I Need Competently-Painted But Awful Fantasy Art

I don’t mean amateurism, fan art, or the trivially inexpert, but work that people were trained to execute and paid to deliver. I’m looking for stuff that gets phoned in for the covers of risible fantasy series as they head deep into the roman numerals. Heroes with neat side partings and velvet doublets, that sort of rubbish.

Think Mercedes Lackey. Think Gor.

Certainly, a dose of talentlessness is good, a la Rob Liefeld, but it has to have the je ne sais quoi of practiced incompetence rather than simple inexperience.

It’s for a secret project. It will not involve drilling holes in anything, but may well involve side sutoes.

A secret quiz, maybe?

A bad fantasy novel generator?

Googling “bad fantasy art” gets you this at #1:


Well, personally I’d say pretty much anything by Boris Vallejo or Larry Elmore qualifies, at least anything I have seen by them.

Right! Secret but blindingly obvious.

Googling “bad fantasy art” gets you this at #1:


Good stuff. As far as possible, I want to avoid stuff with big lettering on it, unless it could be quickly photoshopped out.

By the best-selling author of Star Wars: The Courtship of Princess Leia

Practically anything by Rowena Morrill.

Here are a few samples:





Those Wheel of Time covers were pretty lousy.

DARRELL SWEET. This man is the personification of “competent, but awful” art. His Web site is chock full of the crappiest, stereotypical art imaginable. Hokey poses, overused cliches, and way too much goddamn color abound!

I can’t see any other painting fitting the OP’s requirements any better. This horrible picture is making me nauseous.

It doesn’t scale well as wallpaper, either.

Mercedes Lackey can really go either way. Depends on the imprint and the art director, really. Jody Lee does quite a few covers for her books, and I like her work:

But then sometimes they go with a talentless hack like Boris:

Or Clyde Caldwell (extra helping of “ick”):

Or Larry Elmore (I can’t add any more images, but trust me–it’s no big loss). Elmore, Boris (and his wife/stylistic clone, Julie Bell), and Caldwell are like an evil triumvirate of hideous cheesecake fantasy pap. You can’t go wrong with any of their work if you are looking for bad art.

Now I feel dirty, like maybe I should balance the karmic scales by starting a “good fantasy art” thread or something.

You’ve already balanced the karmic scales with that kickass Oathbreakers cover.

i actually liked that book…

Is that a Piers Anthony cover?


I mean God, seriously.

I bought this book a few years ago, before the amazon.com ‘look inside’ functionality existed. it is the only book I have ever thrown away, and I think it is exactly the sort of art you are looking for! if you click on the Look Inside link you will get some decently-sized versions of the pictures.

RPG magazines and sourcebooks can deliver in this department.

When the mummy stalks you, you’ll shit your pants, so better be ready:

source: http://www.acaeum.com/ddindexes/periodicals/dragon.html

…I like Larry Elmore.

I’ve been going back to this and laughing for the past 5 minutes. How hasn’t this already won the grand prize?

The je ne sais quoi seems to be the awkward mix of portrait and action. You’d almost feel pity for these characters stuck in limbo if they didn’t have meaningless, vacant faces. Seriously, the face with the most expression in all these covers is King Nabooti from Bill’s CYOA cover. It’s as if the Bloodhound Gang running through his fro is pleasing, yet curious to him.

It’s the amused sadness of someone who has lost his jewels but still gets the joke…