Thursday, February 6, 2014

February Artfest: The Fallen by Larry Elmore

The Fallen by Larry Elmore

During the 1980s Larry Elmore came into prominence with his gorgeous Dungeons and Dragons illustrations that graced the covers of countless TSR products. There's a lot of love out there for Larry's work, deservedly so, but also a fair amount of criticism. Which is why I chose this piece as it typifies both the best and worst of his work. 

The technical mastery is outstanding as this painting is perfect in most every way. The narrative is clear and the juxtaposition of female heroines for male is well done, as always, but where it falls flat is when we come to the emotional connection that we're supposed to feel. While the two women in the foreground are perfect the four women hovering in the background like lingerie modules waiting for their next shoot are the problem. They just seem unnaturally detatched from the scene - especially when you look at the body language of the fellow tending to the horse and of the dying dragon.

Yet even as I make these criticisms let me just acknowledge that Larry is phenomenal and I couldn't hope to produce something that magnificent at this time. He's an inspiration and I love his stuff.

Your thoughts?


  1. I just can't stand Elmore's women (your characterization of them as lingerie models describes my problem with them better than most statements). Which is a problem, since that's pretty much his only subject.

    1. You know it's only the women that he has that problem with too. The men are always posed in natural ways, but the women . . . I know that he's trying to appeal to a certain segment with their poses, but his talent is so much better than that, that I have a hard time with them.

    2. His men are not bad, though I strongly dislike his armor and weapon designs.

      I will say, all of that aside, that I do love his landscapes, and his dragon designs are not awful.

  2. I was at Gen Con one year buying an Elmore print from his both and this nice young woman and someone who was obviously her mother were helping me. The whole time I was stand (waiting for Larry to sign my print) I could shake the feeling that they both looked familiar. I happened to look down at another print and it hit me. These were his models; two generations worth. Above the girl in green was the young woman helping me.

    So yeah he sometimes gets some flak, but the real women in these pictures were very nice.

    1. Oh, I'm sure that they are, and I like Larry Elmore as a person too (never met him, but I've seen enough interviews and read lots of articles about him over the years to make that determination). My problem is that he tends to put his women in poses that are more suited to underwear advertisements then in the scenes he's painting.

      Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that he sucks or anything even close - Larry's one of my favorite D&D artists - I'm just lamenting the fact that with all his phenomenal talent that the women do this.

  3. This is something that's bothered me as well. Because, I mean, his women weren't always so stiff and posed. Remember Aleena? Or some of his classic color pieces, like "Waiting for Shadamehr" or "The Death of Sturm"? These were still posed, sure, but they had vibrancy and life to them.

    I remember encountering criticisms of Elmore's art as being too plastic and unnatural and feeling confused by that sentiment--until I realized that my point of reference was primarily his work done while on staff at TSR, while other folks were looking at his post-TSR freelance work.

    His TSR-era stuff, while still somewhat posed, has looser and more naturalistic quality to it. I have to think that maybe it was the volume of work he was doing at the time, and the need to hit deadlines, that perhaps forced him to not overwork his art. I would hazard a guess that, once he got famous and went freelance, he was able to do fewer pieces and put more work into them, which turned out to not be such a good thing. The art he did for Everquest was particularly awful, IMO.


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