What does P. Craig Russell do,
Russell's art works because he uses a specific style and sticks with it. Not only that, but he is very picky about his projects and chooses those that play perfectly to his strengths. This style is not everyone's cup of tea, nor is it suitable for every story. But no illustrator can beat Russell at it.
Russell is most influenced by Art Nouveau, which is defined as "A style of decoration and architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, characterized particularly by the depiction of leaves and flowers in flowing, sinuous lines." Think of the Paris Metro signs. Russell's art is reminiscent of Alphonse Mucha and Maxfield Parish (images at left.) In fact, he specializes in many of the same subjects they are known for:
1) The Sinuous Figure
Russell's figures are perfectly outlined, with no distracting filler or crosshatching. They are long limbed and muscular. The men and women both are graceful. This made him a perfect choice to draw angels in Murder Mysteries.
Russell's clouds are three-dimensional and active. Like the rest of his art, they're well-defined with crisp edges. You'd think this wouldn't work for clouds, but somehow it does.
Water by Russell is spectacular. Much of his Ring of the Nibelung happens in, over, and around water. Look how every drop and wave is delineated, like a stop-motion photograph.
4) Arabesque & Filigree
Arabesque doesn't just mean in the Arabic style, though Russell mastered that in Ramadan. (below) Russell also puts a ton of detail into architecture and decoration of all sorts.
5) Trees, Leaves & Plants
A Batman story about Poison Ivy was the first work of Russell's that I read, and it was because of his elegant plant drawings.
An affinity for fantasy is why Russell works so well with Neil Gaiman. Look at the little creatures above, or the magical energies soaring through the air below.