How to Paint Fantasy


After a long break I'm back to painting, and it feels incredible!  Something about fantasy draws me in and suddenly all I want to paint are fairies and mermaids.  Since it is summertime here in Iowa I find myself longing for nature.  I've been so cooped up that all I can do is scour the internet looking for imagery to get my nature fix.  It has been incredibly hot out and my husband and I have been staying indoors.  When we lived in Ames we went to parks almost every single day when he got home from work.  At the time I was very much not a nature person, I was scared of stinging bugs and just felt out of my element outdoors.  Nowadays I feel more in tune with the magic of Mother Nature and can't wait for it to cool off a little and get outdoors.


Here are a few tips for anyone interested in fantasy painting.  

1.  Although fantasy can be whatever you like, it often includes natural settings.  What are your favorite things about nature?  Do you love the water or woods, or even the sky and mountains?  Hone in on your favorite elements of nature and bring those things into your fantasy paintings.  You could even paint outer space as another fantasy landscape.

2.  Fantasy usually includes imaginary creatures or beings which gives you a lot of freedom.  Getting skilled at drawing and painting people goes a long way to help you draw fairies or gnomes.  Once you get the hang of drawing people, you can focus on playing up certain features in your art.  For instance gnomes are more stout and fairies can be depicted with really long arms and legs.  Use your imagination and play with some different characteristics to make your work original.  Manga books are a great source for learning to draw people and some of them focus on fantasy elements and outfits.  Tamara LaPorte also has some great classes on fantasy characters.

3.  With fantasy the sky is the limit with color!  I love using really colorful palettes in my fantasy paintings, and use color with reckless abandon.  If you want to try a color palette for a painting, try choosing four or five colors and use them throughout the entire painting.  Or use the entire rainbow to evoke a jovial whimsical look.  Nature palettes also work really well, especially when you include pops of color.  

4.  Make some of the painting abstract.  I don't always do this but I'm slowly discovering that when you add abstract elements into a fantasy work it just seems to add a whole new dimension to the work!  If working in watercolor, add drips or flick paint onto flat spaces.  Use a lot of texture here and there to add visual excitement.  Or bring in some elements of collage to level up the work even more.

5.  The biggest tip I can offer is to do some research.  Most of my fantasy works have elements based in real life.  Search google for images of people in the landscape settings that you are trying to draw.  Then use bits and pieces of the real life image in your work to add reality to the piece.  Or look up landscapes and use them as a jumping off point, bringing in fantasy creatures.  

Above all have fun with fantasy!  Since it is only limited by your imagination, feel free to create your own rules as you go along the way.