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  • The Art of What Fire Has Wrought

    Having talked about the text of the book in thorough detail, I wanted to come back and give my take on and reactions to the full art, now that it's been added to it. I'll do so with no particular chapter breakdowns.
    First off, the cover. If this is going to be the style for the Exalted hardbacks, I’m all for it; nice minimalist element while making a major character very prominent. I think Kingfisher Swift looks especially classy here.

    I think it effectively captures the mood of the opening fiction to have the understated monochrome freeze frame of the pivotal action scene. My one criticism would be that I feel as though the Lunar’s beast head looks a bit too much like a mask, although that’s largely informed by familiarity with King from… Tekken?

    In the spirit of a greater variety in art styles, I appreciate having another instance of something resembling a Mesoamerican piece, as well as the element of abstraction, in depicting the Immaculate Dragons sealing away the Solars (particularly the touch of the complementary Elemental Dragons in the background). I like the touches of distinguishing the Immaculates by something like head dresses, and how the Dragons seem to have canine figures, but would criticise the fact that all of the people in it appear to be masculine; that’s a bit borderline for Danaa’d, but I think there’s no excuse for Mela having a beard.

    I think the Scarlet Empress piece complements the one from the opening quite well, with their understated, washed out figures contrasted against her larger-than-life, saturated, garishly coloured self and retinue. I also like the design on her robes.

    The illustration of a Shogunate battle does a nice job of taking what would seem sci-fi and rooting it in a more fantasy aesthetic, especially the temple-like airship falling in the background.
    I find the picture of the child first awakening to power doing a good job of conveying the mix of elation and terror in that, not so much from the direct expressions as the subtle differences in character model between normal people and the Exalted character; the juxtaposition creates this uncanny effect to the central one. The lighting from the flames helps accentuate it.

    Okay, art pieces for various Dragon Blooded groups. If I’m honest, the Scarlet Dynasty one is a bit underwhelming. Sure, I’d seen this one in preview, and it looked fine in isolation, but as the representation of the main Dragon Blooded group? It’s not bad or anything, but it lacks a certain flair. Part of it is just how dour everybody looks. I can see how the armour is gilded, but somehow in the setting of Exalted, I feel as though that doesn’t quite manage to convey ostentatious wealth. Also, the Fire and Earth Aspects look way too similar.

    Lookshy does a lot better, I think. The five characters are much more visually distinct, they actually get to make the sense of sharing a common uniform work for them (part of that being how uniformity informs character in Lookshy), there are sufficient differences in expression and posture, and it’s helped by the inclusion of some more of those sci-fi by way of fantasy elements (I especially like the Sark from Tron-esque power armour, which is just abstract enough to be more visually interesting than usual takes on power armour) and being overlooked by the city’s elevated structures and their ominous guns.

    The Prasadi one I’d also seen before, and it’s fairly good for conveying their distinct differences in fashion, and it’s a fun enough image for them to be walking through a street with their respective expressions, but a bit sparse. The Forest Witch one does a lot more, with its conveyance of ominous elements such as the warped forest contrasted against the wondrous reflection, how the living Exalted all look a bit haunted, and the very nice touch of the reflection including a couple of the dead. I also like how it updates some previous character designs for this style, and the diversity in appearances conveys them as drawing from multiple sources. The Outcastes one is similarly effective in the diversity regard, which in fairness is all it can really have going for it.

    Nellens Leferi versus Sesus Daral isn’t how I would have pictured it, but the actual style of the picture is vey good. Between the elaborate cut and colour in the clothing, and the watercolour style, as well as the image of casually supping in the middle of a party after having just beaten somebody down, I find this to effectively convey the tone of the Scarlet Dynasty much more than the prior piece.

    Going past the Cathak art (straightforwardly good, what looks like a typical scene for their House), the Cynis one has similar merits to the one going with the fiction… Oh, I really like this design for Mnemon. I think in the past, even if it was fitting for its respective styles, the more cartoonish elements made it a bit hard to fully visualise her as impressive and fearsome matriarch of her House (when they weren’t just plain bad, like in Scroll of Exalts), so I think something more understated and realistic, with a stern expression, gets that across well. I also think it’s a good call to explicitly give her the typical ethnic features of the Blessed Isle (barring the hair), just to give a bit more prominence to that among the Scarlet Dynasty. Given the emphasis on her as an architect, I also like placing her alongside an ornate building.

    The Nellens scene… another one that looks well made and fitting to the subject, but otherwise unremarkable (to be clear, there’s no complaints in the unremarkable, some of them don’t need more than to fit their space). The uniform in the Peleps one might be a bit (equivalent of) anachronistic, but that’s a minor concern compared to selling the image of them as purveyors of high seas adventure. For Ragara… I like the prominent rings giving a splash of colour, and maybe a sense of hidden elaborate power, to the otherwise relatively mundane scene of a creditor and debtor; at least the creditor looks fairly sharply dressed and groomed. And I like the variety of masks for the secret ominous council for Sesus.

