Sunday, June 2, 2013

My Newest Petty Gods Illustration

Below are my latest of my contributions to the Expanded Petty Gods (XPG) project. When I received the assignment email from Greg, the title of the email said "Ariphas, Bartleby and Grunnug." Suddenly, I was transported back to my American lit class from high school, and I said to myself, "I wonder if this is based on Bartleby the Scrivener... the one palatable Melville story of all Melville stories." Then I read the email, and said, "Yup. The very same."

When I tackled Bartleby as an illustration, I knew I didn't want to do an 1800s thing. I wanted to keep visually to the milieu that we associate with classic fantasy RPGs, so I went more "monk-ish." And since I've been digging through a lot of old books lately (like the books that led to the recent Arthur Rackham clip art post), I had a Walter Crane thing in mind. I have a great respect for Crane as book illustrator and writer (more specifically than just an artist). In his book Of the decorative illustration of books old and new, Crane states:

"...I have endeavoured to draw the line between the purely graphic aim, on the one hand, and the ornamental aim on the other—between what I should term the art of pictorial statement and the art of decorative treatment; though there are many cases in which they are combined, as, indead, in all the most complete book-pictures, they should be."

He's really talking about illustrations that have a quality of ornament, rather than being simply renderings of subjects. And, IMHO, nobody has (or ever will) do that better than Walter Crane. My Bartleby illustration (below top) is my my homage to him; and the typeface choice (Troy) is a nod to its creator William Morris (one of the people who inspired Tolkien, and a frequent printer-collaborator with Crane).

The Ariphas illustration (below middle) is a little on the goofier side. I may end up redoing this so it's a little less "cartoony", but I also trust the instincts of my initial thoughts and sketches (like the ones that led me here).

Gnunnug (the illustration below bottom) is actually a listing from the original Petty Gods book that didn't have an illustration. The listing doesn't explicitly say Gnunnug has seven fingers and toes on each limb, but it seemed natural that he wood (being the petty god of the number seven).


  1. Love the drawing. Bartleby looks great. It looks like it should be on a Tarot card, the 8 of feathers.

  2. Yes! Gnunnug gets an illo! (I must admit, I was slightly miffed that mine was one of only a tiny percentage in the Original Petty Gods which didn't have an illustration!)

    Excellent work Richard -- he looks properly hardcore! It appears that someone has just proposed a multi-dimensional algebraic theorem to him which he takes something of a disliking to.


  3. You're spot on with the digits, as well, of course :)

  4. @TS. Thanks. Maybe you can talk Greg into a Petty Gods "Tarot Edition" done as a pack of cards through somebody like Superior POD that does on demand card printing.

    @GN. I'm happy to have done justice to Gnunnug—both in the illustration, and just getting the illustration. But it was Igor Vinicius Sartorato that called out the oversight (as well as some others) to Greg (to be corrected in the XPG project). He deserves the majority of the thanks.