Wednesday, January 21, 2015


by Patrick Woodroffe

Patrick Woodroffe passed away last May, at the age of 73. During the 70s and 80s, Woodroffe was a familiar figure to sf fans, as his distinctive artwork was used on the covers of many Pan Books paperbacks in the UK, as well as for a number of publishers in the US.

Back in the late 70s, there were few trade paperback or hardbound books devoted to SF or fantasy art on the store shelves, a situation quite different from things nowadays, where the SF section of Barnes and Noble has a healthy selection of these kinds of books.

So ‘Mythopoeikon’, with its arresting blue-green cover, certainly stood out on the shelves when I saw it at my local Waldenbooks in 1978.

'Mythopoeikon' (155 pp., Paper Tiger, 1976) showcased Woodroffe's commercial art for book covers and album covers, and also his studio artworks and mixed-media pieces. 

Woodroffe, who was self-taught, was not as adept at drawing human figures as, say, Boris Vallejo, nor as adept at drawing spacecraft or other hi-tech subjects as Chris Foss or Angus McKie. But in terms of coming up with imaginative and eye-catching designs and compositions, he was quite skilled and innovative; witness his distinctive image of floating smiles for the cover of the George R. R. Martin book ‘A Song for Lya’.

Woodroffe used a variety of media to produce the works presented in Mythopoeikon, including oil, gouache, crayon, and something he called ‘marbling’. I’m sure that considerable time and effort went into creating such intricate designs, particularly in the era before Photoshop made it much more feasible for artists to incorporate these features as digital effects.

'Mythopoeikon', along with a number of other books of his artwork issued over the past few years, can be obtained for reasonable prices from your usual online vendors.

Don't be surprised if you find yourself moved to purchase an sf or fantasy or horror novel because its Woodroffe cover is eye-catching and intriguing - it's a measure of how skilled he was as an illustrator of this genre.


Russ said...

Some of his work reminds me of Durer. I bought this book when it came out because, as you say, it was uncommon to find this sort of stuff. In the 80s he came out with A Closer Look, which had what he'd done since Mythopoeikon and the careful documentation of his working methods, including pictures of him at work in the kind of art studio everyone would love to have. Meticulous, eccentric and inspirational.


Thanks again for posting these amazing artists and their beautiful work