Last week, we took a look at science-fiction and fantasy cover art, specifically its purpose, what goes into making it happen, and how eBooks might affect it. This week, we're going to a look at some of the talented illustrators behind the wonderful imaginative art that graces the covers of science-fiction and fantasy books, and point you to where you can find some examples of their art work.

Early Influencers

From the days of early science fiction, several artists (for both books and magazines) stood out and became well known for their portrayals of fantastic art. They have since become influential in the field, even with many of the covers you see on the shelves today.

Frank Kelly Freas, for example, has been hailed as the "Dean of Science Fiction Artists." He's one of the most well-known artists in the field and has illustrated for numerous magazines, most notably Astounding. His work can be found in Frank Kelly Freas: The Art of Science Fiction and Frank Kelly Freas As He Sees It. Meanwhile you can find the work of another major influence of the field, Frank R. Paul, in Frank R. Paul Father of Science Fiction Art, a book that plays on his agreed-upon title.

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emsh Ed Emshwiller was a prolific artist during the 1950s and early ’60s. His work is captured in Emshwiller: Infinity x Two. Frank Frazetta is widely known for his fantasy illustrations, particularly in Robert E Howard's Conan books. Worth checking out: Legacy: Paintings and Drawings by Frank Frazetta. Richard M. Powers was the illustrator behind many of the Doubleday covers from the 1940s through the ’60s. His work can be found in Spacetimewarp: Paintings. Chesley Bonestell was an astronomical illustrator who did many illustrations for Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine, among others. The annual Chesley Awards, recognizing art in the field of sf/f/h, are named after him. His work can be found in The Art of Chesley Bonestell.

At The Top of Their Game

This year, a small handful of artists have been chosen as finalists for the coveted Hugo Award in the category of Best Professional Artist. These folks are at the top of their game. John Picacio not only has an artistic output of high quality and quantity (check out the superb Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio), but he's also the artist behind the popular 2012 calendar A Song of Ice and Fire.

Meanwhile, Bob Eggleton's artistic vision exhibits his fondness for classic imagery (especially monsters), as evidenced by his book Greetings From Earth. Stephan Martiniere is an undisputed master at futuristic landscapes; check out his book, Velocity. And both Daniel Dos Santos and Michael Komarck consistently produce high quality art that stretches the limits of our imagination. All of these artists have produced an impressive amount of work and are well worth keeping an eye on.

More Fantastic Illustrators

boris If you go the bookstore today, you'll see illustrations by dozens, if not hundreds, of talented artists. Artists like the husband and wife team of Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell, who dwell in the realm of fantasy images. (Check out Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell: The Ultimate Collection.) Jean Giraud is internationally known as one the best abstract/surreal artists. Under the pseudonym "Moebius" he has illustrated science fiction and fantasy art (See Art of Moebius). Michael Whelan is the first living artist inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Check out his book The Art of Michael Whelan. John Jude Palencar boasts over 100 book covers to his credit, some of which is collected in the breathtaking book Origins. Todd Lockwood is a superb artist whose early work can be seen in Transitions.

Donato Giancola describes himself as a "classical-abstract-realist." Regardless of label, books exhibiting his artwork like Middle-Earth: Visions of a Modern Myth, show he is a master illustrator. Jon Foster's art is compelling, dark and evocative. (Recommended viewing: Progressions: The Art of Jon Foster by Jon Foster.) Brom is a gothic fantasy artist (See: Darkwerks) who recently began writing and drawing illustrated novels like The Child Thief. His work is a bit unsettling. Also evoking emotion is the work of Gregory Manchess, who specializes in art that connects emotionally with the viewer.

The illustrations of Kinuko Y. Craft illustrate an ethereal beauty. (See also Kinuko Craft Drawings and Paintings.) Likewise, Julie Dillon's art is both surreal and beautiful. And Shaun Tan, known as a children's book illustrator, draws marvelous imagery as well, as seen in his book Tales From Outer Suburbia.

...And Lots More

Note, there's no way this can be a comprehensive survey. There are more great creators of science-fiction and fantasy art ("fantastic" art) than can fit in this space, like Charles Vess, Chris Foss, Chris Moore, Dave Palumbo, Dave Seely, Greg and Tim Hildebrandt, James Gurney, Jim Burns, Jody A. Lee, Mélanie Delon, Rebecca Guay, Ruth Sanderson, Scott M. Fischer, Vicent Di Fate, Wayne D. Barlowe...and so many more. I encourage you to seek out any of the books and links mentioned above to start your visual journey in the wonderful, inspiring world of fantastic art!

John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews.