BLOOD AND IRON
NOTES ON THE ILLUSTRATIONS
Some of the illustrations in this book have found their way into some strange places. Someone once phoned to ask if they could copy The Ghoul onto their car bonnet. This was fine by me, but alas they never sent me a photo of the result.
Cover: The Devils of D-Day
You might have seen this picture before. It was originally done as one of a series of covers for books by Graham Masterton. However, once a picture has been used for its initial purpose it might then be re-used for other purposes, for a much smaller fee. This takes considerable time and expertise to arrange and is one reason for having a good agent to act for you. As a matter of interest the artwork has been used on, among others, the following: a German magazine cover. the book Fantastic People a French paperback an Album cover-for Uriah Heep a German video cover a Spanish paperback a White Dwarf cover a Japanese magazine cover. The latest enquiry, from Sweden, was for it to be used on the packaging for throat pastilles.
Facing Page 1 - Caviar
Strictly the Art Director's idea, including the rolling eyeballs.
Page 9 - The Punishment
In some cases the book does not supply a "hook" to hang the illustration on. This story was more of a psychological horror tale than this painting suggests. Although no-one actually gets eaten, as I remember, cannibalism is at the root of the story. My agent delivered this piece to the Art Director while they were having lunch. Asked "What is he eating?" she replied "Oh, just somebody." You might recognize the house in the background.
Page 10 - Berserker
I'm usually not very happy with monsters that are human-animal combinations. They look contrived to me, but this transformation of man into ravening beast was a central feature of the book. It is frequently the case that the sense of action is lost in the journey from rough to artwork but some of it has survived here. The ground behind the beast was painted with a thin glaze of paint which was then textured with a stiffer brush, taking most of the pigment off again.
Page 11 - Daggers of Darkness
One of the Puffin Fighting Fantasy books. I enjoy doing these covers but in this case I had great trouble getting the tigers to pose.
Page 20 - Conan the Raider
I did this Conan for an American publisher who promptly rejected it on the grounds that it didn't look like a "Boris" - ho hum. While I feel the figure of Conan is one of my more convincing attempts, the crocodile-man doesn't really work; another uncomfortable man-beast combination.
Page 21 - Skulls
In my early days I seemed to paint a skull a week. When I started illustrating, horror stories were fewer then than now. Ramsey Campbell was just getting started, James Herbert and Stephen King were just around the corner, Lovecraft was being reprinted yet again but most horror stories seemed to be in anthologies. Most of the skulls were for the "Mayflower Black Magic Series" of which there were about six. They were painted in gouache.
Page 26 - Aztec
This is nothing to do with Aztecs at all, but it was a convenient title. O.K. I own up. I originally started this as a present for Val. Needless to say it languished, unfinished for several years before I had a final blitz on it. It was originally inspired by the theories of Immanuel Velikovsky. The delay between starting and finishing this piece means that some areas are handled in a more confident manner than others. I don't often get asked to paint women, sob.
Page 29 - City Jitters
This is an example of what can happen if you have a sympathetic Art Director. My original idea for this was the drawing on page 28. This was rejected and I presented this idea instead. I didn't think that the idea came across very well in the drawing and I felt that the Art Director still wasn't sure that it would work. In spite of this she let me go ahead with the artwork and this is the result. There's a good deal of artistic licence here. Obviously if you really squashed someone's head to this extent it would do a lot more damage than shown here. It was important, I felt, that the victim should be obviously alive and suffering rather than just crushed to death. Although it's a strong image I think that it is not very well painted from a technical point of view.
Page 31 - Croglin Vampire
I originally did this for inclusion in a book which, alas, never made it to publication. It is based on the description of a "true" event. It was done about the same time as Klaus Kinski was being Nosferatu in the cinema and some people have made the obvious comparisons. There really is no connection as this is based closely on the description of the vampire in the book. I had meant to make the background more elaborate but the strict deadline prevented this. It's another painting which has often been reused, notably by an American (German?) rock band called Krokus.
Page 32 - Mania
My agent is after her cut.
