Creative Inspiration: 4 Painters Who Create Immersive Worlds

Creative Inspiration: 4 Painters Who Create Immersive Worlds

There are some painters whose work takes me to an alternate reality. This other world is populated by a certain landscape features or characters, an alternate universe that may or may not be like ours. Because it is similar to our own world yet it seems to obey its own laws, it might seem dreamlike or surrealist even though it might not technically be surrealism.

Here are four artists whose work appears to be a glimpse into another world. I want to visit each world and see what goes on there.

Roger Dean

Perhaps best known for his progressive rock album covers for the bands Yes and Asia, his otherworldly landscapes seem to obey a different kind of gravity. Boulders float in the air and strange creatures and plants hint at a pre- or post-human world.

Roger Dean - The Flights of Icarus - 1976

Roger Dean - Floating Islands - 1993

Roger Dean - Arrival in Cloud - 2014

Tara McPherson

Tara’s work is populated by pink-or-teal-skinned alien girls, vampires, and mermaids with heart-shaped holes in their chests. The colors and linework are so smooth they look like they are made of delicious candy … candy that makes your heart ache.

Tara McPherson - The Crystal Waterfall (detail) Tara McPherson I Just Want a Hug Tara McPherson - Follow Me

Bob Ross

Yes, Bob Ross, everyone’s favorite T.V. painter with the soft-spoken voice. No, his work isn’t surreal, but his landscapes seem to emerge from an alternative world where humans are actually responsible for the environment. This reflects Ross’s worldview and desire for a peaceful, harmonious life. I’m only showing this promo image because there have been so many copycats that I can’t really tell what is his. What I like about him is not so much the art itself as the spirit in which it is made.

Bob Ross painting happy little trees

Salvador Dalí

And if you want surrealism, the work of Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marqués de Dalí de Púbol is arguably the definition of Surrealism. Dalí’s work came from a very strange inner world populated by all kinds of personal symbols.

Salvador Dalí - The Burning Giraffe - 1937

Salvador Dalí - Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon - 1941

Salvador Dalí The Temptation of Saint Anthony - 1946

Whose world would you want to visit?

Or is there another artist whose work transports you to a place you want to get lost in?


  • Joy

    David Hockney and Henri Matisse have been favorite “worlds” for me.

    • bradblackman

      Oh yeah, Hockney, too. I guess almost all paintings come from an alternate universe. More realistically it is the real world as seen through the artist’s own filters. For Hockney it’s a brighter version of California.

  • SharonJoy

    By far, Bob Ross.