    Ahh, okay, the V’neef one is very good. It’s not only depicting a pivotal scene of Realm history, one around which the House revolves (and in so doing conveys a sense of important ceremony behind a major event of the Realm), as well as a bit of character in the expression of the Empress as she hands her token to her prostrate daughter, but the vibrant colours also make it very nice to look at. I’m ready to call this as the best illustration for a Great House.

    Yeah, the Iselsi one… I’d put as second, the colouring and imagery making that ritual of House culture look effectively creepy.

    And then there’s the map of the Blessed Isle. I like the detailing there, as I think the textures convey a lot of character to the landscape. I can look all over this thing, and derive a variety of local cultures dependent on things like roads, region names and the geography. It’s a map with some meat on its bones, rather than just a shape dotted with place names. I especially like the verdant region at the end of the big inlet on the east, nestled in the crescent of mountains.


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  • #2
    Hmm, I think the Life in the Scarlet Dynasty chapter is hurt a bit by its particular lack of art, if only for breaking up some long sections of detailed text. On the other hand, I can appreciate the possibility that the density of that text, including a large number of sidebars, might cut off a lot of space for pictures. Still, it's a pity; the upbringing is distinct and colourful enough that I think it could do with some visual complements.

    As to what is there, I get something out of the one accompanying the Heptagram; I find depictions of blood apes to be a mixed bag, but think the one here manages an effective balance of ape-like, monstrous, deranged and powerful, compared to ones that made it a bit too mundane and ones where it didn't feel particularly ape-like.

    I'm not sure what to make of the wedding picture; it's well made, and the contrasting colours are very striking, but it seems curiously dour and understated for a Dynastic wedding, and I'm not sure whether or not to read the bride's dress (and the way that she seems to be the only woman present) as something conveying power, or an artist who didn't get the memo on what the cultural context is.

    I think that the scene depicting a Found Egg making the choice for their future is very effectively staged, with the lighting and the authority coming from the monks and overall sense of ceremony, although I personally wish that the razor had been something less... modern looking.

    Aaaaand… that's the end of that chapter.


    I have approximate knowledge of many things.
    Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
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    • #3
      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
      In the spirit of a greater variety in art styles, I appreciate having another instance of something resembling a Mesoamerican piece, as well as the element of abstraction, in depicting the Immaculate Dragons sealing away the Solars (particularly the touch of the complementary Elemental Dragons in the background). I like the touches of distinguishing the Immaculates by something like head dresses, and how the Dragons seem to have canine figures, but would criticise the fact that all of the people in it appear to be masculine; that’s a bit borderline for Danaa’d, but I think there’s no excuse for Mela having a beard.
      I don't have our original art notes on hand, so I can't give specifics about what was intended or expressed to the artists, but that piece wasn't intended to depict the Immaculate Dragons.


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      • #4
        I think so far the Forest Witches art is the one that wowed me the most, but its a really good looking book in general.
        Last edited by Therian; 12-19-2018, 04:26 PM.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Eric Minton View Post
          I don't have our original art notes on hand, so I can't give specifics about what was intended or expressed to the artists, but that piece wasn't intended to depict the Immaculate Dragons.
          That's fair.


          I have approximate knowledge of many things.
          Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
          https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDtbr08HW8RW4jOHN881YA3yRZBV4lpYw Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)

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          • #6
            I honestly am underwhelmed with a lot of the artwork in general. I'm ranking them here relative to each other, but generally the art is less impressive than what I'd expect in most rpgs.
            I also am pretty unhappy with the cover. This cover would stop me from picking it up in a store.

            While I'm not a fan of the art style used on 10 and 15, it kind of works for 10. 15 is alright, but a few of the others in the book are just boring. But I'm ok with this art style, though I don't enjoy it.
            If I could choose, I'd want most of the art to be like page 17.
            23 is pretty but does not at all convey the majesty of the Scarlet Dynasty.
            25 is drawn well but I dislike the city looking so greek rather than the japanese style I associate with Lookshye. The characters are ok, though I don't like the guy in the black&blue armor. I wish it were either more magical or more magitech. It looks like it's trying to please both styles, accomplishing neither.
            27 is perfect for me. It's strong, tells me what culture to expect in Prasad and shows two characters that are very different to each other in a dynamic motion. I really like this one.
            29 looks really badly drawn. I'm surprised this was actually a comissioned piece of art.
            31 is good. It shows diverse concepts, from different cultures.
            33 I like the idea of the scene and the colors, but I'm not a fan of the art style.
            56 Not as pretty as I'd like but a great scene and not badly drawn either,

            I'll do the rest without writing a sentence for each, ranking them instead:

            71, 152 Amazing
            63, 144, 183, 202, 326, I like it very much
            38, 46, 87, 116, 141, 150, 167, 229, 281, 285, Great
            49, 125, 155, 161, 167, 173, 177, 240, 259, 270, 300, 303, 333, I like it
            67, 81, 170, 222, 249, 294, 322, 339, 363 Ok
            102, 109, 111, 121, 232, Alright
            53, 131, 215, Good enough
            41, 128, 135, 146, 156-157, 191, 262-263, 278, 288, meh
            60, 96, 155, 310, 315, 340-357, Boring
            74-75, 92, 148, 253, Ugly/bad


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            • #7
              There is a lot of really good pieces of art in this book. The cover is not one of them. I would go so far as to say the cover is the worst piece of art in the book. The image looks fuzzy kind of like an out of focus photograph. The foreground colors clash with the background, particularly the purple hair is quite harsh.

