Studying nature

The natural world is one of the most commonly-used inspirational sources for the fantasy artist. The great Renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci instructed pupils to observe You should look at certain walls stained with damp or at stones of an uneven color. If you have to invent some setting you will be able to see in these the likeness of divine landscapes. He suggested you should look at the embers of fire, or clouds, or mud, or other similar objects from which you will find ideas . . ....

Fantasy of popular culture

Wherever there is an audience artists perform their skills at weaving magic and fantasy. Comics, children's classics, adult fiction, theatre, movies, videos and record sleeves are all media which provide space for creating images from the imagination. The great fictional writers, past and present, have invented special worlds to which artists have responded by developing their own visual forms. Preceding pages Weird Tales 1924-40 US popular magazine covers Pulp magazines are an outlet for...

Using the size

Our experience of life leads us to assume the size of objects or creatures. A bear or a bee have a generally imagined size. Fantasy artists use this feature to disturb our views of the normal, placing objects alongside one another with disregard for their actual, related sizes. Our imaginations are stretched by being confronted with the visually impossible. Human beings are often used as an indicator of scale. The groups of figures below through their contexts are, in one case, made to appear...

Acrylic and oil colors

Book jacket design for Planet of the Damned, published by Futura, UK 211 2 x271 2 (55cmx70cm) Alan Craddock is one of a new generation of artists who have developed their skills to suit the needs of publishers of science fiction and the rising popularity of a 'comic culture.' From childhood he collected small-format comics and advertisements for bodybuilding aids. He is a self-trained artist, but was inspired and given confidence by his high school art teacher. All his technical skills have...

Inks and watercolors

One of four paintings for a calendar, unpublished 15xl2(38cm x30cm) Ian Miller trained as a fine artist and slowly developed from an oil painter to one who uses inks and watercolors extensively. Although his ideas have great freedom of expression, the detail within each picture is carefully resolved. His images come almost entirely from memory - they are stored details of the observed world which he can recall and build on. He seldom uses photographic or technical source 1 Ian dampened a sheet...

Exploration

There are two sources of ideas available while you are actually working on your drawing discoveries made either while drawing or during printing. Different tools, surfaces, media and processors can all provide methods of exploring accidental results. The word 'DANZIG' (right) was altered by first drawing the characters in a slow-drying ink and, before it dried, blowing through a drinking straw at the wet ink strokes while moving the paper around. Textures often have a graphic quality which is...

Science fiction worlds

This is an airbrushed painting by Robert Chapman see page 124). The artist must hold clearly in mind the tonal values of the areas obscured under the mask to avoid producing results which flatten the image. Using the airbrush requires a steady hand and smooth movement. One of the most impressive qualities of airbrush artists is their ability to add very small gradated values such as shining lights or softly darkened forms. There are two ways of adding tone or texture to a drawing. If the...

Contemporary sources of information

Early man used art to depict creatures and events central to his existence. The illustration (below left) is a Neanderthal man's representation of woolly mammoths. It was painted on the wall of a cave, and is one of the few surviving records of life at that time Present-day sources Hills, birds, faces and figure shapes are all derived from photographic sources in magazines such as the National Geographic. From his collection of over a thousand color magazines Giovanni can find references which...

Building tensions

The photograph left is of a stationary car with a small child standing in front of it. It could be used for the creation of two sequential drawings involving a car accident (above). Sand writing Most artists would find it difficult to record accurately letters written in sand. A way of providing yourself with a visual reference is to write the letters in a tray of sand, then photograph it with a strong side light (left). Artists have often built models of parts of objects they want to draw in...

Establishing the images

4 George uses a photographic projector to transfer his studies onto canvas left). This method enables him to paint the tonal areas directly onto the surface without the presence of outlines and construction marks. You can use a home transparency projector and transfer your pictures onto the wall against which you have placed your work surface. 5 George begins with the dark areas of the cave to establish the composition. He then projects his drawing of the dragon into the central area. Using...

