AuthorTopic: history of grotesque fantasy art  (Read 5020 times)

Offline tocky

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history of grotesque fantasy art

on: June 25, 2009, 05:57:25 pm
I'm looking to start an investigation into the history of grotesque fantasy art, as typified in rpg manuals and sourcebooks, western comics and pulp fiction, japanese comics and pulp fiction, animation, and game concept art.

the best-known pioneers in this space are probably Frazetta in the west and Miyazaki in the east, though there are many others and there are much older things integrated - the themes and many of the techniques inherent to this sort of art can be traced at least as far back as the renaissance, and people like Hieronymous Bosch, and beyond that into classical antiquity.  There is a long and colourful history of mannerist art and romantic art, but I'm trying to refer specifically to works used to illustrate fantasy texts or populate imaginary worlds, arising since the rise of popular science fiction (such as the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne). I'm especially interested in works created in the latter half of the twentieth century, and especially published fiction illustrations, including comics and video game stuff.

I say 'probably' Frazetta and Miyazaki because I'm not truly familiar with the history of modern fantasy art and how far back it goes, though this is what I'm intending to discover.

So, what I'm hoping to do first is to populate a list of seminal artists and seminal works, as well as popular artists and popular works, as well as publications I should look into. Any contributions are appreciated, feel free to post images in this thread.

Offline crab2selout.png

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Re: history of grotesque fantasy art

Reply #1 on: June 25, 2009, 08:59:26 pm
What do you mean by grotesque fantasy art? I'm more of a casual admirer of fantasy and I've never heard of somebody calling it grotesque. Just curious what separates grotesque stuff from the regular fantasy art. And the onlly fantasy publication I'm aware of is Spectrum.

Offline tocky

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Re: history of grotesque fantasy art

Reply #2 on: June 25, 2009, 09:29:22 pm
well, calling it grotesque is maybe just me being weird, I'm thinking specifically of the trend in commercial fantasy art which is to make everything as fantastic as you can possibly make it. So thinking specifically of carefully posed, intricately constructed stuff, with oversized props and giant beasts and exaggerated ambient lighting... the style used for every Games Workshop thing ever is a good example, but you can see it anywhere. I don't know if this is a value judgement on my part, but I believe that grotesque, in the traditional sense, is an apt description. This is not to say I'll deliberately exclude stuff that is subtle, or that I think that this stuff is ugly or ridiculous or something - if I thought that I would not want to study it.

EDIT:
I'm going to stick the list of artists here. Links usually go to fansites rather than official sites in cases where the fansites are easier to navigate.

Frank Frazetta http://frankfrazetta.org/
Boris Vallejo http://vallejo.ural.net/
H.R. Giger
Todd Mcfarlane
Frank Miller
Jim Lee
Larry Elmore http://www.larryelmore.com/galleries_paintings01.html
Todd Lockwood http://www.toddlockwood.com/galleries/
Ralph Bakshi
Wally Wood
Jack Kirby
John Buscema
Ray Harryhausen



« Last Edit: June 26, 2009, 03:16:28 am by tocky »

Offline Cow

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Re: history of grotesque fantasy art

Reply #3 on: June 26, 2009, 01:11:18 am
I don't see how Miyazaki and HR Giger fit into this at all, but good luck with your endeavor.

Offline tocky

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Re: history of grotesque fantasy art

Reply #4 on: June 26, 2009, 01:31:21 am
I think the list is kind of weak for stuff that isn't american, and for science fiction stuff generally at the moment, i'm still putting it together. In any case, this is not a phenonenon unique to american swords & sorcery stuff.

Please ignore the word 'grotesque' if it bugs you, what I'm trying to do is draw some distinction between modern production fantasy stuff and any picture ever made that contains some fantastic or magical theme. I'm calling this stuff grotesque because it represents a distorted view of reality, more colourful and more intricate and larger than life, and also, often more dark or visceral or epic, although these words are less useful descriptors that grotesque, which means all of those things. It's grotesque, and we embrace it knowingly. What I'm trying to get is a list of fantasy artists who in some way helped define the current face of fantasy art.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2009, 03:13:48 am by tocky »

Offline Tourist

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Re: history of grotesque fantasy art

Reply #5 on: June 27, 2009, 02:37:15 am
A lot of the SF images got started in the 1930s when the genre was separating from pulp adventures.

Here is a site that has images going back that far:
http://www.sfcovers.net/


But I'm not sure the modern stuff is any more colorful or larger-than-life than older mythological or religious artwork.  There's a different look to the modern stuff since the tools and techniques are different, but is that all it is?

Where would Balinese Hindu art fit in your comparison?
http://homepage.mac.com/widagdo/Batuan.html with several examples of Batuan style, or the Ubud style image here:

http://homepage.mac.com/widagdo/Deblog.jpg

Edit: Or, um, are you only focusing on mass market commercial artwork?

