View Full Version : Getting Started in Fantasy Art

11-28-2004, 04:49 PM
Thank you Michelle, for a great article with tips on how to get started with Fantasy Art!!

I know everyone will enjoy reading some of the ups and the downs of starting a new venture into the fantasy realm.

The article is located at "Getting Started in Fantasy Art" (http://www.wetcanvas.com/Articles2/43696/540/)

Be sure to Join the Conversation after you read the article!! :)

11-29-2004, 02:02 AM
:clap: WONDERFUL article Michelle!! :clap:
Some GREAT advice!! :D:)


11-29-2004, 08:25 AM
It's about time we had an article ;)

Thanks Michelle, well worth reading!

11-29-2004, 08:35 PM
Thanks for the support. This wasn't an easy article to put together, since there's just so MUCH to say on the topic. It was inspired by some questions that a couple of people were asking me, and I thought it would be a good idea. I just hope it's helpful. I plan to do more once the holiday fluster is done with. I've gotten some great article ideas and concepts from some of the other people here on WC that I can't wait to run with.

And yeah, I thought it was odd that this forum didn't have any articles. Well *dusts hands off* that's fixed now.



12-01-2004, 09:04 AM
:clap: Thanks for the article Michelle.

I haven't been here for long enough to give you merit/mentor points, but I strongly encourage those who can to do so.


Just Crystal
12-01-2004, 02:27 PM
Great idea Anne......done! :D

Ed Hicks Artist
12-01-2004, 07:19 PM
Great Article, Michelle And it's true. I've been doing Fantasy Art for 2 years, and I'm just getting my foot in the door. What you said about working at it is right on the money. I draw and paint in my studio on the average of 4-6 hours a day, including working on my website and selling.
Ed Hicks

www.thefairykingdom.com (www.thefairykingdom.com)


12-01-2004, 09:19 PM
Good inspiring article. I actually have been collecting the Spectrum books for a while - vol 11 is overdue! LOL About reading the Fantasy art novels, I like the art better - mainly cuz I find myself tripping over the way fantasy writers name things... But I don't give up, every now and then an author rises above the others, and I can get past the first 40 pages.

12-01-2004, 10:09 PM
Splendid, inspiring article. Thank you so much!

12-01-2004, 10:34 PM
Really enjoyed the article. I've been wanting to start this for a while. I have all the equipment, and a bit of know-how - just need the pen to paper. I'm inspied now! Thanks!

12-02-2004, 02:12 AM
:clap: I really enjoyed this article, Michelle, there were a lot of things there that I never really considered before, and I feel richer for it.
The only thing I could possibly add is the advice on building Fantasy Worlds given by the Fantasy Writer Patricia C. Wrede, which is equally applicable to Fantasy Artwork. Anyone who is interested can visit the page at:
I recommend Patricia's advice highly, though I cannot endorse the advertisers.

12-02-2004, 04:11 AM
Neat article. Now can we have one on how to be a paid illustrator? That is: how to talk to a publisher, how much art you should have in your portfolio, and most importantly: How much do you get paid? What is the usual rate? That is the question that no one answers and if one were to actually start talking to a publisher that is something one should know. I have no clue what illustrators make or what to ask for or if I would get a weekly check or what and you don't want to sound too dumb about these things and I don't know who to ask.


12-02-2004, 04:21 AM
The only thing I could possibly add is the advice on building Fantasy Worlds given by the Fantasy Writer Patricia C. Wrede, which is equally applicable to Fantasy Artwork. Anyone who is interested can visit the page at:
I recommend Patricia's advice highly, though I cannot endorse the advertisers.

Wonderful link. Complementary to the article. Somehow I found it difficult to connect fantasy / Sci-Fi to art, though I appreciate a number of Sci-Fi writers. Now I know, it's about creating a world. That's CREATION indeed! So I'm hooked with fantasy / Sci-Fi art, but I'll need more than seven days...


12-08-2004, 03:51 PM
Interesting link about world-building. Thanks!

As for payment for illustrators, that's a tough one, and that's why I am no longer focusing on illustration as a career path. The best thing to do is to pick up a copy of the book "2005 Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market". It's got listings for companies and publications that are looking for illustrators, and they do list companies that want fantasy and sci-fi work. They give their pay rate and the kind of thing that they are looking for, and have magazines, book publishers, card companies and lots of other stuff. You can also look up companies on the web, but that won't really help you with the payscale thing.

