A New Wave of Art

Tricked ya! Sort of! On the one hand, fantasy art isn't that new at all. But as I was sitting in a meeting flipping through American Artist magazine's May 2012 issue–while still paying close attention to what was being said, of course!–I was struck by how much the lessons of imaginative realism play a part in the artwork that is being done here and now.

Marooned by Howard Pyle, oil on canvas, 1909.
Marooned by Howard Pyle, oil on canvas, 1909.

When you think about it, fantasy art or sci-fi art is usually steeped in the narratives and stories that make our cultures rich–from mythology and mysticism to folk music and tall tales. The test is balancing these colorful influences with good taste and making sure your art isn't just illustrating the fantasy pictures that come into your head when you listen to or read these stories.

The Mermaid by Howard Pyle, oil on canvas, 1910.
The Mermaid by Howard Pyle, oil on canvas, 1910.

Fantasy images created by the early American illustrator Howard Pyle are particularly good at showing this kind of balance, mostly because the artist edited the hell out of himself! Pyle was apparently ruthlessly reductive and always driven to have a "supreme moment" in each of his works.

He never hesitated to excise detail from his paintings, and this principle made a great impression on many of Pyle's students, including N.C. Wyeth, who must have taught his son Andrew much of the same. Andrew Wyeth believed that even after removing an image or detail from a painting, a phantom presence could remain, complicating the composition and still lending itself to the story unfolding on the oil painting canvas. That is complicated idea to wrap my head around, yet there's definitely truth to it.

If you want to check out the May 2012 issue of American Artist that I was looking at and that started this whole ball about fantasy art rolling in my head, it is just a click away. It is a complete guide to illustration and imaginative realism that could ignite a whole new way of working for you–an incredibly exciting prospect I'm sure! Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.