The Fantasy Art of Howard David Johnson; Welcome to our gallery of  realistic illustrations depicting fantastic creatures, dragons, heroes, beautiful maidens, mermaids and fairies, gods and monsters all in a style inspired by classic illustrators. Where Fantasy waxes Surreal as the monsters, wild beasts, fearless heroes, and insanely gorgeous femme fatales shackled deep in his subconscious mind run free in the worlds of his Fantasy Art...

painting of an elven enchatress    picture of an elven enchantress confronting demon lord     ntinng of a werewolf figting a night


"Some of David's more prestigious clients have included the Universities of Oxford & Cambridge in England, the University of Texas, The Australian Mint, The National Geographic Society, MGM, Warner Home Video, CBS, ABC/Disney, Paramount Studios, Universal Studios, PBS TV, The History Channel, Enslow Educational Publishers, Adobe Photoshop, Auto FX, Tree-Free Greeting, Verizon wireless, Apple IPOD, Doubleday (Random House), Harlequin Top Historical Romances, & the History Book of the Month Club, as well as appearing in periodicals like Popular Photography, & the Wall Street Journal just to name a few." With a background in traditional media including oils, pastels & colored pencils, Howard David Johnson now embraces leading edge digital media in his depictions of fantasy, folklore, mythology, legend, religion, & heroic history. He works in and mixes a wide variety of  media * Oil paintings * Acrylic Paintings * Prismacolor Paintings * Drawings * Chalk & Oil Pastel Paintings * Photography * 2D & 3D  Digital Artistry*  & Mixed Media including any & all of the above* 


Fire breathing dragon painting knight with sheild of faithFantasy  art Flying Dragon Art Fantasy Art Dragon Paintings Fantasy Art Fantasy Art Knight fighting Dragon to save girl sacrifice

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painting elven beauty with dragon painting of the Storm giant painting dwarf guardions

The Evolution of Fantasy and Fantasy Art

   Even though Fantastic images of gods and monsters have been with us for at least 25,000 years, when an unknown artist picked up a charred stick from the fire and scratched out a creature on the wall of his cave, the term "Fantasy Art" is relatively new. The Fantasy genre as we know it today is actually a direct result of the influence of science and scientific thinking. By now, you'd think everything would have been tried, but we haven't even come close. Exploring new concepts and mediums for creating fantasy art is just as exciting today, just as full of freshness and newness as it ever been... Below...three illustrations from "Legends of the Elves" 



Have you ever seen a deluxe edition on Art History with a chapter devoted to Fantasy Art? In all my decades of research, I haven't. This is largely due to two reasons. The First would be that the fantasy genre as we now know it today is a very recent development, arguably from the time of World War Two with J. R. R. Tolkien or the War of 1812 with Mary Shelley. It's predecessors had a noble history reaching back to mankind's earliest origins.   As science took the fear of the unknown out of the shadows in the woods what had been widely believed to be true became superstition, myth, and folklore but the love of these kinds of incredible stories did not diminish. 


"Hymn of Shadows" Mixed Media 2015



fantasy art book cover  

  "Hyphanden's Box" [2013]

"The Red Dragon" MMXI Mixed Media  

  "Blood of the Dragon" [2013] 


Fantasy Art as we know it today is a genre of art that employs fantastic, magical or super natural themes, ideas, creatures and settings. To better understand it let's explore the genre of fantasy itself:  Stories of the supernatural and the fantastic have been a large part of literature from pre-historic times. What makes the modern genre different from traditional tales is the openly fictitious and make-believe nature of the fantastic elements, rather than believing they are real because of faith in old religions or superstitions. 


painting battle of dragon fighting knights

"The Defenders of the Faith" [MMXI Mixed Media]

merbabies painting of merpeople mermaid mermother


"The Cyclops" [MMXIII Mixed Media]


When people actually believed in pantheons of gods and monsters like the Olympians or Celtic superstitions they did not call it fantasy. As time went by and science became more influential, works were created in which the fantastic or supernatural elements were not to be believed ~ or only half-believed. These evolved into what we now call the Fantasy genres of art and literature. Below are examples of Folklore turned Fantasy~ See extensive illustration of Arthurian Legend and Greek Mythology in their own galleries. Links to all the galleries follow the Fantasy Art exhibit.

  Influences of the Great Fantasy Artists and Writers

H.G. wellls time machene monster painting classic litteratur          Nemo Nodelis 20,000 leges painting of inside sub         end of the word painting of martion invaders

Examples of Classic Old-School book illustrations: "THE TIME MACHINE" by H. G. Wells (left) and "The War of the Worlds" (far right) and "20,000 Leagues under the SEA" (center) by Jules Verne


 [All (c) 2014 in Mixed Media including 3D]



The controversy over what is to be called "Fantasy" and what is not...


I see the primary difference between modern works of Fantasy and Fantastical works from folklore and mythology is that they are by design openly fictitious as opposed to having been presented as portrayal of reality. Are they both Fantasy? Using one very strict standard I have encountered, nothing created before the fantasy genre was defined after the advent of science can be a part of it, no matter what kind of fantastic elements it contains. That would reject Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, H. R. Haggard, E. R. Burroughs and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among other pioneering giants.

 By the more common standard, the genre includes all of Mankind's fantastic literature, the contemporary genre and everything that led to it, because though many elements were treated as true (or at least not obviously fictitious) by earlier writers and artists are totally fictional and unbelievable to modern readers. Still others say anything that is not real or is imagined can qualify.

 So, once again, our point of view determines our personal definitions of fantasy and reality. I personally think this kind of compartmentalized thinking has spread and is spreading and I  feel if the man who set the definition of the Fantasy Genre in stone can base his work upon and incorporate traditional elements, I can too. I used to argue that my work was not Fantasy art but I gave up.

battle of tyhe damned werewolf vaampire dualing fighting monsater mash

"The Battle of the Damned" MMXI Most of what we call fantasy today is rooted in the folklore and superstitions of our past, by calling it "fantasy" we carry it with us into the modern age.

If we use these strict definitions, the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and even Frazetta, (the Great Grand Master of Fantasy Art) do not qualify as Fantasy or Fantasy Art. I can't live with that. My favorite fantasy artworks as a boy were Arthur Rackham's myths and fairy tales and the book cover art for the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs like John Carter of Mars & Robert E. Howard's Conan by Fantasy Art Legend Frank Frazetta. Their influence has shaped my artistic vision to this day.



Old School Style Fantasy illustrations based on books from the late 19th & early 20th centuries:

jungle fighting tiger on the hunt beautiful jungle girl


fantasy art warrior queen

jungle girl albino tiger huntrerss stone age art

"Jungle Tales" inspired by E.R. Burroughs 

"SHE" by H. Rider Haggard [2011]

"Back to the Stone Age" MMX 


"Back to the Stone Age" (above right) was influenced by contemporary popular culture and pays homage to the female super hero and the warrior maiden. This 2010 piece was influenced by the Pin up Art of Alberto Vargas and inspired by the Fantasy-Action-Adventure novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs (The creator of Tarzan) and book cover art of Frank Frazetta

Are Science Fiction and Horror sub-genres of Fantasy?


"The CONQUEST of SPACE" [2016 Mixed Media]


    It has been said that Science-fiction and fantasy are two entirely different things. That Science fiction is the improbable made possible and fantasy is the impossible made probable.   Put more simply; Science fiction usually tries hard to explain how things work and fantasy does not even care.

     Today's generation of writers found the Lord of the Rings as they came of age and its brand of “reality” became written in stone to new generations who comfortably compartmentalize its unreal elements as “fantasy” in our modern scientific age. The conflict between Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke about the reality of spiritual matters while making 2001; A Space Odyssey shows how wide open these fields still are.

     Like Science Fiction, Horror can stand alone to evoke fear or mix with any other genre, commonly drawing upon religion and folklore for its Vampires Werewolves and demons, which I incorporated into the contemporary horror scene above.

    While there are many elements of horror in fantasy art and almost any genre or school of art like Surrealism or Symbolism can blend with it, Fantasy art remains a unique genre in its own right. Recently even religious and mythological paintings have been grouped with fantasy art, making it an even broader and more unmanageable category.