Tourist
« Last Edit: June 27, 2009, 02:39:44 am by Tourist »

Offline tocky

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Re: history of grotesque fantasy art

Reply #6 on: June 27, 2009, 04:07:03 am
where I'm coming from for this thing, is I'll see something like this: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-09-huxley/51002, the trailer for huxley. The aesthetic used for that game is a very specific thing, but it is not a wholly new thing or a wholly unique thing. There's this whole trend in commercial fantasy illustration that goes back for decades and has a set of recurring themes and its own bizarre set of rules and that I think is remarkable, and is worthy of study.

I don't want to have to do the jared diamond thing, and have to chase this back - from proximate factors to ultimate factors and to the dawn of creative society and to follow it from there forward to see where this technique congealed or that theme arose, although I understand such a study could be valuable. I just - I don't have the time for it, and most other styles of art are already very well documented in a way which - for me, makes modern fantasy art seem criminally underanalysed.

I should mention that I am not a thorough student of art, or history, of course. This is basically just something I'm doing for fun.

So yeah, I'm looking specifically for 20th century, commercial science fiction and fantasy stuff.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2009, 04:32:39 am by tocky »

Offline ndchristie

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Re: history of grotesque fantasy art

Reply #7 on: June 27, 2009, 04:47:15 am
I think in approaching this topic with a rather closed-minded and pejorative manner will get you nowhere quickly.  Rather I suggest coming at it from someone who isn't looking, by the very title, to condemn his subject.

You have several major oversights just in the initial phases, and a few things need clarity:

- multiple sources, including but not limited to pulps, novels, mainstream comics, old imagination-based games and new graphics-based games.
- too many things collected under the banner.  For starters, Miyazaki.  He's just not part of what you're looking at.  Second, the game you referenced is actually a hybrid style of stock sci-fi (diverges from fantasy) and modern Los Angeles type video game studio design aesthetics.

- Frank Frazetta is a highly talented and traditional illustrator who spawned generations of imitators, but his design aesthetics and painting style are very much separated from modern fantasy art, and very much set in the 50's and 60's.  Those artists (including Roy Krenkel, Harry Harrison, Wally Wood, Al Williamson, et al., they all belong to a COMPLETELY different school of illustration and are of a completely different calibur than their imitators.  Most notably, they all studied traditional skills.

What you're calling "grotesque" (or how I'm interpreting it) is the generations after the 60's, kids who grew up seeing frazetta etc and at a time when it was just becoming possible to launch small ventures like Dungeon and Dragons (mid-70's), warhammer fantasy battle (mid-80's), or magic: the gathering (mid-90's).  These games needed minimal art and graphics and had almost no budget, and as such were not blessed by good artists at their outsets.  What you're essentially asking then is what inspirations were eventually corrupted and combined into the generic filth that floods most production-quality projects, and what involvement do proper artists actually have with it. 

The fact is, fantasy art does not all look the same (at all) unless you're only looking at mainstream factory-art.  If you askedFrank Frazetta how to make fantasy art, he'd probably explain about being comfortable with a media and with the fundamentals of drawing, to do as much as you can from life, and to allow the texts and characters to speak to you.  There wouldn't be a prescription of a style or anything.  It's the same dilemma that you'd have if you asked a top-quality commercial Japanese artist 25 years ago "how to draw manga."  The question wouldn't have made sense to him then because the narrowing and typifying of the "style" is something that had not yet occured.  The dilemma you'd run into now of course is that the top artists still have skill, identity, and integrity, so if you asked them "how to draw manga" they'd probably just give up on you :P.

I can tell you a few things.  First, if you look at early 20th-century fantasy work, it's very different in flavor.  Much more linked to children's books etc., and often marketed as such.  A lot of art was also done in more traditional styles, for example see N.C. Wyeth.  Whee you see things really stat to change is with the press becoming more and more available thanks to modern industrialism taking off and the need for understanding and expression in the wake of the first world war sending so many into the creative fields, soon joined by people too young to remember just along for the revelry.  this kind of escapism produces a number of things such as the pulps and the modern fantasy novel/la.  if you look at more 'serious' works from that time, you'll find they have some stylistic consistencies with the low-art. 
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Offline Seele07

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Re: history of grotesque fantasy art

Reply #8 on: June 27, 2009, 08:29:42 pm
@tocky:

you have Boris Vallejo on your list, but not Luis Royo? Why?

Here is his Website: http://www.luisroyo.com/

And yes, according to Wikipedia, he is a Fantasy Artist too. (Even if you can't believe everything that's written at Wikipedia, but that's too offtopic)

.Ingo.

Offline tocky

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Re: history of grotesque fantasy art

Reply #9 on: February 12, 2015, 05:50:19 pm
seele's suggestion is good too. luis rojo is exactly the guy we need, also brom and key warhammer dudes like ian miller. compare the fiend folio (which is pre-games workshop gritty british fantasy, and completely weird and interesting) to the monster manual (which while being more bog-standard fantasy, still has much to teach us.) the influence of diterlizzi and all of these dudes. each edition of d&d and the artists whose careers it made or broke.

