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The Art of What Fire Has Wrought

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  • #16
    Isator asked me to post his posts here for him, because his browser has turned evil:

    Anyway, continuing art impressions:

    The image of Mathar with the mercenary leader looks fine in overall ilustration and colouring, but still a bit bland. Given the descriptions in the writing, I might expect their expressions and postures to depict more feeling of a tense negotiation, but as it is they're a bit too stiff and kind of just showing Dull Surprise. Plus, the angle is a bit weird.

    The next Lookshy picture is much better though; the gunzosha armour looks sufficiently impressive and mystical (with one of the guys clearly having a gem implanted in his forehead and possibly his eyes changed to that colour adding an ominous air), the officer has a nice commanding pose from a position of dominance, and the background details with what looks like a monorail and the warstrider looming over the scene (itself being distinguished by a nicely abstract, even alien, design) all come together to make it an effective and economic depiction of the city's military might.

    I like the depiction of somebody working in an armoury; I find it to be effectively understated, conveying things through the density of weapons and machinery visible in the background, while the focus is on somebody displaying a subtle show of power (yet more uncannily coloured eyes) while interacting with something that hints at the scope of a grand weapon. I think this is something where elements being out of focus and edging out of the frame works in its favour to convey the extent of their possessions.

    I think that the picture of a Grass Spider at work makes effective use of colour to depict their sinister nature. Aaaaand ohh, that previewed picture of the giant skeleton was always meant to be against a Wanasaan. So I like this one more now in its proper context, of giving a sense of the danger that some of the things they might battle against can present, and it is striking in details such as the sheer size of the undead, the Exalt standing their ground and the manner in which sorcery is wielded against it.

    The Temple of Reverent Whispers is one of my favourite concepts from the book, so I appreciate some art showing one of their more extreme devotions in practice.

    Now, Fear-Eater versus Arada. I might say that it's a bit out of place for Arada to be dressed in the manner typical of him as a monk, but that's really just a nitpick, and not as important as the sense of motion and energy to him driving a daiklave through a dangerous opponent. I really like a lot in Fear-Eater's design, especially the realisation of the anima (I may look back at this often when trying to picture them), the circle of runestones, and his head (things like the wrinkled and mildly tattooed face and the think bone earrings). A touch I like is the contrast between the two, as Arada is far older but his face and smoother and more solid, emphasizing his power. I think the soldier off to the right looks a bit out of place, but the other background characters such as the one looking in horror at the slain Solar and the rest of the warriors stopping to take in the duel sell the scene a lot.

    I already gave my thoughts on the signature Hearth's designs in my prior thread, so the one thing that I'll say here is that I kind of would have liked a bit more of Mathar's facial appearance, expression and stance to be in the art for his chapter fiction, or at least enough to make a sharp contrast of attitude and situation. Definitely like Left-Hand Chalima's design more in close up (with the slight exception of the boob window, although that's at least obscured by the crossing straps).

    For the other two pictures in the Traits chapter... I'm not entirely sure what's going on in the blue one, but it looks lovely; the faded blue saturation being another one that gives it a dreamlike quality (which I'm starting to want to run with as a theme in the lives of Dragon Blooded), and I like the character's confident stance and gesture inviting an opponent, as well as her big swooshy cloak. The red image of what I presume is Peleps Deled beating on a raiton person makes for a nice contrast, the colouring and content having a more nightmarish element, a perspective on the violence endemic to the lives of many Dragon Blooded being more raw and gritty. They complement each other very well.
    While my first choice for an illustration of Mnemon's fiction would be showing something from her battle with Novia, her overlooking Jiara in authoritarian contemplation is a close second. I think the angling her effectively conveys this as something with large scope that Mnemon not only wishes to impose her will upon, but might have the strength to do so, effectively making her look dominant rather than small in contrast.

    Really like the way that the archer versus flame piece duellist shows that big splash of deflected fire, being both visually striking in its contrast of light and shadow and conveying Exalted power through stopping such a projectile with an arrow.

