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Busty barbarians and battleaxes

In this harsh economic climate, we need a little escape from reality. Cass Scott explains why now more than ever, fantasy art is due for a revival.

The trouble with most fantasy tattoos is that they look like shit. This could be because most people who get fantasy tattoos are ugly though, so don’t let that put you off getting one. Also, don’t let the fact that most good tattoo artists won’t do fantasy art put you off it either. Show them this article and convince them that fantasy tattooing is due for a mad revival and that if they get into it, they will be at the forefront of an innovative tattoo movement.

Don’t be surprised if they still tell you to fuck off. This is because, unlike old school and Japanese tattoos, over time fantasy tattoos usually start looking even more like shit. It’s got something to do with the fine lines and murky non-contrasting colours. It doesn’t add up though, because if you check out the main fantasy artists, it’s some of the most awesome crazy art you’ll ever see in your life! There’s a reason why pretty much every nerdy boy in the 80s was into collecting fantasy art books. Actually, that might have been more to do with all the photo-realistic portraits of topless babes wearing metallic thongs riding bucking dragons…

Anyhoo, we will never understand why and how fantasy art is so rad. The fact is, it’s rad. Read on and you will get, if not the definitive guide to fantasy art, at least an introduction to some fantasy artists who are really fantastically fantastic.

Frank Frazetta
Frank is the main guy of fantasy art. He’s the one that kick-started the whole movement. If you go into any of those shops that sell crystals and bongs, you will probably find they sell Frank Frazetta posters as well. Get one. And a bong. Then go home, smoke a cone and stare at your new artwork for ages because his mystical worlds will TRIP YOU OUT! Frazetta started off as a comic book artist in the 1940s, did erotic illustrations for men’s magazines as well as artwork for film posters, album covers and books, and his covers for the ‘Conan’ series of books are directly responsible for Arnie’s awesome look in the later movies. Frazetta suffered a series of strokes in recent years that left him paralysed in his drawing hand. No worries – he taught himself to paint and draw all over again with his other hand. Legend.

Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell
Boris Vallejo is carrying on the mantle of Frank Frazetta. He does extreme photo-realistic paintings that blow your mind with their detail. He painted some action-packed covers for the Tarzan books that are really famous. Even better, after years toiling away on his own as a fantasy artist, he met Julie Bell who was – get this – a body builder. Now the two of them do body building together as well as paint insane portraits of warrior women carrying battle-axes and fighting aliens (with titles like ‘Rescue of the Dragon Baby’). Can’t work out the secret to a long-lasting relationship? Der! Grab your life-partner, pump some iron together and then paint some hot naked chicks and some wolves!

Michael Whelan
If you want to know what the future looks like, check out some sci-fi fantasy art like the work of Michael Whelan. How does he know? How does he know?? In his thirty-year career as a fantasy sci-fi illustrator, Whelan has done covers for Steven King books, as well as album artwork for Sepultura and the Jackson 5. Whelan is so good, he won best artist at the World Fantasy Awards three years in a row!! When you look at his painting ‘Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen’ it’s not hard to see why.

Hieronymus Bosch
When I said Frank Frazetta started it all, I was kind of exaggerating. It could be argued that artists have been depicting the fantasy world since the dawn of time – or since drugs were first invented, whichever came first. Hieronymus Bosch was an artist from the swingin’ 1400s who used to paint incredibly detailed fantastical works – depicting…well it seems the jury’s still out on that one. It could be that Bosch was painting his own dreams and nightmares, or using his paintings to depict the spiritual views of the day; it could be that Bosch was a surrealist in the vein of Salvador Dali, or maybe he just painted that stuff cause it looks cool. What is clear, however, is that if he were alive today Hieronymus would be making sweet moolah doing album covers for metal bands and spruiking his posters in online fantasy chatrooms.

The future of fantasy art
This is a tricky subject. Mostly because people think you are talking about ‘the future’ but you are really just talking about the future. The trouble with fantasy art these days – and I have formulated this opinion based on one book entitled ‘fantasy art today’ that I got from the Fitzroy library so I may be wrong, but I’m probably not – is photoshop. These days there appear to be a bunch of young fantasy art upstarts who haven’t paid their dues who think that fantasy art involves manipulating images on a computer to look all trippy. I have one word for you guys: CHEATERS.

The whole insane tripped out thing about fantasy art is that it takes crazy mad skillz to paint dragons that look like a photo of a dragon. Or weird magical realms that you can believe for a second actually exist. And how do they do it when they have no real reference material except their own imagination and the inspiration of the artists that went before them? Fantasy artists have to possess exceptional technical ability, plus imagination and the trick of constructing a whole story in a single image.

In the days before TV and internet-gaming, fantasy art was all they had. Nowadays we have TV and internet gaming, so fantasy art has been kind of discredited. But in this harsh global economic melt-down, with the weather all apocalyptic, I think we should be looking to these artworks once again. Because fantasy is all about escaping from reality, imagining the impossible, and researching what to do if giant insect like robots attack the planet.

'Savage Pellucida' Frank Frazetta
Frank Frazetta's Conan
Arnie as Conan
'Egyptian Queen' Frank Frazetta
'Eternal Champion' Frank Frazetta
Boris Vallejo's Tarzan
Boris and Julie...awwww
'Rescue of the dragon baby' Julie Bell
'Mermaid Couple' Boris Vallejo (also known as 'the curse of being a hot couple but having no genitalia')
'Departure' by team Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell
'A study of Bowie' Michael Whelan
'Victory' Michael Whelan
'Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen' Michael Whelan
'The garden of earthly delights' Hieronymus Bosch
Detail from same painting, Hieronymus Bosch
'Interface' Peter Jones. A whole movie in one picture
Osibisa album cover by Roger Dean
'Charge' by Roger Dean
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