Page 33 - The Amulet
This is still one of my favourite pieces but it was never used by the publisher and I never found out why.
Page 35 - Return of the Living Dead
This is another painting which was never published as far as I know, on the book for which it was intended. My brother and sister-in-law have the original hanging in their dining room; a strange couple.
Page 36 - Cannibals
A bit more red meat. This is based fairly closely on a description in the book.
Page 48 - Tombworld
Tombworld was painted for inclusion in a book called Tour of the Universe written by Malcolm Edwards and the mega-famous writer Robert Holdstock. As described elsewhere this owes alot to Arnold Bocklin, but on viewing it recently it seems to have a Lovecraftian feel to it, like distant forbidden Yuggoth, despairing under the rule of its crazed high-priest Te-Rioak-es.
Page 50 - The Priestess
Prior to the '87 World Science Fiction Convention my friend and fellow illustrator Tony Roberts suggested that we should both do large paintings especially for the "Con". This was the eventual result of that conversation. Although I originally intended to do an elaborate portrait of Michael MoorcoCk's Elric I eventually settled on this idea, if only (actually mostly) to paint a woman for a change. I even took time off to work on it. Completed and hung in the art show at the Convention it drew no attention whatsoever. People seemed to glide past it without seeing it. The world's first invisible painting. I have vague plans for another two pictures along similar lines on the list of things to do one day. By the way, Tony is still working on his picture.
Page 51 - The Wizard
This was the cover for a proposed book with the Holdstock-Edwards team. For a variety of reasons we abandoned the project but I did the painting anyway. The book eventually saw the light of day illustrated by someone else. The picture was eventually used on Michael Moorcock's Wizardry and Wild Romance.
Page 52 - Cadre Messiah
Although the background looks a bit ' Star Wars' to me now, I was pleased with the feel of this job when I completed it. As you may have gathered the story was set on a distant planet whose inhabitants have huge feet.
Page 53 - The Lost Dorsai
This is one of those rare jobs that worked from the moment I put pencil to paper. It's just a lucky accident really and shows that a background, however simple, can make or break a picture. I must remember that
Page 60 - After the Zap
This was the one and only occasion I've ever heard from an author whose book I've illustrated. Michael Armstrong was kind enough to send me a postcard saying how much he liked the painting. He was particularly pleased with the lighting and icy landscape. Unfortunately, during the time it took for the card to cross the Atlantic the publishers decided to reject this version and commisioned me to do a completely different one. The second cover was far inferior to this one and I only hope that Mr. Armstrong wasn't too disappointed. In general, I don't know why authors don't make more fuss about what goes on the front of their books. The bookjackets often seem unconnected with the contents of the book particularly in the Science Fiction field.
Page 60 - Crystal Planet
Another painting from the Tour of the Universe. Although Rob Holdstock and Malcolm Edwards were enormous fun to work with this book was the last of our collaborations.
Page 61 - Man Plus
Although I don't really think of myself as a "Science Fiction Artist" most of my work for America seems to be in this field. American S.F. jackets seem to be less hardware-orientated than their British counterparts. I like the atmosphere and the "feel" of this piece and the fact that the background seems as real as the main figure. I feel that this quality of "completeness" is something usually lacking in my pictures.
Page 62 - Desolation Road
This is another case of sympathetic art direction. Reading a book in manuscript is not a good way to enjoy it, but this was an exception. It is the story of a community set on a Bradbury-esque Mars. The tale has a rather dream-like, even whimsical, quality and the publishers did not know how to handle the cover. Nor did I. I eventually settled on the train as a linking factor in the various events in the book. I wanted to achieve a melancholy and romantic feel, a kind of "bluesy" effect for want of a better word, "I'm gonna grab me a train, rue that lonesome track," you know the sort of thing. Explaining this to the Art Director was one thing, but nowadays the publishers use the "design by committee" technique and a seemingly endless line of people have a say in what goes on the front of a book. It can't have been easy but the Art Director managed to persuade these people that the idea might work and I was given the go ahead. I think the finished artwork captures some of the feel I was after, but it seems a little "quiet" for a bookjacket. Nevertheless, it has drawn one or two favourable comments.
