Peter Andrew Jones

Peter Andrew Jones Solar Wind

Warlock of Firetop Mountain

Lone Wolf Red Fox Peter Andrew Jones

BEGINNINGS . . . . . .
Peter Andrew Jones is a contemporary British artist and illustrator born into the relative poverty of post-war Britain in Islington, North London in 1951, son of the late Reginald and Catherine Jones. His father was a skilled engineer, and Peter himself has always had a fascination with engineering, a fact which undoubtedly had an influence on the hundreds of imaginative paintings for which he became internationally famous, particularly in the genres of aviation, science fiction and fantasy.

Peter showed interest in the visual arts from a very early age: he described the post-war London of his boyhood as "grey" with little for children to do, and he took to drawing cartoon characters, such as Fred Flintstone, and painting snow scenes to "colour his world". During holidays in the late 1950s at Leven in Scotland (his mother's home town) the seeds of a life-long love of aviation and space technology were sown as he watched sleek, shiny, silver fighter aircraft flying over the Firth of Forth from RAF Leuchars. This love deepened in the early 1960s when he discovered artist Roy Cross's illustrations on commercial Airfix plastic construction kits.
At school he continued to pursue his interest in art, mainly to cope with a dislike of more formal studies such as mathematics, and won school prizes for his work. Sunday visits with his parents to London's National and Tate Galleries provided further inspiration for his ever-growing awareness of the world of art, and the lives of artists.
In his late teens he shunned school careers advice to "join the Parachute Regiment because of his outgoing personality", or to "become a North Sea Trawlerman". With the encouragement of his art teacher, Robert Spearman, a hugely talented artist in his own right, Peter applied for, and subsequently attended, St. Martin's School of Art (now Central St. Martins) in London in 1970. He graduated in 1974 with an honours degree. Robert Spearman had taught Peter at adult evening institute life drawing classes as a condition of pre-art school tuition, and he also taught Peter the basics of classical painting and drawing.

In 1973, during the second year of his graphic design course at St. Martins, a college friend, David Case (who later went on to become head of design at the Financial Times) was reading a Panther Books paperback edition of science fiction author EE "Doc" Smith's "Triplanetary". David suggested to Peter, "Read it, it'll blow your mind". Peter bought a copy and later, during a regular session with his tutor, visiting lecturer and illustrator Fritz Wagner, the latter co-incidentally suggested that, because of Peter’s “highly developed skill of rendering realistic imagery” he might consider painting things that don't actually exist, as in science fiction stories.
Simultaneously another visiting lecturer, Gerry Downes, impressed by Peter’s ability to render realistic images, suggested a meeting with Doreen Scott, Art Editor at Puffin Books. Within a month, following a preliminary trial piece for Scott, Peter produced his first commercial science fiction work for Puffin Books, the cover art for Penelope Farmer's ‘A Castle of Bone’, and within a few weeks he was also creating covers for Panther Books. So even before leaving St. Martin's School of Art in 1974, Peter’s career had taken off with a bang, and he very quickly earned respect as one of the foremost illustrators of the science fiction genre during the 1970s.

In 1980 an anthology of his science fiction works entitled ‘Solar Wind’ was published by Dragon’s World. In the run up to this, during late 1978, Peter had set up a company by the same name to further take advantage of a significant growing demand for his works. Following on from this a specific picture library division was set up and run by his wife, Deborah Vernell-Jones, which developed to the point where it had clients in virtually every country of the world except Russia and China.
For the best part of a decade, until 1982, Peter produced and licensed cover art that elevated book sales for writers such as Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein and many more and he continued to do so up until 1999 when his last science fiction book cover art was for a re-issue of Greg Bear's "Queen of Angels". As the 1970s gave way to the 1980s he became extensively involved in a new type of publishing . . 
Peter Andrew Jones Warlock of Firetop Mountain