I personally found that fantasy illustration pays much less than traditional illustration, and is extremely hard to break into. And, basically, because there are so many hungry fantasy artists out there who will work for little to nothing to be in print, the companies can get away with paying very very little. When you are starting, you cannot really negotiate payment. You can agree to do it for what they want to pay, or you can decline and they will find someone who will. It takes a long time to build up a relationship with a client. Often, by the time you do so they have 1) gone out of business 2) been sold to someone who has no idea who you are or 3) have decided that in order to get someone very popular to work for them, they are now giving all of the other illo work to a family member of that popular person (that sounds bitter, but this has actually happened to me on more than one occasion, with magazines).

I also got tired of being asked to focus on work outside of the range I really wanted to work in, and wasting a lot of time building portfolio work that I never get responses on. I've decided to go the "print artist" or "convention artist" route, and my art has absolutely blossomed since that decision. If someone wants to offer me illo work, I'll consider it, but I am no longer actively looking for it.

Sorry I couldn't help more. There are a lot of successful illustrators out there who make a living at it (and good for them! Some of them are the nicest, most talented people I've met.), but I just got sick of all the politics involved in getting work. Maybe someone else will speak up on the subject.


12-08-2004, 08:29 PM
On a subject like this - those of us interested, are obviously living at least part time in a "fantasy world" - it's refreshing to hear a your comments - a view from the real world. Thanks, and good luck to you.

12-16-2004, 05:59 AM
Wonderful advice there michelle, thankyou for taking the time to write it :D I'm only 16 and I have been aking art seriously the past couple of years, I still have much to learn but hopefully I will become a better artist and be able to make a living from my art.

I've recently bought this book "2005 Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market" mentioned earlier and it is a very good book to have, it's really helpful and gives you information on how to get into the industry.

Again thankyou :D

Keith Russell
12-17-2004, 08:40 AM
First and foremost, attend science fiction conventions!

At first, check out the science fiction/fantasy (SF/F) cons in your area. Go to their art show, look at the artwork (you'll learn how its displayed, and you'll be able to judge the overall quality of the show--which can vary greatly from con to con). Find out if there's an artists' reception; attend that and meet the artists. Go to the art auction; you'll learn how SF/F convention pricing works. (It's strange, to say the least!)

The convention should provide tons of info (mostly in the form of flyers, usually placed on tables near the registration desk) about other conventions you can attend. Also, most cons will accept prints and originals; most will also accept mail-in art. You mail your art (most artists mail prints, exhibiting originals only when they attend the con) the con art show staff will hang it, sell it, take a small commission, and mail you your unsold art back, and a check for anything that sold. (I usually include a bag or box of candy when I mail prints to a con; the art show staff are almost always volunteers, and they work very, very hard.)

Nearly all SF/F cons are held annually. Check with the art show staff at your local con, to find out how to exhibit your work at next year's con.

There are different kinds of SF/F conventions; cons have 'themes'. Some cons focus on fantasy books, some on science fiction books, some on 'media'--SF/F movies, television shows (even specific shows, such as Star Trek, Babylon V, etc.) Still others focus on costuming, others on role playing gaming, (vampires, SCA, etc.)

My advice is to avoid 'gaming' conventions; gamers stay in the gaming room the entire con (I'm not even sure they leave the room to use the restrooms!) They'll never take time to visit the art show, and thus gamers rarely buy artwork. (You might get the occasional ten-spot for a character sketch...)

Some gaming cons don't even have art shows, but most (oddly enough) do. You've been warned.

I've had the best luck with sales, and contact with publishers, at 'literary' SF/F cons; cons that focus on fans who enjoy books, magazines, and short story collections.

Ask around about after hours parties at the con; there should be signs placed, again near the registration desk, with info about parties both Friday and Saturday night. (Most cons run Friday night thru Sunday afternoon.)

These parties are where all the business gets done! You'll meet people who run conventions--and convention art shows--in other cities; Chances are, they've seen your work, and would love to have you exhibit at their show. You'll also meet writers, and perhaps publishers (or, at least, their art directors). Carry your business cards at all times, but don't take your portfolio to parties. If they want to see your work, they'll take your card to the art show the next day. Talk with the other artists to find out which conventions are well-attended by art buyers, and concentrate on exhibiting at those cons!

(There's often lots of booze at these parties, but if you're serious about networking to try to line up some commissions, don't drink too much. First, you'll want to present a professional image. Second, you'll probably be taking notes on business cards, which are easily lost even when one is sober.)

Very few sf/fantasy artists are paid well--at least at first. It may be (quite) a while before you can quit your day job.

I started exhibiting at conventions in 1996. I attended and exhibited work at the World SF Convention in 1997, and at the North American SF Con in '99.

I sold limited rights to one of my paintings in 1997; a small publishing (now out of business) company wanted to use the image as their logo. (I also painted seven book covers for them; and was paid for the logo rights, and only three of the covers. They returned only two pieces of my original cover art.)