  "The MOON MAID" [2017 Mixed Media]




Above: More Examples of Classic Old-School style Sci-Fi  illustrations in modern media: 

"Encounter_on_Enceladus_"a salute to E.C. comics  [left], "The Perfect Specimens" & "Strange Worlds" [All (c) 2016 in Mixed Media including 3D]




Traditional folklore and fairy tales still dominate the Fantasy genre today...


painting of old wiozard Vainamoinen god  of the finnish     dual \of the faithful holy knight slaying devil dragon templar     fantasy art knight and his maiden dragon taimer


"Väinämöinen"from "The Kalevala" [left]Originally a Finnish god, he was the pattern for wizards in fantasy literature, first and foremost among them Gandalf in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings as well as Sauromon the white. ALSO- "The Dragon Slayer"  and "Forced Heritage" MMX


flower fairy painting mixed media      valkire maiden mixed media nordic norse myth legend     fairy circle demon monster summoning beautiful woman


"The Flower Fairy" MMV                    

"Die Walkurie" MMVI Mixed Media

            "The Tempest" MMVI Mixed Media


Great Legends, Folklore and Mythology provided the inspiration for the above three  fantasy pieces in our exhibit and have always been the wellspring and the fountain head of my inspiration when creating all my various forms of  fantasy Art. Wagner's classic opera "The Twilight of the Gods" and Shakespeare's play "The Tempest" .





paiting od elven enchatress and her pet dragon elven enchantress riding trained dragon

The Dragon has played an important part in the myths and religions of mankind since pre-historic times... The Classical Dragon is a magnificent mythical monster usually represented as a huge crested snake, with great bat wing- like extensions growing from it's back, clawed limbs, or both, but continues to evolve in contemporary Fantasy Art. 



More Dragons emerging from from Mythology and Folklore to Fantasy


_The_ Sword_ of_ Siegfried.jpg (57385 bytes)  painting legend of king Aurther father King Uther dragon Caliburn  The_Dragon_Dancer.jpg (24314 bytes)  _The Dragonslayer copy.jpg (58903 bytes)

Although regarded as a sacred guardian by many of the ancient cults the dragon has been more commonly symbolic of the principle of evil though, and the slaying of a dragon the crowning achievement of heroes like the Nordic Siegfried from The Ring Cycle which inspired The Lord of The Rings.



Mediums, Styles and Techniques

   The two paintings below are oil on canvas ("Faerie Guardians" below left) and oil on panel ("Sleeping Beauty" below right) Scroll down past the main exhibit for examples of the same picture "ALL HALLOWS EVE" rendered in digital media, Prismacolor colored pencils on paper and oil on canvas compared. Visit "original art" for more on these...


    Faerie guardians Fairy protectors     

"Faerie Guardians" MMVI Oil on Canvas

magical fairy god mother faerie guardian

"Cinderella" MMXIV mixed media including 3D

aroura painting ferret picture three good fareie fary farie   

"Sleeping Beauty" MMIV Oil on panel



"Elven Fairy Magic" MMVII Prismacolor Pencils

Of all Shakespeare's plays A Midsummer Night's Dream has had the most compelling hold on the imagination of painters. William Blake made a series of watercolors in the early 1790's.By the mid 1800's a tradition developed among British and Scottish Painters that continues today. See more fairies in the Gallery link Section past the Fantasy Art exhibit.

  To your left, in "Elven Fairy Magic", Elements of surrealism and symbolism abound, especially in the women's faces in the evaporating mist flowing upward and merging with the forest. It features David's friend Ann as it's model and is rendered in Prismacolor Colored Pencils - A 'Colored Pencil Painting' if you will, Because this kind of picture is really not at all what people think of when they hear the word 'drawing'.

"The Little Thieves" MMXIV 

This art medium, these relatively new soft oil based colored pencils are not the first Dry Painting Medium: the term 'Pastel Paintings' originated in the 17th century. They also are a wet medium, mixing well with solvents and applied with an artist's brush getting very oil painting- like results. The digital montage is a natural evolution of the preliminary photo collage David learned from great Fantasy and Realistic illustrators like Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell. 



By Popular Demand! So many have written asking how to tell the various media apart~ But friends! That's JUST my point! Left Digital Montage, Center: Prismacolor Painting, Right Oil on canvas




"A Mermaid" below left is a return to the legends, a fantasy portrait mostly done to please the model... Along with the classic myths and legends that captivate my imagination and  serve as great fantasy art themes with all their beautiful maidens, mighty heroes, gods and monsters.

mermaid little squid underwater painting picture of sea life fantasy painting of norse myth nordic legend flying hourse mermaid merman merpople under sea painting

 "A Mermaid" MMVII Mixed Media and "Ascension" [MMXII Mixed Media] shows traditional Merfolk from Greek Mythology. Valkyrie Maiden", right  [MMX Mixed Media]  The Valkyries were the daughters of Odin from Norse mytholgy who would collect the dead from the battlefields. This illustration is from the Ring Cycle from Norse Mythology which was used as the pattern for the Lord of the Rings.


    mammoth hunt pre history fantasy art  


"Hiryur, the Gray Fire Drake" [MMXIX], "The Mammoth Hunt" MMI Digital Montage and "Elven Archer"



I began my career in 1974 as a scientific illustrator and had to keep my love of  folklore and religion a secret... I began my career as a scientific illustrator and the methods I learned from the scientists to sort out the details I now apply to my fantasy art as well. I began doing fairy art at the request of my models and after doing a fairy portrait for one, they all wanted them. They were not so enthusiastic about the Jungle Girls. Among my contemporaries or the generation preceding me in the world of Fantasy Art I admire the work of Wallace Wood,   Jack Kirby,  Ray Harryhausen, Arthur Rackham, Brian Froud, Alan Lee and Frank Frazetta.




 I took inspiration from their subject matter and compositions and applied techniques of photorealism I learned from Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell and employed new media like Prismacolors in "Jungle Tales". For years Prismacolors were my favorite media even though nothing could compare to the look of oils in person, but  lately, I have fallen in love with digital media. For this I offer no apology. I love it, the possibilities of mixing media and styles seem limitless! Like Photography, it will only get better. I recently have begun incorporating various 3d Studio software programs and look forward to more fun mixing media in the coming years.



dragon summoner fantasy woman

"The Summoner" MMII Mixed Media


fairies goblins pixies dwarfs the children of the night little people painting

"Fairies, Goblins and Dwarfs' MMVI Prismacolor Pencils on Bristol Board

Eroticism in Contemporary Fantasy Art

Over the last 300 years, ideas about female beauty have drastically changed and this has caused many of the most wonderful paintings of the old masters to seem 'ugly' to youthful modern audiences. For example, in the days of Peter Paul Rubens, being forty to sixty pounds over-weight was considered not only attractive, but a status symbol. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and tastes have clearly changed.

photo realistic painting of fairy

"Tiny Dancer" MMX Mixed Media

Of course simple Pin-ups and mild Erotic Art make up a great deal of Contemporary Fantasy Art and have always been among my favorites.

Throughout Art History, the Classical or Greco-Roman school of art is distinguished by the notion that the human form is the ultimate arena for artistic expression. One of the principal attractions of  fairy painting for the Mid-Victorians was that it made possible highly realistic and erotic pictures of  unclad females that would have otherwise been inadmissible. In the 20th century the sexual revolution eliminated all of these traditional boundaries. 

In 21st century America however, the sight of a healthy unclad woman is taboo even in the visual arts. Unlike in modern revisionist  folklore, in traditional faerie lore, fairies were quite sexy! Many of them commonly went about proudly unclothed - uncommonly beautiful - mischievous, and scandalously promiscuous!



photo realistic fairy magic dandilion

"The Dandelion Fairy"  MMXIV Photo-realistic Fantasy in Mixed Media


I like the fantasy art with the magical and powerful ladies best myself. In popular culture I find strong women like super-heroines and anime girls the most attractive myself. I never really liked the Fantasy Art with weak or helpless women or powerless women dominated by those steroid freak musclemen that Saddam Hussein collected. "Sheena Queen of the Jungle" [below]


Chicks in chain mail? Now THAT'S  FANTASY!

