Illustration Art Gallery

The very best from the wide, sometimes overlooked, world of illustration art, including original artwork for book illustrations and covers, comic books and comic strips, graphic novels, magazines, film animation cels, newspaper strips, poster art, album covers, plus superb fine art reproductions and high quality art prints.

Our gallery brings together artists from all over the world and from many backgrounds, including fantasy, horror, romance, science fiction, education, sport, history, nature, technology, humour, glamour, architecture, film & tv, whimsy, even political satire and caricature.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

R. B. Davis

Reginald Ben Davis had a lengthy career at Amalgamated Press and Fleetway Publications as one of their top illustrators. Born in Wandsworth on 10 December 1907, it seems likely that Davis began his commercial career in around 1930 and it is known that he was represented by Byron Studios prior to the Second World War.

It seems likely that he began drawing for boys' or girls' story papers during the war, or perhaps shortly after the war during the period of paper rationing when work was thin on the ground. Some of his earliest work is associated with boys' writer Edward R. Home-Gall as he illustrated covers for Home-Gall's Panmure Press publications and both of the author's collectable novels featuring The Human Bat. Around the same time he began working for the newly launched School Friend, drawing one of their most popular strips, 'Jill Crusoe'. Jill Blair was from a long line of castaways, although in this instance she had been travelling to Australia when the ship she was on was wrecked in the Indian Ocean; Jill found herself the lone, exhausted survivor on a small island that turns out to be far from deserted.

Davis was to be associated with the strip for five years, the various stories subsequently reprinted in various comics, including June and Princess amongst others, in the 1960s. For School Friend he also drew 'Jon of the Jungle', 'Lost in Red Man's Land', 'The Riddle of Beacon Heights' and various other strips, the most popular of which was probably 'Kay of Cedar Creek' which ran for sixteen months in 1957-58.

Davis also contributed to the girls' pocket libraries, beginning with covers for early issues of Schoolgirls' Picture Library beginning in 1957; he also provided interior artwork for Princess Picture Library, School Friend Picture Library and Schoolgirls' Picture Library (including two episodes of the popular Zanna jungle girl series).

His work in girls' comics became more irregular in the 1960s, although he had a lengthy association with Fleetway's June drawing one-off strips ('The Strangest Stories Ever Told', 'Pony Tales'), the occasional strip ('Speed-Girl Julie') and illustrations for stories. Instead, the bulk of his output from 1963 on was a complete change in direction as Davis proved himself to be a master of wildlife illustration, painting beautiful covers and illustrations for Treasure, the educational magazine for the very young.

He was to be associated with Treasure for almost the whole of the magazine's existence; towards the end of Treasure's run (it folded in 1971), he also began working for Look and Learn, his first work appearing in the 1960s but more regularly from 1970 and including the back cover feature, 'Life in Nature' in 1971.

Davis continued to contribute to Look and Learn, mostly series like 'Nature's Notebook' and 'Nature's Kingdom', and was with the paper until its end in 1982. He also illustrated wildlife features for Once Upon a Time and contributed to a number of books, including Let's Look at Forestry by Ivor Lewer (F. Warne, 1967), Be a Nature Detective by Maxwell Knight (F. Warne, 1968), Animal Partnerships by Maurice Buxton (F. Warne, 1969), Colour Identification Guide to british Butterflies by T. G. Howarth (F. Warne, 1973), Snakes by Valerie Pitt (F. Watts, 1973), Flying Creatures by Patricia Gray (F. Watts, 1973), Slow Creatures by Patricia Gray (F. Watts, 1974), Ants by Diana Ferguson (Macdonald, 1974), Swimming Mammals by Patricia Gray (F. Watts, 1976), The Observer's Book of Wild Flowers by Francis Rose (F. Warne, 1978), The Wild Flower Key by Francis Rose (Penguin, 1981) and Colour Identification Guide to the Grasses, Sedges, Rushes and Ferns of the British Isles and North-Western Europe by Francis Rose (Viking, 1989).

He died in December 1998 in Alton, Hampshire.

Examples of Davis's artwork can be found for sale here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Martin Asbury

Martin Asbury grew up addicted to comics, trawling through newsagents and book shops looking for American comics. Influenced by Burne Hogarth's 'Tarzan', Classics Illustrated and Frank Hampson's 'Dan Dare', he was educated at Merchant Taylors' School and studied painting at St. Martin's College of Art. Apart from illustrating a story for a comic book giveaway, his first illustrative work included the sheet music for Ron Grainer's The Maigret Theme and painting cardboard cut-outs for use on TV.

