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!
Did you watch Darryl Hannah in Splash at a young age and dream for the next decade of diving into the ocean and magically becoming a mermaid with a sparkly orange tale? Did you regale your siblings with stories about fairy kingdoms and unicorn friends and revel in the imaginary worlds you created? Did you long to soar on a luck dragon, visit the Gelflings on the planet Thra, or envision yourself friends with a Fraggle? Were you a little weirdo who sat alone at recess or in the lunchroom, totally oblivious to what was going on around you, lost to the imaginative realms of immersive library books? Did you obsessively read pages and pages of D&D handbooks and manuals, familiarizing yourself with all kinds of monsters and spells and silently cursing yourself for being so shy and squirrelly because you’d love to actually have fantastical adventures with like-minded companions?
That was me! I did those things! (Or, in the case of Dungeons and Dragons, I never really did the actual thing, but that’s okay, RPGs are too much for this introvert!) I lost myself in fantasy via colorful fairytale picture books when I was younger; as a pre-teen, I grew into epic novels of the sword and sorcery variety, action-packed comic books, gritty contemporary folklore and fables, bizarre speculative fiction and weird tales, and of course, vast cinematic otherworlds –and whole other galaxies! – the fabulous and fantastic writ large on the big screen. And let’s not forget how I became a MtG enthusiast in my mid-30s!
I have been slipping into the other worlds of my imagination for as long as I can remember. It’s my favorite getaway, my default move. In short: I can’t help it! There is something irresistible about the imaginary, the uncharted and the unknown, worlds full of magic and mythical creatures, epic journeys across otherworldly landscapes filled with secrets and treasures. And I bet you’ve let me blather on about this for several paragraphs before busting out with I KNOW SARAH! I KNOW BECAUSE I DO THIS TOO! Well, okay, jeez.
So where is it that you disappear when you set reality aside, become entangled in a web of daydreams or lost in your own little world, and vanish into the fantastical landscape of your imagination? How are these far-flung realms of all that is incredible and unreal portrayed in the canvas of your mind? I don’t know about you, but I’d never be able to translate these highly imaginative but weirdly nebulous visions in my brain into some sort of tangible art form, but lucky for us, artists have explored imaginary worlds and fantastical creatures for centuries, expressing the mystical and mythical via various marvelous mediums.
Our most madcap adventures and extraordinary flights of fancy – the impossible stuff of daydreams and reverie – this is the fabulous realm of fantasy, and the spectrum of fantastic art is an abundant, richly diverse wonderland to explore. Artists throughout history have offered us myriads, multitudes, and multiverses of fantastical visions.
And I, in 2023, am pleased to announce that my forthcoming book, The Art of Fantasy: A Visual Sourcebook Of All That Is Unreal, is brimming with these irresistible artistic impulses…and it is available for preorder today!
Okay, so I’ll be honest with you. There are a lot of commercial enterprises tied up with fantastical art, some of them very big deal Intellectual Property, copyright, or franchise type of things, and so many artists/galleries/estates associated with these works are too big to notice lowly me or be particularly interested in contributing to my book. This made acquiring many of the works you might expect to see in a book like this pretty challenging; just look to my references in the first paragraph for an example or two of things I might have liked to have, but it was an utter impossibility*.
But you know what? Even with these struggles and issues, we were able to include SO! MANY! amazing artists and incredible works! I’m so unbelievably grateful for every single one of these creators, and there aren’t words enough to express my thanks. Some are beloved old favorites to soothe your soul, some I guarantee will be exciting new treats and surprises to thrill your eyeballs, and several for me personally– total dreams come true!
*I’m mentioning the absence of specific works or artists because I foresee a lot of fantasy-nerd-bros coming at me, hollering, “You forgot x/y/z!” and no, bro, I probably didn’t. Also, don’t be a bully; we’re all nerds here, we know better.
Anyway, here it is! Due out into this terrestrial realm on September 12, 2023, The Art of Fantasy is the third installment in my “Art in the Margins” series, along with The Art of the Occult and The Art of Darkness. I hope you will consider pre-ordering a copy today or, you know, sometime! And please check back here at Unquiet Things over the next few months for some sneak peeks, previews, and extra goodies!