"Goblin Fighter Halith" MMX (below left) and "Duel of the Amazons" MMX (below right) Featuring Fabulous Ferocious Fighting Fantasy Art Femme Fatales were commissioned for Contemporary Genre Fantasy and unconnected to any pre-existing  folklore or culture. Most of the themes for my Art are traditional, drawing upon folklore and mythology, but not always. Sometimes I go to popular culture for inspiration too. Mixing genres and media have kept this as fun for me as the day I started, but I don't think that "anything goes".  I think the artist has a duty to society and times are changing. Preserving our Endangered Cultural Heritage is my personal mission.


elven goblin slayer ghosts female elf                   painting of an amazon dual batlle warrior women

   I love the warrior maiden phenomenon in today's fantasy art world but am a bit amused that so many contemporary writers want to re-write history to pretend they were always there.  I find it astonishing that TV shows like Xena, warrior Princess" have overpowered our precious historical records and fantasy has taken the place of history in the minds of modern people. The warrior woman has emerged in these recent fantasy books, movies and Art as ferocious and deadly as the mightiest male warriors of myth and history. The weaker sex? Not in these stories! The oddest part of this fun new phenomenon in fantasy art, cartoons, novels and movies is the eagerness of certain writers to pretend they always existed and to present historical figures in this light. For eons, men protected women. From the era of cavemen to the American Frontier savage tribes and wild beasts were a constant threat and women were to be protected at any cost. A day came at last when it was safe for women to go forth unprotected and men stepped aside to make room for these capable gals in halls of government, office buildings, hospitals and many other vocations. Make NO mistake- the "warrior woman" so prevalent in mythology did not exist in history but with exceptions you can count on one hand. History has been abandoned in public schools under pressure to improve standardized test scores and in a recent national survey 60% of American high school students could not recognize Abraham Lincoln's face or tell you what nation America declared its independence from. Never fear~ "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer" will restore his facial recognition to a new generation as this blend of fact and fantasy replaces history in the cultural consciousness by the power of motion pictures and television.

 To make matters worse, art education has been almost completely removed from American Schools. Today, most American college graduates cannot name even one living artist. There is no way that mandating more math, requiring more reading, or scheduling more science will replace what we have lost as a culture. 




Surrealist Philosophy in Fantasy Art

Surrealism is a literary and artistic movement launched in 1924 by the French poet Andre' Breton proclaiming the radical transformation of all existing social, scientific, and philosophical values through the total liberation of the subconscious. The most famous surrealist was the great Salvador Dali. His subconscious mind saw things that should be rigid as limp or melting and reflected it in his work with a sense of horror. Soon surrealism became synonymous with images of inappropriately limp or soft objects. (What would Sigmund Freud say about that I wonder?)  "Surrealism does not allow those who devote themselves to it to forsake it whenever they like. There is every reason to believe that it acts on the mind very much as drugs do; like drugs, it creates a certain state of need and can push man to frightful revolts." ~ The Surrealist Manifesto

Melting things are not necessarily surrealistic & surrealism is as vast as the human psyche.

Everyone has different things enslaved in their subconscious mind.

  The monsters, wild beasts, fearless heroes, and insanely gorgeous femme fatales shackled deep in Howard David Johnson's subconscious mind run free in his fantasy art.

painting of the kniight valyent and the fire drake dragon      fantasy picture of the dual of the wizards elf mage magical dual     Morgan Le Fae fairy circle enchantress painting of beautiful woman

 "The Fire Drake", "The Gand-Alf" [or Wand-Elf] and "Morgana le Fae"

I am persuaded that Fantasy Art can be as viable a form of art as any other. it hangs in the halls of the world's greatest museums and yet is is often used as a term of derision. To make matters worse, art education has been almost completely removed from American Schools. Today, most American college graduates cannot name even one living artist.

There is no way that mandating more math, requiring more reading, or scheduling more science will replace what we have lost as a culture.    

Thank You for Visiting the Surrealistic Fantasy Art Gallery of Howard David Johnson

Scroll down for links to more Galleries of Fantastic Realism...




Who is American Fantasy Illustrator Howard David Johnson?

In David's invitation to the Florence Biennale Contemporary Art Exhibition, (a partner in the United Nations' Dialog among Nations), UN Secretary General Kofi Anon wrote: "Artists have a special role to play in the global struggle for peace. At their best, artists speak not only to people; they speak for them. Art is a weapon against ignorance and hatred and an agent of public awareness... Art opens new doors for learning, understanding, and peace among nations."


        Howard David Johnson is a contemporary realistic artist and photographer with a background in the natural sciences and history.  David works in a wide variety of mixed media ranging from oil on canvas to digital media. David's realistic illustrations have made appearances in every major bookstore and game shop chain in America as well as magazines and educational texts around the world. 

      Some of David's more prestigious clients have included the University of Texas, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in England, The Australian Mint, The National Geographic Society, Paramount Studios, Universal Studios, MGM Studios, Warner Brothers Home Video, ABC/Disney, CBS TV, PBS TV, The History Channel, Enslow Educational Publishers, Adobe Photoshop, Auto FX, Tree-Free Greeting, Verizon wireless, Apple IPOD, Penguin, Doubleday (Now Random House), Harlequin Top Historical Romances, and the History Book of the Month Club, as well as appearing in periodical publications like Popular Photography and the Wall Street Journal.

A Traditional style portrait of the artist. [Photo by his son Erich.]

        After a lifetime of drawing and painting, David's Traditional Art was exhibited in the British Museum in London in 1996, ( 3 years before he got his first computer ) as well as numerous American ones since, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 


      Working in a wide variety of mixed media David offers his customers a variety of options and more than four decades of experience. As an illustrator he has not only used the computer but has been involved in the development and marketing of software for Adobe Photoshop. 

Digital art, Colored pencils, Pastels, Mixed media, & also Oil Paintings can also be commissioned for select projects. Digital illustration projects start at $500.U.S. and group rates are available. David delivers custom made copyright free illustrations & old fashioned customer service when he does work-for-hire. To publish existing pieces of his realistic art, David sells licenses starting at only $99.USD.


With a background in traditional media including oils, pastels and colored pencils, David now embraces leading edge digital media in the creation of his depictions of fantasy art, folklore, mythology, legend, religion, and heroic history. He works in and mixes a wide variety of media * Oil paintings * Acrylic Paintings * Prismacolor Paintings * Drawings * Chalk & Oil Pastel Paintings * Photography * and last but not least: Digital Artistry & Mixed Media * 







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Gorgeous Quality Printing

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[of a maximum 1,000 prints per image]


Each inspected, hand signed and numbered by the artist!




Sized to fit standard sized frames!




The Johnson Galleries prints these "in-house" with our new state of the art Epson 7890 oversize printer on Epson 200 year premium photo paper and canvas with Epson inks!


Many pieces are currently available, mostly 11x14-13x16 inch Prismacolor Paintings (like Helen of Troy) and pencil portraits (like Arriba #2) followed in number by Acrylic, Prismacolor and pastel mixed media all on #400 Strathmore Bristol Board ranging from $700.00-$1400. 00 USD and Oil Paintings on canvas ranging from $1999.00 USD and up.  Pieces that have never been rendered in oil can be commissioned in 16x20 inch size on canvas for 50% down and delivered in under 90 days with signed certificates of authenticity aka legal documents pledging never to render it in that size and media again to ensure premium collectability and investment potential.

David can also do a completely new picture designed in digital media (for more on this visit his digital media page) and when we approve the photo-montage, he uses it as reference to render it in oil on canvas. No surprises.  Existing Artwork is shipped very well protected and go out to you immediately via Fed Ex or USPS Express mail upon receipt of payment at our expense. All new creations cost a bit more depending on what is involved. All new creations and rendering photo montages into art on paper are a LOT of fun with e-mail attachments and digital cameras.  



  Almost all of Johnson's Mixed Media creations (above left) are available to be rendered in oil on canvas once like the 20x16 oil on canvas Faerie Guardians (above right). Each design will only be rendered in oil once at this size and can be delivered in as little as 90 days. Sadly, much of the subtlety, vibrance, lustre and impact of an original oil painting is lost when it is scanned and imported to digital media or even printed by a master printer. Nothing can compare to an original oil painting viewed in person in my opinion but the other painting media definitely look good in print and have their charms and distinct advantages. People have written asking me to tell them how to tell mixed media from prismacolors or oil. The very fact it is so hard to tell is my point! This new media looks very presentable and costs far less! ALL HALLOWS EVE was begun as a digital montage This is your guide: above far right is the digital composition...The question is, are you willing to pay tens of thousands to be old fashioned if only an art expert can tell the difference? So many have written asking how to tell the various media apart~ But friends! That's JUST my point! Left Digital Montage, Center: Prismacolor Painting, Right Oil on canvas

ALL HALLOWS EVE rendered in oil on 20x16 canvas (right) features the lovely Ann Bratton as Titania in this illustration from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. Even when displayed at the same size the oil on canvas is clearly a superior illustration to the 2006 Prismacolor Painting on paper. (left).

 Want to see your fantasy realized? David is now accepting commissions for Fantasy Portraits!

e-mail for more details at

Looking for a cover? David loves to do custom Fantasy book covers, especially to help emerging Fantasy writers. Most of the illustrations in this web are available for licensing at a very low cost and all new custom commissions are available too starting at only $500.USD.

