I’ve whittled away countless hours of my life dauntlessly searching for any artwork that pleases my seemingly insatiable hunger for visual fidelity. It has now come to a point where I believe I have a strong preference of which artists appeal to me more than most and will therefore give you some insight into the fantasy art world by crafting this list for you to peruse and enjoy. I come across most art pieces from three main sources. The biggest one is Deviantart.com, the social artwork website. It remains one of my most frequented websites and I have thousands of pieces of art downloaded from that place alone. Second to that is Magic: The Gathering, a fantasy card game. The producers (Wizards of the Coast) are known to hire the best fantasy artists in the world create wonderful illustrations for their cards. The final source is the massive industry of video game art. Concept artists are people I follow all the time and you’ll see a few of them on this list as well.
I initially began this thinking I would shoot for a top twenty, believing that it would be tough to find that many different artists with enough variety or unique talent to offer. It didn’t take long to realize that twenty didn’t even leave enough breathing room for the sheer amount of talented artists I wanted to include. These are not only my top twenty, but my top sixty fantasy artists, whether on Deviant Art or in the professional industry, that have graced me with their finely drawn or painted imagination. For the thrill of suspense, I’m starting from 60 and working my way up to number one. There will be a total of four parts! Now then, prepare your eyes…
60. Howard Lyon
It’s not often where one piece of art can elevate my entire opinion of the artist, but his masterpiece “Time Reversal” is one of my favorite drawings. The feeling of an epic, cataclysmic event being controlled by a seemingly infinitely powerful being is tough to portray, and Howard Lyon does it with apparent ease. He’s kind of a shoe-in because of this one illustration, but his other works aren’t so bad either. Going forward, there won’t be any more artists that make this list as a one-hit-wonder.
59. Paul Bonner
There’s something you catch on to the instant you look at any art from Paul Bonner. He manages to capture this primal detail on creatures that I have yet to see replicated. It goes a long way to make his art unique and the way he adds such vibrant colors without making it look too unrealistic is astounding.
58. Steven Belledin
Steven Belledin is one of Magic’s newer artists and since he started a few years ago, his contributions have been endless. His hyper-realistic art style gives his work an instant gratification at the sheer talent his work contains. But talent alone doesn’t win me over, it’s also the fact that he combines that realism with a refreshing sense of imagination to create interesting portraits.
57. Stanley Lau
It’s rare to see an artist that delves into nerdy culture and creates mainly fan-art to be considered a true fantasy artist, but Stanley Lau definitely has the skill to back his spot on this list. Every piece of his is vivid, whether in color or in black and white. His style is pleasantly varied too with digital detail dominating one piece while elegant brush strokes are left rough and messy in others. I can’t help but get excited and wonder if he’s ever going to draw another character that I love.
56. Andreas Zafiratos
This is an artist who’s entire catalog deserves to be looked at. Andreas Zafiratos has a rich and flexible imagination that make his character designs borderline sublime. He’s creating his own fictional universe that looks like a mix of abstract horror and mythical fantasy. These are some of the best fantasy designs by a single person that I’ve seen and I can’t wait to see more of the haunting world of Nightmares in Rust.
Shishizaru was only hired onto Magic during their oriental mythology block called “Kamigawa.” It’s a shame because his paintings are soft and beautiful, and Magic could use more artists with this kind of quality. I love the elegant flow that he incorporates into his compositions. He’s an artist that I sorely miss, and I hope he comes back to Magic should they ever return to Kamigawa.
54. Terese Nielsen
One of the longest running artists of Magic: The Gathering is also one of the most unique. Her signature soft brush style truly makes for some gorgeous art. The true reward of her effort comes when she does her abstract-diagram style artwork seen in some of the included pictures. She is a fan favorite for drawing angels and has always made some of the most memorable artwork for Magic. I personally really like the color schemes she uses as well the soft lighting. It’s a very gentle art style that I typically don’t enjoy, but she won me over.
53. Kuang Hong
If you ever wanted to see an artist that knows how to fill a painting to the brim with unnerving amounts of detail, then Kuang Hong’s gallery is all you require. He puts a staggering amount of consideration into every particular section of his artwork that can only be attributed to the time and work he puts into his career. Even with his amazing detail, he still does unique and abstract artwork as seen below. From literally every leaf, to each grain of sand, Kuang Hong is a master of the digital craft.
52. Shingo ‘Shichigoro’ Matsunuma
Sometimes it takes more than just drawing something really well to make this list. In the case of this wonderfully imaginative artist, it’s the style and creativity that bring the artwork to the next level. Shingo Matsunuma’s portfolio is like a twisted, industrial, and utterly cute tromp through the mechanical graveyard. His style is a breath of fresh air and brings the boundaries of art further from what I’m used to. Though he rarely illustrates in color, it seems to be his next priority since his more recent uploads have mainly included color. Artists always progress, and it’s nice to see that he’s working on elevating his craft as much as he can.