Page 64 - Final Encyclopaedia
In a reversal of the usual situation the background here seems more effective than the main figure in the front. All the tricks of the trade are used here to give depth and scale. The bright red really leaps forward. Now if only the central character was better
Page 64 - Dread Hulk
From Tour of the Universe and enjoyable enough at the time, but I would handle it differently now.
Page 65 - The Karma Corps
One of my sporadic jobs for an American publisher. This was hung in the art show at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1987. I am not a regular convention goer and am sufficiently anonymous to be able to eavesdrop on people's comments about my work. While I was mooching about, trying to fade into the woodwork, a young man, with two acolytes in tow, came up to this painting. As he had been broadcasting his opinion on the other works on display I naturally pricked up my ears. He peered closely at, the painting, only inches away. He sighed and, pointing to something, said "He's certainly taken a short cut there." I have no idea what he meant and definitely didn't have the courage to ask him, but I've never looked at the painting in the same way since. Serves me right for listening I suppose. On another occasion I was near two people in front of Jim Burns' painting The Lovers, discussing it avidly. "Hah!" said one contemptuously, "I can see a brushmark!" and dismissively turned to the next picture. I'm only glad that Jim didn't hear this crushing remark. He might never have worked again!
Page 66 - Brightness Falls from the Air
One of my occasional British Science Fiction covers. I don't read much S.F. and it is only recently that I've become more interested in painting the "hardware". It's pretty clear from this picture that I was more concerned with the figure and landscape than with the spaceship.
Page 68 - H.G. Wells Anthology
Everyone has their idea of Wells' Martian Machines. I was trying to make this tripod look animated and alive in the way Wells describes them.
Page 69 - End as a Hero
This American cover is another of my attempts to make S.F. hardware look convincing and used. Although I think the pilot's helmet and suit work reasonably well the control panel looks clumsy and probably not futuristic enough. The spaceship in the background just sort of "grew".
Page 70 - Best of Frank Herbert I
This is an attempt to create a functional-looking space-suit. I would probably treat it differently now.
Page 71 - Doomflight
The cover for an old G.N. Smith book. The Art Director kept sending it back to me to make the face more repugnant. Then he complained that I'd gone too far.
Page 72 - Country of the Dead
I really feel that this job is let down by the poorly-rendered background; a shame as the book is an intelligent and haunting story.
Page 73 - Alien Landscape - The End of the World
This is from another collaboration with the Holdstock-Edwards team. I think this is a case where the idea is not matched by my technical ability. Which is another way of saying that although this is an effective image, it is pretty poorly painted. Some friends have this one on their wall. It is an inevitable rule that friends always choose the work that embarasses you most.
Page 73 - Hot Favourites
This was an advertising job. Although the slightly "jokey" feel seemed apropriate at the time this is not one of my favourites.
Page 74 - Messenger of Zhuvastou
This is actually my friend Henry who patiently posed while I photographed him. The muscles are not his however, and nor is the shirt which owes something to Doc Savage. As is frequently the case with my work, the background is rather poorly painted, a bad habit which I am trying to correct.
Page 74 - Twala
This was one of my contributions to a film proposed by David Wickes who is well-known for Chandlertown and the Jack the Ripper TV series with Michael Caine. This venture into the film world was the antithesis of my experience with Incubus, as David Wickes was enthusiastic and clear about what he wanted. It was great fun to be in on the early stages of planning a film with the feeling that I was genuinely contributing something along with the other artists, Terry Oakes and Julek Heller. Unfortunately, I don't think that the film, provisionally titled Empire of the Lost Kings ever made it onto the screen.
Page 75 - Bishop's Heir
Essentially a painting of me wearing my girlfriend's kaftan. This is the sort of simple composition that I like and feel is usually necessary for something as small as a bookjacket. I like to be able to see my pictures from the other side of the bookshop. In this respect I think strength often relies on simplicity. The bright red was achieved by glazing thin layers of paint over a white background on which the shadows had been previously painted in green; a useful, but time-consuming, technique to get a really strong colour.
