What comes to mind when you think of fantasy creatures?
When I think of “fantasy,” I think about the impossible, unreal creations that spring from our imaginations–and that’s not always in the form of a unicorn or an elf, you know?
Sometimes they have a supernatural origin or sci-fi or cosmic horror vibe or comic book association, and while I don’t want to say that I “want to challenge your notions of what fantasy creatures look like” –because I don’t want to be the know-it-all who makes those kinds of obnoxious declarations– I really do think that the umbrella of fantasy can encompass ALL of those fantastical things.
Anyway, there’s some art in my forthcoming book that fantasy purists will probably get on my ass about, like, “Godzilla’s not a fantasy creature!” Whatever! Write your own book! Because lemme tell you, I was never going to write a book swarming with fantastical creatures and monsters that did not include my favorite prehistoric reptilian kaiju. I don’t think any monster list is complete without our favorite enormous, destructive king of nuclear waste-spawned monsters, Godzilla.
With his gigantic stature, scaly body, and atomic breath, Godzilla is basically a dragon from ‘traditional’ fantasy art, right? Gobbling up citizens and scientists instead of knights and crusaders, devastating vast metropolises towering with glassy skyscrapers as opposed to castles and fiefdoms. Well, I think that Japanese artist Yuko Shimizu might agree if her fantastical rendering of the king of kaiju is any indication. Vividly colored, boldly realized, and with striking details, Godzilla here is a towering sci-fi fantasy dragon viewed through a surreal American pop and Japanese graphics and comic culture lens.
And since I am sharing a bit about why dear Godzilla shows up in The Art of Fantasy, I thought I’d give you a peek as to this fantastical radioactive beast’s cronies in the companion spreads
Peerless illustrator of Russian folklore, Ivan Bilibin (1876–1942) was a graphic artist and stage/costume designer who was largely influenced by Art Nouveau and whose work is commonly associated with Russian fairy tales – to the extent that we could say his work very much defines our perceptions today of what Russian folklore art looks like. Seen here is Bilibin’s depiction of a water-dwelling demonic creature found in the mythology and lore of Eastern Europe – the Vodyanoi.
A bloated, cranky frog-faced old water spirit who, when angered, breaks dams, washes down water mills and drowns people and animals – the surest way to rile the Vodyanoi is to upset the natural balance of his watery habitat. Although according to legend, he can be appeased with a knob of butter. That seems fairly relatable
A multiple-award-winning artist specializing in science fiction and fantasy illustration, the works of Vincent Di Fate span the remote frontiers of astronomical art and aerospace illustration – space chases, futuristic supermen, machines born of dreams or nightmares. Astonishing voyages of the imagination to the edge of the cosmos and vast worlds inhabited by incredible beings, light years away from planet Earth.
Some of these visions, however, live a little closer to home. Di Fate casts an eye on one of the ‘truly remarkable character designs of the 1950s science fiction movie genre’, that infamous gilled man captured by scientists in the Amazonian jungle. Thought to be a missing link between creatures that lived in the water and those that walked on land, its appearance is both fantastical and terrifying, and, in Di Fate’s hand, rendered breathtakingly beautiful, as well
Pre-order your copy of The Art of Fantasy by August 1 from any retailer and be one of the first 100 readers to receive bonus goodies! Details here.
Have you preordered your copy of The Art of Fantasy, or do you have plans to do so sometime before August 1, 2023? YAY! That’s great. So listen up:
The first 100 entrants to squiggle their order deets into these little forms on the Quarto site will receive a signed bookplate & some art goodies, including a sticker, a bookmark, and a signed (by me!) book plate! I don’t know that the above image is exactly what these things will look like, but the above is probably a close enough approximation.
Let’s peek a little closer! This is the painting The Faun and the Fairies by Daniel Maclise (c. 1834.) Lit by the shimmering glow of a bright butter-yellow moon, encircled by the faint luminescence of a rainbow, and observed by no one but a dazed and dumbfounded midnight owl, this amorous extravagance by Daniel Maclise (1806–70) depicts nocturnal fairy revelries presided over by the melodious musical stylings of a syrinx-playing satyr and is thought to be one of Maclise’s most magical paintings. Fairy paintings were an avid fascination for the Victorians, offering escape from the changes of industrial society and an indulgence for their preoccupation with the romance of the paranormal and supernatural.
