The Mighty Archive

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Peter Lloyd 1944—2009

Sadly, illustrator Peter Lloyd died last month from cancer. I'm thankful I got to know him and spend a full day with him in his Oregon home interviewing him for Overspray.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I first met him. He'd seemed quite mercurial in our telephone dealings – flipping from being quite supportive to dropping from sight without rhyme or reason. But that view was quickly dispelled once he drove into the Eugene airport's passenger pickup lane, after generously volunteering to pick me up and drive me to his home. Purely by happenstance, one of Peter's oldest friends and fellow illustrator Bob Hickson was there, collaborating with Peter on matte paintings for The Spirit. Peter's lovely wife Brenda was there and everyone was as polite and warm as could be. Of course, I found it difficult to join in conversation or respond to questions because I was overwhelmed by the dozens and dozens of Peter's original art hanging on the walls.

All of his greatest pieces were there. It was wonderful to see all those blazing images from my youth in the flesh - The futuristic Ronnie Laws album cover, the deco figures touring through space and the formally objectified nude figures were there in all their glory. It's always fascinating to study the handwork of art you're previously familiar with only from printed reproductions. Peter worked about twice as large as the work would finally appear and his paintings were just beautiful, with colors much stronger than they'd ever been printed.

We sat down and I interviewed him for several hours. He answered every question with the honesty that you only get from someone who's been around the block (several times) without pretense or signs of even microscopic self importance. He obviously still had a great interest and fondness for work and told me that money was no longer a motivator for him, illustrating the point by relating a story of having what he felt was the ultimate perfect day recently, using a neighbor's riding lawnmower and cutting his field for him.

Peter was also deeply involved with hand casting metal and showed me a few prototypes he'd made of a female face reminiscent of a 1930s hood ornament that seemed pulled right from one of his illustrations. He had tired of illustration once it became less about concepting - and moved into film work after concluding his work for Tron, proving himself to be stunningly intelligent about digital technology and repro matters.

We discussed the drug and alcohol crazed 1970s and he was amazingly candid about his foibles, claiming no regrets for his missteps, feeling it was a byproduct of never learning how to deal with his early rapid success.

He was a great interviewee and took pains to ensure I wouldn't include anything in the book that would reflect badly upon anyone.

Peter's work is often lumped in with tacky '70s disco style illustration, but it is actually very clever. I think the formal beauty of his work could sometimes mask the strong conceptual thinking underlying all of his illustrations. He created a unique visual style, quickly copied by others, that would often consist of dark backgrounds, with subtle hints of highlighting and burst of color - preferring to indicate, rather than render, every object in photo realistic detail, even though he was more than capable of doing so.

Peter admitted that during the 70s he felt that he was very lucky to be working in the final heyday of big time professional illustration, getting endless commissions and being compensated extremely well for it, and fully enjoying the wild ride while it lasted. I feel lucky to have witnessed it.

I asked one colleague, Bob Zoell, and one admirer, Roman Coppola, to send me their thoughts on Peter. Those are below.

Bless you Peter.

I have only fond memories of the time I spent with Peter Always kind and smiling and quick to laugh. A gentleman, that I can’t recall ever speaking badly of anyone. His signature style in his illustration work was unique and original; unlike most illustrators of the 70s era, including myself. . . I will miss him.
—Bob Zoell

Peter Lloyd made ART that was:
Had beautiful colors
Was adventurous...funny...outrageous!
He made art which inspires me and makes me feel that there are other people who GET IT.
—Roman Coppola


Anonymous said...

...and into that dark sky he rode,
leaving a trail of stardust and sparkles.

RIP, Peter Lloyd.

Nicole Lloyd-Sullivan said...

Peter Lloyd was my uncle. He was funny, brilliant, clever, and real! Such a wonderful spirit and truly the most talented person I've known. I love you Uncle Pete! Thank you for you!

Jon said...
through building my website I found
his art , being a son of an artist I really enjoyed his work.and plan to post one piece on my website
and link to this page . sadly I just found he had passed away. would have liked to exchanged ideas
the art he created was amazing .

Unknown said...

Nice tribute to a true original, Norman. I was privileged to spend some time with Peter and found him exactly as you describe. . . and quite generous in spending hours with a fan he'd never met.

About the Author

Norman Hathaway
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Norman Hathaway is a designer and writer whose primary focus is on contemporary, lesser-known design techniques and personalities. Norman's professional experience has spanned many design disciplines, from sign painting to filmmaking. His clients included The Design Museum, The Royal Academy of Arts, Paul McCartney and Peter Gabriel. He has lectured widely on design at the London College of Printing, The Royal College of Art, Goldsmiths College and other schools. He currently lives in Brooklyn with his daughter Wilma.
© 2008 PictureBox Inc. and Norman Hathaway