In a bout of good humor, I bring to you today a topic that has been on my mind for some time and finally reached a writable level whilst viewing an image of this year’s winners of the Hugo Awards for writing.
What could have gotten you so motivated by said picture, you might ask? Well, it drove home the point that I have a theory artists are prettier than writers, and by a large margin. I mean, kudos to writers like China Mieville and Joe Abercrombie for swinging for the fences of rugged or charming beauty, but sadly two home runs can’t bring up the collective batting average of an entire team.
Now surely your hackles are up at such a broad brush [yes, pun intended!] and callously superficial statement, but remember this before you go finding a rope and a solid branch of a tree, I’m also writer!
Therefore, I attest this whole line of thought has to be like Chris Rock blasting African Americans, or Foxworthy busting Rednecks, right?
Well, I’m going with it, so just try to have some fun along the way because that is all this is really about!
Since the day I started moving through the world as an Art Director, and even as an art enthusiast, I couldn’t help but be fascinated with images of the men and women behind the art. To me, there seems to be a defining connection between beauty on canvas and the hand that paints it. Perhaps, in some fashion, there is an intrinsic relation between ego and talent, and if you paint beauty, you must also strive to achieve it yourself. I guess I’ll let you judge for yourself, but nonetheless it’s a thought worth considering.
So, let’s just go on a little bit of a run down, or another ‘Top 10’ list, if you will, of some of the best looking fantasy artists who have helped define the field. Now, these are in no particular order of ‘hotness,’ just logged in by numbers to let you see that there are indeed 10 that I whittled this list down to, and let me tell you, it wasn’t easy! [Note: All artist names are 'hot' so click on them for galleries]
Honorable Mention, John Dollar: How could I not include John? Take a look at the six foot and stunning Adonis! The first time I saw John I was waiting for the person introducing us to say, ‘Scott, I’d like you to meet Kevin Sorbo’, but better yet, how about a bit of resemblance to another famous John, that being ‘Carter of Mars’. I have no doubt that if you put this fantasy artist in a loincloth and bandolier he’d carry home not only Deja Thoris but any other Martian vixen that got a good look at him. How about hosting him up at Chippendales and I promise he’d have his g-string stuffed with more than ‘dollars’ I can promise you. Way to take it home, John, keep that rugged jaw and those haunting blue eyes alive, baby!
10. Boris Vallejo: Good old Boris. One time, after seeing his cover for Tarnsman of Gor, a friend told me that the ‘guy who painted it’ fashioned the male lead of the image after himself, as he did in almost all his paintings. I thought he was joking, but the more I studied Boris, the more I realized my friend was not. This guy is a body-building painter, or BBP, and even entering his twilight years, could still put me to shame in the shape department. I can somehow imagine him and Schwarzenegger pumping iron on Venice Beach in 77’ before Vallejo would retire to craft a to-die-for Swords & Sorcery cover for a Warren classic. He’s a handsome devil with a mane of white hair and his skin holds bronze better than a Roman Centurion.
9. Frank Frazetta: Yes, yes, Frazetta painted enough cheesecake and corn-fed beef to be added as a feature in a Ruth’s Chris menu, but don’t forget he was also a handsome stud in his own right. If you take a bit of James Dean, mix in a dash of Cary Grant and Kirk Douglas, you’ve got Frank Frazetta. I mean, the guy probably didn’t have to pay female models for his compositions because he was simply dating them! There’s an old Hollywood feel to Frank that transcends time, like he should be wrestling a giant squid, saving a Texas farm from oil men, and taking out a Nazi bomb train bound for Paris all before washing up for a date with Grace Kelly. Truly, it’s no wonder he painted Conan so well, all he really needed to do was look in a mirror.
8. Echo Chernik: Gads! Echo can melt butter with her art nouveau styling, pie-Cthulhus, and even Shadowrun fem-fatales, but never forget she’s also got some real life panther cannons of her own. I once heard a story related to me about a guy on a motorcycle who ran into the back of a stopped semi truck as he was checking out a hot girl walking down a street. That’s what happens to those who walk by Echo as she displays her wares at conventions across the U.S., and don’t get me started on her smile! She’s the real deal, an absolute Aphrodite enchantress, and for any of you Unearthed Arcana buffs, gets a +3 to her already staggering Comeliness for her 18 Charisma.
7. Todd Lockwood: Fans like to call Todd ‘The Dragon Master’, but I prefer ‘General Custer’. Did you know Custer was so sure of himself that during the Civil War, as a Colonel, he was riding with several superior officers and came to a river. The general in charge said, well, we’ll have to wait to see if we can ford here and Custer spurred his horse forward to the middle of the river, turned it, and said, ‘Why wait?’. That self-assured quality, along with a Mr. Spock-like eyebrows, reminds me of the character Flynn Rider and his ‘smolder’ from Tangled. The only real difference between the two would be that Lockwood [as Rider] would have told Rapunzel her wall paintings were amateurish and needed better focus [this, for all of you who have ever had a portfolio review by Todd]. He’s a guy born to handsome and his ego knows it. That’s not a knock, just the fact that his eye for beauty is obviously enhanced when he catches his reflection in a polished surface.
