Michael Curtis's The Dungeon Alphabet is an amazing book, all the more amazing, I think, because it made me reconsider my opinions of two artists I'd previously not cared much for. One of these artists is Jim Roslof and to say that I'd not cared much for his art is a gross overstatement. In reality, I was simply not conscious of the fact that several pieces of old school D&D art I liked a great deal had in fact been his handiwork.
Unlike many of his predecessors and contemporaries, the distinctive qualities of Roslof's art never really gelled in my mind and so my cognizance of his contributions was vague and, as it turns out, largely mistaken. I'd somehow lumped Roslof in with Willingham and Dee, about whose "superheroic" style I am deeply ambivalent. Because Roslof's work is subtle and understated -- it reminds me of a more technically proficient version of Sutherland -- it doesn't leave as strong an impression, even if, at the time one is looking at it, one is struck by its attractiveness.
I spent a while last night looking back over D&D books and modules from 1980-1983, looking for examples of Roslof's art to post here. There was more of it than I'd recalled and, as I noted earlier, it was quite different than I'd remembered its being. In particular, I noticed that Roslof's figures tend to have "realistic" armor and weapons rather than wholly fantastical ones -- fighters almost always wear helms, for example. I'm very keen on such things myself, so it only added to my growing sense that I'd done Roslof a disservice all these years in not holding him in higher esteem.
Here are a handful of pieces that nicely demonstrate why Jim Roslof deserves more praise than he typically gets: