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Les Edwards Interview January 2022

PostPosted: Sunday January 16th, 2022 11:24am
by Harjie
Hi all

With HeroQuest relaunched, I contacted Les Edwards, original illustrator of the cover art for HQ and expansion sets, to see if he'd answer some questions about his work and the art he painted for Heroquest.

Shown below are his responses.

This Forum post includes a bonus question (No.17) that wasn't previously included when I first posted this interview on Facebook :)

Enjoy!!

1. What is your art background, where did you study and is there something from your studies that you found useful later in your career?

I studied Graphic Design at Hornsey College of Art which no longer exists. Most of the practical things I was taught, such as manual typesetting and what was known as "paste up " have long been made redundant by the coming of the computer.

Probably the most important thing I got from art school was being able to try out different areas such as film or photography before finally deciding I wanted to be an illustrator.

2. How did your involvement start with being selected to do the box cover art for the original 1989 HeroQuest game?

At that time, I had an agent and all my work came through them. I'd been doing some work for Games Workshop and had been painting some book covers for Conan the Barbarian paperbacks, so I suppose I was the "go-to" person for a sort of combination of the two.

There were other illustrators at the agency who could have handled the job equally, Jim Burns and Terry Oakes come to mind, but luckily it came my way.

3. What was your initial reaction at being offered to do the Heroquest art? Was it a project that appealed to you immediately?

It seemed like a very interesting job although a bit daunting as it looked like it could turn into a more elaborate painting than usual.

I was familiar with all the subject matter from previous work so I felt I could handle it reasonably well. I knew it would be hard work. It was probably the most ambitious painting I'd attempted up until then.

4. How detailed was the brief for the original HeroQuest box cover art and subsequent expansion sets? Did MB Games discuss what they wanted with you in detail, or was you given a general direction as to what was required?

There was quite a lot of discussion with the games company although I can't recall the details. My memory is that they were quite "hands on " and I feel they were a bit nervous about the whole thing.

It might have been something of a new departure for them. I do remember they were anxious to have all the characters in the box represented in the painting, which is understandable, but It obviously made for a more complicated composition. My default position from a design point of view is to keep things simple.

5. How did you go about starting work on the HeroQuest art pieces? What techniques did you use, did you create one or more prelim pieces, how many draft pieces did you experiment with before working on the final version?

I knew from the start that I wanted the Barbarian to dominate in the first one so it was a case of deciding on his pose initially.

I did a bunch of little thumbnail scribbles as I usually would for this sort of thing. Then it was a case of photographing the pose so that I had something concrete to use as reference.

The Barbarian is actually me waving a snooker cue about. I don't remember if I was using a Polaroid camera or shot it on 35 mm film.

Once the Barbarian was decided on then I went through a similar process for the other figures once I'd figured out where they were going to fit into the design. I'd already decided on the dungeon setting.

6. What were the timescales like to do the original box cover art, and the subsequent expansions? How long did it take to do each art piece and did you feel under pressure to produce the art quickly?

I don't remember how long it took to paint each one. I probably had a couple of weeks for each, but naturally I would have liked more time. You're always under time pressure as an illustrator and the next job is always looming.

7. Of all the art pieces you did for HeroQuest, is there one that’s a favourite and could say why it’s your favourite?

The one I like most is Return of the Witch Lord. I think the composition is very strong whereas I always felt that the composition on the original box was a bit forced because I wasn't used to working in landscape format and there was so much to cram in.

I think Witch Lord works very well from a design perspective and has plenty of drama. I imagine I was probably feeling a bit more confident.

8. Do you recall any particular struggle working on the HeroQuest pieces or did you find the process straight-forward and seamless?

The initial Game Box was the biggest struggle. It was partly the composition and trying to find a balance between the dominant figure of the Barbarian and the other characters.

I was determined that the Barbarian should be front and centre and be very dramatic. I think the games company had originally wanted a more general view with less concentration on one figure.

All the miniatures had already been designed and so I didn't have much leeway with the way they looked. I wanted them to look fairly realistic with some sense of animation but couldn't diverge too much from the miniatures.

I didn't want someone to open the box for the first time and find that the box art completely misrepresented the contents.

I found the Orcs particularly trying in this regard as I felt that the Orcs in the box were a bit cartoony. That's fine for table-top miniatures and no disrespect to the original sculptors but in a painting you want to give an illusion of reality.

It was with the Orcs that I took the most liberties in the end and they were the characters that gave me the most trouble.

9. Do you recall who designed the HeroQuest game logo, was that something you was involved in or was that dealt with separately by MB Games?

I don't know who designed the logo. I wasn't involved in that.