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              • #8
                I believe the art on the cover is meant to keep in line with the art on the cover of the Core book. I wouldn't be surprised to see that style continue for the rest of the splat books for consistency sake.


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                • #9
                  The art made me so so happy!

                  I feel like it did alot to communicate the worldview of a Dragon-Blooded. Their kin were glorious, flush with colour and life while their foes are usually drawn as nondescript, villainous or outright pathetic (pg.339 Lunars and Solar look more like underfed slaves ready to keel over than a threat), and I think this does wonders for communicating the view of opposing forces from the perspective of your standard Terrestrial. Its probably accidental but you could also note that the DBs illustrated in the splat-page in the core look more like angry elemental gods than people (a reasonable perspective from a desperate solar).

                  While I echo that the Dynasts pg.23 look just a touch disappointing but all of the other pics summarizing each group are stuffed with character and really personify what each are very well (although the magitech armor (an aesthetic I love) looks weird in draw style for the Lookshy picture, especially the helmet's shape).

                  My favorite thing is by far the mix in styles however, I don't get any of the magitech-phobia I was concerned about beforehand (Warstriders and the few FA stuff felt a bit disconnected in Arms from the rest of the book at times) without it poisoning the rest of it. There were traces of the aesthetic here and there and aside from the Magitech armour on pg.25, it all looked as it belonged in the general themes rather than fighting against it. The best image for me was really the image on pg.111, the Gunzosha look like they are balanced on the perfect place between human and something that is sure as hell not and I adore it!

                  Forgot to mention that the QC section seemed to embrace the 1ed style in a way that really reminded me of the 1ed Aspect Books, which just made my day!

                  Fantastic over all and it really makes me excited for the art in Lunars.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                    First off, the cover. If this is going to be the style for the Exalted hardbacks, I’m all for it
                    Couldn't agree less.

                    Originally posted by Edward Eldritch View Post
                    I honestly am underwhelmed with a lot of the artwork in general. /.../ generally the art is less impressive than what I'd expect in most rpgs.
                    I also am pretty unhappy with the cover. This cover would stop me from picking it up in a store.
                    Couldn't agree more.

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                    • #11
                      I gotta say that I was really surprised by the cover art. I admit I'm glad they're continuing the style that the core cover has, though I wasn't expecting that. However, this cover frankly looks unfinished to me; it's fuzzy, and doesn't have the dynamism the core's has that makes the "blur" look like movement.

                      Originally posted by Edward Eldritch View Post
                      I also am pretty unhappy with the cover. This cover would stop me from picking it up in a store.
                      This also might be a signature character so this isn't a hill I'll die on, but the purple hair makes her look cartoonish to me rather than an epic, divine hero. I wouldn't pick it up either, unless I was looking for something deliberately more lighthearted like BESM.

                      Thumbs up for most of the interior art, though.
                      Last edited by reseru; 12-20-2018, 09:02 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Okay, so for some bullshit reason, I keep being unable to post on the forums, with any time I'm logged on being unable to type into the reply boxes; I'm using my phone right now, which is inadequate for the lengthy posts I intend. Has anybody else had this problem?

                        Still, there is one thing I can get out that is suitably brief:

                        Originally posted by reseru View Post
                        the brown skin and purple hair makes her look like a cartoon to me rather than an epic, divine hero.
                        What the fuck?!?!


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                        • #13
                          It’s the contrast of brown and purple that, in my opinion, doesn’t look good together. It doesn’t have to do with skin tone, it has to do with how I wouldn’t paint my bedroom those two colors, and it has to do with how the purple tone looks cartoonish.

                          Ease up.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by reseru View Post
                            Ease up.
                            No.

                            I'm aware of several actual black women who have died their hair in that tone, including a few in the public eye, so perhaps Kingfisher Swift is modelled off of one of those. I'm sure any of them would appreciate being informed that some person wouldn't paint their bedroom walls to look like them.


                            I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                            Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
                            https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDtbr08HW8RW4jOHN881YA3yRZBV4lpYw Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)

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                            • #15
                              Wait, isn't it supposed to be a cartoon? I actually enjoy a lot of the colors on the cover especially the way it contrasts with the core book cover.
                              Last edited by Ostarion; 12-20-2018, 08:05 AM.


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