 Publishing calls for a different shape than traditional picture framing, basically more space at the top. Many of David's Fantasy Art posters can be modified to add that neutral space at the top with Adobe Photoshop (tm) Software. Printers also need neutral "chopping space". In the early days of David's career adding canvas space was as impossible as growing a second head... but now it is so easy he usually doesn't even charge extra to adapt them if its just skies or landscapes!  Here are examples of existing Johnson art that were adapted for use as Fantasy and Romance book covers below... Notice the upgrade on the spear point in the process. (above  right) And now back to our discussion of my Fantasy Art, regarding its content and themes...

Thank you for Visiting... Your  business, letters, & links are always welcome.






With a background in traditional media including oils, pastels and colored pencils, David now embraces leading edge digital media in the creation of his depictions of fantasy art, folklore, mythology, legend, religion, and heroic history. He works in and mixes a wide variety of media * Oil paintings * Acrylic Paintings * Prismacolor Paintings * Drawings * Chalk & Oil Pastel Paintings * Photography * and last but not least: Digital Artistry & Mixed Media * 

"Those who are enamoured of practice without science are like a pilot who goes into a ship without rudder or compass and never has any certainty where he is going. Practice should always be based upon a sound knowledge of theory, of which perspective is the guide and gateway, and without it nothing can be done well in any kind of painting."


Howard David Johnson is a contemporary Fantasy artist & photographer with a background in
the natural sciences and history. He works in a wide variety of media ranging from traditional
oils, pastels and others to cutting edge digital media. He loves mixing media. This site features
examples of his Fantasy Art, including illustration, photography, experimentalism, and fine art.

photo realistic painting of fairy dancers

       The various galleries linked to by the icons above show many examples of His Realistic Fantasy Art, and are grouped by theme rather than media. Since boyhood he has passionately copied the old masters. Using a strategy employed by J. W. Waterhouse (The old master David has imitated most) - his wistful and graceful models cannot be underestimated in their contribution to the stunning beauty and the potential for lasting appeal of his work. To create his work, he usually starts with a thematic concept, then working in his Photography studio with live models. He then assembles a variety of elements which are realistic and original. As a boy he dedicated his life to art in 1960. From 1965- 1999 he used Xeroxes and tracings to make his preliminary photo montages. This is patterned after  the manner used by Maxfield Parrish and other 19th century notables. For this he offers no apology as many of the greatest artists in history employed any and all means of technology at their disposal such as Camera Obscura or even the evil manufactured tube paints. See his article below: "On Art and Technology: When Seeing is Not Believing" An essay dealing with mechanical aids to visual art from Camera Obscura to Computers for more on this. The digital montage is a natural evolution of the preliminary photo collage David learned from great Realistic illustrators like Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell.

      His favourite medium for Fantasy art used to be colored pencil for most of his career because of the high speed and low expense, and people began expressing difficulty in telling his colored pencil drawing from photographs in the early 1980's.  In recent years he has grown fonder of oil and digital mixed media. In the last 35 plus years he has also mastered Oils, Pastels, Acrylics, Watercolors, Inks, Scratchboard, Gouache, Photography, and the highly controversial digital media (Art Numérica). As a commercial illustrator Johnson has not only used the computer to create fantasy Art but has been involved in the development of computer imaging software.   Working in a realistic style inspired by classic illustrators HDJ is deeply rooted and grounded in the Greco-Roman artistic tradition, Feeling that with all realistic art, the human form is the ultimate arena for artistic expression. His lifelong dream came true when his Traditional Realistic Art was exhibited in the British Museum in London England in 1996. His mixed media has also been displayed in numerous other ones since such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Having achieved international acclaim as a traditional visual artist he discovered digital media ( Art Numérica ) in 1999. Because of his passion for realistic art and photography he elected to embrace it and be a part of this historic era in the visual arts as a 21st century Fantasy artist.

     Since 1972 when he began his career as a scientific illustrator for the University of Texas he has earned his living illustrating all kinds of books, magazines, CD covers, and all sorts of games, greeting cards, calendars, portraits, murals and the like with his contemporary realistic art... H.D.J.'s Fantasy Art has appeared in every major bookstore chain and fantasy gaming shop in The United States and has been used in educational texts and magazines all over the world. This site features Fantasy Art paintings & pictures for the twenty-first Century including some oil paintings, as well as lots of other exciting media such as colored pencil drawings, pastel paintings, acrylic paintings, gouache paintings, watercolor paintings, and pencil drawings, and also featuring studio,  field, & aerial photography,  digital painting and photo-montage and all these media mixed in an assortment of experimental combinations...Working in a wide variety of media to create his Fantasy art he offers his customers a host of payment and product options. He delivers the rights to these custom made copyright free fantasy art illustrations and old fashioned customer service when he does work-for-hire.

          HDJ's Fantasy Art creations take their inspiration from the realistic paintings of the old masters just as West Side Story came from Romeo and Juliet. Our shared cultural heritage, great works of art, literature, music and drama, cinema, folk tales and fairy tales are all drawn upon again and again by the creators of new works. These works in the public domain are both a catalyst and a wellspring for creativity and innovation. Where would Walt Disney be without the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, or Victor Hugo? Where would Aaron Copeland have been without American folk music? Thomas Nast's Santa Claus without traditional images of Father Christmas? Pablo Picasso without African art? Public domain appropriators, one and all. Johnson  accepts select commissions to paint custom oil paintings with down payments starting at only one thousand dollars. He grants permission for most educational purposes simply for the asking. To use his existing realistic art works outside the classroom he offers low cost license offers starting around $100.00.

Use the  e-mail links above or below to contact him...





Bonus Section:

Essays and articles on Art and Art philosophy yesterday and today.

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Art and Technology: From the Camera to the Computer

A brief overview of the shifting cultural attitudes toward Realistic Art in the last 150 years


    The first decade of the 21st Century has seen a grass-roots counter-revolution in the art world which has overthrown the stranglehold elitist proponents of Abstract expressionism gained on academia, the media and the art world at large in the early 20th Century.

   Realistic Art was declared obsolete and irrelevant at the beginning of the 20th Century due to the easy chronicling of persons, places, and events by the Camera - in spite of this new technology empowering the greatest era in Realistic Art history. The “Modern Day Artist” refused to die and began to explore realms of the heart and mind the camera could not record. The proponents of Abstract Expressionism gained control of elite art collector’s markets followed by academic institutions and the media leading to the abandonment of centuries of classical teaching methods and traditions in our universities. Even the best realistic art was later denounced and ridiculed as the dismissive and often even hostile Art establishment created elitist scorn for Realistic Art in general. This created a disconnect with the general population who could not relate to the tenets of Abstract Expressionism. The advent of the internet broke the absolute domination of the opinions of the Abstract School on media and academia and opened the floodgates of artistic expression and free opinions. Free at last from institutionalized condemnation, more and more artists began to choose realistic treatments and a tidal wave of fabulous new realistic art has been created in every conceivable visual art media for museums, galleries, books, movies, and video games.

As the camera became commercially available in the early 19th Century it became clear that the visual artist was no longer an indispensable member of society. Just about anyone could point and shoot this device at persons, places, and things and get very fast and very realistic results. Resentment from thousands of years of artists’ social and political influence fueled the notion that visual artists should be declared obsolete. The adoption of the camera as an artist’s tool and the advent of an era of glorious and unprecedented realism in painting did not stop the movement to crush the political and social influence of the artist.

Great realistic artists like Pablo Picasso and others like Vincent Van Gogh courageously answered this challenge by exploring concepts that could not be photographed with brilliant and visionary works. It was from these honest and ingenious notions that the schools and sub-schools of Abstract Art developed. The freshness and innovation of this movement took the art world and academia by storm. The excitement of defining the tenets and the delight of bewildering the masses gave rise to an elite class of critics who could control the lucrative art collector’s market with obfuscation and intellectual snobbery.

This wealthy art collector’s market gave credence to Abstract Expressionism’s “high art” status and the advice of well placed critics became extremely valuable and they formed an alliance with like-minded academics. As time passed, this trendy movement whose concepts were so hard to argue with gained control of the establishment and elitism took root. It was not long before traditional painting methods were not taught in universities any more as realistic art was no longer considered “Real Art” and tenets like; “Art must be ugly”, Art must be new” Art must be obscure”, and “The best Art is offensive” took hold in schools and printed media.