An advert in an magazine led him to apply for a job as an assistant for "an international cartoonist"; this was on 'Flash Gordon' and Asbury moved to Austria for six months before clashes with Dan Barry led to his departure. Back in England he designed cards for Hallmark, rising to become their chief designer. Married in 1969, he decided to go freelance and found work drawing for D. C. Thomson's Bunty. With the launch of Wizard in 1970 he graduated onto boys' adventure strips, drawing 'Soldiers of the Jet Age', 'The Crimson Claw', 'The Secret of Deep 16' and others for the paper. At the same time, he also found work on Joe 90: Top Secret, soon to merged with TV21, where he drew 'Forward from the Back Streets' and 'Tarzan'. Some brief-run strips in Countdown led to him drawing 'Cannon' for TV Action and TV Comic before he was hired by Look-In, where, after briefly drawing 'Follyfoot', he had his first big hit with 'Kung Fu'.

Having already filled in once for Gerry Haylock, Asbury took over the 'Dr Who' strip in TV Comic before returning to Look-In to draw more 'Kung Fu', and his biggest hit, 'The Six Million Dollar Man', which ran for four years (1975-79).

At the same time, Asbury took over the artwork for 'Garth' in the Daily Mirror following the death of Frank Bellamy. He was to draw the strip for 21 years, working initially with Jim Edgar; later scriptwriters included Angus Allan, John Allard, Tim Quinn, Phil Harbottle and, from 1995, Asbury himself.

In the early days of the strip, Asbury was also able to continue working for Look-In, his strips for that paper including 'Dick Turpin', 'Battlestar Galactica' and 'Buck Rogers in the 25th Century'. However, an opportunity arose in the early 1980s for a change in artistic direction.

Asbury explained how he became a storyboard artist in an interview in Starlog: "When I was a strip cartoonist, I occasionally did TV commercial storyboards. A friend of mine [Dez Skinn] had an agency dealing with design and graphics and one day a man literally walked in off the street looking for a storyboard artist. I met this guy, production designer Stuart Craig, and he was about to start work on Greystoke with director Hugh Hudson. It was that simple.

"For Greystoke I did nearly 3,500 huge drawings, many of them in full colour. I didn't know they were going to be fed through a copying machine and come out as grey blotches. I learned my lesson on that.

"At roughly the same time, Ridley Scott was looking for storyboard artists, because he was going to do Dune at that point, and he contacted me. I got on with Ridley very well and he had me do a trial sequence for the film. So, he was sort of waiting in the wings and later rang to ask me to do Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which, of course, turned out to be Blade Runner. I had just started on Garth by then and couldn't see how to do the two together, so I declined. But he obviously bore me in mind and invited me to storyboard Legend when I finished Greystoke."

Since the release of Greystoke in 1984, Asbury has storyboarded dozens of movies, a few sample credits would include Labyrinth, Willow, Alien 3, Chaplin, Interview with the Vampire, Fierce Creatures, Quills, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Thunderpants, The Hours, Troy, Alexander, Batman Begins, The Da Vinci Code, The Boat That Rocked, the last six James Bond movies (Brosnan/Craig) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Although Asbury's work on 'Garth' was his most widely syndicated, he is probably most fondly remembered for Look-In and the dynamic look he brought to 'Kung Fu' and 'The Six Million Dollar Man'. He continues to work as a storyboard artist, his most recent work being for the upcoming Between Two Worlds.

Martin Asbury artwork for sale.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Norman Arlott

Norman Arlott is one of the world's leading wildlife illustrators and has spent most of his career specialising in the depiction of birds. Working mostly in watercolour, his work has been widely exhibited in the UK and USA.

Born Norman Arthur Arlott in Reading, Berkshire, on 15 November 1947 and educated at Storeham Boys School. In a biographical sketch, Arlott once said that he became an illustrator by luck by being "the right person in the right place at the right time". His skills as an artist were already apparent at school and he was encouraged to study art at University; however, Arlott did not fancy four more years of schooling and instead embarked on a five-year engineering apprenticeship.

Already interested in birds - both for watching and egg collecting - his big chance came after he met bird photographer Eric Hosking. A fan of Hosking's An Eye for a Bird, Arlott wrote to the author and was surprised to find himself invited to tea. Hosking mentioned that John G. Williams, a Welsh-born naturalist and ornithologist who lived for many years in Africa, was looking for someone to illustrate an updated version of his 1963 book A Field Guide to the Birds of East and Central Africa. Arlott submitted a specimen plate which was forwarded to Williams. "Three months later, I was in Nairobi."

By taking a mixture of paid and unpaid leave, Arlott was able to stay in Africa for three months, eventually illustrating over 600 species in colour for A Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa (Collins, 1980). For Williams Arlott also illustrated A Field Guide to the Orchids of Britain and Europe (Collins, 1978) and other 'Field Guides' for Collins. In all he has since contributed to over 100 books on birds, including the multi-volume Handbook of the Birds of the World. He rarely has less than half-a-dozen projects on the go at any one time and sets himself a target of at least three colour plates a day.