Fantasy of superstitions

Naive belief in supernatural forces has been a common inspiration for fantastic imagery. Superstitions often mix crude, inaccurate tales about demons and devils with the spice of sex and pornography. The stirrings of the lower belly rise to stimulate the imaginings of the mind to create popular fantasy art. Any unexplained event is quickly transformed by folk culture into the machinations of extraordinary forces which are then portrayed as devils, witches, demons, ghosts, vampires and other...

Building up the detail

The dark areas were slowly built up to form the major structures of the composition (a), and, within these structures, textures were established by dabbing the wet surface with pieces of kitchen roll (b) (detail right, actual size). This technique is excellent for natural surfaces, but requires great care as you are unable to repeat or revise the results if they are unsatisfactory. During the painting, the highlights (c) are worked back into the picture by using thicker, opaque colors. Detail...

Your point of view

To achieve drama in a fantasy art composition the artist can use visual distortions of the elements, extremes of lighting, dramatic scale variations, and unusual or disturbing positioning of the focus of attention. These tricks are particularly exploited in the production of comic book art, where the repeated use of the comic strip as a vehicle for images and text can be monotonous. Artists often select a viewpoint from which the elements draw us into the picture (1 and 2). Drawings need not...

Graphic techniques

The tools and techniques of the fantasy artist can be explored to create more powerful images. 1 An original image with a full range of tones. 2 The image described as lines traced along the edges of the dark and light areas. 3 The image drawn as only pure blacks or whites with no intermediate tonal values. 4 A negative version where the dark areas are white and the light areas dark. 5 This is illustration no. 3 distorted by photocopying it without placing it directly onto the photocopier's...

Applying selfadhesive film

Using this method you will have strong, black containing lines with a variety of textures. Avoid using tones of either type over large areas. 2 Lay part of the texture sheet (with the backing sheet still attached) over your work. Using a scalpel, cut out roughly, but not wastefully, the area required. Remove the backing sheet and the unused pieces of tone with care. Put the shaped area of tone over your work and rub down in the centre only to keep the piece in place. 3 Carefully cut around the...

Materials right

1 The rubber drive-belt from a vehicle is formed in one piece. Its springy resilience when put on a flat surface creates new shapes and ideas for spatial patterns. 2 The metal sugar bowl (the drawing was copied from a photograph in a mail order catalog) has a highly reflective surface which can be used in the creation of space stations. 3 The commercial scrubbing brush, from a trade catalog, offers ideas for unnatural plant textures. 4 The simple study of a spiral telephone cable will help in...

Progressing a painting

Robert Chapman began the painting far right) by producing a careful pencil sketch of the idea. He worked with a hard pencil on tracing paper using templates to construct accurately the ovals of the major parts of the design. 1 He then transferred-down onto finely-grained cartridge board the major elements of the design, subsequently covering the board with a film of clear masking material. 2 He then removed the outer areas having first cut a very careful line around the central object using an...

The real into the unreal

The photograph (left) was taken while I was on holiday in northern Greece such a startling cliff needed to be recorded for later use. The 19th century Scottish castle (above) is a fairytale building come true. These pictures were combined in the creation of an illustration for a comic book series (right).

Technical sources

The most surprising and varied sources of imagery are technical publications, on engineering or microbiology, industrial catalogues or academic text books. The unfamiliar can be a starting point for your drawing. Many fantasy artists have used bizarre diagrams from surgery manuals as inspiration for horrific visions. The transparent study of a railway engine (above right) can throw up ideas for futuristic machines. The microscopic creature (right), enlarged a thousand times, could be the start...

Techniques and tips

This section begins with a selection of eight pictures, each created by a contemporary fantasy artist, and each picture is an example of the way in which the artist has mastered his chosen medium. You too must constantly practice with the medium you find most convenient, and from which you obtain the best results. However, do continue to explore new media when not working on your finished paintings. Always try to keep your work surfaces clean and your tools in good working order. Never buy...

Sources of fantasy

I once overheard a beautiful conversation between two children, one aged six and the other ten years old. The eldest was explaining that comics have words in them for people who cannot read the pictures Fantasy pictures have a meaning. Understanding the pictures is a major part of enjoying such works of imagination. Very often when we discover new forms of fantasy art we have difficulty in 'reading the picture.' The roots of the ideas and forms dig deep into many levels of human experience, and...

