Of all modern fantasy artists, none captures grittiness and gloom more deftly than Mike Lim. You might know him by his nom de plume, Daarken.
Daarken’s been creating art for some of the biggest names in the business, mainly Wizards of the Coast and Blizzard Entertainment.
His portfolio is filled with death, blasted landscapes and things that go bump in the night. His palette is equally dark: black is clearly Daarken’s favourite colour.
But Daarken is skilled at finding subtlety within that darkness. He plays with light and shadow to suggest feelings of fear or awe or foreboding.
What could be cliched or simply gorey, Daarken instead imbues with intricacy. His creations might be frightening, but they are also complex. Even his most fantastic briefs have a sense of realism.
At its best, Daarken’s work reminds us that good and evil are not so neatly separated. In the midst of darkness we can find – if not light – at least tones and nuance. In other words, Daarken shows us fantasy tropes through a 21st century lens. His work may be dark but it is not cynical. Even his grimmest works suggest that although the monsters are real, they can be beaten.