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The Art of Fantasy

Kay Nielsen, 1886 - 1957

Known for artwork that often depicted scenes from fairytales, folklore and myth, Nielsen was inspired by Art Nouveau and Japanese woodblock printing techniques creating his elegant, clear style.

He attended The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen where he studied under renowned illustrator Julius Exner, with his work later known as being part of The Golden Age of Illustration, joining the ranks of illustrators such as Arthur Rackham, Charles Ricketts, Edmund Dulac, Lawrence Housman, Henry Ford, Jean de Bosschère amongst many others.

Nielsen worked as a concept artist for the Disney during the 1930’s, and contributed to several projects including, Fantasia and The Little Mermaid, although many of his designs were ultimately unused or altered by other artists, leading to him leaving the studio on bad terms.

His notable works however include illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, The Arabian Nights and In Powder and Crinoline, owing to his enduring success as an artist-illustrator.

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Lily Seika Jones

Jones is a freelance artist based in Vancouver, Canada, and creates delicate and detailed watercolour works that depicts nature, folklore and anthropomorphised creatures, all in a moody palate that mirrors the landscape of the Pacific Northwest. Her subject matter often feels cosy or sometimes dark and enchanting, and sits firmly in the contemporary line of artists and illustrators paving the way for fantasy, fairytale and folkloric art.

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Shelter, 2019

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Hydrus, 2018

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Eidolon, 2022

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The Mushroom Bard, 2022
 

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Josan Gonzalez

If we're exploring contemporary artists, Josan deserves a mention. He is an illustrator and author hailing from Spain, whose colourful cyberpunk work have become a staple of the sub-genre's landscape in record time due to collaborations with various magazines as well as the hit game Cyberpunk 2077. Utilizing Ligne Claire, his work fits neatly in a well-established lineage of sci-fi and cyberpunk illustration. It fits within the art form's continuity while emphasizing the playfulness and nostalgia inherent to predecessors such as Heavy Metal/Metal Hurlant. (This blurb is just a quick synopsis of an article I found by the Verge, which you should read if you are interested in Josan: The bleak and charming cyberpunk art of Josan Gonzalez).

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Yoann Lossel, 1985-...

Another great, contemporary artist is Yoann Lossel from Strassbourg, but now residing in Brittany. Predominantly utilizing graphite, oil and gold leaf, he creates fantastic imagery set in distinct mythological/mythopoeic landscapes. His works feature the mysterious and divine, and depicts the boundaries of nature and civilization, with evident Celtic and Germanic inspiration woven throughout all. In his own words, his art style draws from the iconography of the Italian Renaissance, Symbolism, Pre-Raphaelism, Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts movements. Other influences are to be found as well, seen as one of his works "Les Fleurs du Mal" (featured below) is named for a famous poetry collection by Baudelaire. His website and biography can be found here: Yoann Lossel - Bio


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Les Jardins de Nuit
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Les Fleurs du Mal
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Beowulf - Heorot
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Forgotten Gods
 
Yes, I thought it’d be trite to discard the work of contemporary artists and illustrators when there’s some exquisite talent out there to admire and find value in. I also have been pondering the fact that fantasy / science fiction art and illustration often doesn’t get taken as seriously as other art forms, so why not champion it.
 

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I'd agree. Best to celebrate artists while they're around to hear it. Second best to do so thereafter ;)
 
Alan Lee, 1947 - present

A seminal British illustrator most well known for his illustrations for JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

His artistic style is characterised by its meticulous detail and immersive qualities, incorporating landscape and nature into the scenes he depicts. He masterfully creates enchanting artwork that fits seamlessly into the fantasy genre, and his influence carries far.

His illustration work for JRR Tolkien’s fantasy word Middle Earth were characterised by sweeping landscapes and iconic characters from the tales brought to life with stunning detail. Lee collaborated with Peter Jackson on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy in addition to his work as an illustrator and contributed to the films as a concept designer and artist leading him to win an Academy Award for Best Art Direction. He also worked on The Hobbit film trilogy, further solidifying his reputation as a leading fantasy artist.

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Queen Margrethe II of Denmark (Copenhagen 1940 - Current day)

I wasn't aware of this personally, so I figure some others here might not be either, but one of the creative pursuits (along with costume design and scenography among others) of this former Danish queen was illustration, specifically pertaining to the works of Tolkien who she knew personally. She abdicated earlier this year from the throne, so perhaps she might return to the realm of Middle Earth for another art piece or two. The 1977 Danish translation of the Lord of the Rings (Ringenes Herre) featured her work, which I find downright charming. Without further ado, some illustrations of hers:

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Queen Margrethe II of Denmark (Copenhagen 1940 - Current day)

I wasn't aware of this personally, so I figure some others here might not be, but one of the creative pursuits (along with costume design and scenography among others) of this former Danish queen was illustration, specifically pertaining to the works of Tolkien who she knew personally. She abdicated earlier this year from the throne, so perhaps she might return to the realm of Middle Earth for another art piece or two. The 1977 Danish translation of the Lord of the Rings (Ringenes Herre) featured her work, which I find downright charming. Without further ado, some illustrations of hers:

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That last picture is amazing!
 

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Why do I see parallels with your own work with hers? Is it something in the Dutch canals?? They’re really amazing.
Thank you for the comparison, but in case the nationality part isn't sarcasm, Denmark is not the Netherlands. I am as Danish as you are.
 
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Thank you for the comparison, but in case the nationality part isn't sarcasm, Denmark is not the Netherlands. I am as Danish as you are.
Erm…yes I for some reason had Dutch and not Danish in my mind. Ignore me 😂

- I still think there are some stylistic similarities.
 
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