They say a picture speaks a thousand words. Sometimes, they speak of awesome. This is the place for those pieces of art that happen to meet the requirements of being Awesome Art.
In other words, this page is about the artistic appearance of a work that happens to be really great, detailed, beautiful, etc.
See the Sub-Trope Scenery Porn for really awesome background art. Compare Visual Effects of Awesome, which is limited to visual effects. Those who've made Awesome Art can sometimes be said to literally be Doing It for the Art, which is usually the case anyway.
Some of the works on the DeviantArt Recommendations page would belong here as well.
Anime and Manga
- Any works by Studio Ghibli. The character art, mechanical design, backgrounds and musical score are always of a level of excellence that shames most animation companies.
- Gainax, Telecom Animation Film and Studio BONES as well.
- Special mention for Gainax should go to The End of Evangelion's animation (especially during Instrumentality), which makes even the best Eva battles in the original series look like crap.
- Baccano! counts for this in its entirety.
- Samurai Pizza Cats combines great character design with beautifully detailed backgrounds.
- Inariya Fusanosuke's art is consistently beautiful, detailed, and well-composed in her manga, especially Maiden Rose. The only thing one could complain about is she doesn't do enough in colour.
- Karas is outstanding in this regard.
- Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo and Space Dandy (also known as the Watanabe Trifecta).
- Makoto Shinkai's works. Just Look At This!
- Red Line takes this trope, drives it Up to Eleven, bangs its brains out, and then it goes beyond even that.
- Although Naoki Urasawa's characters are fairly simple, his backgrounds, action sequences, and composition are beyond amazing. Just look at the Shining Cities of Pluto, the Giant Robot sequences of 20th Century Boys, and the ridiculously accurate Real Place Backgrounds of Monster. Just to start with.
- Oyasumi Punpun
- Kyoto Animation. Especially their backgrounds and landscapes.
- One Piece. It's incredible to think that Oda comes up with these sorts of illustrations [dead link] on a weekly basis.
- Two words: Masaaki. Iwane.
- Kara no Kyoukai. Just look at the page image on Evil Eye. Everything else is just like that or better.
- The Wandering Son anime looks like a high-quality anime movie, full of Scenery Porn and beautiful character designs. The manga isn't nothing to laugh at either, especially when it comes to the characters designs.
- Berserk. There is so much gorgeous, beautiful detail put into every scene, from epic battles, to love scenes, characters,and facial expressions.
- Mononoke: Stylized and more colourful than a circus, but detailed and gorgeous.
- Mouryou no Hako: Beautiful colours, gorgeous panoramic vistas, skillful, fluid animation courtesy of Madhouse and lovely character designs by the renowned CLAMP.
- Hell, CLAMP itself qualifies, especially its shoujo series.
- Amatsuki: Not only are the inked drawings detailed, fluid, and just lovely to look at [dead link], but every coloured piece of art is a veritable feast for the eyes.
- Trinity Blood: The character designs, clothes, buildings, natural and artificial scenery, jewelery and machinery.
- Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru: Both the manga and the anime have gorgeous artwork; characters, backgrounds, clothes, accessories, buildings, demons, summoned weapons -- everything is stylized and elaborate, and really goes above and beyond the Generic Cuteness seen in most shoujo manga/anime.
- The OVAs of Tales of Symphonia. It's certainly a vast improvement over the game's graphics, which weren't that bad.
- Wolf's Rain has probably some of the best animation of wolves you'll find in anime.
- Turn a Gundam. The last Gundam series to use hand-drawn animation and it is spectacularly beautiful. [dead link]
- Heat Guy J.
- While Death Note maintains high quality artwork throughout, Episode 25 takes this to a whole other level, and is a genuine work of art. Some of the highlights are the opening, Misa's song and her scene in her bedroom, L and Light's conversation on the rooftop, and, of course, L's death.
- Every and anything that was ever made by Leonardo da Vinci. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.
- The artworks of M. C. Escher, specifically "Relativity", is so awesome it has been recreated in numerous works of fiction. Just look at the details and enjoy the Mind Screw of it.
- One of Escher's inspirations was the decoration of the Islamic palaces in Spain, which are quite awesome on their own.
- Edward Hopper has made some delightfully calm pieces that evoke loneliness, Nighthawks and Automat [dead link] come to mind.
- In no particular order: Vincent Van Gogh, Hokusai, Albrecht Durer, Hieronymus Bosch, Michaelangelo, Mary Cassatt, Ansel Adams, Renoir, Monet, Manet, Degas, Pablo Picasso, Edvard Munch, Alfonse Mucha, Ralph Steadman, Salvador Dali, Piet Mondrian, Grant Wood, Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Jacques-Louis David, Bob Ross, The Bass-Reliefs of Ankor Wat, The Bayeux Tapestry, The Book of Kells, Cave Art at Chauvet, any kid with a crayon.
