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Leslie Wood - artist & illustrator

From Wikipedia:

Leslie Wood (26 February 1920 - 1994)
was an English artist and illustrator who lived in Poynton, Cheshire.

Born in Stockport, he studied at the Manchester College of Art and Design and gained a
travelling scholarship. Prevented from travelling abroad because of World War II, he
instead went to London. In 1943, Wood showed some of his work to Faber and Faber, and
was soon commissioned to take over illustration of Diana Ross' Little Red Engine books,
and went on to illustrate many other children's books.

For more information, go to the Diana Ross site here.

The Hugh Walters covers

As you're reading this site, most likely you'll know Wood's work from the original UK editions of the first 14 Hugh Walters' books.

There's little doubt that his superb artwork added to the experience of picking one of these books off the library shelf. No other SF novels had such bold paintings, with the lettering hand-drawn to be part of the picture - not dull regular fonts as with most books - and the image wrapping round on to the spine.

The pictures often show actual scenes from the book, which suggests Wood had actually read them - which I suspect not all artists bother to do...

Just to pick out a few favourites:

Blast Off at Woomera - it's a simple illustration of a rocket. But look at the background - not a starry sky as might be expected, but angular black and green stripes showing the upper atmosphere that the rocket is scything through.
Terror by Satellite - a genuinely terrifying and surreal image, the unsettling sky perhaps owing a little to Munch's "The Scream"
Mission to Mercury - It's difficult to imagine the sun looking any hotter and more threatening than in this image.
Moon Base One - Is that the face of Chris Godfrey? the young me used to wonder. He looked a little sterner than I imagined, but he is after all making his way through the evil Lunar fog!

The Original Artwork

The original artwork for at least three of these covers is known to survive. The Domes of Pico art had a very different colour palette to the actual printed cover - whether colours were removed to reduce printing costs is unknown. The lettering is painted directly on top of the image. For Operation Columbus the lettering was painted on a clear plastic sheet that was overlaid on the image for copying and printing. The Pluto illustration may well be an earlier version that was redrawn for the final publication - there are many small differences. Look very carefully and you can perhaps see some pencil marks showing that the spaceship was originally to be much larger.

The original artwork is from the Leslie Wood archive at MMU Special Collections, Manchester, who were very helpful in allowing it to be removed from storage and photographed.

All pictures are © Elsie Wood

Original 'Pico' Original 'Columbus' Draft for 'Pluto'

The Published Covers

Cover of 'Blast Off At Woomera' Cover of 'The Domes of Pico' Cover of 'Operation Columbus' Cover of 'Moon Base One' Cover of 'Expedition Venus' Cover of 'Destination Mars' Cover of 'Terror By Satellite' Cover of 'Journey to Jupiter' Cover of 'Mission to Mercury' Cover of 'Spaceship to Saturn' Cover of 'The Mohole Mystery' Cover of 'Nearly Neptune' Cover of 'First Contact' Cover of 'Passage to Pluto'