Jeff Easley — one of the most-recognized cover artists on Advanced Dungeons And Dragons rulebooks — was born in 1954 in Nicholasville, a small town in central Kentucky. As a small child, he took to drawing, especially monsters. Easley recalled:
“I watched lots of monster movies on the late show, and built every monster model kit I could get my hands on.”
After graduating high school in 1972 Easley attended Murray State University, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in painting in the spring of 1976. While still a student at Murray, he met a fellow art student named Cynthia. They fell in love and were married prior to graduation.
After graduation, the couple moved to Massachusetts with some friends, where Easley began his professional art career. Easley mentions this period:
“I did freelance work for Warren Publications, including covers and comic strips for Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella, and for Marvel magazines, including covers for Savage Sword Of Conan and Bizarre Adventures.“
The TSR And WOTC Years
In the early 1980s, one of Easley’s friends from back home in Kentucky got a job as an artist at TSR. The friend was none other than future TSR legend Larry Elmore.
“When I heard that Larry was planning to leave Fort Knox to join TSR, I got in touch with him and discovered that there might be other job opportunities there.”
Easley started at TSR in March of 1982. His first jobs for the company were anything but glamorous. They included doing some interior artwork for the Lost Caverns Of Tsojcanth module as well as pairing gemstones on the spines of the first four Endless Quest books.
From these humble beginnings at the company, Easley went on to produce covers for the following AD&D “orange spine” hardcovers: Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual, Monster Manual 2, Oriental Adventures, Unearthed Arcana, Legends And Lore, Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide and Manual Of The Planes.
For 2nd Edition AD&D, his covers included Tome Of Magic, Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and several Monstrous Manual volumes.
When TSR was acquired by Wizards of the Coast (WOTC), Easley moved away from AD&D and produced artwork for 49 Magic: the Gathering cards.
After leaving WOTC, Jeff produced cover artwork for 3E D&D (OGL) DragonLance products, designed gold-and-ivory dragon inlays for deluxe limited-edition guitars, and created the album cover for the heavy-metal group Rhapsody Of Fire’s seventh album, Triumph Or Agony.