Fantasy art lets artists create worlds

     When I was a child, home computers didn’t exist, there were no cell phones, Ipads, or Blackberries, and my parents didn’t plunk me down in front of the television to watch cartoons on Saturday morning.  Sure, I had my fill of such programming too, but my mother would more likely hand me paper and pencil and say “Go draw me something.”   So I’d sit at the little desk Grandpa had made me and draw.  I spent hours creating whole worlds, sometimes involving little animals in the forest, sometimes set in space, sometimes set in ancient Egypt or the Maya culture.  

     My parents were letting me develop my imagination.  I had to deal with the real world every time I went out of the house.  Drawing imaginary things gave me my own world to escape to. 

     This kind of imaginative drawing done by adult artists is known as “Fantasy Art.”  Fantasy Art is a variation of humanity’s long history of storytelling.  Every culture tells stories filled with heroes and heroines, monsters, strange lands, and exotic cities.  Through these tales, whether spoken or painted, we can learn about ourselves, our relationships, and the problems we face in life.

Fantasy art creature inspired by household objects.

     Fantasy art done to amuse or to illustrate has been around for centuries. 

     For a time, fantasy art fell into disuse.  But in the early 1960s, probably one of the greatest fantasy artists of all time, Frank Frazetta, kicked off today’s fantasy art movement with his covers for Ace paperback books and popular southern-rock band Molly Hatchet album covers.  He and Roy G. Krenkel created the kind of stunning fantasy art that hadn’t been seen in print for decades.  These two artists were inspired by the great 19th century paintings and illustrations, and their art was built on the Academic foundation of strong drawing, design, color and composition.  For the most part, these fundamental skills were no longer taught in art schools.  In fact, the art school establishment of the time ridiculed Academic skills.  

     Today, in part because of the revival of interest brought about by the work of Krenkel and Frazetta, there are art schools that once again teach Academic art.  Being a fantasy artist in today’s world requires the knowledge of a great landscape painter, the exactness of an imaginative architectural artist, and rock solid draftsmanship when it comes to human figures and animals. 

Frank Frazetta’s painting “The Death Dealer” was used as a cover for the Molly Hatchet album.

     Fantasy artists also need to be able to create and draw things that have never been seen in the real world.  How do they get their ideas?  Some simply have great imaginative skills.  Others get ideas by manipulating things from the real world.  For example, distorting and combining parts of a lizard, a bat and a bird can lead to a picture of a frightening feathered dragon.  Playing around with elements from ancient architecture helps to create a vision of the lost world of Atlantis. 

     If you’d like to try creating fantasy art, you could begin by inventing a strange and exotic creature.  For inspiration, go through the house and pick up a few items — pliers, scissors, screwdrivers, teapots, etc.  First sketch each piece separately to get familiar with them.  Then try combining them into an animal or bird.  Screwdriver legs, a teapot body, and a pliers head, perhaps!  Make several sketches of your found-object creature, smoothing lines and changing details, adding scales, spikes, or feathers, until you are satisfied.  Voila!  You’ve made fantasy art!

By Kay Sluterbeck/AAPJ

Published by on March 2011. Filed under Archives, HowDoit PB dept, Paint Box Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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