Sutherland trained as a commercial artist at the Minneapolis Vocational-Technical Institute before serving as a military policeman in Vietnam. He worked odd jobs after returning from the war, then launched a career drawing fantasy art for the Tékumel role-playing game, which was produced by Tactical Studies Rules. In 1974, TSR hired Sutherland to work on its “Dungeons and Dragons” games.
Although he would eventually become the artistic director at TSR, Sutherland was best known for spending 25 years drawing dragons, wizards, centaurs and knights for the D&D manuals. His artwork graced the covers of the “Players Handbook,” the Advanced D&D “Monster Manual” and the “Dungeons Masters Guide.” Sutherland drew dozens of intricate maps to help D&D players better understand the game’s intricate, fantastical worlds. He also created Morley, the wizard that served as the firm’s spokesperson in radio ads from 1977 to 1980.
Soon after Wizards of the Coast bought TSR in 1999, Sutherland lost his job. His health and spirits declined when he couldn’t find other artistic opportunities and his marriage failed. Several charity auctions offering Sutherland’s D&D memorabilia were held in 2004 and raised $22,000; that money will be used as a trust fund for his two daughters.