Classical and ancient hybrids

1 A Harpy, with eagle's talons. 2 Medusa, with her head of snakes. 3 The Sphinx, with cat-like body and contemplative smile. 4 An Egyptian god, with a ram's head on a lion's body. 5 A Satyr, with goat-like legs and horns. 6 A Centaur, combining the bodies of a man and a horse.

Shadow effect

Nick cut separate masks to reveal the shadow areas and reworked the shadows over the initial drawing (i). When the design was complete he began to rework all the areas, and particularly the edges of the masked surfaces using wax crayons, pastels and colored pencils to fuse the elements into one cohesive design. Finally he removed the central area of the small object held by the skeleton and completed the copy of the Van Eyck figures (j).

Dry medium techniques

Pencils, chalks and crayons are tools of convenience. Pencils are ideal for thinking out your ideas and planning as the lines can be covered over easily with paint. Chalks and crayons are very useful for building up tones. Pencils are available in a wide range of lead strengths - the hardest produce the finest and lightest marks, the softest the darkest and roughest marks. They can therefore be used to record a very wide range of tonal values which can represent the qualities of later, more...

Using manufactured objects

Objects made by machines, particularly with 20th century materials, have an artificial, unnatural form and texture plastics, rubbers, artificial fibers, metals - all have a 'man-made' quality. Advancing technology means that their forms need not comply with natural laws of structure and growth. Materials which are molded, extruded, printed, cast, burnished, glazed, galvanized, polished, coated, fused together, all possess interesting shapes and surfaces which are easily available for study and...

The theatre

Puppet shows, pantomimes, ballets, operas, plays and the circus all contain an element of fantasy. 3 The English pantomime, Puss in Boots, is a surreal tale of a cat that talks and walks on two legs. Movies Fantasy has become more sophisticated, from the 1902 films of George Melies to Star Wars, Aliens and Planet of the Apes. Tricks and animation have enabled artists to forget the laws of space, time, matter and logic. 4 King Kong is a classic example of make-believe. A giant gorilla is tamed...

Surface accidents

The watercolour painting (right) is by Victor Hugo, the French 19th century novelist. While out sketching he often rubbed substances such as cofffee grounds and cigar ash into the surface. He also used a type of pencil which produced soluble marks to deepen and dramatize the tonal effect. However these techniques should be used with caution as they can destroy the surface of your work. Shape accidents The 18th century artist Alexander Cozens developed an idea based on making landscapes from...

Pencils and watercolors

Maurice Wilson worked for over fifty years producing delicate studies of real and imaginary creatures and plants. He was renowned for his ability to portray creatures using very little reference material to aid the task, sometimes reconstructing long-dead creatures with only a few surviving bones as a guide. He worked mainly with water solvent inks, adding highlights in acrylic paints. After planning his pictures he usually began painting the dark areas, building up the main elements in...

The human form

Chinese Goddess Costume

Either as costumes or statues, ancient and primitive societies used the human form as a starting point for the depiction of the unimaginable. Their Gods are transformed into variations of the human figure. 7 Chinese carving of a female deity 8 Classical Greek fertility goddess In the mind of a master artist images float to the surface of his consciousness and are captured for eternity in his art. You should never be embarrassed about copying their discoveries for your own use. They, too, have...

Superimposing pictures

Fantasy Art

One successful way to achieve fantasy pictures is by superimposing images. This is frequently done with the photographic technique of double exposure. Alternatively, two matching images can be successfully combined without a high degree of sophistication by the use of tracing paper overlays. 1 Michael's pencil study self-portrait is made menacing by the addition of a snarling lion copied from a nature magazine and the surprised creatures protruding from his ears. 2 The ghoulish face produced by...

Planning

Giovanni produced a pencil sketch of the composition so that he could build up all the elements required within one grouping. He used a soft lead pencil on tracing paper, and worked to the size of the final painting. Tracing down After working out all the major details, and possibly reserving particular areas independently on separate sheets, he transferred the composition to the board using a hard pencil. This left a fine groove in the surface which does not appear in reproductions, but which...