The Role of Concept Art & Visualization

Ryan Church is one of the most prolific concept artists of this era.
There's a whole field of brilliant visual artists who work with high-end movie and game developers to envision environments, characters, technology, and narrative moments.  My understanding is that many of today's top movies and games start with some type of visual concept art.  It may be tempting to call them "illustrators" instead of "artists."  But when somebody creates the visual motifs and designs of some of the most popular stories of our time, then what's the difference?

I just stumbled upon two images by Allesandro Taini that I think are pure-cool.

Trip's Room by A. Taini

Enslaved Mood by A. Taini

These are artists.  They envision narrative landscapes, characters, and moments.  

The Great Fire Zone, NYC by Gilles Beloeil (for the Assassin's Creed 3 game)
The above work likely helped the game developers envision their historical environment as well as the narrative action.  Art. History. Architecture. Character. Drama. Visual dynamics.  Beloeil illustrates a moment that brings them together into an artistic story.  I can see why artists get paid for this contribution. For the writers on that development team, I would assume having this kind of concept work is extremely inspiring and clarifying.  Whether the concept art is for movies or for games, it probably impacts the writing.

Did the Potter movies impact Rowling's writing as she finished the series?  How could it not?

With the growth of graphic novels and illustrated children's literature, perhaps we'll grow a broader dialogue about concept art for general storytelling?