Melissa A. Benson, owner of Ranting Centaur Studios, is an illustrator and fine artist with a colorful, realistic style. She paints Pagan subjects along with the fantasy art she has done for the gaming industry for years. Decorative accents to artwork on her print-on-demand sites are designed and added digitally. She has been creating quality artwork for over thirty years. Her work is primarily in a mixed media of oils and colored pencils. High contrast black and white work is done in multi-weight graphite pencil and charcoal on halftone paper, and large pieces are done completely in oils.


Her name is best known in the gaming industry for creating powerful and imaginative creature illustrations for many of the top collectible card game (CCG) publishers. Melissa worked with Wizards of the Coast, before they became a corporate giant, when they first published Magic: The Gathering in 1993. She created several iconic character designs for that game, most notably Nightmare, Shivan Dragon and Lord of Atlantis. She did illustrations for many subsequent expansions of the game as well.

She has also worked for White Wolf Publishing when they introduced Vampire: the Masquerade; Iron Crown Entertainment’s Middle Earth game; the Dragon Storm RPG game published by Black Dragon Press; the oriental / science fiction card game Shadowfist published by Z-Man Games, and Camelot Legends among others.

Melissa specializes in believable anthropomorphic creatures and people in natural and historic settings. The bulk of her recent work has been private commissions for clients who want an accurate portrait of their role playing characters. Melissa will take their descriptions and make suggestions (you really shouldn’t have EVERY piece of equipment they own in the picture) until they are confident that they will be getting great results.

Testimonials from several very satisfied clients can be seen on the Testimonials page of her website. You will often see “It looks great…”, “I’ll be bragging about this one…”, “…everything was wonderful as usual.” and “…exceeded my expectations…”

She has a number of “Print on Demand” shops where she sells her work on a wide variety of apparel and gift items. She also sells 12 different limited edition prints and original artwork, open edition prints right here on this site. She has shown her work at the Tepper Gallery in NYC, the Art Institute of Seattle in Washington State, Willow Fine Art Gallery in Connecticut, Krab Jab Gallery in Seattle and the Kehler Liddell Gallery in West Haven, Connecticut. 

And on a more personal level

Born December 16th, she has lived in Connecticut all her life. She has two Liberal arts degrees. One in music and one in art, and a Bachelors degree in Illustration. While studying music, she tutored her classmates in music theory and harmony. Her major was bassoon and while studying for her music degree, she always took life drawing classes.

She was the lone woman journeyman in a steel engraving shop where she worked for 6 1/2 years before going back to college. During that time she sang in a local volunteer opera chorus to keep active in music. While there, she also helped out with props, makeup, and costumes.

Melissa decided that if she had to work for a living, and it certainly appeared that she must, she was going to do something she loved. So she went back to college to further her art education. In 1989 she graduated with a Bachelors degree in Illustration from the Paier College of Art in Hamden CT.

She chose Paier because the instructors still “worked in the field”. Probably the best-known instructor there was Rudy Zallinger who painted the famous dinosaur mural in the Peabody Museum in New Haven CT. Her most influential instructor was Ken Davies, a noted Trompe-l’oeil artist. His portfolio class was conducted one-on-one where he took on the role of “Art Director” behind the desk, as well as the “Critic”.

This portfolio class instilled in students the importance of ethics, a thick skin, preparedness, negotiation, punctuality, objectivity, public relations and most of all quality.

She has freelanced with several graphics and marketing firms, Titan Sports (WWF), book publishers, a fashion manufacturer / designer, a theatrical make-up artist/ wig/ costume designer out of New York City as well as with New England Lyric Opera.

Odds and Ends:

Melissa loves Indian food and has bartered art for dinner more than once. She regularly visits the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History both in NYC. She was a competitive skeet shooter with a 99 average in 12 gauge. She loves old movies and a good read. Among her favorite authors are Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, C. M. Kornbluth and Fritz Leiber, Ellis Peters, David and Leigh Eddings, and oddly, Clive Cussler before he took on partners. She has an extensive clip file and an EVER expanding reference library.

Melissa collects mineral spheres and Ivan Rebroff recordings. She will trade art for either. Many German fans have taken advantage of that Ivan Rebroff offer, by the way. She is also a fan of Mediaeval Baebes, Emerald Rose and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

As of May 20th, 2001 she became Mrs Joseph D. Jacouzzi and they live in Shelton, CT.



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All materials used to frame original artwork are archival. Plus, conservation glass is used. Conservation glass filters out 97% of UV rays that cause artwork to fade.


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