the blind bird

I’m not an academic professor, though I absolutely love to dissect art in a scientific way at times.

As people may be aware if they follow my work, my favourite subject matter is fantasy. The reason why is because the genre is open-ended while allowing the artist to ground it in reality.

Fantasy has been a staple in media. Game of Thrones, one of the most popular TV shows of all time, thrives on realism in its politics, accentuating the importance when the “fantasy” appears. Warcraft promotes the fantastical elements more with their use of magic, creatures, and countless other features.

The point is that the degree in which media can portray fantasy is endless. You might want fantasy races but not magic, or perhaps you want dragons in your world but nothing else. The artist has the power to choose just how fantastical a world can be!

While I was working on my book, I ended up asking myself a question I never really contemplated. How many different ways can the world morph from reality into fantasy when it comes to art?

I’ve actually thought about this for a few hours and ended up with three distinct categories.

  1. Concept: This one is dead obvious. Concept is to depict things which cannot possibly exist in reality. This includes fantasy races, creatures, technology, magic, situations and a myriad of anything else which are simply impossible to be in our normal world.
  2. Transmogrification: This one is slightly different from the first category. This pertains to anything that currently exists in reality but transformed somehow. For instance, a lot of styles morph proportions of human beings and existing animals. While this is not exclusive to the fantasy genre, it is worth mentioning as I know many artists like changing humans in some shape or form.
  3. Execution: This one is exclusive to visual arts. The execution pertains to how an artist chooses to depict the world with their art. This is more technique and aesthetic oriented. For instance, Yoshitaka Amano’s fantasy work is vastly different from Justin Sweet’s. While they have overlapping subject matter, how they choose to execute the concepts define their work.

Even beyond the fantasy genre, most artists will aim to alter reality in these categories. While it may not always be Elves and Orcs running around, artists of this era must be able to do something photography can’t.

It wasn’t like that in the past, when cameras were outclassed by great realist artists. Kings and queens clamoured to get an oil painting from the greatest artists of their nations. With cameras being amazing now, it’s no surprise that a lot of “crazy” art gets more attention.

For myself, I embrace reality. I feel that the best fantasy must first be believable in its realistic elements. If a piece of work has too much fantastical elements going on, it tends to feel weak, making it difficult for the audience to relate to. This is why I always advocate for every artist to start observing reality, for all art begins with our understanding of life.