Andrew Skilleter has worked for over 30 years as a professional illustrator. He has produced hundreds of covers for adult, teenage and childrenís books across numerous genres, including an unprecedented forty covers for the Ruth Rendell novels. His work has also encompassed the illustration of many books, magazines, CDs and Audio, TV and Video and a long creative partnership with the BBC including for the Radio Collection covers and editorial work for The Chronicles of Narnia, Brother Cadfael, Tolkein, Earthsearch, Journey Into Space and others.
He is best known for his professional association with Doctor Who that now spans twenty seven years; Doctor Who art and the name of Andrew Skilleter became synonymous during the 1980s. From 1979 to 1995 his work included the iconic ĎThe Five Doctorsí Radio Times cover, over fifty book covers and video covers, books, calendars, prints and other merchandise. He continues to have a public profile in this area.
In the 1980s he formed his own publishing company, Who Dares, mainly publishing the Doctor Who calendar, prints and merchandise based around his art for the UK and the USA and also a number of acclaimed book titles, namely Cybermen and The Man Who Drew Tomorrow, the illustrated biography of Frank Hampson, the creator of Dan Dare.
Blacklight : The Art of Andrew Skilleter, a large format, colour hardback written by the artist was published by Virgin in 1995, showcasing his work. Ivanhoe, his first work as author/illustrator, was published as a deluxe hardback in 1997.
His originals are in numerous collections in the UK and USA.
Late in 2005, a DVD devoted to Andrew and his work was released by Reeltime Pictures. While keeping his traditional skills alive he also channels his creative talents into the digital realm and in addition to professional work, continues to paint private commissions, sell his original art and is currently pursuing new creative directions, including writing. A new website is in preparation at
By the time the Earthsearch commissions came about, my acrylic technique was well evolved; it was around two thirds of the way into the 1980s that I dumped my sophisticated gouache technique Iíd built up since the 1970s and switched to acrylics which most of my contemporaries were already working in. There were all sorts of reasons for this but if I were to choose two it would be the fact that you can manipulate the water based acrylics much like oils - the ability to over paint and their durability without the smell and length of drying time of oils! And it was also driven by the use of the airbrush - liquid acrylics work wonderfully with this old technology - ideal for glazes and building up areas with a tangible sheen. The originals have more depth. Having said that, the finest, most detailed & subtle work,I achieved with gouache paint. So it was a trade off.
With the adoption of acrylics for nearly all my work, I adopted the classic CS10 art board, a rigid professional board that goes back to the 1950s - maybe earlier - the surface is absolutely smooth, and hard - a chalky quality - you can even carefully scrape off paint with a sharp scalpel and itís choice for me was driven by the airbrush and my deep involvement with the Doctor Who work - the sprayed colour would adhere without revealing the surface that a more textured board would do. I always used rigid art boards - I do not feel comfortable working on paper or a flimsy card. Sadly, after some unstable years with the manufactures going out of business, CS10 has finally bitten the dust. Trying to resupply myself early is year, I gave up and many of us specialist artists lament its final demise. I now use a quality German substitute but it will never be as good as the original CS10.
I would have received the briefing for the Earthsearch covers by Ďphone ( I didnít go on line or into Apple Mac computers until quite late, probably some five years ago), and then would have received a tape. canít recall if there was any other briefing but I doubt it. Then it would be likely I would discuss the basic concept and then submit a rough as shown here. In these cases there was a fairly unqualified approval & I would proceed with the art process. Of course with the RC covers I would work considerable larger and cut and rule up the board accordingly.
There have been many subtle variations in approach over the years and I do forget the exact way I would have done each commission but Iím fairly sure my pencil drawing was done directly onto the board for this work , refined, and then usually using a fine brown mechanical pencil lead and a some use of a brown mechanical waterproof pen, Iíd fix the final drawing, clean up the board, removing most of the pencil work. Finally Iíd mask the edges of the board that gives the edge of each of paintings a sharp, clean edge - there is always a white handling area around the image. The image size would also include a bleed that can be trimmed at the reproduction stage. This is not a physical trimming of the original art, I hastily add!
I generally start painting from the background outwards, so in these cases the space background, the sky. This would necessitate, on Earthsearch II, masking the figure and shuttle with matt masking film cut to shape with a sharp scalpel blade. (Hence the term Ďbleeding artistsí!). One has to effectively learn to draw with a scalpel! The basic colour would be laid down using the airbrush and then the cloud which is a combination of airbrush and hand painting to give it character. Again with ES II, I would have probably established the textural foreground next using a spattering technique using a toothbrush - again combined with airbrush and hand work to give it that special quality and of course it was cropped on the final cover!. Then the tower, hand painted, followed by the shuttle - I enjoyed drawing & painting the craft - my approach to hardware/spacecraft is deeply influenced by the 50s & 60s Dan Dare space picture strip. Finally the head and arm/hand of the figure - a mix of airbrush and hand painting, then the costume.
Materials have evolved over the years; I used sable and now acrylic brushes, numbers 2 -5 and almost exclusively liquid acrylics but I would have used some acrylic tube paints on Earthsearch. I found working with acrylic tube colour so slow & tedious (the down side of acrylics is that is dries fast on the palette into a plastic film) so it was a revelation when I found I could still get good results and sometimes better, with liquid colours, often augmented by a tube white to give it body.
The airbrush would also be used for final glazes, modelling and polishing but itís the handwork that makes the paintings. On ES I it is the experimental, improvisational, use of the airbrush and paint that gives the large planetís surface itís drama and quality.
I think this gives an in sight into a the sheer amount of thought & effort that us illustrators put into each cover. This is largely lost today and even covers you may think are painted are probably not!
