Illustration Art Gallery

The very best from the wide, sometimes overlooked, world of illustration art, including original artwork for book illustrations and covers, comic books and comic strips, graphic novels, magazines, film animation cels, newspaper strips, poster art, album covers, plus superb fine art reproductions and high quality art prints.

Our gallery brings together artists from all over the world and from many backgrounds, including fantasy, horror, romance, science fiction, education, sport, history, nature, technology, humour, glamour, architecture, film & tv, whimsy, even political satire and caricature.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Don Lawrence

Don Lawrence ranks amongst the most widely known of British comic strip artists, his fan base spread widely across Europe, thanks to translations of his epic science fiction strip ‘The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire’, which he drew from 1965 to 1976. His work was especially appreciated in Holland, where the series Storm was created for the Dutch comic Eppo in 1977. In celebration of the artist’s 75th birthday in 2003, Queen Beatrix gave permission for Lawrence to be made a Knight in the order of Oranje-Nassau.

Donald Southam Lawrence was born in East Sheen, London, on 17 November 1928, the third child of Herbert and Nellie Lawrence. He was educated at St. Paul’s boarding school in Hammersmith, where he took refuge from academic studies by doing art. After National Service with the Army, he used his gratuity to study at Borough Polytechnic, where he met his wife-to-be, Julia Wilson.

With a child soon on the way, there was an urgent need for steady employment, which Lawrence found with Mick Anglo’s studio, an agency which packaged Western and superhero comics, notably Marvelman and Marvelman Family, for distributor Len Miller. Lawrence worked for the Gower Street studio for four years before arguments over pay led him to find work elsewhere.

After drawing Westerns for Zip, Swift, Sun and Lion for two years, Lawrence found his niche in historical adventures strips, drawing ‘Olac the Gladiator’ (Tiger), ‘Karl the Viking’ (Lion), ‘Maroc the Mighty’ (Lion) in 1959-65. Memorable as these were, it was in fully painted colour that Lawrence was to find his forte. Colour strips for Lion Annual and Bible Story, including the life of 'Herod the Great' in the latter, led to him being offered ‘The Trigan Empire’, which debuted in the short-lived Ranger in September 1965 before finding a regular home in the educational weekly Look and Learn from June 1966. Lawrence was to draw the strip for 11 years in all.

Quitting in 1976, he was immediately offered work in Holland, co-creating the character of Storm, a spaceman hurled into the distant future and then to the far reaches of the universe when the series was revamped in 1982. Storm debuted in the Dutch weekly Eppo in 1977 but struggled to find a writer, the first nine series being written by five different authors, including Lawrence himself. With the tenth album, which relocated the series from future Earth to Pandarve, the strips were written by Storm's co-creator Martin Lodewijk. A further ten volumes appeared between 1982 and 1990.

Although the strip was little known in his native country, Lawrence’s achievements continued to be recognised by his peers, winning the Society of Strip Illustration’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1980. He won multiple awards in Europe, including the prestigious Pantera di Lucca Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998.

Lawrence's eyesight began to fail, which forced him to slow his pace. Two further albums in a trilogy of Storm stories which would complete a cycle of the story appeared in 1993 and 1995. Following the latter, Lawrence submitted to eye surgery but lost the sight in one eye. He continued to work, but at a far reduced pace and the third volume of the trilogy was completed by Liam Sharp, a former assistant, in 2001.

A heavy smoker, Lawrence was hospitalised with pneumonia and died on 29 December 2003, survived by his second wife and children.

In 1989, the founder of the Don Lawrence Fan Club in Holland, Rob Van Bavel, began publishing collections of Lawrence's work in hardcover. After 10 volumes of The Don Lawrence Collection (in Dutch), he began an ambitious project to reprint some of Lawrence's best strip work in collector's editions in both Dutch and English. Titles published to date include the 12-volume Storm: The Collection, the 12-volume Trigan Empire: The Collection and a 4-volume reprinting of 'Karl the Viking'.

Examples of Lawrence's artwork can be found for sale here.

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