Tuesday, 18 January 2011
I first discovered the art of Gary Chalk in the classic Lone Wolf gamebook Fire On The Water and was immediately smitten. He has a very unique style which is immediately recognisable and I believe what I really love about his art is that, despite the stylization and occasional less-than-perfect proportions, it has a strong element of verisimilitude. Chalk clearly thinks very hard about the small details and so the costume, architecture, heraldry and panoply of war are all excellent and create a strong impression that the world in which his art is set is a real place. They all work and can be believed in. It manages to be grounded in reality and still be a world of magic and impossible creatures.
It's telling that once he stopped illustrating Lone Wolf I lost all interest in the series. Replacement artist Brian Williams is pretty damn good (I loved his work on The Riddling Reaver and Trial of Champions for example) but he wasn't how I saw Magnamund, the world of Lone Wolf. It was clearly how Joe Dever saw Magnamund, Williams being his original choice to illustrate Flight From The Dark, but not for me. In fact, standing in WHSmiths Wolverhampton, armed with a birthday book voucher and primed to buy the next book in the series I couldn't and put The Cauldron of Fear back on the shelf and didn't buy another for about three years. Even now, I'd have loved to have seen how Chalk would have penned the illos for the later books.
I've long suspected that Chalk was a influence upon the WFRP world (which I distinguish from the Warhammer Battle world as they were never quite the same place, being tweaked for their individual games) becoming a Renaissance culture and not merely a late medieval one. He did a lot of illustrations in early Dwarf (such as the classic AD&D Irillian campaign) and the original version of Talisman all in his style of slightly later costume and accoutrements than the usual cod-middle ages that everyone else except Blanche was doing.
Like Russ Nicholson's work there is a large chunk of the gaming section of my brain that is firmly wedded to the idea that RPGs Look Like This.