Steve's Fantasy Art Critique (Vol. 1)
Yo, I am new to Something Awful and my name is Steve "Malak" Sumner. I have been a big fan of the stuff on this site for years so it is totally cool that I am finally getting to write some articles. I hope you guys dig them.
This article is about fantasy art. I am way into fantasy stuff. I love Lord of the Rings, Conan, Gor and some of the newer stuff like George R.R. Martin who is awesome. I also used to be huge into Dungeons and Dragons. I ran a Forgotten Realms game for like seven years almost with my buddies and before that I played a barbarian in my friend Keith's Greyhawk campaign. I don't have as much time as I would like to play D&D anymore, but I still think D&D is fun. Although, the new D20 stuff sort of blows because I am old school Second Edition and the new stuff is less about the roleplaying and more about powergaming. If I wanted to play a videogame I would bust out my PS2.
I thought it would be cool to devote my first update here to some of the coolest fantasy art I could find. I hope you guys dig fantasy art and if not, well, hey, you know it's cool. Not everyone likes this stuff. Maybe next time I'll do some sci-fi stuff, because that's almost as cool.
Okay, to start things off I have to go with Ken Kelly. He is awesome and he has done like 25 covers for Conan books and reissues. He totally captures the muscles of barbarians in awesome detail. I don't know what the title of this picture by Ken Kelly is but it is pretty standard for barbarian imagery.
Okay, so, the key elements of the barbarian pictures are that you have a super muscled barbarian about to do something awesome, you have some dark shadowy location like this smoky forest, and you've got a hot babe. In some cases the hot babe is replaced with an awesome monster. Like a big snake man or some sort of dude with a skull head and a burning spear or something. Sometimes the hot babe is there in addition to the bad guy and once in a long while the hot babe actually is the bad guy. Like she's shooting magic at the barbarian or she's got some poison arrows or something.
In this one the barbarian is Conan and Conan is looking buffer than ever. He is so buff that even his horse is buff. Look at that, I don't even think a horse has pectorals but that one does. Conan is raising a sword with one hand and he's steering the horse with the other. It's probably someone else's horse that Conan took, because they bothered to put all that armor stuff on it and then Conan just grabs it by its hair to steer.
The horse is sort of jumping like it's going to punch someone and Conan has that awesome sword, but he also has an axe in case he has to like kill so many lizardmen that he needs another weapon. Like if his sword blows out on him halfway through a horde of giant cats or something. Conan also has bagged another super-hot babe. She looks sort of like Vampirella but her dress isn't complicated enough. She has a really hot butt and I bet her boobs are good too but I can't tell for sure. Conan is going to rampage on her at some point in the book, you can be sure, and like when you read that part where Conan is pushing her around and kissing her boobs you can flip the book around and remind yourself how hot it really can get.
I rate this picture a solid 8 out of 10. It's not over-the-top awesome, but it doesn't need to be because if Conan was awesome all the time he would seem less awesome when he was being awesome.
This next one is by one of my personal favorite artists by the name of Boris Vallejo. Boris Vallejo is a world-renowned fantasy artist and he is probably the all-around best artist of all time, but he has a lot of pictures with nudity and I was told not to have nudity on here so I had a hard time picking one of his pictures. My only overall criticism of Boris Vallejo is that sometimes he makes the dudes in his pictures look too oily. Like, it's okay if a chick is oily, that's cool, but if you've got like five dudes in a picture it makes you wonder why they are all oily like that.
This picture doesn't have any dudes at all, which is awesome. It is one of my favorite Boris Vallejo pictures that I can post on Something Awful.
As you can see he has perfectly captured the struggle of hot chick versus hot chick in lifelike detail. You can see their muscles straining against each other as they are locked in mortal combat over something serious and it looks like their boobs are ready to fly right out of the picture and land in your face. A normal artist would have said "okay, this is awesome, I've got two hot stone age type babes duking it out in a prehistoric catfight, I will just sign this awesome picture now because I'm done." Not Boris Vallejo.
He was like "okay, awesome, two hot babes fighting, but this could be way more awesome." So he goes ahead and he adds a pterodactyl flying around and a diplodocus or something looking for potatoes. But wait, he still isn't satisfied, so he adds in a freaking awesome volcano erupting everywhere.
Can you imagine walking around and seeing that happening? Like, "oh man, there are dinosaurs everywhere. Holy crap, that volcano just exploded!" Then you look over and you see these two super hot babes pulling each other's hair and getting all sweaty. They don't care about the volcano or the dinosaurs, they're just so into their fight that it doesn't matter. That is master painting. Also, I think this picture says something about racism and how it even existed during the time of dinosaurs. That's just the layers of the onion that Boris Vallejo paints into his pictures.
