There's always been a strong bias towards imaginative realism from publishers of fantasy fiction. Readers respond well to cover art that skilfully depicts exotic worlds and characters.
If you're an artist proficient at painting ornate filigree on glowing gold armour you might just get noticed. But if you're an artist whose work can elicit a deep, emotional response then you're going to end up on the short list. Look for Stephen's name on that list – it's the one that's underlined. Several times.
Stephen's self-authored book is packed full of personal insight. We learn that his mastery stems from his own fascination with heritage, which goes beyond his admiration for past art masters all the way back to identifying archetypes within mythology.
He reveals this through candid extended captions for each painting, all appended with technical notes for those of us hungry to learn the ingredients required to create such fulfilling paintings. Paintings like Thomas The Rhymer and The Harp of Galadriel (shown above) are alive with subjects and details rendered with real vitality.
There's an ebb and flow that goes beyond the mechanics of painting to elevate each scene: the book is pure fantasy art inspiration.