Adapted from El Mundo del Spectrum | Original in Spanish, with credit to @Pablo
Steve Weston was a British illustrator best known for his computer game box art for UK publisher Hewson Consultants Ltd. Steve’s quality and quantity of work for Hewson would come to epitomize the company during its most successful period (1986–1989), with Steve illustrating the majority of the publisher’s most iconic boxes.
Born in the seaside town of Bournemouth, Steve lived as a child on his grandparents' farm in Chipping Norton (Oxfordshire). In that rural environment, he discovered a profound love for nature and soon became interested in drawing. Steve meanwhile developed a great fascination for the world of aviation—he would later become a respected ultralight flight instructor—classic cars, and all kinds of mechanical artifacts, passions that would accompany him throughout his life.
During the 1970s, Steve studied graphic design at Oxford Polytechnic and then started a career as a commercial designer. In 1977, he organized his first painting exhibition based on oil paintings of birds in his town, which would launch his career as an independent artist and illustrator. Steve’s clients were diverse, illustrating for newspapers and medical and computer magazines but also album covers; however, it would be Steve’s fantasy paintings that would open the next chapter of his career.
Owing to his fantasy work, Steve would acquire a certain notoriety at the beginning of the 1980s as the artist responsible for the cover art for the British releases of fantasy novels from Irish author Anne McCaffrey. Beginning with a cover painting for Dragondrums in 1981, Steve’s collaboration with Anne would last two decades and span around 15 covers, with Steve creating art for the Pern, Pegasus, and Crystal Singer series. Thanks to his mastery of the airbrush technique and limitless inventiveness when it came to recreating the mythical worlds and giving the dragons that emerged from McCaffrey's imagination a life of their own, Steve would receive the nickname of “The Dragon Master” among his peers.
With a growing fantasy reputation and his residence in the same Oxfordshire county where Hewson Consultants was headquartered, Steve attracted the attention of the software house toward the end of 1985. In a rapidly evolving and fiercely competitive gaming industry, a product’s image could determine the success or failure of a game—and by extension, a company. Having gone without a signature illustrator since its inception, the Abingdon company sought to upgrade its box art and in bringing in Steve ushered in a transformation for Hewson's packaging.
First lending his talents for Hewson’s now-iconic box art for Uridium (February 1986), Steve soon followed with paintings for an extensive list of titles such as Firelord, Alleykat, Impossaball, Rana Rama, Gunrunner, Zynaps, Exolon, Nebulus, Cybernoid,(also released for the NES featuring Steve's art), Marauder, and so on forming an oeuvre of some twenty game boxes during the most brilliant period of Hewson’s output (1986-1989). Steve would also illustrate Hewson's exclusive titles for 16-bit computers such as Custodian and Onslaught, and would be the creator of the golden lizard logo that Andrew Hewson's company would emblazon on the boxes of all its games during its last active period (1989-1991). OVGA has further attributed to Steve a number of titles done for Hewson's budget label Rack-It.
Steve Weston was a highly versatile artist who mastered a wide range of illustration techniques ranging from early oil painting to 3D modeling and computer animation, which he combined with the former in his later years. However, the technique for which Steve would be most recognized in the 8-bit era is that of the airbrush, reinforced by the use of a fine brush for details.
While the vast majority of Steve's video game package art was for Hewson, he also illustrated a small handful of titles for publisher Telecomsoft, under its Firebird and Rainbird labels, including some of his earliest works in 1986: Runestone, The Comet Game, and The Pawn. Additionally, Steve illustrated he box art for Ring Wars for Cascade Games Limited, his sole title for the publisher.
Steve passed away on December 29, 2010, with the Oxford Mail publishing an obituary shortly after.
