Fantasy characters populate many different mediums, and many of these fantasy characters are at some time or another illustrated. These illustrations can further flesh out the character, create a guide for creation as an action figure or animated character, promote the media in which the character is found, or just better familiarize the character with the audience.
Probably the most classic example of fantasy illustration comes from literature, such as J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, or Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles. The covers of such book often contain illustrations of the character written about within the book, and often illustrations also are scattered throughout the book. Even if the book has already been released, classic books are often rereleased with new cover art every few years, so the need for fantasy illustrations in the publishing business is fairly steady.
Another venue that often uses fantasy character illustrations is the gaming industry. This includes not only video games, but also card games. Some examples of video games that use fantasy illustrations are World of Warcraft, Nintendo’s Fire Emblem, or Square Enix’s Final Fantasy. Character designs usually start as illustrations, and then are translated into sprites, 3D models, and game-ready illustrations; and sometimes the designed are animated for cut scenes within the game, or promotional material put out to announce the release of the game. The card game industry requires a constant flow of custom fantasy illustrations. Each card generally has an illustration made just for that one card, whether it is an item, a weapon, a character, a creature, or a spell. Just imagine how many illustrations were made just for one deck of cards!
An often overlooked use for fantasy illustrations is the movie industry. Before props, costumes, or computer generated models are created for a fantasy adventure movie, a lot of concept art is created to nail down an idea for how the characters will be visualized in the film. Some examples of movies that used fantasy art in e pre-production stage include Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon, New Line Cinema’s film production of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and Act III’s Princess Bride. These illustrations usually begin almost exclusively as sketches, as the illustrations will not be the final form presented to the audience.
As these examples have hinted at, the realm of fantasy illustration is very broad in use, but it is equally broad in its approach. The common concept of fantasy art is that it is set in medieval times, with faeries and castles and knights; things that would not be out of place in a King Arthur story. However, fantasy can also incorporate various cultures and time periods to make the settings more unique and exciting. It has become increasingly popular to incorporate Asian element to the traditionally western genre. A good way to make your fantasy world and characters more creative is to research other cultures and time periods to find myths, clothes, or architecture to incorporate into your realm.
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