The Gassy Gnoll: Stock Art Madness

The Gassy Gnoll is getting ready to dip a toe back in the publishing water again with Moebius Adventures next year and recently started looking at some of the available stock art at DriveThruRPG for a particular image. If you’ve ever tried it, it’s a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack. Sure, you can find collections of art. But the piece you want? Ha!

That said, I bought a few collections from Outland Arts featuring art from William McAusland. Four of them. At $12 a pop. And they’re great!

But nowhere in there is what I am looking for.

Here are the four sets I purchased:

fantasy_clip_inks_spot_art_set_1 fantasy_clip_inks_spot_art_set_2 fantasy_clip_inks_spot_art_set_3 fantasy_clip_inks_spot_art_set_4

Now, there’s a ton of art in this collection for a very reasonable price. There’s 30 or more pieces in each set, so I have more than 120 pieces I can use (with appropriate attribution) in the products I’m looking at producing.

But here’s the kicker. None of them have what I’m looking for. In this case, it’s a black and white drawing of a banged up wooden door. Doesn’t really matter however. Unless it’s listed in the description, it’s not searchable. So you’re left looking at PDF samples and vague text for each collection hoping that whatever you’re looking for happens to be in the product.

I’m guessing I could buy several other collections from other artists and companies until I found what I was looking for, but it is still largely a needle in a haystack problem.

It could be that I am spoiled. I frequently use a great site called, which offers a huge collection of public domain art in a very searchable fashion. All I do is throw some search terms into the box at the top and I usually get more choices than I can handle. Each image is indexed by a variety of terms, so it makes it very easy to find what I’m looking for or something that will work in a pinch.

Would it be too much to ask for stock art providers to add lists of the items in each collection? I don’t need to see them all (though that would be nice), but some way to be sure that what I am looking for MIGHT be in the box would be great. There’s a ton of art in the DTRPG box, but it’s tough to find it.

Perhaps the amazing folks at OneBookShelf could add a new site to the mix that works more like traditional ShutterStock and allow artists to sell collections as well as individual pieces as they’ve been doing, but separate from the DTRPG/RPGNow banner. Might even work for other publisher resources such as templates, guides, and so on. (Just a thought, since I’m sure it would involve more work and I know the OBS guys are already working their tail ends off!)

If I was more of an artist, I would be better prepared on this front. But though I am at a point where I can spend $12 apiece for a few collections of art, I am not quite at the point where I can commission custom art from anybody for serious money. I want artists to earn what they’re worth, but really don’t have a budget to speak of since I’m just getting off the ground again. (If there are any artists out there interested in helping out for a percent of the possibility of profit, drop me a line and let’s talk.)

That said, I’m at a point where I’m wondering if art is a necessity or more of an enhancement. Berin Kinsman has asked whether no art is better than bad art… So perhaps I focus on the content and come up with a solid page layout that’s artistic without art…

More pondering to do methinks…

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