Critical Role: How Babs Tarr Brings D&D Characters to Life on 'Pub Draw'
Imagine the soothing sounds of Bob Ross teaching you how to paint happy little trees, but instead it’s renowned comic book artist and illustrator Babs Tarr using digital tools to teach viewers how to draw their Dungeons & Dragons characters.
As part of the growing Critical Role network of D&D-related shows and podcasts, Tarr live-streams Pub Draw every Wednesday. Each week she’s joined by Marisha Ray (who voices Beauregard), and often other members of the Vox Machina team, all to show Critters how to draw their own D&D characters at home.
Each episode clocks in at around 90 minutes, often focusing on specific drawing principles that have a wider application far beyond the fantasy realm of Tal’Dorei. The very first episode on January 25 focused on “head basics”. Others explored inking, lighting and shading, or body basics. Several episodes focused entirely on drawing specific characters from Critical Role.
Tarr first gained renown drawing for a recent run of DC Comics’ Batgirl before she and her team migrated to Image Comics in 2011 to produce Motor Crush, a sci-fi story about a professional motorcycle racer who fights gang members by night.
In a recent interview, Tarr tells Inverse about her experiences working on Pub Draw, how she first got involved with Critical Role, her favorite part about drawing D&D characters, and the hilarious way she subdued a Thug with her Sorcerer during her own adventures playing the game.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How did Pub Draw get started? What was your relationship like with Critical Role before that?
I was asked to come to the studio one day and to meet with Marisha and Brian [Foster] and they asked about my interest in doing a drawing show! Of course, I said yes! I was so scared they were gonna ask me to role-play with them — I would be horrible at it. But I’m great at drawing and being kinda funny, so I thought it would be really fun.
I got to know the cast because they were fans of mine first! God bless nerds!! Taliesin [Jaffe] had even come up to my booth once at a con and told me who he was. I didn’t get it at the time, but I remember the interaction because people were asking for his autograph while he was at my booth asking for mine.
Liam [O’Brien] and Taliesin were fans of my comic work, and when I was visiting LA this summer, they let me come to sit in on a show or two! I was a guest on The Wednesday Club, got into some of their Comic Con panels … I was doing everything I could not to fangirl and be cool around them! I don’t know what I did to be so welcome into the fold, but I am so thankful for it.
You get a lot of fan engagement with the show on Twitter. What’s it like interacting with fans as they draw along with the show?
Uh … emotional!! It’s so different from comics fan engagement.
Seeing people’s work grow and seeing how proud they are and how we’ve inspired and helped them — it really is rewarding. The Critter community is really unlike any other out there. ♡
What’s the one tip you’d give to someone with zero drawing experience if they wanted to start drawing their D&D characters?
Be brave, not perfect! Use reference! Be your own teacher! All the answers are out there!
What do you like most about drawing D&D characters in particular?
It’s so personal! It’s an extension of yourself … drawing forces you to flesh them out and neat things happen, like you add a feather in their hair and then maybe one day, it becomes part of your backstory.
What are your favorite types of characters to draw?
ALL TYPES — Tieflings are super fun though.
How much D&D do you yourself play? What kinds of characters or campaigns have you done? What’s your greatest D&D memory of an epic moment?
My party and I try to play as much as we can! It’s hard because we’re all over, so we have to Skype. Maybe twice a month we manage though, and it’s always so fun. It’s still my first campaign and character — Critical Role really made me fall in love with D&D and I rounded up a bunch of friends to play, haha. We’re 90% magic users and call ourselves the “Sorcerer Scouts.”
Nothing EPIC yet, because we’re still such a low level. BUT a personal favorite memory is from when we first played, and I used “Charm Person” on a Thug. I got him to take his shirt off to give me all his gold, and go into a trapped room first for our party, and he got mauled by rats and died. IT WAS SO FUN.
D&D has gained such a mainstream appeal in recent years. Why do you think it’s become so trendy and cool?
I think it’s becoming more popular because as adults, I think it’s hard to make friends. And schedules are so tough, but sitting down with friends and going on an epic fantasy adventure together in your collective minds really bonds you in a way nothing else does. Its also a way to be creative and it isn’t as taxing as, say, learning a whole new skill like drawing…!
What sorts of comics or other projects are you working on now? Is Motor Crush Vol 3 still being drawn and written? What can you tease about that?
Motor Crush Vol 3 should come out this year as a singular volume! I might also be working on something else video game related, though that’s all I can really say right now.
I saw a tweet and just had to ask: Is this your dog? They’re very cute!
HAHAHA! Thats Gizmo!! Thats my brothers dog! He took a teaching job in Alaska and Gizmo is too big to fly, so I’m watching him ‘til the school year is over. I don’t wanna give him up though! He might have to fight me for him when he comes back in June. For more Gizmo goodness, check out his Instagram!