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By : Deborah Susan Jones : Editor
"In the beginning . . . . . the summer of 1973.
Time and place = Mid-morning, Theobalds Road, at the tiny central London office, a once-a-week meeting point for Penguin Books Ltd, otherwise based then at Harmondsworth out near London Airport (before their move to The King's Road in London some years later) - a commission; from Doreen Scott, the art buyer; for a paperback: ISBN-10 0140306927 - Genre, Children's Fiction. The very first book cover commission ever, eventually leading to publication on 25th July 1975 (publishers typically worked "a year ahead" in their schedules in those days).
"I had already created an unpublished "speculative tester piece" (left) as a trial run, by creating my very first Science Fiction and Fantasy painting for "A Prince in Waiting" for Doreen with whom I'd arranged to "come back in a month" with the completed artwork after she'd asked "how are you on Science Fiction?" when I'd actually gone to see her on the recommendation of a college tutor who participated in Puffin's annual "Puffin Club" event for young readers and I'd shown him some wildlife paintings I'd done and he mentioned that Puffin published such material in book form and that it'd be "a good idea to go and have a chat with them about it and your work and I will see if I can get you a meeting", which indeed he did, and for which I am grateful to this very day,
"Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how one views my subsequent career, Doreen said "I'm sorry, your work is very good indeed, but we are no longer publishing that kind of book, at least for the moment" but who, seeing the potential in my work, was then prompted to say "how are you on Science Fiction?".
To be totally truthful I'd never considered it (as a cover artist that is) but I'd always been interested in it in terms of movie and TV consumption, so I said so, and so it was that this first commission came about - entirely by chance, once I'd done the "tester" piece which, when I took it to show her, expecting a big analysis of what I'd created, she merely said "fine" which astonished me and then handed me the manuscript for the actual, real, first commission, for "A Castle of Bone."
"So, it wasn't "a plan", it was just a happy accident ! ! !
I went on to do a few more covers for her for children's books (and eventually my Fighting Fantasy works in the mid-80s) but then got tempted by publishers of adult Science Fiction, Panther and Mayflower Books and Futura Publications, both then situated in central London, the former in Golden Square and the latter in Poland Street in Soho, both just a few streets away from where I was studying at the time at St Martin's School of Art. Panther's office was just across the road from the end of Carnaby Street and Futura's was in a small room above a gigantic garage, the office being so small that if the art director wanted to ask the editor his view of my cover just presented I had to leave the room and stand in the corridor because there was only enough room for two people at any one time in the room! The companies grew and grew until they were gigantic corporations, gobbled-up by others en-route, but back then they were tiny affairs and every commission was a short verbal briefing and promise to return a month later with whichever covers I was given to do.
"The whole commissioning process, be it by Puffin, Panther or Futura, was an extremely simple affair punctuated now and then with a lunch treat from the art director on behalf of the company if I'd either sold a lot of books or if their was a need to discuss a "big book" that they were asking me to cover.
"A Castle of Bone was created on stretched cartridge paper (which is how we were taught at St Martins) and painted in Gouache, Oil paint and airbrush, the latter, on this piece, being my very first attempt at using it.
"There's an oft-quoted and common view that I used airbrush because of influence from Chris Foss's Science Fiction covers, but that is not accurate. The actual reason is I had been creating profile illustrations of aircraft for my degree portfolio (because I collected magazines and books on the subject and had done since a teenager who spent many years visiting airshows and also created paintings on the subject) and so when the Puffin job came up and I was, obviously, aware that this piece of equipment was to the fore in the SF genre, at least in the UK at that time, I just felt that the dark smoke in the painting would look good if I airbrushed it and it also seemed an ideal opportunity to test run the technique on an actual printed published item.
"Simple beginnings . . . . . . ."
"Peter Andrew Jones (edited by Deborah Susan Jones)