Joshua Nava Artist


Joshua Nava Arts

Macöomld Orbis


There is strength through mystery. A picture produced from the images within the mind can be a more accurate portrayal of human perceptions than one based entirely on observations. When we look at the work of a fantasy artist we can respond to the mystery on a number of levels: the source of the ideas, the constituent parts, and the subject matter of the picture. The construction of the composition, its use of the elements of light and shade, and its depictions of imaginary forms are all crucial. Finally comes our response to the mysteries of the artist's technique - his painting skills.

The creation of fantasy art is achieved by the interplay of the conscious and the unconscious mind. This process was described in 1540 by Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian Renaissance master, as a challenge to the artist who must resolve a conflict between the observed and the imaginary, the known and the unknown.

Images of the imagination appear in all forms of art, for example: the decorative and applied arts, sculpture

A Macdonald Obis BOOK

© Diagram Visual Information Ltd 1988

First published in Great Britain in 1988 by Macdonald and Co (Publishers) Ltd London and Sydney

A Pergamon Press plc company

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing of the author, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Robertson, Bruce

Techniques of fantasy art

1. Drawings

I. Title

741.2 NC730

ISBN 0-356-15324-X

and, surprisingly, architecture. This book excludes all the forms mentioned above and concentrates instead on images, either painted or drawn, on two-dimensional surfaces. It uses examples by commercial artists, those working on commissions, or artists exploring their own visual references and imagination. The vast resource of images made by people suffering from mental disorders who, as a result of illness or congenital deficiencies, create images directly from the disturbance of their minds is not included.

The greatest source of imaginary images is literature, both prose and poetry. The flow of words creates worlds which we mentally visualize. Stories from legends, mythology, gothic horror stories, science fiction and fiction itself create images of new worlds in our minds. The depiction of these 'imaginings' makes a direct appeal to us through recognition of the element of common experience in life. Since fantasy art is not totally dependent upon observable reality, we are likely to be

The Diagram Group

Editorial staff

Ben Barkow, Guy Brain, Annabel Else, Moira Johnston, Patricia Robertson

Indexer David Harding

Art director Philip Patenall


Joe Bonello, Alastair Burnside, Robert Chapman, Richard Hummerstone, Mark Jamill, Lee Lawrence, Paul McCauley, Katherine Mothersdale, David O'Brien, Guy Ryman, Jane Robertson, Michael Robertson, Graham Rosewarne

Picture researcher Patricia Robertson

Typeset by Dorchester Typesetting Group Ltd Printed and bound by Purnell Book Production Ltd

Macdonald and Co (Publishers) Ltd Greater London House Hampstead Road London NWl 7QX

disturbed by our examination of the works of fantasy artists. They surprise us by their inventions which, once we have seen them, live in our minds as ghosts of the unreal world.

Today the work of a good fantasy artist is in constant demand by the commercial world. Examples are everywhere: video cassette covers, record sleeves, science fiction novels, movie posters, and advertisements. The commercial artist produces work which is often derived from the discoveries of 'fine artists.' Nowadays commercial art can become 'gallery' art and is in turn reinterpreted — the copier is copied. Even the most commonplace image torn from a magazine can be the source from which unique pictures are created. Remember when setting out on the path of producing fantasy images that you may be more surprised with your discoveries than subsequent viewers of your work. However, each new picture is a new contribution to the vast world of the imagination of mankind.

• Section One of the book looks at the source of ideas. Where do artists get their inspiration for imaginary pictures?

• Section Two explains the background to eight famous fantasy paintings: the artist's motivation, the origin of the illustrated ideas, and the potential audience. This section takes an example from a selection of famous artists' work and, although depicting the examples in full color, concentrates on the ideas behind the pictures rather than the techniques used to produce them.

• Section Three explores methods of developing ideas and shows how they may be distorted or enlarged in scope by the use of collage or changes in composition.

• Section Four concentrates on the physical processes required to produce a fantasy image in a variety of media, and contains interviews with eight contemporary artists. The artists explain their techniques and discuss the development of an idea into a finished product.


