Our last two ON THE COVER artists have largely worked with space and violent action for their cassette covers. GODFREY DOWSON, the man behind Level 9’s posters and covers, is different in style and temperament. Like Steinar Lund, he has also done a commission for the old Imagine, but unlike Steinar Godfrey was a little less lucky...
Another innocent party who suffered from the demise of Imagine comes into our office. Will it never end?
Godfrey Dowson started his software illustrating career with a painting called ‘Mega Vault’, which was commissioned by Imagine, never used and never paid for.
A self-taught artist, who used to be an engineer working with gas turbines in Lincoln of all things, Godfrey moved to Wales in 1976 and spent a few years in a cottage overlooking a lake, completing his portfolio. Then he launched himself into the world as a freelance illustrator and followed his interest in fantasy and knowledge of magic by completely redesigning a deck of Tarot cards. Work for the Aquarian press followed, and then Granada books commissioned some of his work.
Fortunately, he wasn’t put off working for the software industry by his experience with Imagine, and began work for Pete Austin of Level 9, starting with artwork for Red Moon. Godfrey has now completed around ten titles for Level 9 and has almost become their in-house freelance.
Working in inks and gouache, using an airbrush and then over-painting with a brush, Godfrey spends three or four weeks working on a painting after producing a rough in a couple of days from his client’s original brief. He takes pleasure in researching his pictures — visiting an aircraft museum to sketch a B52 for instance, which then appeared on the seabed in one of his illustrations!
Godfrey’s first love is fantasy and his career began with science fiction and magic illustrations. He enjoys placing objects in unusual settings — a grandfather clock appears in a primeval swamp in his artwork for Level 9’s Lords of Time for instance.
This year three specialist computer books have been published with intricate geometrical pieces painted by Godfrey on the covers: — Filing Systems and Databases for the Amstrad; Microcomputer Puzzles; and Working with MSX Basic. His work has also included some ‘Romantic’ illustrations for a Swedish publishing house, and work for a book published in Germany which is used as a text-book for teaching English.
Godfrey lives in an Elizabethan manor house on the Welsh border with his wife and a bevy of cats, making occasional excursions to London to see art directors, agents and other people essential to the freelance illustrator, and generally catching up on developments in the illustrating world. He is grateful to be able to return to the peace and quiet of his home to work after these forays however.
‘The high point of my career so far,’ Godfrey told us, ‘came when one of my illustrations was selected by the judges of the Benson and Hedges Gold Awards. My picture, on the theme of time, was one of the fifty illustrations chosen from some six hundred submissions and is now part of a touring exhibition.’ Not surprisingly, Godfrey smokes B&H!
‘I don’t like too much of the same kind of work,’ he says, ‘I like to be able to chop and change a bit.’ Godfrey had better keep on his work for Level 9, or he’ll be in trouble with the team behind ZZAP! 64, our other organ. When Chris Anderson, ZZAP! Supremo, learnt that we were interviewing Level 9’s artist, he was quite jealous. Apparently the ZZAP! office walls are covered with Godfrey’s posters... and they simply can’t afford to commission a Godfrey Dowson original — ZZAP! hasn’t even got a tea kitty (Tea Hee!).