Pre-order your copy of The Art of Fantasy by August 1 from any retailer and be one of the first 100 readers to receive bonus goodies! Details here.
What was your first brush with the fantastical? For me, and undoubtedly for many, it was a naughty little rabbit in a blue jacket stealing Mr. McGregor’s veggies. For others, it may have been a maddening and enigmatic cat teasing a girl lost in Wonderland and who disappeared, leaving only a grin. Or, for an unfortunate few, it may have been lions, tigers, bears, and OMFG, ARE THOSE FLYING MONKEYS? A terrifying squadron of soaring simians swooping down from the sky to snatch up unsuspecting little dogs and haunting nightmares for many years to come!
Though our grown-up appetites for fantasy creatures may have evolved beyond those of adorably floppy-eared childhood friends and expanded to include all manner of beasts with wings and horns, tails, and scales, we can’t deny that friendly or scary, naughty or nice, these creatures sparked our imaginations, populated our dreams and built the foundation for future stories and adventures. These small creatures were the gateway – or the guardians at the gate – to the magical critters and beasties that populate the fantasy media we consume as adults.
Today I am sharing a few of my favorite spreads from the Creatures Great and Small chapter of my forthcoming book. In these pages, you will find some old favorites, some older works that you may not have seen before, and loads of fantastical art from brilliant contemporary artists, too!
Thank you to these wonderful artists for permitting me to include their magical creatures in my little art book, and I do hope that -if you are not already familiar with them–you will peruse their accounts and websites and come to adore their creations as much as I do!
And I cannot wait to share more such fantastical art and artists in the upcoming days! In the meantime, you can pre-order The Art of Fantasy wherever books are sold, and I hope that you do! As you hear all the time from every author friend, preorders are incredibly helpful & so on and so forth.
So kindly do so, or perhaps consider sharing this post or tagging a like-minded friend with a penchant for art, fantasy, and all things marvelous and magical. Thank you!
Why is it that in this current year of 2023, no one seems to know who the cover artist is for this iconic Dell Laurel-Leaf A Wrinkle in Time cover art?? In a time when we have so much information available to us at our literal fingertips, how could it possibly be that the above marvelously and terrifyingly iconic imagery is perpetually credited to “unknown artist”? Even the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, always an excellent and trusted resource, does not have an answer.
Ok, so if you are anything like me, you will immediately be moved to do some reverse image searching through various internet search engines and see what you can find out, and I won’t stop you, but I promise you, I have already done massive amounts of internet amateur sleuthing. You’re not going to find the answer in the myriad “A Wrinkle in Time covers, ranked” listicles – they will list artists like Ellen Raskin, or Leo and Diane Dillion or Rowena Morrill in connection to the various editions of this book–if they share any of the names of the cover artists at all–but they are all ultimately useless because no one credits the artist for this particular cover.
You may find a blog post wherein the writer thoughtfully speculates that it could be this artist or that, deliberating and debating the nuances of various artists’ styles and settling upon the theory that the artist could be Charles Lilly. That blog post ends with the blogger noting they will contact the artist and report their findings. Strangely, that blog post is only found in the internet archive, despite the fact that the blog itself is still available online and is updated as recently as this year. There is no way to leave a comment for the blogger, and there is no contact information, so I @ed them on Twitter to find out if they did indeed reach out and if they received an answer.
So in lieu of that, if it is, in fact, Charles Lilly, you figure you can bypass the middleman in this instance and reach out to the artist yourself with an email address you find on the African American Painters website, but that would be too easy, and the email bounces back. So you find the artist on Facebook, which you are not going to link to, because that feels a little like encroaching on someone’s boundaries of privacy, but it’s easy enough to find if you look for it. And there is no contact info there, so you send a DM politely inquiring. To date, you have not received a response.
