The Art of 4th Edition: Jason A. Engle

For this installment of the The Art of 4th Edition, I want to take a look at Jason Engle, the 31-year old Florida-based artist who provides alluring yet dynamic work for companies such as Alderac Entertainment, Games Workshop, Sony Online Entertainment and of course, Wizards of the Coast. Engle makes use of digital effects to enhance his superb draftsmanship. The results are captivating visuals that employ subtle storytelling techniques.

His work peppers much of the debut material for D&D 4th Edition, beginning with the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide, and extending into many issues of the in-house magazines. He also does a great majority of the cartography work for adventures featured in Dungeon. However, as mentioned in our previous post about Eva Widermann, one of the most important ways to measure the talent of any 4th Edition artist is by determining their ability to illustrate a good dragon. We submit the following evidence to prove that Engle most certainly can:

The thing I like most about Engle’s work is how his style evokes the work of artists like of Keith Parkinson or Frank Frazetta. Granted, he doesn’t have the same picturesque realism of the former, or the visceral intensity of the latter, but it’s a refreshing to see art that does a kind of call back to the fantasy art of yesteryear, especially when so much of today’s fantasy art is embracing the anime look (a look I wholeheartedly enjoy, mind you). Engle’s approach isn’t particularly showy, nor is it filled with wild kinetics. Instead his emphasis is on mood and story.

In his various contributions to Dungeon magazine, he has shown great talent for depicting adventurers in the midst of being adventurous-like. Whether it’s a lone assassin preparing to garrote the life out of a lizardfolk archer, a band of armored champions steadying themselves before oncoming drow or questing heroes fleeing from savage gnolls, Engle’s abilities are used to provide a wonderful visual signifier to any published adventure they can be attached to. If that wasn’t enough, Engle also gets plenty of work due to cartography. Because of his intricate attention to textures, his art frequently graces the maps and tiles that accompany various adventures in Dungeon magazine.

Which isn’t to say that Engle is not capable of creating breathtaking displays of awesomeness; Spectacular visuals delivered straight out of our hyper-caffeinated geek minds. Take for example the series of Giant spreads he produced for the Monster’s Manual. Observe the elemental power that is barely contained in their palms, the brawny might that begins from the shoulder and extends outward. It makes me chuckle to think what it would be like if Engle tried his hand at some extreme Pokemon fan art.

However, my favorite set of works is the series that Engle did to accompany the 4th Edition incarnation of the Vistani, described in multiple articles published in Dragon # 380. There, the Vistani divert from their “the Gypsies of Ravenloft” roots and are instead a supernatural bloodline that spans multiple races. Crunch and fluff-wise, whether one is a dragonborn or dwarf, a player character can choose to be Vistani so long as they share that same cultural and supernatural heritage, one which transcends racial identity. Engle gives the Vistani the kind of aesthetic flavour and mysterious aura that they deserve.

I’ll admit that Engle doesn’t rank as one of my all-time favorites in 4th Edition art, but I simply admire his work because it stands apart from others. Unlike other artists who make use of CG and digital effects, his work is never sterile or awkward. His skill with a stylus is supported by a keen sense of atmosphere, superior figure work, great draftsmanship and an ability to let the picture tell the story.

If you enjoyed this post, kindly consider supporting us by purchasing Infernum: The Art of Jason Engle or any number of 4th Edition D&D products from Amazon.com such as the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Monster Manual or Dungeon Master’s Guide 2.

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