Melissa A. Benson, owner of Ranting Centaur Studios, is best know for her highly distinguishable fantasy-based work for private collectors and collectible card game publishers. She uses a colorful, realistic style for both fantasy and decorative work.She has been creating quality artwork for over 20 years.
She works mostly in a mixed media of watercolor dyes, and color pencils. Black and white work is high contrast multi-weight graphite pencil and large pieces are done in oils. Her work has made her a celebrity in RPG, gaming and fantasy circles.
CAGCT: You are well-known for your work as a fantasy illustrator. Are you famous?
MB: Big fish in a small pond. Go into a comic book shop and everyone will know my name. Walk into Barnes and Noble… probably not.
CAGCT: Your Zazzle
and Fine Art America
shops are huge, with absolutely stunning work. How does the quantity and variety of products in your shop
help you sustain yourself as an artist?
MB: The more products you have available, the wider the net you cast. The income is regular, and constantly growing.
CAGCT: I know you do commissions, such as character portraits for role playing gamers. Is fantasy illustration the core of your personal work?
MB: I would have to say yes. It is what I gravitate toward. I enjoy drawing organic forms. Mechanical forms don’t come as naturally to me. I want to do some steam-punk pictures, which will be a challenge since that genre is a blend of both. I’ll include my artist statement at the end of the email.
CAGCT: What process do you use to create your fantasy characters? Do you work from a brief or description?
MB: I work best from a description, be it an excerpt from a book or a legend. Then I augment it with my own various accouterments.
CAGCT: What is your favorite part of the artistic process? And what frustrates you most about the life of an artist?
MB: My favorite part is sketching. Making something that doesn’t exist into something that people can believe exists when they see it.
The most frustrating thing is when people who think they are artists sell work when in fact they are merely luft mongers. They convince people that if you don’t like their art, you are not culturally elevated enough, are old fashioned, or that you can’t empathize with a tortured soul. Bull shit.
I seek to create a world of beauty & mystery using organic forms and mythic imagery, often with Celtic compositional elements. I present these images using vivid color and dynamic designs through the use of dyes, and colored pencils, graphite or oil paint.
I also explore a range of possibilities through my choice of subject matter. I do not create mundane imagery and defend it as social commentary. I believe that designing with attention to values, contrast, ratio, and proportion are essential to creating a painting that transports the viewer into an alternate reality.
I draw inspiration from the Pre-Raphaelites, the Arts & Crafts Movement, and Wiccan Pagan traditions.