If you’ve been an avid reader of science fiction books during the seventies, eighties and nineties- then you would have noticed some of the book cover illustrations graced with the initials “PE”, standing for Peter Elson, who was one of the most talented in his field.
Peter’s illustrations took off after winning a competition for “Science Fiction Monthly”, with his illustration of “Fantastic Planet” published in the December 1975 edition. His career was helped with the Sarah Brown agency, headed by Carol Butfoy who marketed the talents of a number of science fiction illustrators.
We speak to Carol Butfoy as well as Peter’s sister Pam about Peter’s life and career as an artist, who has in turn inspired many sci-fi digital artists of today. The full interview will be published in the premium fifteenth edition of 3D Art Direct Magazine, to be published in the next few days.
3DAD : What are some of the techniques in the creative process that Peter used that you can bring to light?
CB: I don’t have any specific comments, other than Peter worked in gouache and air brush, with quite a lot of fine painting. He would cut a brush down to just a few hairs so that every little detail was perfect.
3DAD: What artwork pieces would you consider to be at the peak of Peter’s career and what satisfaction did Peter derive when at this point?
CB: When I tried to think about this I just came up with too long a list. The Early Williamson, Babel, The Outposter, Venus Plus X, Reach for the Stars, Nova 4, The Power of Blackness, Secret Harmonies, A Sense of Wonder, The Status Civilization. But many of his later works were fabulous creations in a different way. Icehenge, Cold Allies, When the God’s Slept, Freedom’s Challenge. The list goes on and on.
Many of the early classics were fortunately printed in Parallel Lines, the book that showed both Peter’s and Chris Moore’s work together. Fortunately you can still get hold of copies on the internet. Peter was really happy with his success. It was work he was born to. But there are no royalties for cover arts, or very rarely. You live from job to job. That can be a great worry.