Not satisfied with control over the most lucrative galleries, collector’s markets and academia, these elitists moved from dismissive to openly hostile attitudes toward those who still loved and created realistic art. The merciless and unprovoked rebukes of great realistic artists like Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth and so many others are well documented in 20th century histories. That’s not “Real Art” and why do you waste your talent on “Mere Illustration” were some of the nicer comments. Illustrators in the 20th century wore these rebukes like badges of honor, like black eyes gained from standing up to schoolyard bullies, knowing in their hearts what they were doing was worthwhile and the narrow minded views of their critics were not the only valid opinions. By the end of the 20th century, the long apprenticeship tradition was broken and classical realistic art methods were lost forever. The Shock Art movement in the 1990’s carried the tenets to new extremes as “ART” became a dirty word. U.S. Government Endowments for the Arts were discontinued. Abstract Art had become the norm with its obfuscated themes and was then itself considered irrelevant and academically worthless. Art programs were then removed from countless public school curriculums to make time for standardized test preparation. There is no way that mandating more math, requiring more reading, or scheduling more science will replace what we have lost as a culture.   

At the turn of the 21st Century the Abstract Expressionists had been in control for generations with a thought control blockade in books, newspapers, radio, television and schools. Anyone who disagreed with them was told they were too stupid to understand “Real Art” and theirs was the only voice to be heard. What had begun so beautifully and sincerely was hijacked and violated until it became a byword for vulgarity. Then came the internet and the realistic artists, long silenced began to express their views. It was like the boy who cried: “The Emperor has no clothes!” This revelation spread like wildfire through the cultural consciousness.  Suddenly, it was no longer a disgrace to hold something other than those narrow views. Galleries on the internet showcased generations of repressed artists realistic works in a tidal wave art history calls: “the Realistic Revolt”. Of course, Abstract Art still flourishes today especially on college campuses, but the narrow views of its most fanatical proponents are no longer cruelly dominant.

The Realistic Revolt has brought the return of respectability to illustration and realistic landscape and portraiture. When I see the works of today’s vast multitude of realistic artists coming from a thousand different directions at once, tears come to my eyes, for I have worn the title “illustrator” as a badge of honor for decades and am deeply moved to have lived to see new developments in art and technology drive the visual arts to levels of quality beyond my wildest dreams. I predict 3D and digital media will grow more and more realistic until photos seem noticeably inferior. The internet has not only opened the floodgates for artistic expression, but employment and untold artists are earning a living shattering the “Starving Artist” stereotype so engrained in our cultural consciousness. The beginning of the 20th century saw technology threatening the survival of the professional artist and the end of it saw the unbridled tenets of Abstract Expressionism like “Art must be offensive” threatening the very existence of art as a part of our culture, the modern day artist has once again refused to die and has embraced technology to create a rebirth of realism that Art critics, collectors, academics and everyday folk can all embrace and celebrate in ways I once feared had been lost to us forever.

~ Howard David Johnson (2012)






What is your definition of Art?


An essay dealing with attitudes toward Traditional Realistic Paintings, Pastels, Colored Pencils and Art Numérica

In addition to his mastery of traditional oil painting media, Howard David Johnson now combines drawing, painting, photography, and digital media with more than thirty years of experience in these fields to create his Fantasy Art Numérica in 21st century paintings and pictures. Did you know the Greek word "Photography" means "Painting with Light"? Today with the advent of computers it truly lives up to it's name. Due to developments in Art and Technology, a broader definition of painting is needed than that which is found in common usage.

"Painting, in art, the action of laying colour on a surface, or the representation of objects by this means. Considered one of the fine arts"  ~Encyclopaedia Britannica. 

"Painting. noun. 1.) The act or employment of laying on colors or paints. 2.) The art of forming figures or objects in colors on canvas or any other surface, or the art of representing to the eye by means of figures and colors any object; the work of an illustrator or painter. 3.) A picture; a likeness or resemblance in shape or colors. 4.) Colors laid on. 5.) Delineation that raises a vivid image in the mind; as in word painting. ~ Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language


~Dierdre of the Sorrows copy.jpg (49196 bytes)

Pastel, Acrylics, and Colored Pencils combined

     Snobbism in the arts is nothing new. Some people will tell you that oils are the only valid medium for realistic paintings. That Colored Pencil, Digital, and other Realistic Painting and Drawing Media are not valid  for "real" art. Young artists, Don't let them bother you. Their forerunners used to condemn Pastels before they gained acceptance and called them "crayons" when Johann Alexander Thiele (1685-1752) invented them.  Mercilessly disrespectful  art critics of the time could not stop the Experimentalists no matter how viciously they attacked and derided them. "Crayon-painting" as it was called in England was practiced early on by persecuted pioneers in Switzerland and many other nations. What a debt we owe to these master artists who refused to knuckle under to the pressure of those short-sighted critics during those historic and experimental times. It took until 1870 with the founding of the "Societe` Des Pastellistes" in France that respect came  at last to these heroic & immortal visual artists.

        In England the liberation of the Pastellists from slight regard and undeserved disrespect came with the first exhibition of "The Pastel Society" at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1880. Pastel Painters like Mary Cassat and others from America and other nations forever silenced  the snobs with their masterworks and gained recognition at long last for Thiele's invention as a valid art medium. I am persuaded that history will repeat itself.  Like Pastels, I believe these wonderful new colored pencils and even Digital Realistic Art Media will one day receive the recognition they deserve as powerful mediums of artistic expression just as pastel paintings did. What is your definition of art? Have you thought about it?

Mine is: "anything that makes you feel or think."

     Consider dancing... it can be a little skip in the step or rise to the level of the incomparable Russian Ballet. Did you know that just the materials alone for a single oil painting cost up to a thousand dollars these days? Even paying the artist less than minimum wage no one but the super rich can afford them anymore. Something's got to give. Realistic paintings in oil have been highly prized for centuries and the appeal and following of realistic art is undiminished to this day. Oil paintings featuring Abstract Art and Realistic Art are generally the most treasured form of all the visual art media and with good reason. But snobbish art critics  favoring abstract art have declared  that realistic paintings, fantasy art, or illustrations are not art for a century. With so many representationalist  paintings by so many immortal master artists hanging in the Louvre, the Hermitage, and the British Museum and others I think the disrespect for realistic illustrators that dominated the 20th century is academically ridiculous as well as vain and intolerant, insisting theirs is the only valid opinion. What is your definition of Art? I believe almost any form of human expression can be raised to the level of "high art" especially  visual art and Realistic illustration...

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The detail reveals Realistic art and abstract art combined

       By my own definition of art, which is: "anything that makes you feel or think" most abstract paintings are not "real art" to me personally, because abstract paintings usually neither make me feel or think,  usually focusing obsessively on technique and avoiding any coherent content. I usually draw a complete blank mentally and emotionally when I look at them. In 1979 the Houston Metropolitan Museum of Art displayed a triptych of 3 giant   paintings they paid fifty thousand dollars for-  three blank white canvasses entitled "untitled". Then there was "The incredible new artistic Genius "with an I.Q. of 62 ...Congo the chimpanzee with his gala New York art elaborate prank played on the Snobbish American Art critics about a generation ago by research scientists in the field of primatology. Imagine how upset they were when he created one of his "ingenious masterpieces" right before their eyes.

( My Source for this is the Time Life Science Library volume entitled "The Primates". )

      Art education has been almost completely removed from American Schools as a result of generations of this kind of  fabulous nonsense contributing to America's cultural illiteracy crisis. Now, the works of Leonardo Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and other notables are being removed from school libraries.  After generations of this, most American college graduates today cannot name even one living visual artist, abstract or realistic.

There is no way that mandating more math, requiring more reading, or scheduling more science will replace what we have lost as a culture.    

What is your definition of Art?



Note: Abstract Paintings by Congo the Chimpanzee outsold Warhol and Renoir by over 25,000 dollars in June 2005 at a London art auction. Born in 1954, Congo created more than 400 drawings and paintings between the ages of two and four. He died in 1964 of tuberculosis. There is no precedent for this kind of sale.




Essay Two :

The Rebirth of Realism

More thoughts on Realistic & Fantasy Art yesterday & today

Art History has entered a new era with the birth of Art Numérica, or digital art media in the 21st century. Artists never stop exploring with mediums. Artists have been developing techniques, experimenting with different tools since at least twenty- five thousand years ago, when the first fantasy artist picked up a charred stick and scratched a picture out on the wall of his cave. You'd think everything would have been tried by now, but it hasn't. Exploring new mediums this very day is just as exciting, just as full of freshness and newness as it ever was.