Although there are many internet sites, including Wikipedia, that purport to know the circumstances concerning the ground-breaking illustration for the first of the ‘Fighting Fantasy’ books, all are inaccurate since the only people who know the circumstances are those who were there at the time: Doreen Scott, Art Editor at Puffin Books, Philippa Dickenson, Editor, and Peter Andrew Jones himself. Puffin had already had cover art created for the book but felt that what was needed was a treatment by a more experienced cover artist who was capable of creating a cover with broader market appeal. Peter, who had known Doreen Scott ever since he produced his very first cover art for her in the summer of 1973, was called in to provide the solution.
At the cover briefing Peter was told that deadline time was “very limited, a mere few days”, far less than he was typically used to having when creating covers, and Scott told him to, "Go away and come back with something revolutionary".
The solution that Peter came up with was to take an existing painting from his own personal stock that he'd already made exploring a typical design that was popular on American romance story paperbacks (where frequently a book's title/logotype appeared in the MIDDLE of the cover illustration) and which he'd blended with contemporary British fantasy art illustration, an approach not at all typical on British paperbacks of the time and so was a concept he had been developing for his own personal interest. He'd been exposed to the design concept when given a large number of cover proofs from American paperback companies by a client in Rotterdam who had been given them by a leading German art agent who represented American book rights in Europe.
He took the existing painting, which he called "The Ultimate Spell", did a little more work on it, made a wild guess at what might be the right content and met the deadline.
Both Scott and Dickenson accepted the cover design willingly and unreservedly because it gave them exactly what they had requested - an untypical and original visually impactful approach for the English market. Subsequently Peter’s revolutionary cover design appeared on ‘The Warlock of Firetop Mountain’ in almost every major language market around the world.


However . . . . . . AFTER the initial impact of this approach had died down Puffin's typical cover commission policy kicked-in and commissioning reverted to their norm, with various illustrators used to create subsequent covers. As such the initial impact of Peter’s "decidedly different" design approach was allowed to lapse.
Ironically as the book series unfolded with various artists creating the covers (including Peter himself), Peter was commissioned a second time to create a cover for ‘The Warlock of Firetop Mountain’: this was at the instigation of Steve Jackson who was one of the ‘Fighting Fantasy’ authors. Peter and Steve were able to consult as to the appropriate nature of the design of the covers’ illustrative elements (such as the Warlock himself) as a marketing stance rather than using layout as a marketing tool, in short, taking the approach to the marketing of the series in a full circle.
Eventually, after numerous covers, Puffin branded the series with a distinct green banner and then subsequently with a yellow circular logo and scroll device, closer to the genre roots of the series. Yet ironically the 25th anniversary edition of the book, published by Wizard books in August 2007, displayed the original cover art complete with book title in the centre of the illustration . . . . . .

The success of the ‘Fighting Fantasy’ work attracted the attention of Paris-based publisher Editions Galimard, and as the only non-British publisher to commission a new cover for ‘The Warlock of Firetop Mountain’ the success of this venture evolved into a commission to illustrate almost the entire series of author Joe Dever's ‘Lone Wolf’ role play books. This in turn led to the original British publisher, Red Fox (originally Beaver books) licensing the French cover art back into the UK market and subsequently, through the UK and Commonwealth distribution chain, also commissioning new additional covers as the series expanded.

The Solar Wind Picture Library also licensed these works worldwide to many other publishers of the series, including Edizioni E Elle in Trieste, Italy, with whom Peter had extensive involvement on a number of other role play book series in the Italian language. Eventually even US publisher Berkley Books commissioned Peter to design some covers late on in their release of the series.

This success, together with the global distribution that the ‘Fighting Fantasy’ editions had enjoyed, meant that when Peter was asked by Target Games of Sweden to create artwork for their ‘Kult’ adult role play game, his games-based art had become probably the most globally-distributed solo artist's art in the role play genre. 


Peter Andrew Jones Kult art

The art that appeared on the book covers also led to other product uses such as Games Workshop's ‘White Dwarf Magazine’ and some board game box art.

Whilst the role play art had assumed a very large part of Peter’s studio output it was by no means the only activity during this long period . . . . . .

The extent of his workload meant that Peter made the decision in 1978 that he would never work on a movie, thus avoiding the disruption it would bring. He even told fellow science fiction artist Chris Foss (‘Superman’ and ‘Alien’), “That's your thing, Chris, I'll stick to cover art". 