OVGA has included below Steve Weston's full known box art catalog:
- Runestone (Firebird Software | Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum | 1986)
- Uridium (Hewson Consultants | Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, DOS, ZX Spectrum | 1986)
- Firelord (Hewson Consultants | Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum | 1986)
- The Comet Game (Firebird Software | Amstrad CPC, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum | 1986)
- Alleykat a.k.a. Demolition Mission: The Alleykat Space Racer (Hewson Consultants | Commodore 64 | 1986)
- The Pawn (Rainbird Software | Amstrad CPC, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, DOS, ZX Spectrum | 1986)
- Tracker (Rainbird Software | Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS | 1986)
- Jewels Of Darkness (Firebird Software/Rainbird Software | Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW, Apple II , Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, Macintosh, MSX, ZX Spectrum | 1986)
- Silicon Dreams (Firebird Software/Rainbird Software | Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW, Apple II , Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, Macintosh, MSX, ZX Spectrum | 1986)
- Knight Orc (Firebird Software/Rainbird Software | Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW, Apple II , Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, Macintosh, MSX, ZX Spectrum | 1987)
- Impossaball (Hewson Consultants | Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum | 1987)
- Rana Rama (Hewson Consultants | Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum | 1987)
- Gunrunner (Hewson Consultants | ZX Spectrum | 1987)
- Exolon (Hewson Consultants | Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum | 1987)
- Zynaps (Hewson Consultants | Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum | 1987)
- Nebulus (Hewson Consultants | Amiga-EUR, Atari ST-EUR, Commodore 64-EUR | 1987)
- Eagles (Hewson Consultants | Commodore 64 | 1987) attributed
- Morpheus (Rainbird Software | Commodore 64 | 1987) attributed
- Herobotix (Rack-It | Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 | 1987) attributed
- Tunnel Vision (Rack-It | Commodore 64 | 1987) attributed
- Evening Star (Hewson Consultants | Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, Electron, ZX Spectrum | 1987) attributed
- Cybernoid: The Fighting Machine (Hewson Consultants | Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, NES, ZX Spectrum | 1988)
- Marauder (Hewson Consultants | Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum | 1988)
- Netherworld (Hewson Consultants | Commodore 64, DOS, ZX Spectrum | 1988)
- Eliminator (Hewson Consultants | ZX Spectrum | 1988)
- Cybernoid II: The Revenge (Hewson Consultants | Atari ST, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum | 1988)
- Ring Wars (Cascade Games Limited | Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum | 1988)
- Steel (Hewson Consultants | Amiga, Commodore 64 | 1988) attributed
- Magnetron (Firebird Software | Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum | 1988) attributed
- Scorpion (Rack-It | Commodore 64 | 1988) attributed
- Subterranea (Rack-It | Commodore 64 | 1988) attributed
- Sunburst (Rack-It | Commodore 64 | 1988) attributed
- 5th Gear (Hewson Consultants | Amiga, Atari ST | 1989) not the Rack-It release for Commodore 64
- Custodian (Hewson Consultants | Amiga, Atari ST | 1989)
- Onslaught (Hewson Consultants | DOS | 1989) not Sega Genesis
- Starglider 2 (Rainbird Software | Amiga, Atari ST, DOS, ZX Spectrum | 1989)
- Fish (Rainbird Software | Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, ZX Spectrum | 1989)
- Battle Valley (Hewson Consultants | Amiga, Commodore 64 | 1989) attributed; separate art from the 1987 Rack-It release, which may or may not also be Steve Weston’s work
- Future Basketball (Hewson Consultants | Amiga, Atari ST | 1990) attributed
Famously, Steve Weston also painted what was intended to be box art for Astaroth: The Angel of Death, featuring a seductive yet frightening bare-chested female demon. Although Steve’s artwork had been completed months ahead of time with a planned April 1989 release—and even shown at industry events such as the 1988 PC Show—upon presentation to the major retailers, Hewson Consultants was told that the high street chains wouldn’t stock the product with its present artwork. Unable to get to store shelves and effectively censored, the game was repackaged for a July 1989 release with just the game’s title logo on a black background.
With such a robust body of work for Hewson, Steve also created illustrations for games that ultimately went unreleased, such as for Hewson's release of Morpheus, which would have had different art from the Rainbird title of the same name. Similarly, Steve appears to have painted more than one image for Magnetron, with an early image for Hewson advertising an unrealized November 1987 release date; instead, Magnetron was published by Firebird in 1988 with different box art, though with a near identical concept.
Though Steve’s son Sam Weston (also a graphic designer), previously hosted a tribute site for his father’s artwork (now offline), Sam confirmed that his father did not maintain a list of his works nor did he preserve his original illustrations for video games. Accordingly, Steve likely completed additional video game package artwork not yet identified above. In particular, Steve was likely responsible for many of the budget releases under the Rack-It label when it debuted in 1987, though given their lower price point, the art for those releases often lacked the detail and execution typically associated with Steve or work he might ordinarily do for a “full-priced” title. OVGA has attributed some of these works but has left others off as inconclusive.
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