7 breakthrough fantasy artists

The most awe-inspiring breakthrough fantasy artists that featured in ImagineFX in 2015.

There have been more than a few stunningly talented artists to grace the pages of ImagineFX magazine in the past year, but these seven have something uniquely satisfying to offer and their painting techniques are certainly making their impact on the art world.

From the bizarre and horrifying to dream-like beauty, there is something to inspire everyone in the beautiful artwork of these stand-out fantasy artists. So grab some original art from these up and coming talents, they are sure to be ones to watch.

01. Kelly McKernan

Most promising fantasy artists of 2015 - Kelly McKernan

Kelly's piece, Delirium, was created to be hung in any direction

Kelly's been working as a full time fine artist and freelance illustrator since 2012. She first grabbed our attention when she featured in ImagineFX issue 125 and has graced numerous Creative Bloq lists of great art, including great Bowie tribute art.

Regularly showing original watercolour paintings with galleries like Gallery 1988, Spoke Art, and Arch Enemy Arts, receiving private commissions and creating album artwork for local Nashville musicians.

Along with her work as an artist, she also teaches watercolour classes online, is producing a DVD on her techniques and process, and is an instructor for One Fantastic Workshop. Additionally, she balances all of this with her favourite challenge yet: her role as a new mom.

02. Kirbi Fagan

Most promising fantasy artists - Kirbi Fagan

In this version of "Little Red Riding Hood", Kirbi's not quite sure who the real wolf is!

Since graduating art school, Kirbi has focused on Young Adult and Middle Grade book covers. Her paintings often depicting fierce teens and their animal companions.

By combining textures and styles of old and new she hopes to create a timeless aesthetic. "My inspirations are constantly evolving but I have always admired 1960's lifestyle illustrations from artists like Eric Earnshaw, Jack Potter and Coby Whitmore for their bold colors and shapes," she reveals.

Featuring as Artist of the Month in ImagineFX's indie comics edition, it was only a matter of time until a major comics house picked up on her talent to capture story lines in on dynamic illustration. The artist has recently created a variant cover for Marvel super heroine, Mockingbird. Watch this space!

03. Crystal Sullivan

Most promising fantasy artists - Crystal Sullivan

Crystal's stunning dragon, "The Tomb Keeper" was commissioned by Artists of Magic/Action Sports

Illustrator and monster maker, Crystal Sully works within the realms of the 'untamed'. Creating digital art and designs that reach into the darkest corners of her imagination!

"I really enjoy scaring people and getting a reaction out of my art," she beams. Featuring as Artist of the Month in ImagineFX issue 124, Crystal Graduated in 2012 with a BFA in illustration, since her first week out of college she's been working in the industry non-stop.

Working in a variety of different styles from tightly rendered creatures to bold and graphic portraits, she spent some time in the tattoo industry and loves good line work, which is how every one of her images begins.

04. Alix Branwyn

Most promising fantasy artists - Alix Branwyn

"Unravage" creates the effect of a time spell turning back the clock on the area inside of its influence

Alix started her professional art career as a tattoo artist, but discovered that digital canvases were much more appealing (not to mention less squirmy) and she made the switch to full time illustration.

After completing her Bachelor's degree in video game design in 2008 she settled into a five-year stint as an in-house illustrator for the design company Lantern Press.

About 700 posters and several fun projects for the likes of Urban Outfitters, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and the EMP Science Fiction Museum, a job relocation brought her reluctantly from the rains of the Pacific Northwest to the sun of Silicon Valley when she left a career in commercial illustration to begin freelancing and featured in ImagineFX issue 127 as Artist of the Month.

05. Greg Simkins

Fantasy artists of 2015 - Greg Simkins

"Good Knight" tells the story Ralf, The White Knight, setting off on the adventure of saving his love interest, with his friend, the blue jay, Breeze

Featuring way back in ImagineFX issue 117, Greg's stunningly surreal paintings have us in awe. As a teenager Greg learned his trade as an artist by practising graffiti.

"It gave me the confidence to paint large works," the LA-based artist says. "In addition, it taught me perspective and colour theory."

He has since applied these skills to his work with acrylics: intricate surrealist pieces that show how the Old Masters and pop culture, nature and carnival kitsch all inform his art.

"I have become increasingly interested in the rabbit holes we fall down when daydreaming," Greg reveals. "So many have created worlds in their art in which to escape and inhabit, and for others to enjoy."

06. Leesha Hannigan

Leesha Hannigan - Freelance Death Wizard

Leesha's ilustration for the card game One Hit Kill. This character is a rogue wizard, a relatively unusual combination which led her to the spectral weapon design.

Featuring in the Games issue of ImagineFX, Australian-born freelance illustrator and concept artist Leesha has been fascinated by fantastical literature, Aesop's Fables and fairy tales from a young age. She was later drawn to video games, favouring high-fantasy roleplaying games.

"I tend to work in a painterly style with a particular focus on light, often inspired by what I see in nature and on my travels." Leesha finds lighting incredibly powerful when it comes to setting a scene. "Nature is inherently theatrical, and I endeavour to capture that in my work."

07. Elizabeth Leggett

Parade in Light by Elizabeth Leggett

Elizabeth's alternative Peter Pan, where Wendy takes the reins of Neverland, gave her the opportunity to experiment with city landscapes

Elizabeth won a Hugo Award in 2015 for Best Fan Art and works as a freelance illustrator out of New Mexico. The illustrator has been published with Lethe Press, Spectrum22, ArtOrder’s INSPIRED, Infected By Art Vol 3, as well as ImagineFX and acted as cover artist and art director for Lightspeed Magazine's special.

Elizabeth finds inspiration in the novels and short stories she is honored to illustrate, but if she is illustrating for herself she beelines to classic science fiction and fantasy writing. Her go-to writers are Neil Gaiman and Ray Bradbury and she is drawn very deeply to water themes.

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Alice Pattillo is a staff writer at Creative Bloq, where she creates content for the likes of Imagine FX, 3D World, net and Computer Arts magazines. When she is not writing about VFX and digital art, she freelances for Metal Hammer magazine, watches too many horror films and reads comic books. Sometimes she sculpts monsters and has been writing her own comic book for over ten years (it's still unfinished…).