To continue on the discussion started in the comments on the last post, here are some of the best lo-fi swords & sorcery art I could find in a quick scouring of the web. I'd been planning to do this, but Raphael Ordonez's comment inspired me to actually do it.
I have to like the cover if I'm going to read the book. I'm embarrassingly superficial like that. I recently saw a number of old Arkham House books for sale, and I totally would have bought them for the dust jackets, if I'd had the money, which I didn't. It's interesting what you say about the amateurishness, which I've often noticed. For some strange reason that only increases the appeal for me. It seems to go hand-in-hand with their unapologetic enthusiasm.
I see nothing strange at all about liking the "unapologetic enthusiasm." That's what gets me the most about this art. It makes no bones about being done by fans for fans without the mediation of professional marketing or focus groups. It was created by artists who love monsters, heroes with big honking weapons, mad sorcerers, and exotic, dangerous worlds and know that's exactly what we S&S fans love as well.
Other than pictures my friends or I drew, the earliest fantasy artwork that stuck in my brain were from the original D&D pamphlet my friend Densel E. used to teach us how to play. I was only eleven or twelve, so I didn't understand they were "crappy," I just knew they were cool. And I still do.
I don't hate covers that don't take the lo-fi road, not at all. There's just something cool about illustrations that don't try to include every detail, and every shade mentioned in the text. Instead, they present a picture that's impressionistic, capturing the feel and intensity of what it's depicting but leaving the details for my brain to fill in.
Several people have told me that the awful photshopped art endemic to modern fantasy covers are what have been proven to sell. Even though the many of these covers still contain some of the standard fantasy elements (swords, magic blasts, etc.), they seem like they're reluctant to embrace the genre. They seem to reject the pulp roots of fantasy, instead striving to look more mainstream. I get it, but I just don't like it. These pictures, I like. Can you imagine any of these being in a gaming supplement or on a cover today?