In June of 2018, it was revealed during an episode of Critical Role that a community art book from the fans had been sent to the cast as a surprise. Now, the fanart within has been made public for all to see, as well as the details of its story.
In January of 2016, barely a year after Critical Role first aired, New Hampshire illustrator Jason deBit wanted to thank the cast of the Dungeons and Dragons show. He had the idea to ship a book around the world so fans could draw art in it. It was kept absolutely secret from the cast and the rest of the community. Coordination for this massive project took place through direct messages on Twitter. DeBit has stated about the effort:
“I want to stress that the initial idea might have been mine, but the group as a whole determined how it would go. It was a completely collaborative effort. That is one of the things I love the most about this community that has been formed around the show and the people playing the game.”
My contribution to the Traveling Sketchbook and I was damn near crying when the book was shown on the show (let alone that mine got show. I just can't even right now.) Such a journey this little book has taken… #CRSketchbook #criticalrolefanart pic.twitter.com/X7FB6MIyDk
— Brandi (@BrandiYorkArt) June 15, 2018
The Critical Role artbook traveled the world for two years. First, it made its way to Australia, then the UK, Canada, South America, and various other places in between. The drama unfolded when the book became lost in South America. DeBit recalls:
“The artist continued to check their old address with no luck, and we had kind of lost hope, discussing a possible second sketchbook to try it again. Four long months later, it showed up and we were back on track!”
Since the cat is out of the bag here is my art for the #CRSketchbook, the last drawing in the book, and the beginnings of the celebration the book and I had when it came back to me before heading to the cast. Enjoy!#CriticalRole #Critters #sootts pic.twitter.com/iezJF6pckK
— Jason deBit (@JdIllustrates) June 15, 2018
The book made its way to Critical Role in June of 2018. Liam O’Brien revealed it live, and the love put behind it made the cast very emotional. This had to be a satisfying reaction for fan artists who put just as much love into creating it. DeBit has stated:
“I included a letter with the sketchbook that Liam didn’t read on stream that simply stated this book is a love letter to the cast, crew, and characters of Critical Role. The fans, whether you started day one of the show . . . or started last week . . . love these nerdy ass voice actors and the community that has sprung up around them. For most of us, it is a bright spot in their lives that fills them with joy, and what better way to show that than creating something.”
Ashley is the author of the Thread of Souls book series, an avid traveler, and a Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast!