Chris Achilléos

We talk to the Greek artist who made his name paint­ing fan­tasy glam­our…

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Contents - Chris Achilléos

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.”

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