mercoledì 11 luglio 2018

Fantasy Visuals: Peter Andrew Jones

Peter Andrew Jones was born in London in 1951. His father was an engineer and his family lived in Islington, a northern borough of the capital. A single child, he had an interest for visual arts since his earliest years. Two things in particular attracted him: planes and colours (he describes the London of his childhood as 'smog-ridden and grey'). He attended St. Martins School of Art, where he graduated in graphic design in 1974: it was here that he discovered Fantasy and Science Fiction and he started experimenting in these fields: then planes became spaceships and colours knew no bounds. He spent a lot of time researching in libraries and galleries, and studied the style of other painters, of which is favourite was James Bama. In his last years of school Jones decided to become an illustrator and he landed his first job with a book cover, Penelope Farmer’s A Castle of Bone, published by Puffin Books (a division of Penguin).

This was the start of a very successful career in drawing book covers for Sci-fi and Fantasy books, eventually culminating in covers for the works of Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur. C. Clarke, Greg Bear, Larry Niven, Philip K. Dick, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Harry Harrison. Jones was the right man at the right time: while many other authors had a hard time getting paid to do Fantasy and Sci-fi, having to work in advertising to pay the bills, Peter Andrew Jones managed to get one commission after the other. An anthology of Jones' work was published under the title Peter Jones: Solar Wind in 1980, covering his science fiction and fantasy illustrations up to that year. In the ‘80s, Jones was already so famous that WH Smith, the UK’s leading bookstore chain, would automatically list a book that had a cover drawn by him.

But some of Jones’s most iconic illustrations were done for gamebooks: his first venture with the genre happened in 1982 when Puffin commissioned him a cover for Fighting Fantasy ‘The Warlock of Firetop Mountain’ by S. Jackson and I. Livingstone. The cover was certainly part of the success of the book and Jones continued to work on the series. Puffin’s competitor, Beaver Books, called on Jones to do the cover for their own series dedicated to Lone Wolf, by J. Dever - which was ironic, since Dever was an ex employee of Jackson and LIvingstone, who got the idea to write his own gamebooks when offered to ghost-write for his employers).

But the connection with Jackson and Livingstone remained, as their company GW hired Jones on several occasions to do covers for White Dwarf magazine, the first edition of Dungeonquest and the UK version of Stormbringer RPG by Chaosium.


Besides books, Jones worked also for cinema creating movie posters (his are The Sword and The Sorcerer and Alligator II) and for the videogames industry, working for US Gold, Psygnosis and Virgin Interactive. But he kept these two things limited, being generally overburdened with request to do book covers, which he enjoyed.

During the 1990s Jones further pursued his interest in aviation-related art, becoming involved with the RAF Benevolent Fund, and a number of World War II pilots.

In 1999 Jones left London and moved to Shropshire, where he currently works and lives. Hiscurrent work includes ongoing genre and wildlife illustration, the production of handmade and self-published books, cards and prints, and occasional private commissions. He is also working on further self-published collections of his work, including Affetti, Rural Dreams, Simulacra, Tales from the wood, about the Faeries who inhabit his studio's garden, and an illustrated dark fantasy novel series titled Crux Millennium.

Jones is a versatile artists and he has experimented with many techniques and media, but he mostly focused on oil colours, which he occasionally mixes with acrylics. His style is peculiar, paying great attention to colour palettes and composition, and blurring any detail that would focus the attention of the audience: Jones's works are made to be looked from a distance, in their whole. They are meant to be printed in the size of a book cover, and catch the attention when they are placed on a shelf, next to scores of other pictures. The reason of their commercial success is clear and obvious, and can in now way be underestimated: Jones was a true master of his trade, certainly one of the best cover artists ever to work in the Fantasy genre. His work greatly contributed in making Fantasy popular and most of us, growing up in the 80s, at least once picked up a book on a shelf because our eye was attracted by one of Jones's covers.

In spite of his fame, there's surprisingly little available on the internet about Jones's artworks. Even his own website, which is a mine of biographical information, only offers thumbnail-size images: and this is the reason why I can't offer you guys the usual large gallery of pictures. Here are a few I've found, in no particular order, and without any specific title.

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