~Pandora's Box copy.jpg (73910 bytes)     

The creation of Realistic art has been the goal of most artists since the dawn of  civilization. Realistic art was the pride of ancient Greece. The world's greatest museums are full of realistic art. Realistic art WAS art until the advent of the abstract expressionist movement in the twentieth century. The coming of the camera in the nineteenth century changed realistic art forever. Suddenly, realistic art was not the only way to create realism in portraits and historical records. The work of the realistic artist was suddenly made into an expensive luxury. The political power of the realistic artist was broken and they were no longer an indispensable member of society. Hostility to the creators of realistic art goes back to ancient times and the jealousy of advisers to the Pharaohs and others who were not able to spend as much time with their rulers as their portraitists.    Although with the aid of photographs, realistic art achieved levels of excellence undreamed of, the realistic art movement of the late nineteenth century was short.
     None of these people earning their living creating realistic art could compete with the speed and low cost of photographic portraiture.  Determined to survive, great realistic artists like Pablo Picasso ingeniously turned inward and began to explore things that could not be photographed in a new school of art, abstract expressionism. The day of the fine art superstars had arrived. It was now largely just a hobby to abstract and realistic artists alike. Illustration, because of advances in printing technology enabled an elite few to earn a living with their realistic art. These illustrators working in realistic art media  were condemned and ridiculed in much the same way Europe's great symphonic composers were condemned for working in motion pictures after fleeing the nazis during World War Two. The rift between realistic and abstract art grew wider and wider. The universities and key media usually sided with the abstract camp and derided anyone working in any realistic art media declaring boldly that realistic art was not "real" art. Immortal giants of realistic art such as Maxfield Parrish were mistreated their entire lives. They were accused of selling out for creating beautiful pieces of realistic fine art to earn a living. The attitude that the true artist must suffer and starve and die in poverty became a rule. There were the Abstract art superstars, the professional realistic illustrators, and the hobbyists who, although cut off from gainful employment and social influence still recognized their artistic gifts as a calling rather than a profession.

           Early abstract art  masters proved themselves as realistic artists before delving into realms of the intangible. They had to do this at that time to prove themselves because of the challenges they faced from the establishment for going against the status quo. In the latter part of the 20th century, realistic artists like HDJ were challenged to do abstract art to prove themselves as shown in the example above (Deirdre of the sorrows). Later realistic art training was abandoned in most schools and things like splattering paint in fits of rage  were deemed more than enough. By the end of the 20th century something as destructive and ridiculous as nailing a pack of cigarettes to a shoe was considered fine art but not realistic paintings. Fashions in art have often been as silly as fashions in ladies hats.  As the century drew to a close, many people had had enough. The realistic revolt was at hand. The rebirth of realism was fueled by the advent of the digital era. Now, for the first time in almost two centuries, an artist or illustrator could earn a decent living again with his realistic art. This is historic. Realistic art is not going to go away, especially now that photography has truly merged with traditional realistic visual art. Photography comes from the Greek words meaning "painting with light". Now with the advent of digital media the capability of realistic art has become almost limitless, truly, "painting with light". The merger of all the world's art forms to realize the potential of motion pictures has come now to still realistic art media. This website for example, combines music, prose, poetry, photography and traditional realistic art media to create an experience beyond merely looking at realistic paintings.

         The twenty- first century is already seeing a new renaissance in the arts because of the world wide web. There has never been anything like it. Abstract art, computer art, photographic art, and realistic art are continuing to be separate schools of art but are also blending to create exciting new horizons. Although Digital art does offer completely new horizons to the artist in the 21st century it does not mean the end of our time honored art traditions. Instead, it offers additional ways to keep these traditions and schools of thought  fresh and alive. ~ HDJ





Essay VI

Copyright Law and the Visual Arts in the Computer Age

An introduction to the Millennial Copyright Act for Artists

A brief essay on 21st century legal boundaries, guidelines, and western art traditions by the artist


  "All art is ultimately some form of imitation, even if you are an expressionist painter imitating an abstract vision in your own mind. These new visual art creations of mine take their inspiration in part from the realistic paintings of the old masters just as The Lord of the Rings comes from The Ring of the Nibelung and European folklore, West Side Story came from Romeo and Juliet, which was in turn inspired by Antony and Cleopatra. Much as Rubens copied Titian, I copy Waterhouse and so on. Over the last 300 years, ideas about female beauty have drastically changed and this has caused many of the most wonderful paintings of the old masters to seem 'ugly' to youthful modern audiences. For example, in the days of Peter Paul Rubens, being forty to sixty pounds over-weight was considered not only attractive, but was a status symbol. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and tastes have clearly changed. I feel many classic themes need to be redone to preserve interest and appeal for future generations. This has happened many times before as artists like Aesop, The Brothers Grimm and Walt Disney have appropriated, modified, and re-defined elements of our culture to preserve it for future generations. The legality of such use today depends on whether or not the source is protected by copyright law. You can draw or paint Shakespeare's fairies for example and publish them without permission but not more modern intellectual properties like characters from Star Wars or Mickey Mouse who holds the oldest copyright dating from 1928.

Our shared cultural heritage, great works of art, literature, music and drama, cinema, folk tales and fairy tales are all drawn upon again and again by the creators of new works. These works in the public domain are both a catalyst and a wellspring for creativity and innovation. Even though all my Realistic Paintings are legally new works and protected under copyright law their inspiration sometimes comes in part from works in the public domain.

The public domain is a space where intellectual property protection ( copyright ) does not apply. When copyrights and patents expire, innovations and creative works fall into the public domain. They may then be used by anyone without permission and without the payment of a licensing fee. My sources have been transformed so much in the creation of these new works of art that they would not violate an existing copyright even if they were so protected. Publicly owned national parks are also considered by many to be public domain lands. Because of the recent extensions of the terms of both copyrights and patents, and the privatization of lands and other resources owned by the Federal Government, little is now entering the public domain. Look for new litigation and another time extension when Disney Corporation's Mickey Mouse copyright is due to expire in 2023. Where would Walt Disney be without the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, or Victor Hugo? Where would Aaron Copeland have been without American folk music? Thomas Nast's Santa Claus without traditional images of Father Christmas? Picasso without African art? These are artists who made names for themselves and even fortunes through Public Domain appropriation, one and all.

   Some people are actually outraged that there are some intellectual properties that corporations do not own. They feel appropriation is only appropriate if a corporation does it. Corporations created by public domain appropriation, now are the most powerful force on Earth trying to put a stop to new things entering the public domain forever through lawsuits. The public domain is a space where intellectual property protection ( copyright ) does not apply. It was set up by our founding fathers, who felt creativity needed to be rewarded on a personal level for a time, and when copyrights and patents expired, innovations and creative works would fall into the public domain. They may then be used by anyone without permission and without the payment of a licensing fee. Publicly owned national parks are also considered by many to be public domain lands. Because of the recent extensions of the terms of both copyrights and patents, and the privatization of lands and other resources owned by the Federal Government, little is now entering the public domain. Look for new litigation and another copyright law time extension when Mickey Mouse's copyright expires in 2023. This is least likely to hurt the motion picture companies who produce new works "in house" granting themselves permission, but the music industry which does not is being hit very hard already. If a new song release resembles an old one, now there is litigation.

Since the public domain is a treasure trove of information and resources to be used by future generations, many advocates are concerned that its stagnation will make it more and more difficult for future generations to find creative inspiration. Art Tradition and etiquette suggest the most influential should be mentioned at exhibits; these original Fantasy Art  pieces Shown in my exhibits take their inspiration in part from the paintings of Waterhouse, Alma-Tadema, Moreau, Bouguereau, Leighton, Ingres, Moore, Parrish, Rackham and others. They showcase some of my favorite models. As a student of fine art, copying is a great way to learn and create fine art, but as a professional fantasy illustrator things are very different. Works done by artists out of personal motivation belong to the artist who created them, and they can sell licenses for divers forms of publication. The law is clear and simple regarding illustration done for gainful employment. They are called "work-for-hire" under the law, and such works specifically commissioned and paid for belong exclusively to the customer and the artist must specifically ask permission to ever legally use their own work themselves.

My art is divided into two distinct groups; personal work partially copying the old masters and professional illustration applying these lessons to create totally original works. I start more often with a specific written request. This is the exact OPPOSITE approach to creating a picture from copying something that's there. Research comes first. In the case of the Greek Heroes to your left, there were no accurate sources in the public domain to copy correct Greek armor and weapons in combat poses from. Mostly I found scantily clad men standing around with the wrong helmets. Finding history books at the library with the accurate helmets, shield designs, weapons, and armor was essential to get an accurate depiction of a Greek Hoplite.  All the library had were stiff museum poses of anything. I hit the research jackpot with some very simplistic flat line drawings of great authentic Greek shield designs. All the elements must be found, gathered and assembled to create the dramatic action scene the client wanted. Next comes the layout. This is where the mathematics and geometric design come into the creative process. My wife, Virginia took a picture of me nearly twenty years ago on a carpentry project with the heroic Jack Kirby like pose I was looking for mixed with the texture and feel of a Frank Frazetta or Norman Rockwell painting. Naturally, in these cases I go to great lengths to make sure that my work looks nothing whatsoever like it's various inspirations and sources except in flavor and spirit. Of course, the characteristic old master's painting feel to the background most of my illustrations have was requested, and the picture was to have the flavor of a Howard Pyle painting.

