We talk to Bob Eggleton.
What do you think people’s first impression is of you?
Some see me as just the Godzilla Guy. Others view me as an overgrown hippie. I see myself as an outsider. I don’t go along with a lot of the trends in illustration. I just paint what I can have fun with.
Who are the artists that inspire you?
It’s a toss-up between JMW Turner, John Martin or Gustave Doré. They did fantasy art before it was called that. That’s not to say I don’t admire great artists now, but my first inspirations are those guys.
Do you have a painting ritual?
I start everything differently. Art is always evolving, and experimentation needs to be encouraged just to keep it from becoming bland.
What did it feel like when you first saw your art published in a book?
It was pretty cool. I approached Paper Tiger in 1994 or 95. I’d won a Hugo and figured this was the time. It was all quite easy. I did several books with Paper Tiger, and they sold really well. And the best royalty out of my first book was that I met my wife. She bought the book Alien Horizons in Australia and wrote to me. Next thing I knew, I was jetting down to see her and well, here we are!
How did you feel when you first won the Hugo Award in 1994 for best artist (and then a further seven times!)?
I didn’t expect to win. Then I got this frantic call late from a friend screaming,
Between ages six and eight I devoured those Walter Foster ‘How to draw’ books
“You won!” So I flew there on short notice to pick it up the next day. These days it’s all different, but back then they used mail and paper ballots. The work was seen on covers in bookstores and such. There were no internet sites. Now, people actually campaign for the award.
When did you first realise that you wanted to be an artist?
When I was four. My dad showed me how to draw pictures, perspective and things like that. Between ages six and eight I devoured those Walter Foster ‘How to draw’ books. I drew a lot in school and collected comics, and I knew then I wanted to do art for a living. I went to an art school for 18 months and it was a fiasco. The focus was on 1970s modern art and when you mentioned names like Frazetta you were laughed at.
Who was your first artistic crush?
Because my mother was British we went over to England a lot. I can never forget seeing these amazing Bruce Pennington covers on the old Pan Science Fiction line of books. Bruce really set me alight. The thrill was this past November I got to meet the man himself at the Brighton World Fantasy Con.
Do you remember the first image that you thought you’d nailed it?
I sold my first professional sale when I was 15. I painted an English landscape in the Cotswolds for a family friend and they paid me well. My first sci-fi painting [below left] was inspired by a lot of British sci-fi artists of the day. It’s dodgy looking, but it was also my first cover image for a German publisher in the early 1980s.
What was the first bit of praise you received that spurred you on?
It came when I got to meet an artist named Eric Ladd, who made something of a name for himself around 1978. Eric told me to start “really painting” and do this stuff. He loved what I did. Then I went to the World SF Con in Boston in 1980, put up some drawings I did for fun, and won Best Amateur Artist.
And first knock back?
Back in 1979 a professor of modern art told me I had no talent and I should do something else. It drove me into a deep depression because I had this silly idea that to be any kind of artist I had to go to art school. He was one of the reasons why I left school.
What was the last thing you painted, and were you happy with it?
I am, at this point, pretty happy with my work, relative to what it is. If it suits the job and the client is happy that makes me happy. I have gotten more into fantasy and that makes me pretty happy.
dragon’s ring “This piece from 2009 is a benchmark painting of the way I love creating art.”
Escape from the rim “This piece was my first science fiction painting. Until this painting I primarily worked in ink and pencil.”