This sweet picture rates a 9.5 out of 10. It would get a ten, easy, but I think it could be improved. Okay, stick with me on this one. Think about how awesome this picture is, okay, now think about how much more awesome this picture would be if instead of the pterodactyl there was like a knight in black armor riding on top of a dragon and the dragon is breathing fire on the other dinosaur, which isn't a dinosaur it's a giant golem. That would make this picture a ten.
Fantasy art is another one of those businesses that is dominated by men. I don't want to get all Gor on you, but I think men are just innately better at capturing the detail of a goblin being decapitated by a woman in strips of chainmail.
Women just don't get that sort of thing usually. They can paint an awesome picture of like a pie being baked or people gossiping or whatever, but they just don't have very much experience visualizing the staggering surreal vistas of the fantasy art world. They also totally suck at writing random encounter tables, but that's for my article about Margaret Weis and her Dragons of Mournhold module for Dragonlance.
Anyway, there are a couple of good fantasy artists who are also women and Rowena Morrill is one of them. Her stuff can be pretty fruity sometimes, and her art is a bit Arthurian for my more gritty Tolkein tastes, but there are definitely some gems there. She also has the ability to come up with some pretty creative ideas, like this one, which I think is awesome.
This is one sweet picture. On the left side you've got an angel dude in a toga swooping in to fight the devil dude on the right. It is cool how Rowena juxtaposes a sweet golden cavalry saber with the devil's 9mm Uzi. I can just imagine that devil shooting off a clip of bullets and that angel dude like holds up his hand and there is this choir singing and a ray of light comes down and blocks the bullets.
This awesome confrontational picture does a great job of capturing the proverbial battle of angel versus fallen angel and good versus evil. I'll give it an 8 out of 10. I would rate this picture a little higher, because it is super sweet, but I think the little hot pants the devil guy is wearing are kind of lame. Like is the devil trying to mow down the angel with his machinegun or is he trying to solicit sex? They're both kind of oily, which I guess goes back to what I was saying about Boris Vallejo.
Speaking of Boris Vallejo, if there is one artist who can out-babe the master of hot fantasy babes himself, it's Chris Achilleos. Achilleos has a bunch of awesome pictures of stacked babes fighting dragons, lizardmen, skeletons, goblins, orcs and pretty much anything you could imagine a babe with huge boobs fighting. He's got topless wizard babes shooting lightning, hot babes in chains, hot babes straddling robots and even some hot Viking babes. If I had Boris Vallejo and Chris Achilleos on speed dial and I needed a hot babe picture drawn, I would dial 911 and ask them to just pick one because I couldn't make up my own mind on this issue.
Since Something Awful is so down on the nude hot babes, I have searched high and low to find a Chris Achilleos painting that could capture his incredible talent without depicting a greased up broad in a thong sliding down a troll's knee. I managed to find this painting by Chris Achilleos that doesn't feature a single babe, yet is still awesome. This one really shows you how Chris takes a time-tested good idea, in this case badass skeleton warriors, and kicks it up like 500 notches to make it unbelievably awesome.
There you can see a desolate warscape blasted with fire and the tides of an inhuman siege. There are no good guys in this painting, there are just the bad and the worse, and my money is on the big honking skeleton dude with the axe thing. You've got some orc-looking dudes, a bunch of skeletons and a couple of zombie dudes. It's total evil chaos. It's like "does a tree fall in the forest when no one is there to hear it?" only it's "do the orcs and skeletons fight when there's no barbarian there to bash their skulls?" and obviously, yes, yes they do fight.
In real life getting turned into a skeleton pretty much sucks. You can't really do much other than educate science classrooms or spook people in movies as a skeleton. In the realm of fantasy art, however, skeletons are like 20 to 30 times as awesome as a regular person. If you were a pretty tough dude before, that puts you almost on the same level as a barbarian. Getting turned into a skeleton is really like an upgrade.
Chris Achilleos really captures the raw magical might of a skeleton horde in this picture. It will haunt your dreams! I would give this one a solid 9 out of 10. I've got to deduct half a point because there are no hot babes and another half a point because I would like to see a little more variety. Like a giant scorpion or maybe like a huge undead bear where half of its face is falling off and its arms are just skeleton arms. Either of those would be pretty sweet and I think they would take this picture to the next level.