10. What artists have inspired you in your career?

There are too many to list, but the one artist I always mention is Frank Bellamy. He drew a comic strip in The Eagle called Heros the Spartan. The Eagle was the comic of choice when I was a kid and although it featured the famous Dan Dare it was Heros that was the main attraction for me.

11. For you, what has been the biggest challenge of being an artist?

Surviving. Sometimes I can't believe that it's nearly 50 years since I left art school and I'm still painting.
Officially I'm retired from illustration but I still occasionally take on commissions if they're interesting.

12. Of all the genres you illustrate, is there a genre that appeals to you more than the others?

I usually refer to Horror as my spiritual home but really I'm happy if there's an element of weirdness in what I'm doing.

When we moved to Brighton some years ago I thought I'd be painting seascapes and deckchairs on the Pier but I'm not content unless I can put in a zombie or a Lovecraftian Deep One shambling along the beach.

13. In your career to date, what has been a seminal experience?

There was a time when I thought I would move from traditional materials to working digitally. I tried it out and thought deeply about it but I discovered that for some reason it wasn't satisfying.

I wasn't very happy just pushing pixels around. It turned out that it was the actual process of painting which is important to me. So I suppose I found out that, although it's a cliche, the journey is more important than the destination.

14. Would you say your art style changed over time, and if so, how?

I'm sure everyone's style evolves over time because you're always experimenting to some extent. I'd be hard put to point to any one thing that has changed although at the moment I'm consciously experimenting with colour as I've always felt that I have too much of a tendency towards a monochromatic palette.

15. What are the most recent projects you worked on and is there a project you’re working on at the moment?

As I said I'm largely retired from illustration but I've been taking on interesting commissions some of which have been related to gaming.

Also there has been some film portrait work and for my own amusement I've been trawling the work of Clark Ashton Smith as a source of inspiration. That's led to a couple of nice things

16. In terms of art, what has been the best advice you’ve been given?

My first agent, John Spencer, made me aware that it's important to give yourself time off. If you work as a freelance it's all too easy to get sucked into the trap of just working all the time. You have to give yourself a break.

17. Who now has the physical originals of the art pieces you did; do you still have them or they are with Hasbro, or whoever was the CEO of MB Games?

Hasbro (the company) own the physical original artworks for all the Heroquest images. As far as I know, they are still in their collection
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Re: Les Edwards Interview January 2022

PostPosted: Sunday January 16th, 2022 12:07pm
by lestodante
Harjie wrote:I didn't want someone to open the box for the first time and find that the box art completely misrepresented the contents.

exactly what happened with the Advanced HeroQuest game from GW and probably one of the causes of its half-failure in my opinion... :cry:

Re: Les Edwards Interview January 2022

PostPosted: Sunday January 16th, 2022 1:17pm
by Kurgan
Thanks for posting!

Re: Les Edwards Interview January 2022

PostPosted: Sunday January 16th, 2022 2:08pm
by HispaZargon
Very good post, Harjie! It's really interesting to see how Edwards was involved in the HQ art creation and how he made the cover, using photography and so on... I did not know he only had around two weeks to complete the box art...

Thank you so much!

Re: Les Edwards Interview January 2022

PostPosted: Sunday January 16th, 2022 3:28pm
by Anderas
I have seen that posting in Facebook and pinned it. Thanks a lot to you!

Re: Les Edwards Interview January 2022

PostPosted: Sunday January 16th, 2022 6:30pm
by lestodante
you forgot the main question... who owns the the original artwork so we may consider to assault his home and stole the artwork?

Re: Les Edwards Interview January 2022

PostPosted: Monday January 17th, 2022 11:05am
by cornixt
I can now imagine stumbling upon a man at the beach painting a fantastic seascape, with everything in sight being rendered perfectly, except for the scary demon crawling its way out of the sea.

Re: Les Edwards Interview January 2022

PostPosted: Tuesday January 18th, 2022 9:48am
by FainFlynn
This is awesome thank you for posting!

Re: Les Edwards Interview January 2022

PostPosted: Tuesday January 18th, 2022 9:52am
by Kurgan
lestodante wrote:you forgot the main question... who owns the the original artwork so we may consider to assault his home and stole the artwork?


The above was satire.

Re: Les Edwards Interview January 2022

PostPosted: Thursday January 20th, 2022 6:50pm
by Harjie
lestodante wrote:you forgot the main question... who owns the the original artwork so we may consider to assault his home and stole the artwork?


Good question!

From what I recall from memory from my meeting with Les, is that the original art pieces are "probably stored away in the home of the Chief Executive of MB Games"