6. Julie Bell: Another stunning BBP! You know, most people can’t utter the name Boris Vallejo without attaching it to Julie Bell, and why not? Both are award-winning fantasy artists, both take the near-naked human form to a new sexual high, and both have bodies that are to die for. Bell is a gem, a stunning version of strong femininity that would make Red Sonja proud, even if Bell is a natural blond instead of a fabulous red-head. In fact, the more I think about them, the more of a fantasy art power couple Boris and Julie are, kind of like Brangelina. Maybe we should start a trend here and call them Joris… or better yet Bellejo! Yes, Bellejo it is, and now the world is a significantly better place! I can just envision it now on the cover of Fantasy & Science Fiction: ‘Bellejo over?! Julie moves out and takes all the cheesecake with her!’ Simply outstanding, and now I’m convinced we need more fantasy tabloids.
5. Keith Parkinson: If the ‘Oil Masters’ of old 1980s TSR were the fantasy art version of the Beatles, Keith Parkinson was Paul. Keith had the body of Lance Armstrong, the hair of Justin Timberlake, and the eyes of the Marlboro Man. Yet somehow he still had an everyman quality, that is assuming everyman was a Gap model who can paint an oil cover capable of selling half a million paperbacks [just ask Terry Goodkind]. Keith had a serious mirth, something you could see when he turned that thousand-dollar smile up just at the corner in a way that transformed those dark eyes into a Jack Sparrow charm. He knew how to have fun, and that meant taking life by the horns and letting his experiences spill out on canvas, especially if those images were women capable of charming even a handsome stranger like himself.
4. Michael Whelan: When Whelan wants to break a particularly hard creative block, he drops down from his easel and pumps out fifty pushups. When I need to, I grab a Godiva pecan caramel cluster. Whenever I see his work, it absolutely reflects the exquisiteness of the man, no matter how alien it may seem. Whelan defines beauty in that he seemingly brings it inside himself like a sponge, every image he sees in his world travels captured and distilled into things so clearly reflective of a beautiful mind that they manifest in his kind of Zen-body stasis. Michael keeps living right, and that adds to an unchallenged persona of perfection from both his work and his roguish good looks.
3. Eva Widermann: Whoever said Germans weren’t beautiful? I mean, Claudia Schiffer was German, right? Eva Widermann, the vivacious, captivating, and wicked beauty and fantasy champion Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG could cosplay Seoni [I’d pay real money for this] and pull it off without batting an eye. She’s got that perfect ‘cute-ugly girl’ syndrome, you know, where she’s gorgeous but doesn’t know it. Seriously, when I see Eva, One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful starts playing in my head. She is every teen fantasy wrapped in a present so lovely you can’t bear to rip it open for fear that what’s inside will pale in comparison to the wrapping… but in this case that fear is ill-founded. Her husband is Irish, and once again proves the luck of that emerald isle!
2. Gerald Brom: They say Brom lives in a dark basement with various creepy crawly things, but if so, the lack of exposure to solar radiation has given him youth and beauty far beyond his years [yes, that is a secret Blast from the Past reference]. Brom is so handsome in fact that he can make a goatee work twelve years after it was outlawed in 1999! Brom reminds me a bit of Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black, which in itself is a perfect example of how a crippling script can still be carried by a pretty face in a tux. As a perfect example of genetic purity and function, this aforementioned Morlock has managed to produce two sons that are both model-worthy semi-clones, dark-haired, perfect- boned, with smiles that could charm a succubus.
1. Nicole Brune: Nicole is one of those people you would love to hate, you know, like the high school quarterback, prom king, and valedictorian all wrapped up in the same body. These people of teen movie folklore do exist, however, but by god it’s just not fair! Nicole is known to paint pinup art, and just a couple weeks back I saw a picture of her and two of her pinup models taken just months after giving birth to her first child. Yep, you guessed it, Nicole outshone both her models in street clothes and having spent a day hocking her art at a convention! In fact, she’s so pretty, I truly weighed not even including a picture of her just because I didn’t want your work ‘explicit content’ filters to start throwing red flags to your IT departments.
So there you have it, a list of ten of the most talented and stunning fantasy artists I could throw together while sipping a chai latte and watching last Friday’s episode of The Young and the Restless. I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did putting it together, and stay classy, San Diego.
Scott Taylor is the current Director of Publications at Privateer Press, and in his free time runs an independent OSR publishing and art house known as Art of the Genre and can be found on Facebook.