Page 76 - Classic Rock
An album cover and another bad background.
Page 77 - Slazenger Gold
A proportion of my work falls outside the realms of S.F. or Fantasy. I suppose this advertising job just about qualifies for inclusion in this book. The clients wanted me to reproduce some of the atmosphere of Tombworld and although they seemed pleased, I think it is only partially successful in this respect. It's quite a large painting done on hardboard. Someone else did the lettering on the raquet. Hand lettering is not one of my strengths.
Page 79 - Crypt of the Sorcerer
Another Fighting Fantasy book for Puffin. We never had books like this when I was a kid.
Page 80 - Best of Frank Herbert II
I enjoyed this painting but I don't think the book was ever published with this cover.
Page 81 - Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The brief for this job was simply to be "disgusting". Obviously the opening pod recalls Alien, almost inevitable with this story. The creature is partly based on a photo of an oyster which I found. Yum, yum!
Page 82 - The Ghoul I
This is the artwork for a `novelisation' of the film and was painted directly from a film still. The medium was designer's gouache. I did two tightly painted copies of photographs at this time. The other one was a portrait of Catherine Cookson.
Page 83 - The Ghoul II
Although this is a fairly old painting now, I am still quite fond of it because I felt at the time that it was something of a breakthrough. It was the first time I had achieved the effect I wanted almost exactly and had relied on the idea in my head rather than some external reference material. Also, while it is clearly not a 'realistic' subject I had managed to give it not a 'photographic' reality, but a sense of conviction which I had been aiming at for some time. Readers of the book may have been disappointed as the creature only makes the briefest of appearances right at the end. The picture has been much reprinted and The Ghoul eventually metamorphosed into The Incubus. I prefer this incarnation however.
Page 84 - The Nameless
I seem to be the only person who likes this picture. It was done for a Ramsey Campbell book and is an attempt to catch some of his atmospheric horror. It is probably not explicit enough for a book cover.
Page 85 - Vault of the Vampire
A rather traditional vampire perhaps, but great fun to do and probably appropriate for a Fighting Fantasy book.
Page 86 - The Curse
This was written by Daniel Farson who is apparently related to Bram Stoker.
Page 87 - When Evil Wakes
One of my earliest paintings in oils and one of the few that has survived from this time. In a number of cases I made the mistake of applying varnish over paint which was not properly dry. This means that the varnish stays tacky forever. You have been warned!
Page 88 - Terror by Night
Page 89 - Swamp
This was a difficult job. The story concerns a surviving dinosaur trapped in a swamp. Now, I've nothing against dinosaurs but they always strike me as a bit "cute". I tried instead to give a feeling of mystery and violence. Another case of it seeming more appropriate to give the general impression of the book than illustrating a specific event or character.
Page 90 - The Farm II
I can be as subtle as the next man! The Art Director asked me to go "over the top" and this is what happened. I had a bet with Val that they would never use it. In fact they cropped the picture just to show the pig and the man's leg. Strange are the ways of publishers. In spite of the brief I feel now that this is a bit restrained; perhaps I could have gone even further overboard. The red of the blood is emphasised by placing a greeny background beneath it and keeping the body a greeny-grey colour. Someone asked me if I slashed my wrists to get the blood colour. Some time after this job I painted the cover for the Monty Python record The Final Rip-Off using pictures of real guts for reference. A detailed painting of real intestines sounds gruesome, but it was not as effective as this picture.
Page 91 - Fiend
This book is about a Kremlin leader who comes back from the dead and forgets all about Glasnost. I started trying to do something more laid-back and suggestive but the guts kept creeping in.
Page 92 - Chiller
Another attempt to be mysterious and disturbing rather than directly horrific. The publishers asked for the trickle of blood on the glove. This suggests to me that he is taking off the glove whereas my original idea was that he should be putting it on, somehow a more threatening gesture, I think. He's going to examine you next. Open wide.