Interviewed by Adam Gidney in January 2021
Born in Los Angeles, California, May 16, 1953, Lee MacLeod is a Santa Fe-based plein air and studio painter that began his career in commercial illustration for book covers, game boxes, and film posters after finishing at The Art Center of College of Design in 1980. Lee often combined traditional illustration with photography, noticeable in many of his early game illustrations, including “Death Bringer,” his first game cover in 1989 for Cinemaware’s secondary label Spotlight Software where he was prompted to emulate Boris Vallejo. Lee employed a similar style in his cover art for Cinemaware’s The Kristal, an approach also noticeable in his “Super C” poster for Volume 12 of Nintendo Power (May/June 1990). Lee went on to contribute several interior pieces for Nintendo Power magazine: posters and spot illustrations, including the iconic Street Fighter II, Castlevania III and Final Fantasy posters. He did not produce any cover art for Nintendo Power.
Beyond his Nintendo Power work, Lee’s most visible game projects include many of the North American covers for the Nintendo NES, SNES, and Game Boy releases of the Ultima series. Lee also did several projects for Sega. Alien Storm for the Sega Genesis was among Lee’s earliest Sega titles, but he did several projects for Sega consoles including Rolling Thunder 2 and 3, Out of This World, and Saturday Night Slammasters (also released for SNES). Lee’s final game illustration came in 2002 for first-person shooter Serious Sam: The Second Encounter.
Lee integrates the vivid colors of New Mexico, Colorado, and the American west into his work, so much so that game art collectors have come to know that game covers exhibiting vivid purple and/or pink mountainscapes stand a good chance of being Lee’s work. Prominent examples include Lee’s Castlevania III poster for Nintendo Power, many of his Ultima titles, and King’s Quest for New World Computing, Inc.
While rarely visible, Lee MacLeod signed his illustration work with his “LM” initials surrounded by a circle. Fun Fact: Lee included several of his game illustrations in a 1994 Cardz trading card set, in which each card includes on the back a brief commentary from Lee on the illustration or project details. A small selection of Lee's game portfolio is available on his website: https://leemacleod.com/Games/index.html .
OVGA staff personal favorites of Lee’s work include Lands of Lore for Virgin Games and RPG Maker for the Sony Playstation.