A personal thank you to each of the eight artists whose work appears between pages 96 and 126. Without their help in patiently explaining their techniques I could not have produced those pages. Thanks are also due to my old Professor of Art, Edward Wright, who kindly read the book and offered very constructive advice about the ideas contained in it, many of which I had remembered from his lectures.

Picture sources

The author has made all possible efforts to contact the copyright owners of the illustrations reproduced, but apologises in advance for any errors or omissions that may have occurred.


9 Photo: Geoffrey Clements, Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA

26 Photo: Michael Robertson 34 The Museum of Modern Art, Kay Sage Tanguy Fund

38 Photo: Goellette, collection of Musee d'Unterlinden, Colmar, France 42 Photo: Ursula Edelmann, Freies Deutsches Hochstift - Frankfurt am Main

46 Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees, National

Gallery, London 50 Patriomoine des Musees Royaux des Beaux Arts de

Belgique, Brussels, Belgium 54 Photo: PH3 Fotografia e Audiovisuais Lda, collection of Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon, Portugal 62 Patrimoine des Musees Royaux des Beaux Arts de

Belgique, Brussels, Belgium 65 Copyright ACL, Patrimoine des Musees Royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium 68 From ALARMS AND DIVERSIONS in Vintage Thurber Vol II Copyright © 1963 James Thuroer by permission of Hamish Hamilton Ltd. Copyright © 1932, 1960 lames Thurber. From The Seal in the Bedroom, published by Harper & Row. 90 Kunsthistorisches Museum (Albertina), Vienna,

Austria 103 Young Artists, London 115 Young Artists, London 117 Futura Publications, London

127 Young Artists, London

128 Gollancz Publications, London

129 Young Artists, London



The subject of fantasy Picture sources Studying nature Using reality

Using manufactured objects The unseen world Exploiting photographs Using your own photographs Using models Using other cultures Past masters

Section Two


34 Fantasy of the ordinary

38 Fantasy of nature

42 Fantasy of dreams

46 Fantasy of legends

50 Fantasy of superstitions

54 Fantasy of faith

58 Fantasy of popular culture

62 Fantasy of self-indulgence


Section Four



Elements of surprise


Pencils and chalks


Creating incongruity


Pencils and watercolors


Using the size


Inks and watercolors


Combining images


Gouache colors


Using change


Gouache colors and pencils


Double deceptions


Acrylic colors


Distorting your pictures


Acryclic and oil colors


Superimposing pictures


Oil colors


Human monsters


Mastering techniques


Animals as people


Dry medium techniques


Machines as people


Wet medium techniques


Your point of view




Deliberate accidents


Adding textures and tones


Combining media




Generating ideas

Fantasy art comes from your imagination, and has its origins in your immediate surroundings and the past experiences of your life. You should begin with the familiar and develop your ideas to more imaginative levels. Each new discovery will increase your abilities to explore further the sources of your imagination. The end result may be far in excess of what you first thought you were capable.

Section One begins by describing some of the most conventient ways of stirring your mind so that it yields images for your paintings. Where do ideas and images come from? Our cultural origins greatly influence the sources of inspiration. Can reality be used to transform images into our fantasy world? Perhaps examining a piece of old wood or cut-up cabbage, or an unfamiliar tool, can begin the chain reaction. Discovering unknown worlds in specialized books and magazines can open the door to a new fantasy picture. Photographs, either your own, or those taken from a variety of other sources, can be incorporated into your pictures.

Finally the greatest source of ideas may be the work of other fantasy artists. Never reject plagiarism — it is the soil from which flowers grow. The great 17th century scientist Isaac Newton, when asked in his old age how he had made so many wonderful discoveries, replied: "Because I stood on the shoulders of giants." By using his enormous library as the starting point for much research, Newton had benefited from the previous work of other great scientists.

Henry Koerner's painting Mirror of Life portrays a number of events in the artist's life.


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