A few nights ago while wrapping up a game, I realized something...my drawings are ugly. Misshapen, lump ridden, fluid oozing, splotchy, wall-eyed. At their best simply just visually maladjusted. My technique is both amateurish and unpleasant. This is not entirely through lack of skill.
These drawings, the ombudsmen of my DIY RPG has been online for a while now. I do not get comments on my drawings. (I used to drive a Charger painted camouflage. No one ever commented on that either. Par for the course).
My illustrations are purposeful, they are faithful representations of my game reality. I like them the same way that rust blossoms from underneath a protective coating. It brings to mind something my mom once said about my artwork, that it “glorified war and objectified women”.
I read a lot. In between books two and three of the Dune sextilogy, I read a Zine called Rocket Queen. It’s authored by a stripper who writes about her vocation. In the second issue she talks about “The Whore of Babylon” and I quote “The whore as a symbol is a shortcut. A lack of imagination supplemented with an easy metaphor.” This struck a chord with me and partially clarified why I make everything in my game ugly.
Ugliness is a great leveler. In this world we allow ourselves to be conditioned by the trope of beauty. In the world of RPG’s beautiful imagery becomes an “easy metaphor” which encourage “a lack of imagination”. Beauty = Power. So shortsighted and dull. Why can’t Galadriel have buck teeth? Wonder Woman with a huge proboscis and a uni-brow? If anyone deserves a hump, it’s Maleficent. Alas, I am truly beating a dead horse.
Everything in my game is riddled with a flaws. One table might inform you that you have a “head shaped like rotted fruit”. You can elect to take the skill “Nervous Tick” and throw opponents off by twitching. Arcanists can cast a spell called “Big Long Tongue”. A “Fighting Scroatt” has an attack in which you are grabbed by its mouth so that your “head goes down into stomach acids that melts facial features”.
Non-beautification bonds everyone together. I find that people interact within the game differently, they ask questions more, want to know, spend time on actions and details. One reason may be that the “Beauty = Power” formula erases creativity. When a player sees the “Beautiful (fill in the blank)”, they don’t ask any more questions.
I don’t think I’ll be trying to draw anything beautiful soon.
You can find all two issues of the Rocket Queen Zine at: https://microcosmpublishing.com/