The Art of 4th Edition: Steve Argyle

For those of you who have read the past installments of The Art of 4th Edition, you may recall that one of the key criteria in deciding which artists we feature is The Dragon Factor. That is to say, an artist’s ability to depict in awesome ways, the pure awesome of dragons is a prime consideration for whether or not this blog spotlights them.

Well, I was browsing through the Dragon magazines again and saw the cover for no. 368. It features a whole posse of dragonborn being led by a dragonborn barbarian raging with the primal spirit of a dragon. The only way it could be more awesome if said dragonborn was riding a dragon and fighting another dragonborn on a dragon.

The cover is one of the more excellent works produced by Steve Argyle, the Utah-based illustrator with slick CG skills and evocative character work. Born in 1977, Argyle, by his own reckoning, got his start by essentially conning his way into a CG studio gig and pretending he knew how to use 3D Studio Max. A week before his first day, he locked himself in a room with the user manual.

A humble and self-deprecating creative, Argyle’s work is best known in the hobby gaming circles to players of Legend of the Five Rings, where he made a mark with his striking sense of color and lighting, and an important L5R requirement: scantily clad Asian women with a special emphasis on face paint and firm and supple posteriors. Still, cheesecake aside, his L5R highlights his best qualities: moody lighting, vibrant color and quality action poses.

And the dragon comes into the niiiiight!

The work of Argyle’s which most 4th Edition players probably took note of was the side art for the races of Player’s Handbook 2. While the first Player’s Handbook featured great racial art from people like Eva Widermann and William O’Connor, the art direction for those pages lacked a certain degree of consistency. In PHB 2, Argyle depicts gnomes, devas and shifters with a uniform sense of presence and drama. And he doesn’t need blood-splattered boobs to do it.

Despite his polish, Argyle’s lines and drafting seem to go by instinct, indicating an improvisational aspect of his craft. This, combined with his confidence in mood, color and lighting makes his art very striking and eye-catching. My personal favorite from his work for 4th Edition includes the race-class spread from PHB2 (depicted on the right) and the Death Knight of Orcus from the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

The thing I admire most about Argyle’s work is that his use of the hyper-real qualities of CG never overshadows the importance of quality posing and the sense of the fantastic. Simply put: Argyle never forgets that it is not ‘realism’ and ‘believability’ that is crucial to his D&D output, but wonder and awe.

If you enjoyed reading about Steve Argyle and seeing his works, you should consider supporting us by purchasing EXOTIQUE 5: The World’s Most Beautiful CG Characters, which features works by CG artists including Steve Argyle. You can also purchase D&D 4th Edition books such as Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 or Player’s Handbook 2: Arcane, Divine and Primal Heroes which feature the art of Steve Argyle.


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