Sitting up on Laeso, the little island off the North of Denmark where my wife is from. Famous for it,s salt works, which due to the amount of wood being burned as part of the salt making process, started a rather serious erosion problem. So with Laeso in serious danger of not even being a little island any more, without any tree roots to hold the sandy soil together, thousands of trees were planted – and now it is a forest paradise, keeping many little trolls and one Englishman very happy.
So, now you have the setting – on with the ramblings.For these ramblings, I am again, forbidden to reveal anything I have been working on. These kind of blood oaths are apparently – quite binding and not to be taken lightly, so, not wishing to invoke the wrath of any unspeakable entities that might have being involved, you will have to make do with some ancient offerings harking back to the time when I first trod these shores.
After two, or was it three years at Games Workshop in England, frustrated – to put it very mildly – with not being allowed to do any colour work, I arrived in Copenhagen with a portfolio and not really any idea how I was going to pay my way. Compared to London, it’s a tiny city and at that time there was only two or three publishing houses. A few phone calls and frantic poring over maps resulted in a couple of meetings with curious and friendly art directors who seemed very happy to let me loose on some book covers. A quick glance at the strange results on show here, and some glaring deficiencies might cause the more observant amongst you to recoil in shock. No forests! No trolls! No goblins pin-cushioned with arrows! No big noses! None of any of the things that I have since, worked diligently to paint myself into a corner with.
Fact is – at that time there was not any sort of corner to paint my self into. These were primordial days with no inter-web and email, no Googling anything under the sun. Contact with America did not exist, and was not even considered. We all lived in a much, much smaller world. There was certainly no market at all in Denmark for me to paint anything connected with fantasy. No video games – no super heroes ( it wasn’t all bad….) – no regular assaults on the senses with multi-million block- busters. And France was the only European country to think of comics as an art form. So it was all a bit messy and subject to bouts of supposing that I could have continued and developed my black and white skills to dizzy enough heights to permanently banish any thought of ever picking up a paint brush again. Luckily, Copenhagen had plenty of other things, which when compared to the union breaking, miners strikes, three day weeks, power cuts, Margaret Thatcher and the IRA – put it well up in the running and persuaded me to give it a go.
It,s strange looking at them now, and vividly remembering painting them in my tiny bedroom, without the clutter of books, skulls, piles of cds (there were piles of records…..) and plants. There was not enough work to stress me with deadlines – but I remember being frantic, wondering sometimes how I could squeeze any enjoyment out of the subject matter. Most were very serious “rites of passage” for teenagers – something I felt I had personally dealt with admirably and finally a long while ago – so it was often difficult to summon much enthusiasm for the characters or interest in the situations they found themselves in. But dammit! I was a professional, so I spent lot,s of time wearing down the art directors defences, convincing them that the briefly mentioned dream about tigers on page 132 was the only sensible choice for the cover, or the chameleon briefly noticed in the garden on page 76 was surely the only logical choice to dominate the cover. I knew what captured my interest and so – of course – was convinced that would work for any other discerning person – even – at a stretch, troubled teenagers. Luckily they usually went with me as you can see, but some were a nightmare to do, I must confess.
They are in no chronological order – and one that I remember being really chuffed with, I can,t find anywhere – something with a tiger shark, volcano and monitor lizards. Exactly!
So, bare in mind these go back to the early nineties, and if I wanted reference I had to trudge to a library.
This was one of the first. Growing pains in South Africa. remember Apartheid…..the Berlin Wall? It’s all actually painted separately; cut out with scissors and stuck together with paper glue. 5 or 6 pieces I think! I’d probably attempt to do it the same way today, until the art director caught on.
Harlem – I think. More growing pains, and some help from the “ghost” of an old blues singer. All these books were a challenge, and like every challenge, once you decide to take it up and do the best you can- you get the most out of it, even when it seems hopeless. I,d still rather have been painting goblins though.
At least this one had some animals in it. Would have preferred another chameleon, but the art director was up on his geography.
More animals! A polar bear! Native masks! Thought I was getting somewhere… and then this…
One of the last ones I did. Very boring and not that well painted. The restlessness had really set in now…