But the occasional film posters found their way into his studio's output, and his poster art for ‘The Sword and the Sorcerer’ and ‘Alligator II’ could be seen not only at his local cinema in Wimbledon (of tennis fame) but also “All over the New York subway", to quote Group One Films. Peter also worked on television projects including: ‘The Two Ronnies Christmas Special’, a two year stint on the BBC's ‘Captain Zep - Space Detective’, ‘The Tripods’, ‘Horizon’, and ‘BBC News’ programmes. He was a key illustrator in The BBC's development of ‘colour-separated overlay technique’ (more commonly called ‘bluescreen’) and later provided these skills for advertising projects for clients such as Harrods, as well as on industrial films for companies like Ford and Plessy. At various points during this period Trevor Goring (comic art) and Peter Western (animation), both ex-St.Martins School of Art friends, joined him in an extended studio arrangement they called ‘Smart Moves’ to provide a multi-discipline supply of talent to meet this new demand.

(c) BBC

THE "LEGENDARY" ILLUSTRATOR (‘Role player’ magazine)
And so it was, along with these periodic excursions into moving media projects, that from the mid 1970s through the 1980s and late 1990s, Peter had created cover art for literally hundreds of science fiction, fantasy and role playing products for publishers around the world.


In 1990 Peter decided that he had let his aviation art lapse for too long and his company entered into a charitable licensing arrangement with the RAF Benevolent Fund in the UK to create a number of paintings under the project title ‘Bluebirds Over’. These chronicled the events of the Battle of Britain aerial conflict in a tri-partite arrangement between Peter Andrew Jones, the RAF Benevolent Fund, and Formans Corporate Calendars in Nottingham. Instrumental in the accuracy of the research were General der Jagdflieger: Adolf Galland, and Squadron Leader Peter Townsend (George Cross): Peter corresponded and conversed with both of these prominent men, along with other WWII veterans such as George Bush Senior, a pilot from the WWII Pacific Area conflict.

As a result of this the project an internet e-zine entitled ‘Painted Eagles’ evolved. It had a substantial subscriber list.

By the late 1980s Peter’s reputation as a book cover artist had long passed the point where the UK's leading bookseller, WH Smith, would automatically take "any book with a Peter Jones cover" a view they adopted even as early as the 1976 and so it was that Arrow Books in London commissioned him to visually repackage an existing book series to give it a “second life”: an entirely different visual branding treatment would be required. 

The Marion Zimmer Bradley series of books was given a broader market appeal through a combination of genre market illustration, main market layout, and logotype: a similar design ethos to that employed by Peter when asked to "do something revolutionary" to launch Puffin's ‘Fighting Fantasy’ series in the early 1980s. At the conclusion of the MZB project, when told by the publisher that the revamped series "had done very well and we are very pleased with the sales", Peter realised his skills had evolved to a level where working on commission for clients could no longer provide enough scope for his creativity.

One fan calculated that “a minimum of 400 million people” have held Peter’s art in their hands since his first book cover for Puffin Books in 1973. Publishers worldwide had come to rely on his visual marketing skills to a point where Peter questioned to what extent he needed to be involved at all with them, especially when the considerable size of his fan base and internet subscriber lists were taken into consideration.
Then, during a conversation with a friend in London in the late 1990s, the friend said (about Peter’s fame as a fantasy artist),"Where do you go from up, Peter?" Indeed, Octopus books wrote in a science fiction art encyclopedia that he was, "The most successful (SF) artist working in Britain". Peter and his friend then, as an exercise, multiplied the number of book covers he had painted by the print runs of the books, second hand use, library use and so on, and then added in viewers of TV programmes he had worked on, movie posters, software games etc. The result amazed them: it ran into millions and millions of people who had seen Peter’s work. He had never once thought about that.
Because he had been so busy servicing client's needs, and had built his career based on what other people, such as art school tutors and clients, had suggested would be commercially viable, he had never taken the opportunity to think about what else he might have wanted to paint. Indeed, several other areas of interest, including aviation and wildlife art, had long been eclipsed and even extinguished by the constant demand for his fantasy art. Peter’s art had been produced on almost every type of publication possible and by almost every major publisher around the world, but he decided that this work with publishers had in fact denied him the opportunity to work on his own projects which would allow his creativity to develop even further. Being famous for over a quarter of a century had eclipsed the opportunity to paint other things, and although he had painted other things professionally, such as aviation subjects, he had not done so as much as he might have liked if he had ever stopped to think about it.