You hear from someone that they saw on a Reddit thread that it could possibly be Michael Whelan. You’re so desperate for answers you don’t even check first to see if this Reddit thread exists, you go straight to Micheal Whelan’s website and send a note through the contact form. You receive a response immediately replying that Whelan “hasn’t illustrated anything for Madeleine L’Engle” and agreeing that yes, this is quite the mystery, and have you seen the blog post speculating whether or not it is Charles Lilly? [EDIT: IT MIGHT NOT BE LILLY–SEE BELOW]
You receive a message on Instagram five minutes ago suggesting that it is perhaps The Brothers Hildebrandt. You send a message through their contact form and also message the remaining brother on Facebook. [EDIT: I have since heard back from Spiderweb Gallery, it is not The Brothers Hildebrandt.]
Finally, you send a message through the contact form and the various email addresses listed at madelinelengle.com as a last resort, even though, in retrospect, maybe that should have been your first move.
Lastly, you write all of this up in a blog post for the other people who are feverishly curious about this mystery. If you’ve got ANY ideas or leads for me that have not already been covered above, please leave a comment or email me and let me know. And I will definitely update this blog post as I learn more, even if it’s just to say definitively, no, it’s not Charles Lilly or The Brothers Hildebrandt or something like that.
Ooof! This has been driving me nuts for the past two years, and not only because I wanted to include this beautifully nightmarish work in The Art of Fantasy. Obviously, without knowing the artist, I couldn’t even attempt to ask anyone for permission to use it! I’ve gotten over that aspect of it, though, and now I just want to KNOW.
Update: Per someone’s suggestion, I have also shared this on the unresolved mysteries subreddit, but I don’t have great luck with Reddit. I feel like every time I post something, I am always unintentionally breaking some rule or not doing something right and being told to scram. We shall see. [EDIT AGAIN] Ok this is the only subreddit that has ever been nice to me and I love them. They also suggested several other subreddits! Someone on one of the subreddits suggested tweeting at Madeleine L’Engle’s twitter account, which is curated by her granddaughter, but the response was…not super helpful.
Update: other artists that have been suggested by helpful Redditors:
John Jude Pallencar (probably not)
Boris Vallejo (I really don’t think it’s him, and someone on Facebook seems to be confirming it is not him, but I am not sure what that is based on, so more on that as I learn it. [EDIT] The individual asked Julie Bell, Boris’ spouse, who confirmed that it was not Boris’ work].)
Further update: I heard back from Wheaton in record time (36 minutes!!). Sadly, their response was: “Unfortunately, we are unable to locate the artist for that edition of A Wrinkle in Time.” Booo!
Update: It was suggested that I reach out to Adam Rowe of 70’s Sci-Fi Art. I have done so. To date, I have not heard back.
Update: It was suggested that I contact Jerad from Centipede Press. I have done so. Jerad responded and suggested Charles Lilly.
VERY INTERESTING UPDATE AS OF MAY 16, 2023: A commenter on this blog post shared the following: “Shared this fun article with a fellow illustrator thinking he’d enjoy it and speculating. Turns out he was out of town on a getaway and happened to be visiting concept artist Eliott Lilly, Charlie’s Lily’s son. Eliott didn’t think it was his fathers, but passed it on to his father who confirmed it was not him, but thought it might have been his assistant (at the time) Toni Taylor. Looked into that, timeline did not mesh unfortunately, and Toni confirmed it was not her.”
Another update: I’ve gotten the awesome folks at Endless Thread interested in this mystery (thank you to the Redditor who suggested these guys) and they are doing all kinds of digging!
Contemporary artist Rachael Bridge brings a singular perspective to traditional portraiture. Saturated in palettes somehow both electric technicolor, sunless-somber (how the heck does she do that?) and shrouded in shadow, her subjects appear to vanish into the murmuring whispers of a dark and deeply personal wonderland.
Vespertine mysteries teem behind their luminous, milky gaze, but far from loveless and hollow, these otherworldly eyes offer a glimpse into the complexities of the human psyche, the very real-world themes of anxiety, isolation, dread, and despair.