" you have Boris Vallejo on your list, but not Luis Royo? Why? " again this suggestion is good, but the tone is bad. why? because i did not know to know him. noone talks about our history. every post on this forum and the other one is the 'im the only guy whos right' perspective. this is lame: we can both be right. i at least have provided evidence for what i believe. ndchristie tells us miyazakii has nothing to do with these other guys: he is clearly influenced by western family, as ws tezuka, and he is a clear influence on anime and our own modern fantasy. the fact that we dropped atom bombs on the japanese is relevant here.

the history of warcraft art, the guy that runs the warcraft lore. metzer? i think his name is. compare and contrast his obviously old-rpg-influence to the concept artists for wow and hearthstone. still runs the lore but not the art. compare: the war2 manual, obviously warhammer's influence with realms of chaos. why is he led into, or has he chosen a writing role?

calling it that i was right here also and you guys were wrong. there is this tradition of mannerist art, and 'grotesque', like in typography, is a fine enough word for this, and we can see how geiger and miyazaki have influenced all of us dorks. we cannot have the current trends in scifi without some geiger, the current trends in anime without miyazaki. it matters that i am right and you are wrong. i do not work for no reason.

miyazaki and geiger being special cases because we could not happen the way we are without their influence. also they are kooks.

we can see that mobius and arzark and blade runner are also going to be important. for example, its not uncommon for architects since that film to talk about 'blade-runnerization' of buildings and cities, whether it be a good trend, whether it can be stopped. philip k dick, then, and his influence on architecture.

porn and the history of porno comics. those little filthy bible things. ignacio noe.

the absurdists, including the church of bob pipe smoker guy, and the discordians.

hackers and cyberculture. the anarchopunk ideal.

jorodowski, jorodowski's dune, holy mountain, etc.

caza.

manara. french comics in general. we could talk about hegre and tintin and asterix and clean-line. sandman and stuff obviously influenced by manara. gaimans influences in general.

the eddas. the spoken history of fairy tales in general. thomas keightly, a good academic for this. "the fairy mythology", his tome.

the history of pulp and the detective novel. film noir.

borges. through borges guys like kafka, and the picaresque story, and 1001 nights and things of this sort. borges as an immediate influence on lovecraft, and borges's writings on his own influences and the nature of influence.

lovecraft and the pre-cyclopeans.

plato and the pre-socratics.

raphael and the pre-raphaelites. the byzantines.

sex. homosexuality and the 'paraphilias'. and how it has to be hidden. because the influence of christianity. talk aboutthe history of psychology and the DSM.

art history is about the connections we can draw as much as it is about those that have been drawn before, and also those we might. If i can draw these connections then they are real. we do not speak aboout our influences, we are doomed to repeat the past then.

all objections to this thread are objections to the word and not the study. noone can get over themselves enough to study the premise. except zak smith of course, and sorry to always talk about the guy, but he's a key figure i think who advocates for this sort of work. that dude does this stuff for fun when he's not actually doing good work in art or games, and for good reason.

heironymous bosch. the rise of print in the renaissance. german miniaturists and postprinting engravers. durer.

the expressionists, the modernists, guys like duchamp and their influence on animation.

the history of animation, fleischer versus warner versus disney.

the weirdo animators in the more cutout styles. terry gilliam.

grotesque is a good word for this, the map and the territory. ndchristie is wrong. i m not close-minded, but he is.

trolls and goblins and nightmares. sleep paralysis demons. paintings of goblins sitting on people as they sleep. i've had sleep paralysis, very rarely, and i know this feeling.

the occultists and the mystics. crowley and the hebrew kaballa guys he must have been stealing from, obvious influence on modern magics.

the way native peoples are depicted and their arts stolen.

i may be pulling the wrong word from typography, perhaps this should be called gothic or humanist art, but it's a study and not a label that matters. but you guys will object to those labels as well. so im gonna stick to callingit grotesque. if you guys are obviously wrong it does not matter if i refuse to listen.

the jargon file: http://catb.org/jargon/html/H/hacker-humor.html being something like a tocky-to-engllish dictionary.

illuminated manuscripts, the book of kells, bestiaries. another catholic influence. catholicism, abrahamism in general.

orientalism too.

moore.

lore sjoberg a good case study, other heroes of the old internet humor. 'death to the extremist', and influence on dinosaur comics. compare david hussie. when i talk about hamburger empires i also talk about him.

us, throwing away history. adarias' obvious disdain for all of us, and the subject matter. why this focus on realism?

anyway, cultures and counter-cultures.

if youre an academic or this interests you, write something about it.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2015, 08:58:56 pm by tocky »