With regards to use of mechanical aids to create my fantasy art: Did you know the old masters traced? To create his immortal "Mona Lisa" Leonardo Da Vinci used "Camera Obscura" which is  two mirrors set at 45 degree angles around the corner with parchment over it to trace onto. Michaelangelo used a similar technique for the Sistine Chapel. Think that makes it too quick and easy? You'll find once you've finally got that outline done right you're a long, long, way from being finished in any medium... if these men who set the standard for realistic excellence used them, why shouldn't those who come after them be permitted? Simple, because this is one of the most carefully guarded "secrets of the old masters" and most people don't know very much about art history...  When asked why I usually work from photos I like to re-tell Norman Rockwell's story about having to paint a chicken: He set it up on a stump in a barn and goes to painting. The chicken moves it's head. He moves it back. The chicken jumps down. He puts it back. He goes to paint. now the chicken decides to make a break for it... he chases it down clucking and screaming and puts it back. Now it knows he's going to have it for dinner and it goes completely berserk. The next day, he came in and set the chicken back, snapped it's picture, and the photo held nice and still." When asked why I usually work from photos I like to re-tell Norman Rockwell's story about having to paint a chicken: He set it up on a stump in a barn and goes to painting. The chicken moves it's head. He moves it back. The chicken jumps down. He puts it back. He goes to paint. now the chicken decides to make a break for it... he chases it down clucking and screaming and puts it back. Now it knows he's going to have it for dinner and it goes completely berserk. The next day, he came in, put the chicken back up and snapped it's picture, and the picture held completely still...

     I have built up an enormous library of original 35 mm source photos for use in my Fantasy Art. For decades I have been seeking out the most beautiful models and sometimes their boyfriends and bringing them in for sessions into my photography studio. Using a strategy employed by J. W. Waterhouse, my wistful and graceful female models cannot be underestimated in their contribution to the stunning beauty and the potential for lasting appeal of my work. I am always make sure to both pay them for their time and also the rights and with the exception of my closest friends and family who are always making cameo appearances I get a written contract. The law with regards to rights to photography is simple- if you own the negative you own the rights. This is the main reason I use my own photographs. With regards to using copyrighted material as a reference-  When you have to paint a wombat you can't fake it- you need a picture! The law understands this and automatically grants provision - within reasonable limits;   when using copyrighted sources for reference the source image must be sufficiently transformed in overall appearance in the translation so as not to be what the law calls "confusingly similar"... if it's newer than 1928 you can bet it's probably copyrighted- if it's newer than 1999 under the millennial copyright act it is automatically copyrighted without even filing. This new law is clear and easy to understand as well as great for creative artists and their estates, who will hold rights for one hundred years after the artists death."

~ Howard David Johnson  M M I V


Keep scrolling down for Info about Fantasy Art Books & Fantasy Art posters, licensing and more articles...

All Fantasy Art & Text copyright 2014 Howard David Johnson All rights reserved.



Essay VII

On Art and Technology: When Seeing is Not Believing

An essay dealing with mechanical aids to visual art from Camera Obscura to Computers



  When the camera was finally made commercially available in the 1830's it exploded on the world scene and sent shockwaves through the art world as history had never seen before. Visual artists all over the world were suddenly put out of work and resentment and outrage followed. Suddenly much more realistic portraits could be had at a tiny fraction of the cost of a painting and delivered almost instantly. The art world would never be the same. When motion picture cameras were new, seeing was believing and human consciousness changed forever in the 20th century. Sometimes even Terror and Panic came from the initial shock! In 1905 cinema patrons defecated and urinated in their seats as they broke each other's arms and legs desperately fleeing for their lives from a crowded theater to escape a train charging straight for them! ... train footage filmed safely from a bridge with a camera lowered down on a rope. A modern cinema patron would not even feel uncomfortable. The Photograph and its manipulations have changed human consciousness and history... and will continue to do so in the future.

The Camera changed everything.

    The Camera of Today owes it's origin to the Camera Obscura, a light- tight box with a lens and a screen that receives an image. This device has been used by artists since ancient times to trace the projected image of whatever they set before it on a screen. Intrigued by the idea of producing a permanent light-formed image instead of reproducing it by hand, a long line of inventors studied the problem and successively made contributions to the solution.

    Photography was neither discovered nor invented by any one man. It was the outcome of the early observations of the alchemists and chemists on the action of light, a subject that belongs strictly to the domain of photochemistry. Although the blackening of silver salts was known in 1565, it was not until 1727, when Johann Heinrich Shulze of Germany used a mixture of silver nitrate and chalk under stenciled letters, that it was definitely recognized that this darkening action was caused by light and not by heat. In the years that followed experiments with silver nitrate on leather and wood were successful. In 1817 J. Nicephore Niepce first tried photography with silver nitrate and paper. In 1826, L.J.M. Daguerre, a painter who had experimented with silver salts approached him and formed a partnership.

    Daguerre discovered accidentally that that the effect produced by exposing an iodized silver plate in a camera would result in an image if the plate were fumed with mercury vapor. The Daguerreotype process was a complete success. These chemical processes would be improved again and again until the advent of the digital camera we know today.  The attitude that Photography was not art and was a purely mechanical process requiring no talent whatsoever was put forth with great force and hostility in an attempt to get people to refrain from choosing it for their portraits instead of paintings. This is a typical reaction to new technology, when Pastels were first invented they were dismissed as a child’s plaything rather than a viable art medium. These attacks on new technology are not limited to the arts of course. When the Wright brothers were making history at Kitty hawk with the first manned airplane their detractors said: "If man were meant to fly, he'd have been born with wings." This kind of negativity is just human nature to some kinds of people.

Photography came into being through an artistic, not a scientific urge. Daguerre was an artist, a scene painter whose illusionistic diorama was a landmark in Paris long before his name was connected with photography. Critics were merciless as usual, with scathing condemnations of the media. However, in the hands of a sensitive artist, photography quickly showed it's artistic possibilities. David Octavious Hill, a Scottish Painter invented the camera set up and the pose as we know them today in the 1840's and was the first of a new breed of master photographic artists. Photography was here to stay. Diverse forms of retouching techniques followed both by accident and by design and took the medium to new levels of artistic excellence. Now, more than a century and a half later only an uneducated or blindly hateful person would say Photography is not an art form. Of course we've all seen our share of awful pictures with the heads cut off taken by amateur photographers but we've also seen the work of studio masters like the great portrait photographers from Hollywood in the 1930's and forties. Anyone who has tried to create such a sophisticated studio photograph realizes quickly that this is a very difficult art form to master even if a trained orangutan can take a bad snapshot with an instant camera made for children.

The use of Photography as a mechanical aid to traditional oil paintings and other forms of realistic art came right away. This is not surprising since artists had been tracing from Camera Obscura for thousands of years. Famous Myths; Leonardo Da Vinci ( 1452-1519 ) is often credited with the invention of Camera Obscura because he used it for his masterworks during the Renaissance and mentioned it in his notebooks, but this is simply not true. Similarly, Americans are credited with the camera, but it is also not true. Origins: Unlike the camera, the inventor and time of invention of Camera Obscura are unknown. Perhaps a crude form of it was known to the ancient Greeks, but there is no material evidence to substantiate such a point of view. The mathematical precision and perfect anatomy of Greek art combined with their passionate love of science and mathematics is testimony enough for many scholars. The earliest clear description of Camera Obscura occurs in the great optical treatise of the Islamic scientist Al-Hazen who died at Cairo, Egypt in A.D. 1098. His Opticae Thesaurus ( Book of optics ) was rendered into Latin sometime during the 12th or 13th century by an unknown translator. Al- Hazen honestly declares that he himself did not discover it, so we know from this it had to have been masterminded before A.D. 1098.

