Nothing Too Extreme

I don't usually think favorably of extreme ideas or extreme ways of doing things. Mostly, this is because I've found that sensible ideas often come with compromise. And in many ways, I think this applies to my ideas about fantasy art.

I love fantasy art, science fiction books, and imaginative storytelling and movies. But in certain crowds, fantasy pictures and sci-fi art get a bad reputation because they are so extreme. I know I've said it before, and I'll say it again: There is a way to temper realistic imagery with more fantastical images. Artists do it all the time.

Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps by Kehinde Wiley, oil on canvas, 9' x 9', 2005.
Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps
by Kehinde Wiley, oil on canvas, 9' x 9', 2005.

Case in point: Kehinde Wiley. He is one of my favorite artists because he's so clever, taking historical visual tropes and combining them with contemporary figures or objects, often making a political point or referencing social issues. But the artist also manufactures an altered reality in his work. His "fantasy" art is decidedly of the here and now–there is no mistaking what Wiley represents as reality, which makes the work all the more interesting. He is elevating fantasy images by inflating them with big ideas and meanings, as well as playing with the idea of reality, fantasy, fact, and fiction.

I'm a sucker for an artist who plays by his or her own set of rules, and Wiley does just that. If you are interested in other great artists who steer their own visions and produce interesting work that just so happens to be part of the fantasy-art realm, look no farther than the American Artist fantasy-art issue and our Commanding Color book, which includes famed fantasy artist James Gurney's book on the subject. These resources can teach you how to build fantasy pictures from conception to execution, making it possible for you to take your ideas–no matter how out of this world–and make them into reality, at least on your painting surface. 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.