    I'm not entirely sure what I'm seeing in the Athletics picture... the guy is trying to grab her, but is strike away by the fiery afterimage? Regardless I like how all of the components look, the afterimage looking effectively threatening and weird, and her own sardonic expression and design of her armour and clothing (plus the big old daiklave strung across her back).

    Skipping the inoffensive Awareness picture... good call on showing Brawl get a bit of Waterbending in, since that's among its more visually striking abilities and satisfies an itch that many have had for a while. And for Graven Stone Edict... first of all, I like the consistency of giving this guy a uniform that identifies him as being of Lookshy, and I think it's useful to show one doing something like this to reinforce a sense of major Dragon Blooded groups having authority over much of the world, and what that might often feel like.

    Okay, a full body shot of Mnemon, still in her signature outfit... I think this one makes some subtle but significant tweaks to the design that both make it look more cohesive as an ensemble, and give it a more authoritative look. The skirts over boots in particular makes her look more solid and commanding than the pajamas. And I love the contrast between her self-satisfied expression as she carves her own effigy with the more stern appearance in stone; in this, I can see the contrast between the authoritative face she presents to the world at large, and the endearingly mean aspect that much of her family has witnessed.

    If I liked Chalima in a pose before, I'm going to really enjoy her in an action scene, looking especially good rising on a pillar of flame while unloading a shot from her flame piece, her expression rather fierce. Her opponent stands out and all, with the hunched built, fur-lined coat and armoured rhino steed.

    Incidentally, I cannot recall if the Third Edition Core did this, but I'm digging this art direction of one picture per Ability to show something properly iconic.

    Oh, spoke a bit too soon. No picture for Integrity and Investigation? That's a pity. Sure, they're slightly more internally focused Abilities, but I think they could have had ways to be represented visually. Still, if there's limited art resources...

    The next image goes with Larceny, but... is not very compelling. It's another one that is fine, but doesn't really convey anything like an Ability to me. A fairly normal (if well-dressed) looking person going about a social scene? This could go just about anywhere.

    Again nothing with Linguistics, but Lore gets a nice picture of an Elemental Bolt, as I like the more elaborate stance to it. I also like the design of the Exalt, as the clothes look stylized enough to be personalized to a rich person, but not overdesigned or highly impractical.

    Medicine is another largely understated one, but I think that helps lend a nice uncanny quality to the image of somebody willing little creepers down to stitch a wound closed. Really conveys that feeling of Dragon Blooded having a mastery over the material, terrestrial world.

    Ohh, that Melee one is very striking; rich, vibrant and complementary colours, a real sense of speed and dexterity, I think it fits the image of Terrestrial Melee to show the Dragon Blood in a more effectively defensive posture, and I like how it captures the size and style in the daiklaves. There's also something a bit intriguing in the sense that these two Exalted look very similar.

    Hmm, with Occult... it's an interesting enough looking scene, but I can't find anything specific to give particular praise to. It's not even bland, it just... effectivly and straightforwardly shows this display of supernatural power in protecting regular folks from violent demons.
    Performance has another nicely cocksure Mathar, effectively complemented by using an instrument to bombard somebody with projectiles, that have a nice look of anime ki attacks to them.

    Nothing for Presence? Pity. Resistance feels much like the Occult one, showing an appropriate supernatural feat but where I have nothing specific to comment on. Not even the dog mutants or spirits or whatever they are.

    Ahh, I really like the level of stylisation in the Roseblack riding upon her horse, with the stark colours, more brushstroke painted look, and her iconic hair bleeding off like that.

    I thiiink the Sail picture could have done with giving some more emphasis to that whirlpool. As it is, I had to examine the picture a few times to even notice it, and it still seems too distant and disconnected from the action (or lack thereof).

    Like the look of a crew of vividly coloured Dragon Blooded hanging out together, and a sense from their expressions and focuses that they all have different attitudes and agendas in this scenario.

    Ahh, killing somebody by stealing their breath. I kind of think this one is hurt a bit by the pdf format that would often have you coming at it from top to bottom: you really want the eye to be draw first to the largest, most prominent face, twisted in a horrible expression, follow the departing breath to see the horrified looks of the bystanders, and then reach the rafters to see the concealed assassin who caused it. Regardless of the placement, the picture itself is very well made in that respect, possibly the best in the chapter.

    Gonna mostly put Thrown down in the same boat as Occult and Resistance, although I do like Eshuvar's jewellery in it.

    And last is War, ending on a high note of showing Arada at his most formidable. I like the touch of him turning back to look at his own army as he rains lightning down upon the opposition, as if his focus is on conveying his might and authority to those who follow him more than focusing on his targets.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
      I'm sure any of them would appreciate being informed that some person wouldn't paint their bedroom walls to look like them.
      Seriously? I’ll just edit my initial post because I’m not sure how I’m supposed to engage in a conversation where this what you’re taking out of it.


      • #18
        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.
        I really like her design, and the artwork on the Earth Aspect-page is great, specifically because of the colors.


        • #19
          I haven't downloaded the pdf yet, as I've just moved house and only have internet on my phone, but these comments are quite interesting so I'm looking forward to comparing them to my own impressions.

          I run... Lunars: The Apocalypse! Exalted 3rd edition. Fimbulwinter is upon the world as an Ice Age begins, and only six young Lunar heroes have a chance of saving humanity.


          • #20
            I'd argue that brown should in fact be the default skin color for heroes: Samson, Moses, Jesus, Heracles, Conan the Cimmerian, Solomon Kane, Kull of Atlantis, all these guys got their share of wandering around in the sun.

            Hell, the pulp Sword-and-Sorcery hero I can recall who is lily-white is Elric of Melniboné, and that's because he's an albino.

            As for the purple hair, that's just A Thing in Creation. All across the world, there are places where mortals and the divine intermingled; unusual hair colors are just a footprint these liaisons have left behind. One of the PCs in my seafaring game was born to a thunderbird, and his hair would change color with his mood.

            (Also indigo is one of the oldest dyes in the world, and works just fine on hair.)
            Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 12-20-2018, 10:36 AM.


            • #21
              I'm irked by the cover as well. Something seems off. The title's too shadowed by the character? The blue/purple contrast with the red backdrop is weird? Wish I could give a better explanation.


              • #22
                Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post


                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.
                Different people, different contexts, different tastes. How someone else feels about what you think of a colour scheme that happens to be the one they like for themselves is entirely irrelevant.
                Please let's not make this anything more than the little footnote that it actually is.


                • #23
                  sorry wrong thread
                  Last edited by Fiikragg; 12-20-2018, 10:08 AM.


                  • #24
                    I love the corebook cover art, but this one, I'm not so hot about, despite recognizing them both as very similar styles. I think it's a certain lack of contrast, particularly in regards to the armor, that gives the art an unpleasant appearance against this background.
                    Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                    I'm sure any of them would appreciate being informed that some person wouldn't paint their bedroom walls to look like them.
                    Well, I for one wouldn't paint my bedroom walls to look like my skin color... well, my white-ass ass wouldn't...

                    Part-time table flipper.


                    • #25
                      Ahh, a window of opportunity opens. Let's stuff a bear through it.
                      Now, the picture for Cynis Cogen versus Almgava. The description of the god's appearance was already pretty good, so the art does a nice job of bringing it to life. Cogen himself looks a lot more fearsome than I was expecting, but I guess it's silly to assume that an Exalt in the latter years of their life would necessarily lose muscle mass. Mostly it's his teeth gritted in that nasty grimace. In any case, it's an effectively brutal looking clash for the start of the martial arts chapter.

                      Hmm, just skiping ahead a bit... okay, fair economical choice of letting a few Immaculate Dragon Styles share illustrations. I think Earth Dragon does get a bit of short shrift when it only gets the look of a guy leaping forwards with a tetsuma, alongside another throwing a lightning-wreathed chakram (I also like the design of the person they're attacking, with the plague doctor mask and the kind of workman's outfit). I also enjoy a lot of the details of Fire and Water together, such as placing two monks alongside one another, the scene being brighter than a lot of other ones with a lot of fire that are very smoky and shadowy, the even division in the panel between the cloud of fire above and coils of water below, and the design of the big serpentine spirit with masks along its length. I'd say that it's thematically fitting for Wood Dragon to stand alone, and it's a nice, freaky depiction of Soul Mastery being inflicted upon a person; I thnk a particularly good detail is the energy discharge through lines across the target's body, as though it's tearing through seams in them.