In the 1980s he began working on various projects for the Natural History Museum, including a series of wall charts depicting the different birds to be found in a variety of coastal, mountain, woodland and estuary locations. He has also designed over 20 special commonwealth stamp issues featuring birds for the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Seychelles, Christmas Island, the Gambia, Malawi and the British Virgin Islands as well as paintings reproduced on place mats and pottery. He has also led ornithology safaris to East Africa and never felt the need to return to his engineering apprenticeship.

In 2001 Arlott discovered a new subspecies of Colomian bird which lived in the Andean forests. His discovery was made amongst the million-strong collection of birds at the Natural History Museum in London where the bird had been kept unrecognised for 120 years and which was immediately declared extinct. An example of Antioquia brown-banded antpitta (Grallaria milleri gilesi), a thrush-sized ground-living flightless bird, had been collected in 1878 by British ornithologist Thomas Knight Salmon. As there were no guides to birds at that time, Salmon sent specimens he collected to scientists in the UK; this particular one had curiously been overlooked before being donated to the Natural History Museum until it was spotted by Arlott, who drew it to the attention of doctors Robert Prys-Jones and Paul Salaman of the Museum.

Arlott was married to Marie Ellen Bott in 1968 with whom he has one son and two daughters. He nowadays lives in Norfolk.

Examples of his work can be found for sale here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chris Achilléos

Chris Achilléos is a Greek-Cypriot artist best known for his epic fantasy paintings, pin-ups and book covers. His work often features warrior women, powerful Amazons in intricate, fetishistic costumes, heavily armoured and beweaponed yet still sensual and glamorous. Fantastic creatures--giant birds, wolves and big cats (especially leopards)--often accompany these iconic figures, helping to emphasise the sleek, dangerous curves of his females.

Although in pin-ups Achilléos would often show a bared breast, his artwork rarely strays into 'cheesecake' territory. When it does cross that line, as it did with his lurid 1979 album sleeve artwork for Whitesnake's Lovehunter, featuring a naked girl straddling a huge snake, the results proved controversial; the American distributors had to sell the album in a brown paper bag. Even when his sirens are at their most undressed, there is a dignity to them that keeps the artwork aesthetically on the right side of good taste.

Achilléos's work has been widely influential, particularly his fantasy images. The costume worn by Kate Bush in her Babooshka video was based on a cover painting for the novel Raven, Swordsmistress of Chaos by Richard Kirk (Corgi, 1977) and he played an important role in turning the animated Heavy Metal movie into a hit, designing the white-haired warrior woman Taarna in the film's longest sequence. An image of Taarna sitting astride a huge bird was used as the movie's poster and a painting by Achilléos was shown around agencies when the producers were looking for a model to play the role (the animation being produced by rotoscoping from life footage). Achilléos was also the concept artist for George Lucas's Willow (1988), designing costumes and the look of the characters for director Ron Howard.

Born in Famagusta, a harbour town on the east coast of Cyprus, in 1947, Achilléos grew up in rural Cyprus, he and his three sisters raised by his mother and grandmother following his father's death. Achilléos was able to enjoy what would seem an idyllic childhood, allowed to hunt and fish and run wild as he pleased. An open-air cinema also provided entertainment and Achilléos developed a love of adventure movies through watching The Ten Commandments, Alexander the Great, The Crimson Pirate and The Flame and the Arrow. The heroic deeds of movies inspired him and his friends to recreate epic battles in which Spartans battled Persians and Greeks fought Trojans.

Cyprus in the 1950s was a place of turmoil. The island was strategically placed in the Eastern Mediterranean to protect British interests in the regions around the Suez Canal, the British having administered the island since 1878. The Cypriots sought independence from the British, preferring enosis - a union with Greece - and the nationalist EOKA began an armed struggle in 1955. The British had a heavy military presence and guerrilla attacks on patrols, sabotage and assassination led to curfews and violent political unrest.

Seeking a better life for her four children, Achilléos's mother took the family to a two-bedroom flat in London. At the age of 12, Achilléos had to make major adjustments to his life as he found himself without friends in a land of inclement weather where the natives spoke a completely foreign language.

One new found interest was comics, which (along with studying books for the very young at Comprehensive school) helped him learn English. Achilleos's favourite strip was 'Heros the Spartan' by Frank Bellamy and Luis Bermejo in Eagle, and the works of Don Lawrence and Ron Embleton were also to be a lasting influence. He also began to draw. Unable to afford proper artists' materials, he would use wrapping paper from a local butcher's shop and cheaply available rolls of wallpaper.