See below for a gallery of some of my favorites amongst this artist’s shimmering twilit phantoms, and find Rachael here: website // Instagram
Sofía Bassi (1913-1998) was a Mexican surrealist painter and writer known for her dreamlike and introspective paintings, liquid and mysterious, often featuring ethereal anthropomorphic creatures and darkly fantastical landscapes, lost in space and time. Sometimes referred to as “magical impressionism,” Bassi’s work is often described as being both lush and unsettling and was praised for its originality and imagination. The artist herself observed that art was an elixir that she wanted to drink until the end of her career, to keep from dying.
Embarking on a path as exceptional as her artistic visions, Bassi was born into a wealthy family, but she rebelled against her upbringing and pursued a career in the arts. The free-spirited painter was married twice, but apparently, romance was not a priority, or she married a couple of duds, or maybe other people’s marriages are not my business, so I shouldn’t speculate, but whatever the case, both marriages ended in divorce. In a shocking incident that rivaled the plot of popular police procedural programs or true crime podcasts, she was convicted of murdering her son-in-law (some theorize that she took the fall for her daughter Claire, read more here) and sentenced to several years in prison.
While incarcerated, Bassi passionately continued painting, including her first-ever mural–painted on the walls of her own cell, and her works from this period are remembered as some of her most renowned, reflecting the darkness of her troubled state of mind. In 1969, Bassi was released from prison and wrote a book about the experience in 1978, and in January 2011, a documentary was released in Mexico titled “Acapulco 68,” which also recounted the incidents. In the ensuing years, the artist frequently participated in round tables and conferences, appearing on radio and television to discuss artistic and academic topics. Receptive to inspiration and generative energies to the end, she painted and exhibitedt her work until her death in 1998.
A creative force who lived a life that was both unconventional and tragic, Bassi’s story is a fascinating one– her work, a testament to her creativity and her resilience.
In this month’s newsletter, I featured artwork by Frants Diderik Bøe (1820-1891), a Norwegian painter of still lifes, landscapes, and nature scenes, who studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. As a lover, though certainly not even close to an expert, of floral still lifes, I had never seen his work before and was immediately enthralled with his frequent painterly inclusions of my two favorite things: flowers and jewelry.
At the height of his career in the mid-19th century, Bøe is established as having been internationally recognized painter, though sadly, according to the Norwegian Biographical Lexicon, “posterity has not paid much attention to Frants Bøe…[which]…may be connected with the fact that he cultivated a genre that has never been particularly strong in the Norwegian context.”
He seems to have been a restless soul on his artistic journey, traveling between Copenhagen, Belgium, The Netherlands, and France, but his eight years in Paris are noted as having been his most creative period as an artist, selling pictures to the French government, King Oscar 1 and the National Gallery, as well as in Great Britain and America. In 1855 he was given the very cool and honorable task of representing the Scandinavian countries during the World Exhibition in Paris.
In midlife, his body betrayed him –as our human meat suits are wont to do once we pass a certain bummer threshold–and this one was a particularly nasty affection for an artist: Bøe experienced a marked weakening of his color vision– a disorder which periodically made him unable to paint and when we was able, the results were sadly, seriously noticeable. These later works were said to be lacking in the quality seen in the paintings from his glowing Parisian heyday.
It was an unfortunate end for Bøe, I’m afraid. In November 1891, he was found unconscious on a bench in Nygårdsparken, affected by what was later recognized by a stroke. The constable who found him disastrously misread the situation and placed him in drunk custody. By the time the mistake was discovered, it was too late to do anything to save him.
What an upsetting close to the story of Frants Diderik Bøe! Still, I am glad to have learned about him, and below I’m including my favorites amongst his œuvre of luminous, jewel-scattered floral tableaux.
I first officially learned of Argentinian artist Hector Garrido when attempting to figure out the artist of the livid, crimson-shrouded book cover with an aggressive succubus hollering at a raven under a bright, glowing full moon. “Hey, bird! Fuck you, bird!” is what I imagine that she’s shouting for reasons of her own, none of my business, probably.
I had originally seen it posted on someone’s Instagram, and those images are more annoying to grab for reverse image search purposes, but not impossible, so I found it (on Will Erickson’s blog, of course!) and here we are–it’s Hector Garrido!
…and it turns out that I have been enjoying Garrido’s art for YEARS without realizing it.