But, I sold seven original paintings in 1997, and eight in 1999, which has led me to pursue more 'fine art' type shows and opportunities, since.

Last month, I was asked by a friend who owns a publishing house to paint cover art for an upcoming book. I was paid next to nothing up front, but I will receive royalties equally my average price for an original painting--

--as soon as all 3500 copies of the book sell!

I've pretty much turned away from fantasy art at this point; I'm back in school, majoring in fine art studio painting, and art history. I'm painting mostly in oils these days; the book cover will be the first airbrush work I've done in seven months...

I'm concentrating on becoming a full-time, studio painter by the time I graduate; two and a half years from now.

Unless this illustration thing finally takes off!



12-22-2004, 04:00 PM

Thanks for mentioning conventions! I can't believe I didn't mention them, since that's where I've shown my work until this year, where it's been mostly on the Web (I've been transitioning into a completely new body of work, so held off from showing in person until I had enough to fill a couple of shows).

SF and fantasy cons tend to be the bread and butter of the fantasy and SF artist. Not to mention how sheerly inspiring it can be to walk into a REALLY good art show, like the ones at WorldCon or DragonCon. Drooooooool.

Heh. I had a publisher dissapear with 4 magazines worth of my and other artists I know's originals, never to be seen again, let alone paid for. The publisher later showed up under a different name soliciting for new artists. Sigh. Thing is, I knew at the time that they had a good reason for not returning the art. It had been confiscated for an unrelated court action involving a moving company. The problem is that the publisher never bothered to actually TELL any of the artists (I just put 2 and 2 together to figure out what happened). Had they told us, we would have been happy to help them through their hard times and keep up the business relationship. But they didn't. So they are evil. :D


Keith Russell
12-23-2004, 01:10 PM
Michelle, yeah, there's definitely some 'evil' out there.

But, many publishers are also sincere fans, who really enjoy what they do, and do it for love, far more often than for money.

(Kinda like us artists!)

Good luck with your new work!


12-28-2004, 05:52 PM
I enjoyed this article very much and it inspired me to do a 'faeryland' image. I've posted it in this forum.

I enjoyed doing it as it is such a pleasure to work from imagination.

The tip I liked/found useful- in the article was...do your normal style of drawing and then add in fantasy elements to get started, e.g., pointed ears.

Well, I think I got started. I may go on and do more...

12-31-2004, 02:01 AM
oh, you chose such beautiful examples of fantasy art, sure to get anyone interested in it.

Very good article, simple and to the point. Perfect for introduction.

04-30-2007, 04:03 AM
Several words about the convention art circuit.

It varies wildly. Total sales at a show vary from under $2000 to over $100,000, sales by one artist varies from 0 to over $10,000. You can be paid as you check out, or it can take months. Different things sell well at different cons. Each con tends to have its own rules and paperwork.

Prices are low compared to most markets. On the other hand, most will let you mail in, most don't charge much, and there are a *lot* of them - probably a couple hundred, maybe 100 of which might be worth sending to. How do you know which they are? The SciFiFantasyHorrorSpace_ArtShows email group on Yahoo is a good place to ask:
It's also good for advice on how to sell at these shows.

You can do whatever kind of art you want. There are no art editors telling you what to do. On the other hand, you'll have to learn pricing and presentation for the venue, and what sells (or where your particular type of art sells).

06-04-2007, 04:07 AM
hmmmm...it seems like your telling me what i want to hear...but i like the advise none the less

12-26-2007, 09:11 PM
:clap: :wave: :cat: :lol: harleylady here from nz love your art its choice.[quote][quote] art is from the heart and it touchers souls and talks to the devine spirit we all have inside us.bit of poetry i am inspired to write words. from robyn

02-28-2008, 02:21 PM
The article Getting started with fantasy art is sooo useful - thank you.

02-28-2008, 02:21 PM
The article Getting started with fantasy art is sooo useful - thank you.

06-21-2012, 01:01 PM
Indeed! I never really considered a career in Art or Literature, either, for that reason. I love my work a lot but even though I submitted to sites featuring it, they never paid me. I have to support myself through other means.

iwan rse
06-22-2012, 10:18 PM
for getting started dont forget to check FARP/elfwood. they have tons of fantasy writing and drawing tutorials..


01-08-2014, 06:36 PM
Great article!

Getting started is really as simple as starting to sketch from your imagination. Drawing from your own mind is a unique experience that can be very rewarding. I remember knowing from an early age that drawing what was in my head was far more interesting than trying to draw what was around me. I suppose it's that child in us all wanting to explore the possibilities. :smug: