Serendipity is a funny thing. It was when I was looking for some biographical details about the British filmmaker Clive Barker known for his bloody
Between 1866 and 1868, the sublime Meiji artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) created a set of very disturbed and disquieting designs. The most sadistic of these bloody pictures ( muzan-e ) are to be found in a..
horror classic Hellraiser, that I came across the impressive work of Les Edwards who, among other things, designed the UK film poster for Clive Barker’s Nightbreed (1990) and his graphic novel ‘Son of Celluloid” (1991 – Fig.17a).
Fig.1. ‘Blood and Iron; The Goblin’s Grin‘ (1981) © Les Edwards
Strange and the Bizarre
In his 40 year career span as a professional illustrator Edwards primarily worked in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres, and has provided numerous illustrations for book jackets, film posters (among others John Carpenter’s The Thing), magazines, and record covers (like Metallica’s Jump in the Fire – Fig.3 and The Prodigy’s Music For the Jilted Generation – Fig.2) and games (like Heroquest).
Fig.2. Inlay for the Prodigy album ‘Music for the Jilted Generation ‘ (1994) (Source: Twitter)
Fig.3. Cover for Metallica’s album ‘Jump in the Fire‘ (1984) (thevisualartofmetal.tumblr.com)
Noddy and Other Influences
His fascination for the strange and the bizarre
Besides being unpredictable and turbulent, 2022 is also the year of the fiftieth anniversary of the Bizarre Sex magazine, launched by Denis Kitchen in 1972 and issued until 1982. Once you’ve stumbled across the..
has been present since early childhood when his mother read to him from the Noddy Toyland Stories, and the mischievous goblins (Fig.1) appealed to him most. Edwards grew up in East Ham, London where he was surrounded by the best art galleries in the world. This is were he developed among other things a great appreciation for Victorian art. In an interview with We Are the Mutants, he explains, ‘I think it was a tι̇ɱe when figurative painting was brought to a very high level and that’s the attraction for me. I can forgive the sometι̇ɱes mawkish sentι̇ɱentality; it just seems quaint from this distance, and there’s a good deal of pomposity and self-regard in art of that period. But if you want to paint realistically, the Victorians are the people to look at.’ In recent years Edwards has taken to painting under the pseudonym “Edward Miller” in order to do a different kind of work and use a more roɱantic style. Other influences are the Gerɱan Roɱantic landscape painter Caspar David Freidrich and the American portrait painter John Singer Sargent.
Lawrence of Arabι̇a
In the interview mentioned above, he points out that cinema is probably the biggest influence of all, ‘right back to the early movie serials and naïve SF films like Conquest of Space, which my dad took me to see when I was about five. My favorite films do tend to be epic: Lawrence of Arabι̇a, 2001, although I’d have to include Psycho, which is not epic but quite claustrophobic. It could be a very long list.’
Fig.4. ‘Creature of Havoc‘ (2002) © Les Edwards
Fig.5. ‘The Street Party‘ (2022) © Les Edwards
Edwards’ paintings are known for their excellent formal composition. He starts with a central figure and decides where it’s going on the page. Then he builds the picture around it, adding elements or removing them until he gets the effect he wants.
Although most of the assignments the much-sought after illustrator receives are related to the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres, he considers his adult work as a guilty pleasure. In the interview with We Are the Mutants he indicates, ‘I often think that it’s an area I’d like to revisit but I think creating something which is genuinely erotic would be the aim and that’s very difficult. I’ve done erotic comics
Again, a great tip from Jeff Faerber who drew my attention to the well-drawn erotic comic strip I Roved Out in Search of Truth and Love (2018) by Alexis Flower, who is responsible for both text and artwork…
in the past and that was interesting but very hard work. I frequently think that I’d have fun with a purely erotic painting but I feel I need the permission of actually being commissioned.’
Below a selection of this risky
The risky pictures in shunga , also called abuna-e , were one of the specialties of the multi-talented Japanese artist Keisai Eisen (1790-1848). These kind of images are characterized by a more evocative atmosphere..
work that was done mainly for Men Only Magazine….
Fig.6. ‘The Visitor‘ (1990) © Les Edwards
One of three vampire paintings for a private client. This was the middle painting and is Edwards’ favorite of the three. (see also Fig.11 and 13). The unfortunate, reclining ɱan strongly resembles the actor Val Kilmer.
Fig.7 ‘Outback’ (1977) © Les Edwards
An early oil painting, done for Men Only magazine in 1977. On his site Edwards mentions that at the tι̇ɱe he made it the illustrator John Holmes was very popular and probably influenced him..
Fig.8. ‘Nuclear Attack‘ (1982) © Les Edwards
Like the previous one, this painting was done for the magazine Men Only although the artist can’t recall what the accompanying article was about.
Fig.9. ‘Saints Sinners and Sex
Betty Dodson (born 1929) was trained as a fine artist in the 1950s, and in 1968 had her first show of erotic art at the Wickersham Gallery in New York City. In the 1970s, she quitted her art career and began studying..
‘ (1975) © Les Edwards
The illustration suggests something to do with the authoritarian suppression of sex and, in those days, the article would certainly have been complaining about censorship. It may seem like along tι̇ɱe ago but those repressive forces are still around.
Fig.10. ‘Dracula a Sexual Obsession‘ (1974) © Les Edwards
Painted for Men Only in 1974. It was for an article by Daniel Farson called “The Cult of Dracula“. Depicting Christopher Lee as Dracula in his famous look including dark brown irises with veined sclera that makes the eyes look red and angry.
Fig.11. ‘The Vampire Lover‘ (1990) © Les Edwards
Private commission from a set of three erotic vampire paintings (see also Fig.6 and 13). The paintings hung in the client’s bedroom and made an impressive display.
Fig.12. ‘The Hermit’s Remedy‘ (1978) © Les Edwards
Fig.13. ‘The Vampire Ball’(2000) © Les Edwards
This is the last of three erotic vampire pictures Edwards did as a private commission. This piece was the most ambitious of the three and includes characters from the first two. The artist likes the story being told here but prefers the intι̇ɱacy of the first two pictures. More is not always better.
Fig.13a. Detail left side
Fig.13b. Detail right side
Fig.14. ‘Isle of the Torturers‘ (2020) © Les Edwards
Fig.15. ‘The Priestess‘ (1987)
Personal piece done specifically for the 1987 World Science Fiction Convention. Used as the book cover for The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker published by Carroll & Graf in 1989. Also used by Heavy Metal magazine as part of their 1995 calendar.
Fig.16. ‘The Invocation‘ (2008) © Les Edwards
Fig.17. Painting used for the cover of Clive Barkers graphic novel “Son of Celluloid” (1991)
Fig.17a. Book cover ‘Son of Celluloid ‘
Fig.18. ”Tarzan in the Lost City‘ (2013) © Les Edwards
This famous scene from Tarzan in the Lost City was a private commission for a fan of Edgar Rice
In the Edo period, one of the driving forces of the economy was the rice production. Rice planting happened (and still happens) in the spring, cultivation in the summer, and harvest in the fall. The Japanese style of..
Burroughs. The painting is very rich in contrast to Edward’s usual, rather subdued, palette.
Fig.19. ‘Chastity is an Endless Belt‘ (1978) © Les Edwards
Assignment from Men Only. Fairly early oil painting and painted quite thinly. At that tι̇ɱe, Edwards had just switched from using Designer’s Gouache and was still experimenting with technique..
Fig.20. ‘Change Partners and Dance ‘ (1978) © Les Edwards
Fig.21. ‘The Power of the Moon‘ (1975) © Les Edwards
Fig.22. ‘The House of E ‘ (1970s) © Les Edwards
Fig.23. ‘To Be or Not to Be…Promiscuous ‘ (1975) © Les Edwards
Fig.24. ‘Fetishism, the Fears of the Obsessed ‘ (1974) © Les Edwards
This is most probably the first illustration Edwards ever produced for Men Only Magazine and he remembers getting the idea for the painting while he was riding on the London Underground.
Fig.25. ‘It’s Been a Business Doing Pleasure with You ‘ (1980) © Les Edwards
The painter himself considers this piece as one of the best he produced at that tι̇ɱe. Made for Men Only Magazine for an article on the growing sex toy industry.
Fig.26. ‘Promiscuity ‘ (1975) © Les Edwards
Fig.27. ‘Magdalena‘ (2022) © Les Edwards
The model here took pride in holding the most challenging poses during Life Class. Edwards was impressed by her and never felt he’d done her justice.. In this painting she’s depicted quite relaxed.
Fig.28. ‘Palm Up‘ (2022) © Les Edwards
Normally the models
Helmut Newton (1920-2004) was a Gerɱan-Australian photographer whose works appeared in lots of fashion magazines, like Vogue , French Vogue , Marie-Claire , Elle , and Playboy . Newton made numerous nude photographs..
at the life class Edwards attends are women so the occasions they had a male model made a nice change. On his site, he mentions, ‘In painting women I find I have to overcome my tendency to flatter them and sometι̇ɱes go too far in the opposite direction.’
Fig.29. Drawing ‘Pale‘ (2022) © Les Edwards
A life drawing in pastels; a medium which the artist uses very rarely.
Fig.30. ‘Sex and the Black Widow ‘ (1976) © Les Edwards
Painted for Men Only Magazine in 1976. This was quite a popular illustration and generated a few letters of appreciation to the magazine.
Fig.30a.Fig.31. ‘Devil’s Rock: Well Hung‘ (1981) © Les Edwards
One of two drawings contributed to Paul Campion’s film The Devil’s Rock.