Featured Illustrator: Peter Elson

A quick little introduction, Peter George Elson (13 January 1947–March 1998,  Ealing, West London, England) was an English Born Sci-Fi Illustrator and artist that had left a tremendous impact on the sci-fi genre and has influenced a new wave of designers, illustrators and writers In their work and craft. His most notable works include 2001: a space odyssey, Numerous cover artwork for books such as Terran trade Authority, Pebble In The Sky, and quite literally a hundred others. Currently, his sister owns most of his original works

I was first introduced to the work of Peter Elson a couple years back through an Interview I had read with Rob Cunningham and Aaron Kambietz, the makers of relic’s PC 1999 classic, HOMEWORLD, Naming some major inspirations for the game and kept hearing his name being passed around. Being the degenerate Sci-fi-o-phile I was I preceded to research him.

Then I was amazed.

Peter Elson, How have I not heard of this guy before? The guy designed some superb artwork for Sci-fi Classics like the Terran Trade Authority, Vulcans Hammer, 2001: A Space Odyssey And inspired the design philosophy of one of my close and all time favorite Sci-Fi Franchises HOMEWORLD, and even had a character named after him in hi honor, Yet I’ve never heard of him. I spent days researching him and his artwork, falling in love with his style, especially his ships and space artwork, creating sketches and small paintings for my own based and inspired of his work.


The way he designed his spacecraft with a very regal and bright colorful pallet with contrasting paint-jobs was very retro yet striking look and came together in a really nice looking composition. Scattered across the hull of these ships where bright or contrasting colored decals, stripes and curved lines that introduced some really strange looking camo pattern ideas, and little numbers the fleshed out the style of the ships even further. How he designed His ships where always unique and alien but where always seeming to keep in the realm of realism and believability.


It’s interesting to see how his work set a standard for the industry at the time, and continues to shine through contemporary design today. Even though the designs themselves seem a bit “retro” or old-school, it still has certain elements that, like stated before not only help hammer in some believability but can match with more modern designs such as the additions of the decals, little control towers, antennae’s, and radomes scattered around the full, it can be asymmetric at times, or even some nonstandard looking shape language.


His work ranges from Space artwork and ships to ground vehicles, horror, scenery, and even a bit of fantasy.


Its undeniable the impact Peter Elson had left on the sci-fi community, his contribution to fleshing out ideas and project’s into some of the most memorable and beautiful paintings of gorgeous star crafts and massive space hulks has left its mark in bold. He was a kind and soft centered man, loved his siblings, but admitted he never did well with people. He was a very shy and reserved individual, almost “ hermit “ like. Although he excelled in his craft, he said that “he did not have a clear process of design” and was more an illustrator rather then a designer. It was interesting to see how he designed he ships as he didn’t really “design” or went through a process of creating them, he just put his pen to paper, and art would appear.


Peter Elson unfortunately had passed away at the age of 51 from a heart attack in March 1998, relaxing in a hotel bar in Skegness after a hard day at work doing what he loved, painting a mural with some colleagues for the Butlins Company. Truly one of the finest illustrators known of his time and his work still continues to shine to this day and inspire the artists of tomorrow.


” The kind of cover art that Peter and many of his contemporaries produced will probably not be seen again. It was a golden age of SF and Fantasy illustration. You can still find the covers, sometimes in reprints, mostly as second hand copies at boot sales. They shine out for their magical ability to take you into a world you can scarcely imagine. It’s what great art always used to do, and Peter was a great artist. “

Carol Butfoy
Sarah Brown Agency

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Julian Schlottmann is a creative type hailing from the mythical lands of Atlanta Georgia, and is forever dedicated in his quest to achieve fame in glory through his exploits of art, game, graphic, and media design.

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