Monday, February 5, 2018

Remebering William O'Connor

I should not be writing this. These are things that should not be happening now, and when they eventually have to happen it should be after a long long life. Here we are anyway, left to grieve and left to worry about all those left behind. Last week we lost William O'Connor, a husband, a father, a gracious friend, and a powerhouse of an artist. I am still trying to get my head around all this and not doing a very good job of it. The details have not been released to my knowledge, but what has been shared was that it was sudden and unexpected. I am left wondering what stole Bill from us, but does it really matter? Will it change anything? Or is it just voyeuristic curiosity? I am just trying to focus on my memories of Bill and how his art inspired me to be a better artist and a better designer. Remembering who he was and how he impacted all of our lives seems like the only thing I can do to counter the grief and confusion by his sudden death. 

Tiefling concept for Dungeons & Dragons by William O'Connor
©Wizards of the Coast

I first became familiar with Bill's beautiful work and distinct style when I was working on 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. At the time I did not know it was 4th Edition, I was just working on monster and armor designs for upcoming D&D projects. I would get loads and loads of gorgeous concept work to use and to help shape my own work. I was instantly in love with the work I was being given, I did not know who Bill was, but I certainly wanted to meet him. There was so much action, character, and detail in the work. I really felt out classed and I needed to up my game if this was the work they needed me to create for D&D. For a long time in the early days of my D&D career I strived to be like Bill. He has done some truly epic work, huge involved pieces that encompass entire battlefields or cities. I chose not to share that today, instead the work I am sharing today are some of the concept pieces I was give when working on 4th Edition. These are some of Bill's pieces that most profoundly effected me.

Dragonborn concept for Dungeons & Dragons by William O'Connor
©Wizards of the Coast

I finally got to meet Bill at Illuxcon in 2009. He was instantly gracious and eager with advice and more than happy to talk about his work, my work, anyone's work. I loved hearing about how he created randomized lists of elements that he would roll dice and let fate and chance pick what a character would be or the details he would have to include. He would get the various results and then think about how a character would realistically include all the various elements. It is something he still was doing till his death. He was still posting the results on his BLOG and he made one of his list available ONLINE. At IX he told a group of us about one character on a large battle scene cover he had done. The figure was small but still extremely detailed. Apparently his dice rolls resulted in flowers or gardening and so the fighter had flowers on him as well as a large pair of scissors. Bill imagined that this character came from a family or background of florists, and the scissors were second nature to them and as a last ditch move, when all else failed there were those scissors to use as a final weapon. Bill was so exited when he told us that story. It was infectious.

Dragonborn concept for Dungeons & Dragons by William O'Connor
©Wizards of the Coast

I think everyone has at least one or two truly amazing Bill stories. One of my favorites was at Illuxcon when it was still in Altoona. It was late one night and folks were having parties in various hotel rooms. Some of the details are lost to me, but someone had brought a board game to IX that Bill had done the cover art for. It was a big battle scene and a really great piece. The intentions were to get the board game box signed by Bill. The game was still in the plastic and everything. Well, one thing led to another and Bill signed the cover... he signed the ENTIRE cover. Apparently Bill tore back the plastic and signed his name huge across the front cover of the game box. It was amazing... and not exactly what the owner of the game was expecting. But that was Bill and it was great. And now he is gone.


I received permission to share a never released piece of Bill's work.  Back in 2007 Bill created the box art for the Serrated Dawn set of the WotC miniature game, Dreamblade. Serrated Dawn was never released and all of the art associated with it was shelved. As you my know, I designed a lot of miniatures for that game. One of the pieces that Bill did for the box art was based on one of my designs, the Dragon Ambassador, which is how I know about it and have a copy of the art. As far as I know this has never been shared publicly which is why I wanted to get permission before sharing it. I always loved this piece and was glad to just know of its existence even though it was never used. Now you can know about it too!

Royal Dragon (Dragon Ambassador) by William O’Connor for the never released set of Dreamblade, Serrated Dawn

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website:


  1. Well stated. I can feel your loss. I did not know Mr. O'Connor but through your words I can see that an important part of his art was his ability to inspire.

    1. Thanks, Bill! Really appreciate it. Yeah, he was a special guy and his art was amazing.