Prior to working for Ocean, