EventEvent - Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, The Art of Keith Parkinson

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes

Developer: Sigil
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment

Release Date: 01/30/2007


Genre: MMO
Setting: fantasy

I suspect it will not be in my lifetime that you'll find a Boris Vallejo painting hanging in the Louvre - no matter how many calendars he sells each year. Although Tolkien's The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings have sold more than 100 million copies, it took Peter Jackson's films to make them "literature"; any student of language who's spent time with the trilogy will argue they were long ago. It's odd. Science Fiction, perhaps because it has its roots in science, received its "due" early on. We can see images from Hubble that look like what we envisioned in Star Trek long ago. But Fantasy is still that - fantasy. Although it ignites the imagination - for reasons I comprehend but don't agree with - it's still being given a back seat to more "mainstream" and in some cases downright strange forms of art. This month, the Art Institutes began a nationwide tour entitled, The Masters of Fantasy Art - A Tribute to Keith Parkinson.

The setting for the evening is rather important. It's two days after the retail release of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Very few developers - well, no actual developers - are there. There's PR, CS - Nick Parkinson, Keith's son - Jeff Butler, President, and a few people who weren't key to operations. Sony is there in full support; friends of Sigil and Sony; press, friends and family; art critics; members from The Art Institutes; and the owners of the amazing gallery where the showing is being held, the Terra San Francisco.

The room is wide open, high ceilings, wood floors, bright yet soft lighting. On one end we have kiosks with Vanguard running to play at will (near the bar, of course!). Around the perimeter are the works or Keith Parkinson and a few of Larry Elmore, lifelong friend of Keith.

The works are originals - book covers, Everquest art, and few that he painted just for himself. It's interesting to note that Firiona Fie was found as a model for EQ when she was dressed as Lara Croft! Next to those that were commissioned for specific purposes (such as a book cover), were the books themselves. Each has note from Keith

Jeff Woleslagel, of TenTonHammer.com, and I spend more than an hour walking the room, viewing the pieces, determining what we like best. The colors were amazing vibrant and Jeff and I both commented that it was odd…but there was so little depth; the paintings didn't necessarily resemble what we remembered from box art or books. Then we'd look at the final media and the depth would show through. Neither of us had ever considered that the work that was to be scaled down required such a different perspective.

Then there were the pieces that Keith had painted for himself. Fine details, depth, dark colors and they were alive; some where humorous. There was still that same vibrancy of color but they weren't so surreal. What's the saying? "The work we do for ourselves is so much better than the work we do for others?"

Near the end of the exhibit the style of the work changed significantly. Having seen other exhibits (and hearing the backwoods accent) I knew we'd come upon Larry Elmore, for Jeff this was a treat. Larry is a very warm, open and friendly man. I suppose if you were to stereotype a man in his 50's from Kentucky, he'd fit it. Mid-height and weight, white thinning hair, white beard and mustache, tan, wrinkled skin from time in the sun, wearing a camel hair jacket, jeans and pointed boots. He's got kind and laughing eyes. He's not embarrassed to take pictures (do artists fade from light like their paintings?) and he'll ask you how your evening is before you ever get the chance to say hello to him.

We spent time talking to Larry about his days at TSR with Keith. They worked well together, even after they left. In Larry's words, "I could draw, but I had no eye for color. Keith couldn't draw but had a knack for color that left me baffled." They just clicked. And apparently, working with the small canvasses they were given 15-20 years ago it made all the difference in the world to have each other to bounce ideas off of.

Larry pointed out a specific painting of Keith's, What Do You Mean We're Lost?, that couldn't have been more than 3' X 2'. He said it amazed him how large everything had grown. He remembered it being so much larger; but Nick, Keith's son, assured him that no, that was the original. And yet, on the wall behind Larry were paintings twice that size. Back in the days of TSR they worked with images that could be larger than 10" square. Now, they work on 4 ft canvasses. Things had changed. It was obvious Larry missed his friend.

And Nick missed his father.

I recognized a book I'd read, Rusalka by CJ Cherrhy. The title and author had got my attention because I like Russian folktales, but the cover sold me. Keith had painted it. I'll miss that.

Keith spent several years with Sigil directing the look of Vanguard and it shows in the style. It shows because it has style. He remains their art director posthumously. And perhaps, with this first traveling show, the world can see just how beautiful the imagination and fantasy really can be.

Enter our Vangard: Saga of Heroes Autographed Poster Giveaway!

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About the Author, Kelly Heckman (A.K.A Ophelea)

I'm a mother of two boys, ages 11 and 13 and live in the chaos that ensues. I've a permanent disability that keeps me homebound, so books, kids, games and books are my constant companions. Oh, and books, too. *grins*

My children both play games so I often play them first, getting to know exactly how something may effect my sensitive and easily stimulated older child vs. my stoic and imperturbable younger.

I like games for games; for the pure enjoyment of them and believe that no game is wholly bad, though some are real stinkers.

I also have the dexterity of a camel in mittens so find playing FPSs difficult (and I also don't like the gore) and RTSs at times can stump me. I just can't seem to move quickly enough to keep up with them. Some of my favorite games are arcade games and I'll spend 3-5 years on the same 5-6 levels because I just never get any better. But, I have fun.