We talk to the Greek artist who made his name painting fantasy glamour…
Next month Heather Theurer
Frank Frazetta’s work showed me it was possible for me to work as a fantasy artist Over the past 40 years, Chris has created some of the best-loved fantasy and glamour art, and is acknowledged as one of the top fantasy artists in the world. Find out more at www.chrisachilleos.co.uk.
Where did you grow up, and when did you realise you had a talent for art? I was born in Cyprus and lived with my mother, grandmother and three sisters. My father died when I was five. In 1960 my mother made the decision to bring us all to London. I was 12 years old.
Throughout my childhood, I was always aware that I was quite capable and inventive. I was very good at making things. Yet I only became conscious of my ability to draw when I found myself more or less housebound in an upstairs flat in London. I escaped by losing myself in comics like The Eagle, where I would spend hours copying the wonderful illustrations within them.
What was your big break?
I don’t know if I had a big break as such. I have stages in my working life where opportunities helped to move things along. For instance, when I was commissioned for my first book cover; when I had my work collected and published as a book; and when my work appeared on sets of trading cards.
How did fantasy get on your radar?
Fantasy in Greek means imagining or imagination. That’s something that I seem to be blessed with. Early in my career, I was using my talents to work and provide for my young family, taking all commissions that came my way. At around the mid-1970s I made the brave decision to drop all other work and concentrate on only accepting commissions of the fantasy genre.
Did anyone help you in your art journey?
Certainly. The first was my school teacher, Mr Hue Gordon. He made me aware of my talent and enthusiasm for drawing and painting, but more than that, he arranged for me to go to art college. The other was the master, Frank Frazetta. He helped me by showing me through his amazing work that it was possible for me to work as a fantasy artist.
How has your art style evolved over the years?
In the early days upon leaving college and starting to work, I would use gouache for painting and inks for air brushing. Later on I used watercolours on paper and acrylics on illustration board. Nowadays, I mostly use oils on board or canvas, unless the subject or commission demands one of my other techniques.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far? Any low points?
There have been a fair few highs: I guess when my first book, Beauty and the Beast, was published in 1977. Furthermore, when F.P.G. (Friedlander Publishing Group) published my artwork as trading card sets and when I saw my paintings turned into figurines. Low points include the early 1980s, and when I had to take legal action against my own publisher.
To date, what’s been your most challenging commission?
I guess that has been when I was hired to work on films as a conceptual artist. I’m not talking about the actual work, but rather when I had to deal with some of the people in the industry. At times, this presented quite a challenge.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Ha – I wouldn’t dare! Looking back at him, I’m amazed at that young man and how he managed to do so much work, meeting deadline after deadline and at the same time providing for his young family. Gratitude and respect, young Chris.
How would you sum up your work, in under 10 words?
You know, I’m not sure how to answer this! I’ll leave this one up to the Imagine FX readers.
DRAGON ATTACK “My latest personal piece, which was realised from a sketch done in the 1970s.”
ELVEN WARRIOR “This was the most detailed work that I’ve ever done for a book cover. It was inspired by Michael Moorcock’s fantasy works of the elvish hero Elric and his world.”