                      Golden Janissary is fairly straightforward, but I think some of the theme is helped by the practitioner looking relatively young, and it does give the golden light a very nice effect with the beams and shadows it casts, as well as colouration that all comes together to make it feel a bit distinct from the powers of Solar Exalted to me. Aw dang; Mantis I would understand, but I think that it's a real missed opportunity to not have something depicting White Veil Style in use. What about the sorcery then...

                      I think it's an interesting choice to not go too extreme with portraying Keel Cleaves the Clouds, only having a slight amount of mist for the galley to rise off of, and I particularly like the detail of the water falling away from the ram. Wait, is that it there as well?! Come on, it's sorcery, get some flash in there! I think the picture is all right, but if you only get one spell to portray in the whole chapter, I think there might be some better choices... on the other hand, I guess I can see the value of going for something more subtle and uncanny. God knows that's a side of sorcery that I've often wanted to be given more attention. Very well then.

                      Next there's a picture to accompany Chalima's chapter fiction... I'm a bit torn. It's a bit hard to tell, because she's kneeling in profile, but I don't quite think she's got the build and facial shape that she has in the Melissa Uran picture that I like so much, although they're still not rendered in a conventionally attractive manner, so that's good. On the other hand, I think her face does convey the world weariness that she's supposed to have by this point very well. And I think the ghost of her husband is very well made with the colouring, slightly translucent quality and little touches of damage or decay feeling very reminscent to me of ghost illustrations from Geist: the Sin-Eaters, which if nothing else always knew how to depict its ghosts and its underworld.

                      Hmm, take a while to get to an Artifact... the depiction of Faith's Pillar... the weapon itself is a bit more ornate than the impression I was getting from the description, which I think is a bit of a pity as I found the understated, unadorned form was quite fitting for something made for a pious monk, although I do suppose that the flanging makes it look like a more fearsome weapon. Still, the rest is good; the choice to depict the wielder kneeling, the arc of stone crashing down on a creature that is especially weird for being multi-limbed and translucent. The nature and power of the weapon is definitely conveyed.

                      For Sea's Verdict... it's a good looking scene with a sole Exalt standing against a massive sea monster amidst a fearsome storm, and I do appreciate how examining the trident closely lets one make out the little details like the silver tracery and the foaming anima. I've pictured the weapon differently, but it would be silly for me to compare somebody else's art to my private musings. While the scene does show the monster being battered by ocean waves, I would say that the lightning, sharing some colouring with the trident's glowing moonsilver prongs, gives a slight impression that this is a weapon based on shooting electricity rather than crushing with water. That might be nitpicking a bit, though.

                      In contrast, Horizon Cleaver looks almost exactly as I pictured it (eventually, after going through a few iterations of the description and deciding what looked best). I also like several of the pictures's other details, such as the especially ornate armour of the wielder, the rather nasty, warped looking wounds inflicted by the lightning bolts, and the design of the Lunar in opposition; the slight build, odd little dagger and grinning expression in the face of such an onslaught makes this Puckish fellow encompass the image of a Lunar trickster more than pretty much any I've seen.

                      All right, coming to the end. Oh, for River's fiction, it shifts gears to show the Exalted escaping the Imperial Manse. I quite like the depiction of them all at low anima, I don't think that's shown very often (probably because, historically, most of the art isn't in colour, so it doesn't really come across). They look suitably ragged to varying degrees, but I do have mixed feelings about the Lunars. On the one hand, I can get behind the idea that Creation has a wide variety of human phenotypes, some verging on other homo subspecies, and putting those through in art. On the other, when there are three Lunars with much more brutish features even aside from the more overt animal traits, standing to the sides of the more conventionally handsome Solar, it's a bit of an unfortunate look. Still, I can appreciate that sometimes art pieces like this need to employ a bit of shorthand, and it does still wind up as a very striking image that quickly conveys the sense of several Lunars and a solitary Solar having finally broken free.