Nearly all my SF vision was absorbed by Doctor Who - I regard these Earthsearch covers as a late flowering as a serious SF artist - ES II in particularly had it all there - space, the skies the hardware, the Ďaliení building and figure. The best SF painting Iíve done possibly - I personally love the feel of both of them. I discussed more SF work with the Radio Collection boss - I had my eye on the Foundation series - but it wasnít to be. I did do an A C Clarke cover for the BBC but it wasnít a concept I felt happy with.
© Andrew Skilleter 2008
Over nearly ten years, from 1990, I worked with the BBC Radio Collection completing covers and special projects covering a wide range of titles including Journey Into Space and Earthsearch I & II as part of my freelance career. It was a great time creatively. I'm proud of most of the work and these two paintings are amongst the best. When I was commissioned to do the Earthsearch I cover in 1993, I had already heard and enjoyed the radio adaptation. As normal, I supplied a rough for discussion and approval. As shown here, I offered, together with copious notes, two possible solutions. I suggested exaggerating the perspective of the craft on Rough 1, amongst other ideas. The difficulty with audio cassette and CD covers are their scale so as this required a fairly conventional sci-fi content with the massive Challenger craft pushing through space, I took a bold decision to ditch the predictable blues, purples and blacks of space and go for a brilliant red. Creatively it appealed to me and it would stand out on the racks.
Image size Earthsearch I : 375 x 440 mm
Of course I had no control over the title graphics other than leaving the usual space for them. But I was not prepared for the lurid green titles that finally appeared on each of the covers, hardly assisting the effort I had lavished on the painted images.
With Earthsearch II it was important to change the approach. It also came some six after the first. I felt a figurative approach would be good. The spacecraft would still be there but distant in the spacey sky. The designers of course did there best to obscure it, failing to recognise the importance of its presence. It might take a week or more of hard work to produce a painting like this - and it was much large than Earthsearch I, whereas the design on computer could take just hours and the designer would not not have had the deep involvement with the material that we illustrators put in. Once again the dreaded lime green claimed another victim.
Full size, in pristine acrylics, with no graphics and un cropped, the originals have an impact that can even take me my surprise. On Earthsearch 1, the red space is built up with layer after layer of red acrylic applied with the airbrush so the surface has a sheen. I enjoyed dreaming up the Challenger. A dramatic sky and a figurative presence on Earthsearch II, gave the cover an emotional depth which of course is magnified some 100s% on the original.
The originals are in acrylics, on rigid, smooth CS10 board and given the years apart, are in differing sizes , Earthsearch II being the largest. Many of my originals are in numerous private collections here and abroad.
Image size Earthsearch II : 375 x 470 mm
The Earthsearch signed originals are for sale and include the roughs and a signed inlay where available. If you are interested in maybe purchasing one or both of them, please feel free to contact me for further details together with any questions you might have.
All images © Andrew Skilleter
Earthsearch I & Earthsearch II
The BBC Radio Collection Covers 1993 & 1999 by Andrew Skilleter
The depth and impact of the originals are brought to life for the first time and framed or unframed, are a unique collectorís item for now and the future. A Limited Edition of 250 + 25 Artistís Proofs* of each painting, each approved, numbered and signed by Andrew Skilleter and only available directly from the artist for the very first time.
Reproduced to the highest standards from the original paintings, each print is printed in 8 colours using the latest Ultra Chrome light fast, archival ink technology with a life of well over a hundred years on a 255gsm heavyweight archival acid free art paper, 297 x 390 mm with a life of up to 75 years... Aside from the prime pleasure of ownership, this collectorís item is likely be an investment as it will never be produced in this format again. Each print is mailed in protective packaging by Special Delivery, an insured, signed for Royal Mail delivery service.
Regular edition : £40.00 + £10 Post and Packaging via Special Delivery
Artistís Proofs : £50.00 + £10 Post and Packaging via Special Delivery *Artistís Proofs are identical but are outside the numbered edition. The low number made available makes them a rarer item. Each will be signed A/P + the artistís signature.
Please Note : On orders of two or more prints, add just a total of £12.00 for P & P
For those of you who want the ultimate in collectable exclusivity, you can have a signed pencil drawing by the artist added to your limited print in the lower left or right hand margin. This is called a remarque - an original pencil drawing that is added to a limited edition print in the white border beneath the image. Owning a remarqued print allows you to collect an original piece of art together with the print.
Remarque Edition £85.00 + £10.00 Post & package via Special Delivery (total £95.00) Should you require the a double Remarque - one drawing left and right - the cost will be £125.00 + £10 Post & Package. (Total £135.00)
You will need to discuss with Andrew your choice of the Earthsearch
related drawing(s) you would like and it would have to be something feasible
given the border area available.
Cover Inlay Prints : A companion to the Limited Edition Prints A high quality A4 print on substantial quality paper featuring a reproduction of the flat Radio Collection inlay showing front & back cover and spine and signed by Andrew Skilleter
£10.00 + £2.00 Post & Packaging 1st Class Recorded, signed for, delivery. Total £12.00
© Andrew Skilleter 2008
I do not make any money from Andrew's work, I have put this here because I have been asked many times about where can you get the cover art work. Artwork is something that unless you know how much work and time goes in to it, is something that you might end up looking at for only seconds. So to work, cover art has to grab the eye and fast, I think that this is something Andrew's work does. Especially the Earthsearch II cover which now that I have seen the original is even better without all the horrid green text all over it. I was glad to find out more about who did the the cover art to some of James Follett's work, as so often there is or was no credit given.
Author James Follett comments
None given at this time
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