51. Silvia Pelissero
Drops and splashes of color weaving and aligning to create a fluid illustrious painting: that’s how I’d describe Silvia’s stunning art style. She has the amazing minimalistic feel combined with a use of color that is tough to replicate on a similar level. As you can see in the picture of the mural on the wall, her style is completely hand-made and is a brilliant display in real life as well, especially at such a large size. Her technique is literally one in a million, and though there are others that practice watercolor in this vein, none have come to the same plateau as this as far as I’ve seen.
50. Willian Murai
Willian is one of the newest artists drawing for Magic. His contributions have already been significant thanks to his rich and colorful character portraits. I am a big fan of the way he draws clothing and the style he uses for the outfits and armor is undeniably cool. However, on top of being a top-notch character illustrator, he does a great job of creating intricate scenery to match the subjects that he draws. It’s what really turns these into an all-encompassing style of artwork.
49. Jane Mere
I’m sure some of you were wondering how anime art style fits into the mix, considering I love anime with a passion. Well with many thanks to Janemere, anime can easily exist side by side with western fantasy art. Jane Mere is, in this author’s humble opinion, one of the best manga/anime style artists out there. Her full illustrations portray so much vast beauty and open atmosphere that you just want to journey into the world within the canvas and experience such majesty first hand. Her unique focus on combining flowing and intricate character designs with Renaissance era architecture and pre-industrial lifestyles creates an entrancing, charming aura that resonates from her pieces.
48. Todd Lockwood
This long-time fan favorite artist has been with Magic: The Gathering for over a decade. His artwork has considerably improved over the years with his recent work pushing him up to this spot on the list. “Recumbent Bliss,” the first picture, is such a peaceful and beautiful scene and concept that it calms me down by simply observing it. He has a massive catalog of art and the five here hardly show what he’s truly capable of.
47. Stephan Martiniere
Environmental art hasn’t had too much of a spot on this list so far, but Stephan definitely makes his rank stand strong with some truly awe-inspiring renditions of fantasy landscape. His lighting and realism are highly commendable as well as the attention to detail in his architecture. That’s not to say he still can’t make fantastic creature based artwork too when you glimpse the epicness of his “Marit Lage” at the bottom.
46. Scott M Fischer
It’s tough to beat any character portrait that Scott M Fischer is behind. He can scale amazingly, work well with colors, and also add in his unique geometric shapes and oddities enhance the art even further. “Isperia, the Supreme Judge,” the first picture, is a prime example of scaling that dropped my jaw the first time I saw it. The small windows in the architecture really stress the size of this gargantuan sphinx. His art can become radical, wild and exciting while others can give off a dark and brooding mood.
45. Vincent Lefevre
Vincent Lefevre offers a fantastic variety of art ranging from beautiful creatures to fiendish mechanical monstrosities. What makes his art better is the intense moods he can convey in his pieces. Sadness, pain, and wonder respectively, were immediately sensed when I first glanced at the pictures below. It’s the true talent of a concept artist to take a thought and turn it into reality, and then go further and transform that into beautiful art like he does.
44. Zhenyu Liu
It’s almost unheard of when a newcomer artist gets featured in National Geographic, but that’s what happened with Zhenyu Liu, or “Jerain” on Deviant Art. His style is one that I wish would prosper more in today’s art industry: the oriental style of old Japan and China. Zhenyu manages to keep this style alive and throws in a huge burst of color to each painting. It’s soft, colorful, and exotic. He only has a small portfolio right now, but it speaks as strong as a decade-long professional artist’s portfolio does.
43. Greg Staples
This long time artist is one of Magic’s biggest contributors boasting more art for the series than almost any other artist. He’s easily one of the most, if not, the most important artist in Magic’s upbringing. Hypnotic Specter is an icon of Magic artwork and is a masterful display or horror and beauty. The rider is depicted again in the picture below that, “Hell’s Caretaker.” He’s really flexible, being able to switch from a dreary piece and then paint one which is bright and full of triumph. I like to point out one of his signature characteristics of hard-angled swirls in the last two pictures.
42. Veronique Meignaud
I was very surprised that an artist like Veronique was picked up by Magic: The Gathering. Her style before this was mainly abstract art of nothing really in the fantasy realm. But every once in a while something like this can result in resounding success, and in my honest opinion, that’s what happened with Veronique Meignaud. Her style mixed with Magic’s direction created something gorgeous that’s tough to describe in one measly attempt. There’s rich, dark colors, flowing direction and motion, and amazing concepts and design that all work together to weave a masterpiece of fantasy artwork. Here’s hoping Magic doesn’t forget about her.
41. Chase Stone
Chase Stone is very accustomed to designing some terrific creatures. He takes a more simplistic approach, but executes on an entirely different level. His detail on some of his creatures is incredibly life-like as seen on the hydra and demon. While not having too much of a signature art style that I can describe, his take on the more standard structures of fantasy art is simply top tier because of his pure skill. He represents a seasoned artist who knows all the characteristics of a great representation of the imaginative world of fantasy.
Part 2 coming later today!