The Bazaar #24: Artist Review (Larry MacDougall)
When the Rifts RPG first came out, it was a wild, post-Apocalyptic mash-up of technology, magic, psionics, demons and monsters scrambling for supremacy, or just trying to eke out their existence. One of the premiere elements that aided in the success of Rifts was the artwork. Some of it was clean and crisp, others dirty and grimy. For me, it was the latter that really gave me the sense of what Rifts was going to be in the games I GM’d. I loved the idea of a small party of mercenaries, fighting tooth and nail against all odds to try to get a job done. One of the premiere artists to give me that vibe was the art of Larry MacDougall, which you’ll find in the original Rifts RPG; it seems they decided not to include Larry’s work in the Rifts Ultimate Edition, which I feel is a shame. I can only assume that Kevin Siembieda and Rifts in general had moved away from the gritty, grimy post-apocalyptic setting.
BODY OF WORK
Larry MacDougall’s artistic influence with Palladium Books certainly wasn’t limited to Rifts; he did support the artwork requirements for Palladium Fantasy across several titles. For Rifts though, we find most of his contributions in the Rifts RPG and Sourcebook 1. As I mentioned before, some of those entries had a long-lasting effect on future artwork – the Mountaineer ATV and the Larmac D-Bee just to name a few. I would argue that his image for the Headhunter is one of the defining pieces of the Rifts RPG.
During the heyday of post-apocalyptic RPGS in the late 80s and into the 90s, one can find his influence in the Shadowrun, GURPS, Earthdawn, Vampire: The Masquarade, and several other releases at that time. The style is easy to recognize, and he appears to remain relatively active.
Lastly, I would be remiss to mention his DeviantArt page. You won’t find any of the gritty science fiction and cyberpunk images from Rifts or Shadownrun, but the quality of his pencil work and water colouring is marvellous.
Visual Elements. With the exception of the coloured sketches of the Operator and Psi-Stalker (Rifts RPG, page 160), Larry MacDougall’s work for Palladium Books were pretty much strictly in the black and white realm. The line work, shapes and forms are clean, but provide a grittiness to the tone of his illustrations that I always found quite appealing. My instinctive response is that these pieces speak of the common folk, a desperation as humanity fights for the scraps of technology they could muster, working around the crumbling remnants of their ancestors. There is a visceral danger there, something the subjects are just a step or two ahead of; one false step or wrong move, and they face their ruin.
Influence on Rifts. Some of Larry MacDougall’s work and influences continues in Rifts to this day, despite his original illustrations no longer part of the publications. Some of the most iconic vehicles and robots were drawn from his design: the Mountaineer ATV sees itself reinvented time and again. Many of the original vehicles (motorcycles, ATVs and robots) continued through to newer artists, and some of the more recognizable D-Bees and monsters from the early years of Rifts could be associated with him.
One of the original contributors to Rifts RPG art, I don't think I can over-state his impact on my appreciation for the game in general, and the nuanced atmosphere his art provided. These are not the clean lines presented by Kevin Long and others; they are gritty and speak to the struggle of humanity (at least those not in the luxury of Chi-Town), in some cases garish and threatening (the Withcling and Black Fairie).
I will not be assigning ratings or marks to the artists reviewed as part of this series. The impact of an artist is entirely a personal experience. I am not an art major, nor would I think to cheapen the experience and efforts of the artists that submitted their work in order to support Rifts. The aim of these posts is to celebrate the artists’ contributions to the Rifts RPG, from the very beginning up to today. I’ll be doing other reviews and selectively choosing some of my favourite pieces for display; an homage to the artist for the pieces they have provided, the inspiration they have generated, and the additional elements their artwork has provided to the role-playing experience in general.
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