Peter Dennis is one of Osprey's most popular illustrators, and for that matter also one of our most prolific - Peter has an unswerving ability to consistently put out quality artwork at an astonishing rate. This year alone Peter has provided illustrations for 13 books. Last year he did a staggering 18 (although that number is slightly inflated by his cover art on the Field of Glory books), and in 2011 he is going to be involved in at least 17 titles, a hugely impressive achievement!
Peter was born in 1950. Inspired by contemporary magazines such as Look and Learn he studied illustration at Liverpool Art College. Peter has since contributed to hundreds of books, predominantly on historical subjects, and by the end of 2011 will have worked on over a century of Osprey books. A keen wargamer and modelmaker he is based in Nottinghamshire, UK.
Peter kindly volunteered to write a number of blogs about his life as an Osprey author - all of which are worth a look:
Blog 1: Ignorant armies that clash by night
Blog 2: Peter paints the Dark Ages
Blog 3: What it is like to be an Osprey illustrator
Blog 4: Seeing the Elephant
When I asked Peter what his all time favourite Osprey book was, this is what he had to say:
"Choosing a favourite book from among your own work isn\'t really possible for me, or probably for any illustrator. There\'s something that happens when the glowing and glorious image in your head splats onto the paper that means you can only see the mistakes and the bits you wish you\'d done better. Richard Hook said \'If you like the work you did last year, you\'re slipping.\' I couldn\'t put it better.
So, my favourite is always the next one.
The one I had most fun preparing, though, was \'The Vauban Fortifications of France\' with the late, great Paddy Griffith.
Paddy and I had been friends for twenty years, but I\'d never been on one of his famous \'Griffini Wondertours\' and when he invited Magie and I to join him in a post-Christmas sweep through the Vauban works on the North-West French coast, we were delighted. Calais in January, who could resist?
Heaving seas crossed, and the Motel That Time Forgot booked into, we splashed through the dark and windy streets of the port and followed Paddy\'s rotund figure into a restaurant. He insisted on ordering the starter. Bad sign. Paddy was a Francophile foody and delighted in challenging my gorge with bizarre grub. He ordered in French, of course, but I know the French for oyster and I braced myself. I\'ll put pretty much anything in my mouth, but it has to be food if I\'m going to swallow it. Some poor shelled critter scraped off the seabed, prised open and slurped down raw doesn\'t count as food except towards the end of a very long siege.
I get why they\'re an aphrodisiac though. Watching a woman eat oysters is an erotic experience. Magie enjoyed hers. Not to be shown up as a wimp, I held the tasteless rubbery blob of mucus in seawater on my tongue for a split second and threw it down my throat. I shuddered and waited. It didn\'t come back up.
Dear God! Never again. The next day, the weather brightened and I managed to sidestep any other horrible culinary moments as we journeyed through some charming small towns nestling inside their elegant ramparts. Paddy, resplendent in a full white beard and red wooly hat, was full of information and anecdote. The Vauban models in the basement of the municipal art gallery in Lille were stunning. All was going swimmingly until we had the picnic.
I can\'t get on with weird cheese, and I\'m always being told \'You don\'t know what you\'re missing\'. Stilton, for example, the famous English blue cheese everyone loves, smells like a zombie\'s jockstrap on its way to your mouth and then tastes, to me, like very salty vomit.
Paddy and Magie were chomping away on some Roquefort cheese we\'d picked up as part of the picnic.\'You MUST try some of this,\' they crooned repeatedly. \'Oh, go on then., if it\'ll shut you up.\' I took a small lump on the end of my knife and sniffed warily. It smelt mildly of old sheep. I put it into my mouth and chewed.
I had that Lucretia Borgia moment, when you know you are doomed, but it\'s too late. An overwhelming sensation of ammoniac toxicity gripped my face. There was nothing else for it, survival depended on doing a Tom Hanks - remember \'Big\' where he tastes Caviar as a ten year old? I flung myself out of the car and tried to spit this ghastly poison out onto the grass. I could not get rid of that life-shrinking horror coating the inside of my mouth. I guzzled red wine, I danced around with my tongue hanging out, I was scarred somewhere deep inside by that vileness. I can feel it still.
This was hilarious, apparently.
I had my own chuckle though. I had noticed that Paddy was drawing the attention of the locals, who seemed to recognise him. They would nudge each other and smile in his direction. Children in cars would grin out of the windows. It wasn\'t until we were examining a Vauban plaque in the narrow gateway of the last town that I got it.
Two jolly workmen in a van wound down the window as they passed us and waved out at Paddy, \'Bonjour, Pere Noel!\' "