Saturday, March 29, 2014

Domestic Dürer Dead

This week saw the passing of David A. Trampier, an artist whose work always reminded me of the woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer and Gustave Doré. Trampier's black and white line work was obsessively detailed and richly conveyed light and texture. He was also co-designer of the board game Titan. Trampier's world was one of hard-bitten, opportunistic adventurers (including seeming self-inserts, like the bearded chap here):

And sophisticated monsters:

Note the shoutout to wacky boardgame Snit Smashing in the lower right-hand corner...

And the perils of living in a world in which you're not necessarily on the top of the food chain:

Dave Trampier was also a gifted comic artist, whose Wormy comic portrayed the everyday lives of monsters in a sympathetic light (Eskov's The Last Ringbearer mines similar territory). The monsters is Wormy, aside from the eponymous, conniving game-hustler dragon, were working stiffs, just trying to live their lives in peace, for the most part. "Tramp" was able to portray his "other" characters with genuine pathos- one of my particular favorite sequences has his most sympathetic characters going from sorrow to relief (and comic relief) in the space of a few panels. One of his most beautiful pieces is the coda to this sequence, in which his intrepid duo makes their triumphant arrival in Toadtown:

In the mid-80s, Tramp gave up his art career, even leaving his checks uncashed (it's commonly thought that he felt that he was screwed over by his employer. About fifteen years later, he was featured in a newspaper profile of late-night taxi drivers in Carbondale, Illinois. After being located, he was courted by fans but declined all overtures and offers of work. In one of life's tragic ironies, he may have been planning a return to the art and gaming communities in the months before his passing.

RIP, DAT! It's a pity to have lost you twice. Your intricate art fired the imaginations of legions of fans... it's a pity that the majority of us were too young to shower you with financial success to equal our esteem for your work.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I remember this one.

I never played D&D, but I did play an online MUD for a while that was one of many based on it.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

That's the stuff, thunder!

Smut Clyde said...

To put it in terms that people like me understand... without Trampier there would have been no Oglaf.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

To put it in terms that people like me understand... without Trampier there would have been no Oglaf.

Probably not. Trampier left his mark on countless fantasy artists, short as his career was.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

This quote from "Pickman's Model" is appropriate:

You know, it takes profound art and profound insight into Nature to turn out stuff like Pickman's. Any magazine-cover hack can splash paint around wildly and call it a nightmare or a Witches' Sabbath or a portrait of the devil, but only a great painter can make such a thing really scare or ring true. That's because only a real artist knows the actual anatomy of the terrible or the physiology of fear- the exact sort of lines and proportions that connect up with latent instincts or hereditary memories of fright, and the proper colour contrasts and lighting effects to stir the dormant sense of strangeness. I don't have to tell you why a Fuseli really brings a shiver while a cheap ghost-story frontispiece merely makes us laugh. There's something those fellows catch- beyond life- that they're able to make us catch for a second. Doré had it. Sime has it. Angarola of Chicago has it. And Pickman had it as no man ever had it before or- I hope to Heaven- ever will again.

Trampier had it.