Of course, the Nancy Drew mystery books that I read when I was much younger were the hardback editions with a more dated look from an earlier era and a different artist, but a few years later, when I was 9 or 10 or so, I definitely recall finding the newer paperbacks in the library and being gobsmacked that you were allowed to update and change the way the characters in these books looked! But a pretty, intrepid young detective creeping up a cobwebby dark staircase is dreamy to my eye rendered by any artist’s hand, and I got used to the changes and even found myself getting excited to see various artistic interpretations of the stories and series that I love–and I remain thrilled to this day.
Another book I was surprised to see displaying the work of Hector Garrido was The Ghost Belonged to Me, by Richard Peck, one of the eerie Blossom Culp stories I loved as a child. I’ve written before of another one in this series, Ghosts I Have Been with cover art by Rowena Morrill, and I’m always so tickled when my search for a cover artist inevitably leads me back to these beloved tales and characters.
Garrido also did a lot of G.I. Joe art, but eh. Not interested in that. I know, I know, iconic formative stuff for lots of folks! Just not my bag. However, he also did covers for several of the Avon Satanic Gothic titles in the 70s and that most definitely would have been my little ten-year-old jam!
Sadly, while looking into his life and work, I only learned today that Hector Garrido passed away in 2020. In his own words, here’s a bio on this prolific artist of the lurid and lovely, baleful and beautiful.
“As a young artist I immigrated to the United States. I was professionally active here beginning in the 1950s. Beginning around 2000, I went into semi-retirement, painting devotional subjects. I am now retired.
I am best known to fans of GI Joe and for such book series such as The Three Investigators (I painted all the Crimebusters covers), Danny Dunn, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, The Destroyer (Remo Williams), and the Baroness.
My original artwork for GI Joe was featured on the 1980s-era merchandise packaging. For book publishers, I painted the covers of numerous sci-fi, (gothic) romance, and thriller/horror books. Perhaps most notably in the horror genre, I painted the iconic covers for TM Wright’s “Strange Seed”/”Children” series. I was also a Time Magazine cover artist, and my 1969 cover, “Astronauts” is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.”
You’ll find several albums of original paintings in Garrido’s flickr account, and here is a list at ISFDB of much, much more cover art that he was responsible for– though I don’t believe it to be at all comprehensive.
Below I’ve shared some of my favorites among the gothic romance covers he did, brimming with ghostly damsels and their requisite candelabras, haunted castles looming and leering, and ridiculously sumptuous with atmosphere and tension.
This interview was originally shared on Haute Macabre July 19, 2017.
San Diego, CA-based artist Ivonne Garcia’s enthusiastic penchant for blades might give one pause if one didn’t know the sort of slicing and slashing that she indulged in. No, this knife-wielding creator is not lurking around shadowy corners, chuckling low, awaiting the throat of an unsuspecting passer-by. No, indeed! Ivonne has instead translated this fondness for sharpened edges into an elegant artistic medium for emotive storytelling, with a current focus on paper-cutting and silhouettes – designed to “connect all things in the planar depths of simplicity and translating it into the emotional balance between the dark and the light.”
Still, I like to imagine her cackling softly as she deftly creates each small cut.
(With apologies to the artist–this intro is not intended to imply that Ivonne might cut a bitch.)
What twisty (or twisted!) artistic path led to this current focus on paper-cutting and silhouettes? From the time that she was a small child, Ivonne shares, she had a propensity for being fairly accident prone–always the one getting hurt, falling, sticking her hands where they didn’t belong. After a traumatic compound femur fracture as a child which landed her in doctors’ offices quite a bit, she gained a more than passing familiarity with the medical world– and was of course terrified of anything pointy and prickly. Then, she notes, tattooing and piercings in her 20s changed that all up! “That said,” she adds, “I have always had an interest in the medical realm but not as a career path, so I guess is this one way to scratch that itch.”
“Wielding something sharp, toying and creating with a fetishist undertone. Playing with danger.”
Silhouettes were of interest to her because she enjoys the idea of attempting to tell a story through shadows, texture, light or lack thereof. “There is much room for the imagination, leaving the idea open to interpretation of who is viewing it.”
