Friday 10 December 2021

Chris Achilleos (1947-2021)

We were very sorry to hear the terrible news that renowned fantasy artist Chris Achilleos passed away after a short illness on Monday afternoon.

Ian Livingstone posted this tweet in response to the announcement:

For many young fans in the 1980s, the cover of Temple of Terror was their first introduction to the work of the legendary artist, although he had already painted the cover for Space Assassin, and would go on to produce others for the series, including Armies of Death and the seminal background lore books, Out of the Pit and Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World. His painting appears in The Fighting Fantasy Poster Book an unprecedented four times!

Chris (full name 'Christos') was interviewed about his work for YOU ARE THE HERO - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, and even provided the cover for the second volume. This was what he had to said about the creation of the cover painting for Temple of Terror:

“I was dealing with Ian and he called me and said, ‘I’m going to leave it to you to design me the creature for this new book I’m writing. I’m going to tell you the scene and you come up with the creature, because you probably don’t need guidance on this from someone like me.’ And I said, ‘That sounds great, yeah. Then you can describe it from my painting.’

“It was a guardian of this gate and it was a desert scene – a city half buried under sand – so I designed this creature that lies in wait, buried under the sand... It was something I’d seen in a wildlife programme, these desert snakes that hide in the sand and just have their eyes out and then they pounce on you. So I imagined the same creature sort of lying in wait for someone to try and pass the gate. I drew that and he was delighted with it. In fact he bought the original from me.”

This trust that the writer had in the artist, also resulted in Chris producing one of the most recognisable cover paintings in British fantasy gaming, that of Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World:

“With that Ian said, ‘Just draw a dragon picture, Chris,’ and then left it to me. So I had to consider first of all that’s it a double spread… and then come up with something. When you don’t get a manuscript or a story that already describes what you need to do, when you’re left to yourself, you tend to go round in circles with many ideas and not focusing on one, not knowing quite what to do. Time flies and you’re still wondering which way to go.

“In this case, this was what was going on. I felt like, I’ve got to stop here; it’s not working. So I made up a story in my head about a shape-shifting wizard, who is attacking this city, in the form of this giant dragon, being held back. He’s destroyed the army that you can see… The drawbridge is down, he’s holding onto one of the chains – the other one’s already been broken – and the rest of the bridge is broken and down… The best of the knights have been killed. In desperation the baron comes out with his magicians, or druids or priests, to do magic with the dragon – not to hold him, not to destroy him, but to turn him back into human form and conquer him.

“The clue I put in there that the dragon is not just an animal – it’s a shape-shifting being, a super-being if you like, a magician – is that I put earrings and bracelets on him. That’s what that’s saying. That’s also why it’s called ‘Dragon Spell’. They’re putting a spell on him and trying and revert him back to a human being so they can defeat him. The question in that picture is, will he turn back to human or will he just snap out of it and literally bite the heads off them? That’s what the picture’s saying. People either see that consciously or unconsciously.”

Chris also had the honour of providing the cover art for the first Fighting Fantasy novel, Steve Jackson's The Trolltooth Wars:

“I was given the outline of the story and it was left up to me. I quite liked the concept of an orc fighting off a disgusting skeleton.”

Fans will be deeply saddened by the passing of a great artist and a fine man, but Chris leaves behind an immense body of work that has adorned everything from Doctor Who novels to Whitesnake album covers, as well as FF gamebooks. But certainly, the worlds of Fighting Fantasy would be diminished without Chris's contributions, and our thoughts remain with his friends and family at this difficult time.

In memory of
Chris Achilleos

No comments:

Post a Comment