The next dude who we're going to cover here is Keith Parkinson. Keith isn't quite my favorite artist, but he is really good at doing realistic dragons. I mean seriously, like they just flew out of the page at you and crap. He's not a one trick pony either, Keith can paint just about anything that might wield ancient magic. You want a lich? Boom, lich. You want a dragon? Blam, dragon. You want a lich riding a dragon and shooting eldritch lightning. Blammo, Keith is your dude.
Whoa, a freaking werewolf wizard! That's like the BK Whopper of magical evil. You might as well have a vampire mummy or like a freaking yeti dragon or something. He's not just any wizard either, he is a necromancer who can just growl at a crystal ball and make a skeleton legion shoot out of a swamp.
Don't let the lack of babes in this picture fool you, Keith Parkinson may not throw babes around like Vallejo or Achilleos, but he can draw one mean babe. He is a master of making boobs look like they have real weight and aren't just floating around in anti-gravity chainmail bikinis. Keith did the cover for the Rifts book and it has like these three chicks in thongs and little see-through shirts shooting lasers while this squid headed monster growls in the background. The babes on the Rifts book are super hot and there are three of them. Man, what I wouldn't give for a night with those girls. I would give my entire collection of Phantom Menace Pepsi cans.
Keith is also your go-to guy for skeleton pictures. Check out how cool the skeletons look in this picture and then realize those are just crummy swamp skeletons. Keith has a bunch of pictures of freaking Death Knights and liches and crap that are mind-blowing. You can practically smell their musty breath!
For this totally sweet picture of the werewolf necromancer with the awesome skeletons rising out of the swamp I've got give 9.5 out of 10. This one would be a surefire ten but there are no hot babes and no pyro crap. No babe, cool, but come on sneak in like an exploding tree or a flaming arrow in the background or something. Just give it a little bit of extra zip.
Alrighty, well, this last one is from the man, the legend, Don Maitz. If you're like me and you love dragon jigsaw puzzles then you're already familiar with Don's work. He has done several 500 and 1000 piece dragon jigsaws and they are beautiful. The picture I have chosen to review today, however, is from one of Don's book cover commissions. It's from a freaking unbelievably awesome Michael Moorcock book where his character Elric fights Nazis. I am not exaggerating at all when I say this might be the coolest image ever captured in a painting. It gives me chills. Without further ado, I present to you "Elric at the Battle of Britain" by Don Maitz.
Holy crap! Holy cr- no, wait, that isn't good enough…HOLY CRAP!
Freaking Elric is on a dragon, flying over a giant burning swastika, with frigging Nazis shooting machineguns at him. Elric is so badass that he not only has time to fight Nazis with his dragon, he has time to get married and make it into his honeymoon. Check out his sweet bride riding the dragon behind him. She'll never forget that honeymoon, I guarantee!
It's hard for me to even rate this picture it's so 100% sweet. Like you can see the sun through the membranes and crap on the dragon's wing and even the swastika fire is spreading out and burning the plants (whoa, symbolism?!). It's just so detailed and there's so much to take in. I'm shaking a little bit it's so awesome.
My only regret is that I don't have a more detailed version to show you guys. I bet if I had one you could like enhance the dragon and you'd see that Elric's bride is a way hot babe with huuuuuge boobs and freaking Elric is steering the dragon with one hand and throwing the freaking horns with the other. That's how awesome he rolls.
Alright, well, I have to rate it, so I am going to give it a 9.9 out of 10. It would be hard to think of a way to improve this picture without getting too crazy, but I'll give it a shot. What if, instead of just breathing fire out of the edge of the picture, the dragon was fighting another dragon that looked sort of like a Nazi airplane. Then on the back of the other dragon you could have Hitler in like a suit of black plate mail armor with a big shield with a swastika on it. Eva Braun could be sitting behind Hitler and she could be totally tight and toned with huge boobs and wearing like this see-through negligee type outfit. It would be hard to pull off, but if anyone could do it then it's Don "Dragon Jigsaw Maestro" Maitz.
Hey, that's it for this article guys, but I really hope you enjoyed it. I like to have fun and be educational and I've got to say that I haven't had this much fun for a long time. I'd do even more of them but I've got to work third shift at FreshCut and the last time I burned the midnight oil this much I nearly lost a couple fingers to the lettuce julienner. I think that time I was playing a really hot erotic session of Amber with my ex-girlfriend Heather.
Anywho, if you've got any comments or way sweet fantasy or sci-fi art you want to share you can send me an email. I'm pretty busy, so I may not answer, but I appreciate the feedback and I hope I'll get a chance to write another article.