I have to be honest, despite being an artist, I'm not actually much of an art student. While I'm friends with quite a few artists, there are many well known ones that I have either not heard of, or know very little about. In conversation I'm forever politely nodding while I whip out my phone to quickly duckduckgo who the artist in question is (most people would say "google who the artist in question is" but what's the fun in being like most people).
Many of my favourite artists are ones that I have admired since childhood. Artists who painted the covers of magazines I read, games I played, or cards I collected. Probably my favourite artist of all time is a fella called Bob Wakelin. Bob's work has influenced my own work so much, particularly the colours used.
Bobs "Wizball" Cover Art
I love Bobs work. So much so that in the early 1990's I did my main GCSE Art & Design project on him. Each student had to pick an artist. We then had to produce a case study on that artist, writing about them and drawing or painting our own interpretations of their work. Most of the other kids chose Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo or other famous artists who for some reason made me want to shout "Cowabunga" (I have no idea why) but I chose Bob. Because of him , I left school with an A grade in my GCSE. Many years later, using the power of social media, I messaged Bob and told him all about how he helped me to achieve my A grade without even knowing it. He seemed amused. We chatted for a few lines, until I figured that I was probably annoying him with my star struck babbling and exited the conversation.
Bobs "Rastan" Cover Art - one of the ones I reproduced for my GCSE
The game itself doesn't look quite as good does it?
The reason why Bobs work was (and is) so close to my heart is that he represented a snapshot of one of my happier pastimes, during a difficult time in my life, something that made it all more bearable. I wasn't particularly popular at school. I'd been bullied a little, and had retreated into my shell, keeping my head down whenever possible. This is possibly where my dislike of attention comes from. I was quite the loner. In my first year of Comprehensive School I had managed to save all of my pocket money from my mother and grandfather (£2 a week in total) for over a year to buy a ZX Spectrum 128k +2 computer from Dixons. My computer was my lifeline. Every evening after a difficult day at school, I would shuffle up to my bedroom for a few hours of escapism. There was no internet, and there was no ultra realistic 3D environments. The games were simplistic and the cover art of the game filled in the blanks in my imagination that the simplistic in game graphics couldn't. I feel a little sorry for the kids these days, while the internet can be a great way to make friends, the kids can't escape from the bullies like I could. They follow them around online. My computer was a portal to a closed fantasy world, where I could forget all about my troubles for a few hours. The bullies couldn't follow me into that world.
"yes these computers have given me permanent RSI in this finger"
Bob worked for Ocean Software, a Manchester company that produced many of the biggest and best games under their Ocean and Imagine labels. His work clearly had the affect Ocean wanted it to, as I suspect I wasn't the only kid who bought their games based largely on Bobs luscious cover art.
Bobs "Chase HQ" Cover Art - doesn't it make you want to jump right in and play?
An interesting fact I learned many years later. Bobs cover art for the game Target Renegade was based on the cover of a book called How to Master Bruce Lee's Fighting System - by Joe Lewis. I guess he thought it would never be noticed. This was the pre-internet era after all. As Picasso once said, probably down the pub with a nice pint and a packet of Pork Scratchings "“good artists copy; great artists steal”.
Bobs "Target Renegade" Cover Art
Joe Lewis - "How to Master Bruce Lee's Fighting System"
Bob sadly died in 2018. While I only spoke to him the once (and online at that), I was very sad when he died. He'd been such a big influence on my childhood. Rest in peace Bob. I'm glad I got to tell you just how big a deal your art was to me. Thank you for all the happy memories, and thank you again for my GCSE A Grade.