                      Now, how many characters are getting their own illustrations...

                      Amon Mora looks suitably ornate for somebody of his high office, and I quite like his elaborate haristyle. He's got some good detailing to make him look old and... not powerful so much as firm. I think his bluish white skin is both a good use of a more extreme Aspect marking, and conveys some of his cold personality. I also think the background is very good, the red pannelled wall to give him a sense of being present in his important work place.

                      Ohh, I like Berit. I can't place it, but her appearance reminds me of somebody, somebody I saw in something recently... possibly animated... it might just be one of those faces. Still, I like how she's got a bit of a square jaw, and her hair has a certain wavy quality to it. I find the layered shells of her armour to give a slight impression of some sea crustacean, and like the wave detailing in her daiklave. She also has a nice background, standing at the balcony of her estate overlooking a moonlit ocean.

                      Cathak Cainan is a veteran of the gameline, but I think this one breathes a bit of life into him. In his expression, I think this one looks more like the formidable head of the family and uncompromising governor of satrapies that has often been described. I like how he's in a more energetic, martial stance, and think he's got some of the best armour I've seen in the game; stylized, but not to the point of being distractingly overdesigned or seeming difficult to move in. He's the first one with no background, but I'd chalk that up to the depiction not feeling rooted in a particular place (and indeed, for the prior two, where they were was a big part of their characters).

                      The illustration of Cynis Cogen here is a bit more what I had in mind for him, with his face looking a bit more weathered and slightly gentler, although I'd also say that if one paid attention to things like the set of his shoulders it would be apparent how heavily built he is beneath those robes. I like him having a pack slung over his shoulders, and the hat makes him feel like more of a mendicant. He might be a wandered, but giving him a pastoral background still conveys what he's about.

                      Ledaal Kes is playing a board game, because of course, and... huh. Has anything ever actually described his hair colour before? Between his Aspect and the colourless illustrations, I've always pictured him as blonde, but... even then, black hair is a bit of a departure, that would still be something that would have come across in older pictures. There's nothing wrong with it, just a bit of an adjustment. Anyway, I'd say that Kes is the most normal looking one so far, although his expression is... it's funny, I wouldn't call it dull, but it does have that kind of Mona Lisa effect where I can't quite pin it down, but I know there's something... I'd say he's drawn with an expression that subtly conveys that there's more going on behind his face. He's got a nice background of being in what looks like a parlor, with night visible through the arches at the back.

                      Then there's Mnemon, looking more regal than she ever has before. She's standing tall and firm, her expression really says "arrogant sorceress" to me, and she's got the Emerald Thurible (also looking good, with a nice alien aspect to it suggesting design from Malfeas) in one hand, while the other has gem stones and an ethereal demon dancing around it, and herself wreathed in the green smoke. Her clothing looks a bit more ornate her, but still functional in the manner of the prior illstration, and I think her breast plate looks more effectively protective. This is one of the better pictures for making Mnemon look truly powerful. Like Cathak, her background is blank.

                      Hmm, Ragara Benoru looks very good. In addition to realising that weathered face she's described as having, she's got what looks like a very long braid of iron hair packed upon her head, that gives me a slight impression of a different kind of mendicant even if her vocation is more secular. I like the swan detailing in the stock of her dragon sigh wand sticking out over her shoulder, with just a hint of its ornately designed trigger. And the picture conveys her profession well, with her kneeling over what appears to be an odd looking supernatural murder, with green smoke wisping away from a goblet and knife around a corpse. I have quite a liking for her work clothing, but I'm not sure how to elaborate why...