From these humble beginnings, Achilleos went on to take A-level art and successfully applied to Hornsey College of Art in north London, graduating with honours in 1969 in his specialized subject of scientific and technical illustration. His first work as an illustrator also appeared that year as he assisted Colin Rattray, one of his tutors, on a book about the American moon landings. It was whilst at Hornsey College, browsing one day in a second hand bookshop, that he stumbled upon a copy of Conan the Barbarian with a cover by Frank Frazetta, which encapsulated the kind of epic fantasy hero that Achilléos aspired to draw. By day he completed his college assignments but by night he painted murals in oils of Conan.

On leaving college he found work illustrating weaponry and maps for a magazine about World War One. When this folded after six months, he began approaching publishers, suggesting to Tandem that he could improve on the covers for fantasy books they had been producing. They suggested that he contact Brian Boyle Associates, the agents from whom they obtained their covers, and Achilléos was promptly hired to produce covers for a trio of Brak the Barbarian novels by John Jakes which Tandem published in 1970. Working via Brian Boyle Associates, he produced covers for spaghetti westerns and the King Kung-Fu series amongst others and began his association with the Target series of Doctor Who novelisations.

He married Angela Walker in 1970 and their first daughter was born the following year; a second daughter was born in 1977. Looking for more security in his chosen career, Achilléos joined the Arts of Gold studio in Covent Garden, doing advertising work which paid substantially more than producing fantasy covers, although Achilléos continued his association with Brian Boyle and painted covers for books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Norman and Michael Moorcock. Via Arts of Gold he also began working for Men Only, painting pin-ups and developing a style of intricate, airbrushed beauty which was to prove his fortune.

Less fortunate was his association with Arts of Gold where a fire destroyed much of Achilléos's artwork and which shut down following the death of the studio's co-founder, Clive Burrell, in 1974. Achilléos returned to freelancing, retaining his long running connection with Doctor Who and Men Only and working on a wide variety of fantasy and science fiction covers, thankfully two fields were enjoying a boom period that would last for a few years.

Achilléos's first book, Beauty and the Beast, was published in 1977 after the artist was approached by Roger Dean of Dragon's World. The book sold over 100,000 copies. As well as continuing to produce book and magazine covers, Achilléos also became involved with the Taarna sequence of the movie Heavy Metal which led to him producing film posters for Clash of the Titans (1981), Supergirl (1984) and The Protector (1985). In 1984 he also began producing a series of covers for Star Trek novels.

Over the next few years, Achilléos produced two books, Sirens (1986) and Medusa (1988) for Paper Tiger, the first of which sold over half a million copies. A young artist at Lucasfilm showed Sirens to George Lucas, who asked Achilléos if he would be be interested in doing concept design work for the movie he was writing and producing, Willow.

In the 1990s, Achilléos had great success with a number of series of trading cards which reproduced his artwork. More recently, he was the visual consultant on the Antoine Fuqua-directed King Arthur and produced a further book, Amazona (2004).

Many of his best works have been reproduced as prints and in portfolios, which you can find for sale here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

E. V. Abbott

Information about British childrens' artist Eleanor V. Abbott (who usually signed her work E.V.A.) remains stubbornly elusive, although she is commonly given the dates 1899-1980. Her work was attractive, usually on the themes of classic fairy tales, nursery rhymes and stories featuring young children in the style of Mabel Lucie Attwell. Although she was active for some decades she is almost unknown, although examples of her original watercolour artwork does surface for sale occasionally, such as the piece illustrated above.

She lived for many years in Morden, southwest of central London not far from Wimbledon.

The following list of the books she illustrated is probably woefully incomplete, a reflection of how small the collections for this type of book are in even major libraries.

Illustrated Books
Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp. London, Birn Bros., 1940s?
Cinderella. London, Birn Bros., 1940s
Jack and the Beanstalk. London, Birn Bros., 1940s?
Robinson Crusoe. London, Birn Bros., 1940s?
The Dollies Outing. London, Birn Bros., 1940s?
Little Ones at Play. London, Birn Bros., 1940s?
Tea-Time. London, Birn Bros., 1940s?
Children of All Nations Doll Dressing and Story Book. c.1952?
Our Counting Book. London, Birn Brothers, 1952.
Alphabet Children by Winifred Atkinson. London, Birn Bros., 1954.
Stories of Nursery Rhymes. London, Birn Bros., 1959?
Old King Cole Nursery Rhymes: A Selection of Popular Nursery Rhymes. Paulton, Purnell, c.1963?
Our Friends in the Country, illus. with Noel Hopking. London, Birn Brothers, c.1965?