- Do a Google image search for a Mr. Drew Struzan. Go ahead, I'll wait. Now kindly pick your jaw up off the floor...
- Hellboy. Beautifully stylized characters exploring unbelievably atmospheric settings, with as much attention payed to a flower sprouting out of crumbling stonework as to a nine-foot-tall armored demon with horns for eyes.
- Two words: Kazu Kibuishi. (A few more words: creator of Amulet and Copper.)
- Gaspard de la nuit is an incredibly obscure french four-comic-books story. The quality of plot and such is about average, but the art... Oh god, the art. [dead link]
- Geof Darrow. Everything he has ever done. EVER.
- Elf Quest, especially in its earliest 20-part incarnation as drawn by Wendy Pini. It helped that the schedule in those days was one 32-page black and white issue every FOUR months. (The quality does slip a bit in the middle, but picks right back up again by issue #12.)
- The "remastered" DC Comics compilations of the above, now on the website, constitute awesome digital coloring.
- The Archie Sonic the Hedgehog series has some pretty epic art in the earlier stories, and even now has a decent amount.
- The Franco-Belgian comic Les Cités obscures drawn by François Schuiten (who did constantly amazing work and not enough of it). Some examples.
- Jack Kirby. Probably the most influential comic artist of all time. And for good reason. He could draw exciting action scenes, design incredibly unique characters and machinery, express emotions through body language alone. There's a reason Stan Lee called him "The King".
- Alex Ross. That is all.
- Dave McKean's work in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth is by far the most Creepy Awesome art in Batman.
- Steve Ditko. From the gritty streets of New York in Spider-Man, to the chaotic landscapes of Doctor Strange...the man can draw.
Film - Live Action
- Star Wars has always been an artistic gem, but this [dead link] is too awesome for mere words.
- Many of James Cameron's works, especially Avatar and Titanic have qualified as this.
- Just about any Terrence Malick film qualifies, particularly The New World and his new film The Tree Of Life.
Film - Animated
- Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. Full Stop. This is just plan breathtaking, and the music they choose for this scene just underscores how awesome and beautiful it is. Pretty much the entire movie is this trope.
- Pixar. All of their movies have gorgeous art. From |toys that can make you cry to expansive underwater landscapes to beautiful shots of a landfilled earth and space, every last one of their movies have frakking awesome art.
- Disney Animated Canon. Say what you will about the quality of their stories, the one thing you can't deny is that people think All Animation Is Disney for a reason.
- Bambi and its sequel (yes there is one) deserve a mention.
- The Little Mermaid is another great example, especially during the song sequences and the ending with the Giant Ursula and Ariel's wedding sequence.
- If you've seen any of the "making of" documentaries about the production of this and other films from the Disney Renaissance period, you know how much love and dedication was put into these films. The scenes of Howard Ashman and Jodi Benson working together from Waking Sleeping Beauty reveal enough artistic dedication to make a man weep.
- Beauty and the Beast to the point that it contributed to it being nominated for Best Picture Of The Year when it first came out.
- The The Lion King. Especially the opening sequence and the wildebeest stampede.
- Tarzan features Disney's most complex character (at the time, anyway). Complex not just because of surface detail but because Tarzan was rendered with as much anatomical accuracy was possible. Tarzan moves like a gorilla and pulls off spectacular acrobatics and his muscles still flex and move believably. Not to mention the groundbreaking use of CGI for backgrounds that beautifully blended 3D movement with a classic hand painted look.
- DreamWorks has some wonderful art in The Prince of Egypt.
- Also in the Shrek movies.
- The Thief and the Cobbler.
- The Secret of Kells is breathtakingly beautiful. Watching this movie is like watching a living tapestry.
- Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron shows the wild west in all its beauty.
- The Illusionist and The Triplets of Belleville. Naturally, by the same people.
- In its heyday in the 60s and 70s, British strip The Perishers had such beautifully-detailed artwork by Dennis Collins that you wondered how he ever kept up the standard on more than 300 strips per year. 60s Perishers strips are currently re-running in the Daily Mirror, though the continuity is a bit wobbly at present.
- Calvin and Hobbes.
- Little Nemo in Slumberland.
- Krazy Kat.
- Mad Magazine. This Troper would like to nominate Mort Drucker and Tom Richmond for the greatest caricaturists of all time, and special mention goes to Al Jaffee and his magnificent(ly hilarious) Fold-in.