                      Nagezzer looks good. I think his piece in the Second Edition core made him look a bit too sinister (not helped by the shocking green skin), so here I prefer his slightly more weary, contemplative expression while he reclines on his couches enjoying a hookah. I also think the facial hair styled into individual thin strands is a good look on him, and conveys a distinct sense of Dynastic fashion. His clothes actually look mundane enough to give me the impression of it being a casual outfit for when he's in private, and something about it is very compelling to me compared to the more elaborate robes with large collars he's had in a lot of other places. In the background, I like the detail of the pillars decorated with carved roses.

                      And for Tepet Ejava... it's a good picture, although a comparatively unremarkable one, in that I can find little to remark upon. I do like that she's in a more commanding pose and has a facial expression to match, although I do think her legs are a bit oddly placed. Hers has no background, but I think that it could use one.

                      Finally, to close out the book, there's a picture of the signature Hearth renwing their kinship oath, and this one has a lot of nice touches. The pastel colour scheme of a scene set at twilight gives it a rather spiritual quality, it's got a lovely backdrop of a mountain, lake and rice paddies, and I quite like the choice for each of the Hearth mates to be in silhouette but for the Aspect coded colours at their hearts, lending a somber tone to the whole thing.

                      Yes, overall, the art direction here has been quite good. Lots of well composed illustrations, generally good choices in scenes to depict, and a nice variety of styles to convey a number of tones, from gritty to ethereal.

                      I have approximate knowledge of many things.
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                      • #26
                        I actually really like the cover art, and I wasn't too fond of the Core's. Although, thanks to this piece making it a set/theme I can appreciate the core a little more.

                        If Mel Uran wasn't so awesome, I would almost point to this as the best depiction of Kingfisher Swift.

                        I actually found myself just staring at it in full screen. The contrast is one of my favorite parts. Even with the impressionist style I could still pick out the facial features, and get a sense of Swift as a character.

                        One thing though, having looked at this on multiple monitors now, is that it is somewhat sensitive to monitor settings On my laptop screen it was less impressive, but when I view it on my big monitor it is great.

                        Raksha are my fae-vorite.

                        Reincarnation of magnificentmomo.


                        • #27
                          And it's gone again. Fuck.

                          Okay, here's where I'm coming from with Kingfisher Swift:

                          She was something like the fourth example, from a number of different sources, where I had noticed a black woman with pastel-coloured hair. That was enough to make it seem to me like a Thing. Sure enough, looking into it as a result of this conversation, it's been a bit of a fashion trend among black women in 2018, so I'm assessing the character's appearance primarily as a form of representation, rather than aesthetics. Like, yeah, different people have different tastes. Apparently, a lot of black women have a taste for hair of that colour. So maybe in depicting a black woman, one should be following their standards for how they want to look.

                          The other side of it is how policing the hair of black women in particular is something with a long and ugly history. I'm freaking Irish, and my sister has a close friend who has had several experiences of people touching her natural hair without permission or solicitation, as well as often feeling a need to conceal her hair under a straight haired wig. I don't even know what kinds of experiences some of my cousins have had over their hair, but I doubt it's nothing.

                          So when I see that kind of commentary, it raises my ire a bit, and I dispute that this is solely a matter of artistic discussion, because it relates to the depiction of a human being.

                          I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                          Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
                 Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)


                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                            Ahh, a window of opportunity opens. Let's stuff a bear through it.
                            Now, the picture for Cynis Cogen versus Almgava. The description of the god's appearance was already pretty good, so the art does a nice job of bringing it to life. Cogen himself looks a lot more fearsome than I was expecting, but I guess it's silly to assume that an Exalt in the latter years of their life would necessarily lose muscle mass. Mostly it's his teeth gritted in that nasty grimace. In any case, it's an effectively brutal looking clash for the start of the martial arts chapter.
                            Fun fact: We went back and upped Cogen's Strength-based pools when that illustration came in.

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Robert Vance View Post
                              Fun fact: We went back and upped Cogen's Strength-based pools when that illustration came in.
                              Heh, what a world.

                              I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                              Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
                     Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)


                              • #30
                                The cover literally makes my eyes hurt. My eyes struggle to put the image into focus and after a while it starts to get painful.