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Friday, October 1, 2021

Sutherland Dragon Details

As promised in my earlier post about on the exhibit of the Holmes Basic cover art ⁠— aka the Sutherland Dragon ⁠— here are several close-ups of different portions.

The Fighter

The greens are more apparent, including in details such as the "emeralds" circling the pommel of the sword poking out from the treasure pile.

In the dragon's chest in the upper portion of this image you can clearly see multi-colored gems encrusted between the belly plates. A few are even gleaming, a detail which doesn't show up well because the gleams are white on a yellow background. 

Note Sutherland's signature, just visible below the shield. This portion of the image appeared on the bottom edge of the box set cover, where a bit more of his name can be seen than here.

The Magic-User

Here we see the wizard unobscured by the TSR logo and the other writing on the box cover.

Sutherland's attention to the lighting is very apparent in the yellow highlights and deep shadows applied to the wizard's blue robe.

The Dragon

Yellow bands of light radiate out from the wizard's torch, a detail that doesn't reproduce well on the boxed set cover. 

The motion lines accentuate the mood that the dragon has just been surprised. Sutherland used motion lines in other illustrations, particularly sword swings, such as on the title page of the Holmes Basic rulebook, as can be seen here.

As a reminder, the exhibit featuring this painting is at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA through Halloween, and then will be at the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, TN from May 20 to September 5, 2022, and then at the Flint Institute of Art in Flint, MI from September 23, 2002 through January 8, 2023.


  1. Extremely cool - thanks for posting! Sutherland was a much more technically gifted illustrator than many give him credit for.

  2. This image was my first introduction to Dungeons & Dragons back around 1980. The painting is definitely not highly skilled, but I love it all the same. Most recently I've bought a t-shirt with the image (bootleg) and a refrigerator magnet (licensed). I just wish I still had that original box. I still have the worn out "blue book."

    1. Hey, I didn't know about those magnets! Just ordered some. Thanks for the heads up. I still have my original worn out blue book as well. :)

  3. Sutherland's D&D artwork IS Dungeons & Dragons to me. His protagonists are gritty, with real looking armor and arms.

  4. A perfect "fairy tale" dragon. One of my favorite pieces of gaming art.

  5. Great pics. Sutherland's art really lends itself to close examination.