- Have to say The Bride of the Water God contains some of the most beautiful illustrations ever seen in a manhwa. Here [dead link] are [dead link] some examples [dead link].
- Nineteen Twenty One is beautiful.
- Song of the Cloud
- Lackadaisy. Full stop.
- Dreamkeepers has this in spades along with a nice amount of Scenery Porn.
- Las Lindas
- Homestuck has all the awesome art on the internet. All of it.
- Homestuck's art is a rather unusual and interesting case in respect to this trope, in how unlike pretty much every other example on this page it is. Save for occasional exceptions like the Green Sun and the Genesis Frog (which themselves look amazing, but in the "conventional" sense of this trope), it's all raster images with a limited colour palette and more often than not has a sketchy look to it, which leads to it being dismissed all too readily. The thing is, it takes these normally amateur attributes and makes them work like hell. Andrew Hussie clearly knows his artistic theory, and employs this simplified style in a highly effective way to communicate motion and effect. Admittedly, that's something Hussie's great at no matter what style he does.
- The Wormworld Saga definitely qualifies, even if it's only one chapter in so far.
- Dresden Codak has some reallygreat art.
- Girl Genius
- The Abominable Charles Christopher
- The Meek
- Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name. And how!
- Gone With the Blastwave
- Daddy Long Legs, which is fascinating because it's done entirely in MS Paint and with a limited palette.
- ATXS this is pretty standard for the later strips.
- Megatokyo's art is no great shakes to start off with, but it gets better and better with every chapter.
- Knite by popular deviantArt member Yuumei is a crowning example of this.
- Off White, once Art Evolution started to take effect.
- Romantically Apocalyptic: So awesome, it's nigh-photorealistic.
- Power Nap. The lineart versions are added first, before updating to colour, and the strokes are so confident and full of energy that they're enjoyable all by themselves. Bachan's work as a whole could be added to this section.
- Dead Fantasy, Haloid and Red vs. Blue all feature the work of Monty Oum, and all happen to be paragons of Awesome Animation.
- Rosto and his series Mind My Gap. A mixed medium "graphic novel".
- Most Western Animated Productions done by Tokyo Movie Shinsha (Just brush off most of the episodes of Spider-Man: The Animated Series (animation wise) under the rug), bonus points if it's from their A unit.
- TMS' work is so awesome that the creators of Batman: The Animated Series gave them a round of applause on the "Heart of Ice" commentary, and how the studio nearly went bankrupt just for that episode. Bruce Timm mentioned TMS' founder in particular, who took it upon himself to personally airbrush the slight "frosting" inside Mr. Freeze's helmet, and make sure it was consistent throughout.
- The Ren and Stimpy Show. Finally after a long mainstream absence since the 1950's (Besides the stuff TMS was dishing out) does a piece of animation made for TV reclaim the same artistic wild Bob Clampett-style or Tex Avery-inspired flair grace the screen. Not to mention the return of storyboard-driven art, and subtle-yet-exaggerated acting and John K's strict policy of hyphenated, complex character expressions, color theory and general rule of never drawing the same expression twice. Or at least in the better produced episodes like "Stimpy's Invention", "Bighouse Blues" and "Sven Hoek", anyway. At times hit-and-miss, but especially in that highly valued second season. Never anything quite like it since the old Warner shorts (and the stuff TMS did), and certainly nothing quite like it ever again (unless TMS starts doing more Western Animated productions besides Green Lantern: First Flight). Which not even its own pale imitation in Seasons 3, 4, and 5 could match, or Adult Party Cartoon and every other thing John K has ever done.
- What the art style of Rocko's Modern Life lacks in terms of being as detailed as Ren and Stimpy's is easily made up for by its sheer uniqueness and colorful-ness.
- ReBoot considering that it was one of the first (and arguably the best) shows completely rendered in 3D. The amazing thing about this show is while it may look pretty tame by today's standards, it was created in the early 90's when they only had Windows 3.1 the first version of Windows to work with, and still maintained a high level of quality which only increased substantially in later seasons.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender which starts out strong enough already, increases in both art quality and animation quality every season, which hits unbelievable levels in season three, especially during Aang and Ozai's final battle.
- Its spinoff, The Legend of Korra, increases the quality even further, partly due to a switch to HD.
- And much more realistic anatomy, and a different studio.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog. While its CGI effects haven't exactly aged spectacularly, I dare its viewers to find another cartoon with more beautifully creative usages of Art Shift.
- The Boondocks. Taken up to obscene levels in season three, where they hired an actual Japanese studio to animate it. There was a reason why it was nominated as the one of the best American cartoons after one season.
- Samurai Jack which has incredibly fluid animation.
- Sym-Bionic Titan which managed to combine a flat Flash animation style with 3D elements and make it look absolutely beautiful.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic uses an older version of Flash animation to create a wonderful and detailed world with great backgrounds and colorful character designs in what can only be describes as a massive Sugar Bowl of awesomeness.
- The Adventure Time title cards look like high-price paintings.
- The Metal Gear franchise has some awesome concept.. art, speed-paint unique thing. It just has something, something that you just can't quite deduce on how it's done or what it is to it.
- Retro Studios of Metroid Prime and Donkey Kong Country Returns fame has this trope IN SPADES. Is it any wonder why they have unlockable concept art in every game they have released?
- Metroid in general has fairly-consistently had some of the nicest-looking graphics on basically every system that it has officially appeared on since the SNES.
- The four (or three, counting Sonic 3 and Knuckles as one game) Genesis Sonic games had astoundingly well-drawn sprites that look great even into the HD era. Some even had a pseudo-3D effect to them, like the trees in the Green Hill Zone or the indentations in the checkered soil. It was even more impressive that the Sega Genesis was able to draw these complex sprites very quickly, showing off the console's power.
- The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise in general has nice artwork, so much that some games, like Sonic Classic Collection as well as Sonic Colors for the Nintendo DS have a proper "Gallery". This even carried over to the base-breaking post-Sonic Adventure era, as the distinctive style of said artwork is Sonic-ish enough to be considered part of what made Sonic the character we know today. So much, in fact, an official website is mainly known for its official artwork.
- The Donkey Kong Country series combines this with Scenery Porn.
- The Super Smash Bros. series starts out decently, but went Up to Eleven in Melee, and hits Beyond the Impossible limits in Brawl.
- Everything from Alice: Madness Returns. The facial expressions, Alice's dresses, the fighting motions...hysteria mode.
- While the character art from Touhou is often debated, the background art from Mountain of Faithis absolutely gorgeous, and the background art from Ten Desires is just well-animated all around.
- Eternal Sonata should be noted for its gorgeous background.
- Lost Odyssey has amazing character design.
- Remember when 16-bit video games looked pretty much exactly like The Ren and Stimpy Show? Earthworm Jim (1994) certainly does.
- Chrono Trigger almost-authentically looks like an anime show (despite being a SNES game), and it does so in one of the best ways imaginable.
- BioShock (series), to the point that it was acclaimed as one of the most beautiful games in existence. And for good reason. The water effects are borderline orgasmic.
- Not to mention that the art design of the entire game is specifically to evoke human achievement at its absolute highest.
- Okami is known for its distinctive, beautiful style. To think, they were originally planing to make the game realistic. It's a good thing they didn't.
- Rayman Origins was praised for it's beautifully detailed backgrounds and smooth character animations. Even people who haven't bought the game admit that it looks amazing. Michel Ancel and co. went for a unique and striking look so as to stand out from other games on the market, and man, did they succeed. In fact, believe it or not, Rayman Legends actually has an even more gorgeous art style than that of Origins.
- Mother 3 took the art style of its SNES predecessor and absolutely perfected it.
- Wario Land Shake It! was a 2D platformer...with hand-drawn, anime-style graphics and cinematics by Production I.G.
- Going back even further than that: Wario Land 4. The sprites are amazingly well put together to the point where Wario looks like he's actually moving. You wouldn't believe that it's sprite-based at all. And what platform did it come out for? Game Boy Advance. Yup.
- The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker had gorgeous anime-styled Cel Shaded art that really pushed the Game Cube to its limits. The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess looked equally awesome, going with a more "realistic" look with a huge emphasis on scale (Hyrule Castle is visible from most any point in the field). The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword took the best parts of the styles previous two games, blending into the best-looking game possible on the Wii's outdated hardware with a hugely colorful, detailed world reminiscent of impressionist paintings.
- The original Yoshi's Island looking authentically crayon-scribbled while also being a SNES game.
- The astonishingly life-like "yarn sculpture" art style in Yoshi's Woolly World also easily qualifies as this.
- Anything by Vanillaware (examples: Odin Sphere and Muramasa: The Demon Blade) is hardcore scenery porn. It's like playing a moving painting.
- Super Mario RPG. Probably the pinnacle of graphical achievement on the SNES, it puts Donkey Kong Country to shame with its digitized environments, creating a very convincing pseudo-3D world with detailed environments and character designs.
- Xexex had gorgeous rendered graphics and pulled off other amazing graphical feats such as warping and zooming back in 1991. The graphics were so ahead of their time, it was impossible to port this game to the Sega Genesis or the Super Nintendo Entertainment System without a severe downgrade.
- The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrant (1633)
- Feel free to add your own favorites.