  Camera obscura is a device for tracing or sketching large objects. It consists of a box painted black inside- a mirror at a 45 degree angle , and a lens, like that used in a photographic camera. An image is thrown on the mirror by the lens and reflected on the screen, where it can be sketched with tracing paper. The Camera Obscura was in general use by newspaper and magazine illustrators until it was replaced by the photographic camera. Make no mistake. Professionals have been using mechanical aids since the first caveman shaman traced his hand out on the wall of his cave. The view finder on the reflex camera is a development from Camera Obscura. Camera obscura, interestingly enough, is Latin for "darkened chamber".

camera_obscura_diagram.jpg (38992 bytes)

   In the early 1600's the telescope came into use and Camera Obscura spared viewers the harmful effects of gazing directly into the sun. I regret, but that we must acknowledge the fact that almost every art medium throughout the ages has been corrupted. In the 2nd century, the Roman emperor Hadrian had the head of his lunatic predecessor Nero removed from a statue and replaced by that of his favorite. Much later in 1539, Holbein painted a glamorous and flattering portrait of Anne of Cleves for Henry VIII. When the future queen arrived in England, King Henry met the surprisingly less than dazzling and glamorous Anne. His disappointment made history. Our modern society certainly can't claim t he honor nor take the blame of being the first to manipulate art forms.

     By the 21st century instead of the traditional assistants and apprentices, artists employed overhead transparency projectors, opaque projectors, artographs, light tables, slide projectors, color photocopying... and suddenly, computers and image editing software, which brings us to some very compelling controversies regarding these modern imaging technologies and their impact on various media and further changes to human consciousness. For example: The integrity of Photography as evidence in our courts of law stood for many decades until it was shattered by the digital manipulation of photographs and new standards needed to be introduced.  Websites sold peeks at photos of celebrities' heads pasted onto photos of wild women in scandalous poses for all the world to see- but advertised as real celebrity pix. Scandal rocked television and other news media when digitally altered photographs were being passed off as reliable evidence of important news stories...

      On a positive note, no one was threatened by how this technology enabled motion pictures to do epic things they could only dream of before. They were supposed to be make-believe images appearing real! A golden era in special effects cinema ensued. Then, this powerful digital imaging technology, like the camera, fell into the hands of the common man through computer programs like Adobe Photoshop. A new culture of skepticism had abandoned the age old adage; "seeing is believing" Photography has never told the whole truth, just parts of it. Photography is also an art form and therefore rightfully susceptible to creative alterations. In addition, the advancement of digital manipulation technology cannot be undone or halted. I believe that we must recognize that this digital technology exists on a gigantic-scale, and will never go away. Therefore, I suggest that digitally altered photos are distinct from traditional photography, and should be treated as such.

Contrasting views: anti-manipulation advocates’ fear a negative impact of digital manipulation in a court of law, and pro-manipulation advocates say that we must wake up to the fact that for for decades pictures have not been reliable evidence in court and that any good lawyer will attempt to discredit photographic evidence. In response to claims that photos should always tell the truth, the pro-manipulation camp would say that photos have never told the unvarnished truth. A camera shows, and has always only shown, a fraction of reality, and even then what we see is taken out of context or even fabricated. Photography from its onset has been subjected to modifications. In 1839, the Frenchman Louis-Jacques Daguerre patented the daguerreotype, or what could be called the first "picture." Simply explained, the daguerreotype combined the usage of the camera obscura and silver iodide to produce a permanent image on a copper plate. A very exciting innovation, Daguerre boasted of it, "With this technique, without any knowledge of chemistry or physics, one will be able to make in a few minutes the most detailed views" ("Photography"). Almost immediately, the daguerreotype, especially daguerreotype portraits, became immensely popular. Its popularity, of course, can be attributed to its novelty, but also because people believed the daguerreotype produced a more real image than a painting. The general attitude toward the daguerreotype was that it could create images more realistically because there was no artist to interpret and modify it in his own style.

    Opponents of Digital Manipulation insist Photography should always represent the truth, asserting Photography's  first and foremost function is to portray reality. Many assume that photographs have never been manipulated, and that this recent outbreak in digital technology damages the integrity of photography. Without delay, anti-manipulation proponents demanded an end to all "dishonest" photography, as it severely misleads the public. Also, they view digital manipulation as a purely mechanical process, with no talent or skill involved. Furthermore, anti-manipulation proponents fear manipulated photos might acquit murderers or rapists in courts of law. The thought that photography had replaced painting abounded. "As if photography needed to absolve itself from its ‘original sin’--of having brought about the death of painting", a movement known as pictorialism thrived around 1890-1914, the Art Nouveau period. Proponents of pictorialism primarily set out to gain the recognition of photography as an art rather than just a mechanical process. The pictorialists fashioned bizarre and oddly focused images in order to prove photography was indeed a creative art. It was here that such concepts as shading and enhancing during development appeared. Because of these new shadings and angles, it can be said that Art Nouveau saw the dawn of "Photo manipulation." So the manipulation of photography actually began early in the the 20th century.

        In 1982 there was outrage over the manipulation of the Great Pyramids on the cover of National Geographic but the Genie was out of the bottle. There was no going back. In the 1990’s Computer programs like Adobe Photoshop began to be available to the general public. Now, even someone with little or no talent could produce delightful works. On the other hand, sensitive artists could produce masterpieces on a scale undreamed of. It seems clear that using this technology to willfully falsify photographs for slanderous, scandalous, or persuasive ends is morally wrong, but what about using it to create obvious unreality that looks real or Fantastical Realism in art as in pictures of fairies or mythic creatures?

What is realism? Realism in Art and literature has always meant that the artist attempts to represent persons, scenes, things, and facts as they are, life as it is. The word is used in many senses- as opposed to romanticism, to conventionalism, to sentimentalism, to idealism and to imaginative treatment. Sometimes it is a term of praise, and sometimes it is a term of derision. During the 19th and 20th centuries the use of the word realism often implied that the details brought out were of an unpleasant, sordid, obscene, or generally offensive character. Even the greatest illustrators of the day were ridiculed. Realism is commonly applied to a 19th century school of writers and artists; but realism, in it's prime and proper sense, is as old as art and literature themselves, but in the hands of it's most notorious exponents, it quickly degenerated into a connotation of the more sinister features of realism.

     Many 20th century contemporary realists and artists working in the Photo Realism style were trained in an educational system openly hostile or dismissive to Classical realism and art tradition and were only taught the tenets of Abstraction and Expressionism. As a result many of these artists are more akin to the abstract and expressionist schools than the "Classical Realism" of the ancient Greeks, which adored beauty and nature. Contemporary Realism does not embrace the math and design of the Classical school but does not frown on beauty. Photo Realism only strives to look as much like a photograph as possible and sometimes the results are shocking or disturbing. Other times they are mundane and so ordinary as to be boring. They often deliberately decline to select subjects from the natural, beautiful, and harmonious and more especially, depict ugly things and bring out details of an unsavory sort for social and political purposes. The real mission of Photo-realism is not to record everyday life like a Norman Rockwell painting, but to expose the unconscious way we look at and accept photographs.

By the 20th century realism had spread to nearly all nations- realistic elements combined with those of Impressionism, Symbolism, and other movements. Fantastic Realism on the other hand, is born of these movements and tied to them in style and technique, but prefers to explore subjects that are strange or strikingly unusual rather than scenes of everyday life or objects. It is often bizarre in form, conception and appearance and even wondrous in its beauty. Sometimes macabre and grotesque, it is rarely boring like the other forms of Realism in visual art so often are. Fantastic Realism can be completely apart from reality, yet appearing to be quite real. It is versatile in that it can combine with or be a part of the Classical, Contemporary or Photo-realistic schools or stand as a style unique unto itself. I combine elements from all of these schools of Realism and then take it a step further by also combining a wide variety of media from traditional oil paintings to today's cutting edge digital media in my exhibits. Naturally, the darker side human nature shows itself again with condemnation of new schools of expression, and new art media and technology. Like the photographers before them, digital artists wanted the recognition of their work as an art rather than just a mechanical process. Unlike the snapshot camera or an abstract painting, a trained chimp or orangutan cannot do it: it takes the same visionary and eye to hand skills as any traditional art media to do it well

   Since the times of the ancient Greeks, Art History records a relentless quest for Realism and artistic excellence. The masters of each generation strove to perfect their craft, then passed on the torch of their accumulated knowledge and skill to the next generation.

The accomplishments and technological breakthroughs of one generation have often set new standards of excellence for the next.

~ Howard David Johnson MMIV






  Howard David Johnson works in a wide variety of media including * Oil paintings * Acrylic Paintings * Prismacolor Paintings * Drawings * Chalk & Oil Pastel Paintings * Photography * and last but not least: Digital Artistry & Mixed Media *  Because of the use of photography in everything he does, even Johnson's all-oil paintings can be termed mixed media.*


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Public Domain Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky ( 1840- 1893) - "Swan Lake"