Ivonne’s art is influenced by an interest in the kooky, spooky, occult and her Mexican heritage. In her pre-teen years, she relocated from Southern CA to Mazatlan, Mexico, with her family and lived there for nearly seven years. It was during her time there that she began to explore her interest in art and expose herself to a more culturally appropriate representation of Mexico and the art and traditions that are part of that culture. “I was always drawn to high contrast imagery such as lino block printing like the work of Jose Guadalupe Posada. Eventually I became exposed to the art of papel picado, and while it is done for many celebratory occasions, the ones that came around during Dia De Muertos always appealed to me the most.”
Also noting a profound love for religious iconography of all kinds, (one of the few things that stuck around from the Catholic influence she was raised with), Ivonne ruefully adds that “the rules that came with religion never really agreed with me and it bred a lot of defiance and push-back; it only made sense that I found myself swaying towards a darker inclination. It just feels more accepting and comfortable.”
Add all this to Ivonne’s never-ending love for “all things Halloween” and, she declares, “…it’s a tiki drink of spooky. You take it all in, and one mug later, you’re wasted on the awesome.”
I requested of Ivonne a virtual studio visit so that we might see the workspace where these delicate dissections and compositions take place, and if that weren’t pushy enough (you can’t take me anywhere) I asked if she might be moved to divulge any of her artistic routines and rituals as relates to her creativity and craft. Ivonne has kindly spilled a few secrets below (and no doubt has given us a few items to add to our collective wish-lists!)
“My ritual usually involves a pretty thorough cleaning of my desk because it eventually turns into paper scrap and confetti central. I usually set the tone by burning some incense of sorts. My personal favorites are: Vampire Blood (I know, cheesy as fuck but it smells so good), Papier d’Arménie, Palo Santo, and sage or copal resin I brought back from our travels in Guanajuato. Olfactory tone is so important to me so that not only will the room be fragrant but my personal fragrance will reflect my mood and headspace as well. I love all things Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and my recent favorites are The Manuscript, Riding Crop Single Note, So Below, and Bulgarian Tobacco. When not doused in that precious, I usually wear By The Fireplace by Maison Margiela Replica, Oud Velvet Mood, or Baccarat Rouge 540 from Maison Francis Kurkdijian.
I am an absolute audiophile and cannot function without music in my life. Every part of my day involves music, and what I listen to depends on mood, emotion, and setting a tone. Creating art has to go hand in hand with music, 100%.
My taste is pretty broad, but most of what I listen to falls under the umbrella of IDM, shoegaze and electronic genres. Here are a few things I have listened to (read: played into the damn ground) while creating…”
I can keep going here…it sounds all snobby but I also love me a good session of pop, 80’s, His Purple Highness, and hair metal bands \m/”
Since we are on the subject of rituals, Ivonne recently created some splendidly witchy pieces for Ars Memoria’s Toil and Trouble show in April of this year. Regarding how this theme inspired her specific contributions, Ivonne explains that “Toil & Trouble was a lot of fun to work on because the subject just felt so comfortable. Working with Catherine Oleson as a curator was a breezy dream, and the other two artists involved, Bella Harris and Sophia Rapata – we all had a similar umbrella to work under. We agreed on a witchy and magical theme, and I took on the concept of the magical being and their familiar, their relationship, and connectivity. This was new for me, as most of my work has been incredibly human and feminine in nature… but this time around, I opened up to the incorporation of animal elements. This was my first time venturing into more three-dimensional work, and I couldn’t have been happier with the work produced and the manner in which it was received.”
Between the work she conjured for Toil & Trouble, and Reliquary, her duo show with Carrie Anne Hudson in October of 2016, Ivonne found herself requiring a small creative break. “Reliquary was very intimate in nature”, she observes, “and for me, personally, there is such thing as too much output, especially when you’re creating work as a form of personal therapy. I took a step back this year to continue doing more soul searching and really focus on quality over quantity.”
Aside from several group shows, she has lined up, and some potential collaborative work, she is taking the month of August off to spend in Japan with her family–and is very much looking forward to the inspiration that will come from it. After that, she concludes, “Fall and the Halloween season always bring on the most inspiration for me; it is, after all the most wonderful time of the year! I expect my shop to be filled with lots of goodies by then.”