Forgotten Sword and Sorcery Artists: The Worst for Last

Sunday , 5, November 2017 15 Comments

Invariably in any artistic field, there is some awesomely bad art or music that has you scratching your head and thinking “What the …?”

The last entry in the Forgotten Sword and Sorcery Artists series is Patrick Woodroffe (1940-2014).

There is a website for him with this biographical information:

“Born in Halifax, Yorkshire, U.K. 1940. World War II was already giving my parents nightmares, reality just as stressful, but I was too young to be aware of it, my dreams already in bright colours. My mother tongue is English, but there are web-site texts in French and German because I had a language degree at Leeds University in 1964. I was taught neither painting nor writing, and although I worked as a schoolmaster for eight years, my paintbrush and my typewriter already active, I became a professional creator of Text & Images in 1972.”

Woodroffe’s main period of paperback book cover art was from 1973 to 1977. He seems to have faded out from English speaking publications but has some sporadic German work in the 1980s and 90s.

His art looks more like psychedelic era rock concert posters than for paperbacks. He did covers for several Michael Moorcock books at this time. The Ice Schooner is awesomely bad.

What’s the deal with the cover for Poul Anderson’s classic The Broken Sword?

A friend of mine and frequent commenter here lets loose a torrent of profanity when Woodroffe’s cover for A. Merritt’s Dwellers in the Mirage is mentioned.

Sit back and enjoy the awesome awfulness of Patrick Woodroffe’s art. His style would have been appropriate for a Syd Barrett concert poster (or Julian Cope later on) but it is totally inappropriate for sword and sorcery.

This is the last in the Forgotten Sword and Sorcery Artist series. It will transform into the not so forgotten Sword and Sorcery Artists series.

The last month or so when I posted links to these posts on social media, I got grumpy responses that “So and so is not forgotten.”

I hate to break it but they are. I don’t see Roy Krenkel or Virgil Finlay art being used for new books. Editors at the big publishers and art directors are not going to have a clue. Ask a supposed science fiction/fantasy fan under age 45 at a convention about Ken Barr. You are going to get a blank stare. There is an anger triggered when pathological nostalgia is challenged. I was accused of poor scholarship because two of Wally Wood’s sword and sorcery comic strips were available online. That is missing the point. A fan might have this stuff on some website but the gatekeepers have no memory over 15 years.

Twenty-five years ago, there was a bunch of card sets of some of these artists. I have Ken Barr, Jeff Jones, and even a Weird Tales set. Paper Tiger did a fair number of art books in the late 1980s. The last real book containing these artists was Randy Broecker’s Fantasy of the 20th Century: An Illustrated History. That was in 2001! All these artists are memory holed. If you want their art, you are going to have to find the books used.

15 Comments
  • Mr Tines says:

    >His art looks more like psychedelic era rock concert posters

    That may be because Woodroffe was a fairly prolific artist for album covers the prog-rock era of the early ’70s; his book jacket art was a small sideline by comparison.

  • Xaver Basora says:

    Yeah, it’s that ugly 70’s vibe that I hate. Especially, the ‘edgy” adult oriented comic. They’re ugly and and have aged very badly.
    xavier

  • jic says:

    “The last entry in the Forgotten Sword and Sorcery Artists series is Patrick Woodroffe (1940-1914).”

    Sure, his art is awful, but you kind of just glossed over the whole time travel thing.

  • deuce says:

    I can forgive cover art that is excellent but not true to the contents. Jeffrey Jones pulled that move fairly often. I can somewhat forgive cover art that is highly accurate but mediocre. When a cover artist paints substandard psychedelic covers — and I’m a fan of some psychedelic art — while only handwaving in the general direction of the actual books contents? Well, there’s a special place in Hell for them.

    Woodroffe would burn just for that DWELLERS IN THE MIRAGE cover. The novel is a classic and he put me off buying it for 20 years.

  • Dave Hardy says:

    You’d think Moorcock would have been well served by an artist who’s vision was as bizarre as the author’s. Errr, no, as it happens not so much.

  • Jim Barron says:

    Let’s mention another least fav fantasy artist – Marcus Boas…

  • D.M. Ritzlin says:

    “All these artists are memory holed. If you want their art, you are going to have to find the books used.”

    Just like the authors.

    I started reading “The Seedbearers” last night. Thankfully I have the one with the Ken Barr cover.

  • William Mott says:

    I hate to say it, but the “last entry” should be Marcus Boas. His work for Donald M. Grant was atrocious, which is to say, absolutely horrible in every regard. He is probably the most unprofessional “artist” to have ever been hired as an illustrator or cover artist.

  • Another great post, thanks!

  • Ben says:

    Ahem – “Pentateuch of the cosmogony” awesome prog album. Just YouTube it, you don’t need to be scalped for $100+ Look up the art-book he did for it. Repub’d as “The Second Earth: The Pentateuch Re-told” and very affordable. Might not be everyone’s cup of Joe, but awesome.

    Chances are, you’ve heard some of the songs like “Forest” in the background somewhere along the line.

  • Paul says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I like his stuff, but that’s probably because I read a lot of his editions when I was young, and they are burnt into my receptors as being The Definitive Art for those books. His edition of The Broken Sword is still on my shelf, along with Three Hearts and Three Lions.

    I’ve never read any Merritt so have no idea if that creature appears in the book, but what’s not to love about a monster octopus with a face that’s half human, half Rottweiler?

  • Ben says:

    Dale Greenslade is the musician, btw. Prog Rock era and still going strong – “Spyglass Guest” a good starter song…

  • you guys are confusing art you don’t like with art that is poorly done. Woodroffe’s art is very well done with a strong style. Don’t blame him for and art director hiring him for the wrong type of books.

  • Wilbur Hassenfus says:

    Counterpoint: I love this guy’s art.

    The craftsmanship is first rate and the style is distinctive and fascinating. It evokes an era when the field had no boundaries.

    I suppose it’s a generational thing: I grew up on 70s F/SF art when it was new. It’s not what you’re accustomed to, but like most of the past, it makes sense on its own terms.

  • Michael Blume says:

    Not for me but,eye of the beholder and all that.

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