of more rustic garb. Considering the location of this artwork, far from civilization, it would seem this woman set out intentionally to hunt down this monstrosity that now attacks her. Or perhaps she simply ran across this beast while traveling colder climbs, or while hunting deer or some other animal. But the existence of a magical arrow, and her last arrow is obviously magical because of the golden glow around its head (something I did not notice for years), there is evidence this woman is not simply out to provide food for her kin or whomever. This is a woman at least somewhat expecting, if not familiar with, magical opponents. The opponent here, perhaps some kind of winter wight, seems to explode from the snow, as if he were awaiting this female from ambush; but the sword and arrows impaling him and the fact the protagonist's quiver is empty lends credence to the idea their confrontation is not new. This make me think this has been an ongoing battle between the two, one that has possibly ranged over some little distance and some time, which the wound to the woman's leg also lends evidence of. Though the slight look or surprise on the woman's face registers the idea of an ambush. So who was hunting whom? It would seem to me that she was hunting him, but then he lead her into an ambush. Who will win? One would like to think the female will, but her arrow is low and the undead monster is springing to the attack and his ax is ready to come around for a swing. Outside of magical assistance, it would seem the best hope for this woman ranger would be to leap away or to one side and then jump to her feet and run to gain distance for a proper shot with her last arrow.

Wow. That's an awful lot of writing and thought about a piece of fantasy art. I could have gone on.

Okay, I will. Just a little more.

The above was my looking at this painting mostly as an individual work of art. When comparing it to other fantasy artwork, again, the realism strikes me. Because honestly, a lot of fantasy art isn't very realistic, even some of that by the better known artists. This particular piece of art seems real, not as if it could happen, but as if it has already happened and we are witnessing an image from the events. Another thing I truly love about this painting when compared to other fantasy art is it's simplicity in story; no multiple wizards fighting an army of dragons here!

Alright. That's enough. I'm beginning to bore even myself.

It's enough to say I love this piece of art. I believe I first ran across it in the late 1980s or early 1990s, and it seems it was somehow related to the Dungeons & Dragons game, but I'm not sure about that as I've not seen this piece of art on any of the covers of the gaming books. Perhaps it was a cover for Dragon magazine or an inside piece of art in one of the gaming books. Artist Daniel R. Horne has gone on to become known for his work in monster masks and sculpture, though it appears he still does some artwork from time to time.

2 comments:

Garry Hamlin said...

Dragon magazine 126. I love it, too. And have for 25 years.

Ty Johnston said...

Gary, thanks for letting me know. Now I can hunt up this edition.

For some reason, I stopped reading Dragon regularly with about issue 100. Gosh, that makes me feel old.