In 1989 FASA’s Shadowrun was born, and with it, the genre of RP cyberpunk [it beat Gurps ‘Cyberpunk’ to the press by a year for all you haters]. This was a whole new world to explore and FASA turned to the up and coming talent of Jeff Laubenstein to bring it to market.
Jeff was a genius of crafting with watercolor. His early works in the mid-1980s on the Battletech line of tabletop and RPG supplements helped enrich that war-torn universe of the inner sphere, but it wasn’t until we saw his concepts of a darker future that we truly understood his brilliance. This was a new age for the industry, and they turned their backs on [or perhaps couldn’t afford] oil paintings for other traditional mediums and artists ready to set the stage.
Laubenstein’s artwork bends to a kind of goblin-like mold and an almost surreal adoration of troll-kind. There is something innately unattractive in it, and yet when pressed to paper, it transforms into a creation that is altogether lovely. Jeff is the only artist I know that can make a wart look regal and a beautiful woman look odd. In his landscapes, twisted trees and frumpy fellows become the norm, the resplendent, and the ultimate in achievement for the genre in question.
There is always an inherent kinship of fairy-humor driven deep in Laubenstein’s work, a sense of companionship and purpose. He brings levity and a kind of natural merriment to each character.
Inside his images there are stories ready to be told as though inviting you to tap a keg and join in. His figures appear with a twinkle in their eye and Laubenstein vests each with a quality of the unreal that transcends the Brandywine narrative and shows that all art is valid in the world of fantasy. He throws back the chalice of truism to build on a culture of unloved comic outsider. Over the past thirty years he has turned our heads back to the fun of it all, but with the passing of the Era another turn in the road spelled the doom of many upstart companies and the artists that made them both viable and relevant…
Today, Jeff’s work is often categorized as ‘whimsical’ and therefor unsalable to the genre digital dark edge of RPG artists. Such a word is just another strike against traditionalists and adds to the miasma coming from the grist mills of large RPG houses in todays’ marketplace.