As Peter began to think about what he might like to do about this, including possibly live somewhere new, his wife said, "I know a place" (from her childhood). They duly went for a week to Church Stretton in Shropshire, a beautiful old market town that nestles amongst some pretty stunning hills. He was astonished by the radical contrast to everything urban that he knew so well. There was only one house on the market and coincidentally it was positioned in such a way that whilst it was in the countryside it had urban elements to it that were very familiar to where he was living in London, so entirely based on instinct alone he bought it. Thus in 1999 he closed his Wimbledon studio and company, Solar Wind Ltd, and moved to rural Shropshire.
Not being at all sure exactly what this new life might entail, he continued selling his existing art, including fantasy and science fiction paintings, for a year or so, both as reproduction rights to publishers and the original art over the internet to collectors – something he had already been doing from his London studio.

Then Peter met a local tea room owner in Church Stretton who had a dreadful selection of greetings cards for sale and at his suggestion Peter set out to, "Do something about it". He painted a number of rural scenes, wildlife, landscapes and so on, and made some greetings cards and found that he enjoyed the experience. Then the same tea room owner suggested he put the pictures into a handmade sketchbook he had made and said, "Then I can sell it". As Peter had already set up the studio to sell limited edition prints the addition of greetings cards and handmade books made it a full range publishing set up.

Peter Andrew Jones Rural Landscape Wildlife Art Peter Andrew Jones Rural Landscape Wildlife Art Peter Andrew Jones Rural Landscape Wildlife Art Peter Andrew Jones Rural Landscape Wildlife Art Peter Andrew Jones Rural Landscape Wildlife Art Peter Andrew Jones Rural Landscape Wildlife Art

Then, on a trip to London to deliver a private commission to a collector, Peter was astonished to discover that he was ‘reacting’: becoming inspired by things he saw around him, something he had never experienced whilst he actually lived there. So he started visiting London and painting pictures of the area.

Peter Andrew Jones Urban Art Peter Andrew Jones Urban Art Peter Andrew Jones Urban Art Peter Andrew Jones Urban Art Peter Andrew Jones Urban Art Peter Andrew Jones Urban Art

This meant that the business now was selling three genres of art, no longer exclusively his fantasy art, and it was both local, rural, urban, and internet related.

This caused Peter to think back over his working life as well as back into his art school, and even school years, as to what kind of things he had been interested in painting originally. He realised with some shock that he had actually been painting a range of subjects over recent decades but had done so by coating them in a science fiction and fantasy wrapper. By the time he had added his aviation art, kept aside as a private charitable project for many years, that extended the publishing company's range to four genres, and when he then considered other areas he had wrapped the science fiction cloak around it ran to eight and eventually twelve when allowed to function in their own right.


During this time Peter also revisited and developed a very old craft skill, dating back to his school days, and built-up a workshop to handle framing, book making, paper making and finding ways to fuse it with his contemporary digital skills. He found himself working as in the Ateliers of antiquity, making his own paint and paint media but fused with the technology of today: a multimedia world presented in the form of handmade artisan items.

It was a decade of much experimentation, exploring and discovering what flowed naturally that allowed open-ended artistic and commercial growth, evolving into what it is today: a studio, a business, a company, based on Peter’s sum total of experience to-date, referencing past projects, contemporary works and future projects.
In his own words, “Independence, and no creative limits”.
But in all this swirl of multi-genre experimentation their lurked an underlying project being born because it is impossible to be a fantasy art creator, let alone a famous one, and ignore the myths and legends that surround Peter's studio, the very heartland of so much of the roots of modern fantasy imagery. Merlin. Arthur. Uther Pendragon. Dragons. Morgan le Fey. Excalibur. Even the home of Tolkien himself. All a short distance from the artist's studio. Witches, Faeries, Giants, Elves and Goblins. The surrounding landscape of his studio is encrusted with much if not all of the very essence of so much that we have come to know and expect of fantasy imagery, and so it is, full circle some might say, the artist finds himself at least as busy as he ever was and trying to find enough hours in a day to keep up with his voracious appetite for original visions.

Peter Andrew Jones Myths & Legends Simulacra Solar Wind Heroes & Villains
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Meanwhile, thank you for stopping by, and we hope you found your visit both enjoyable and informative.
Best regards,
Legendary Art Team



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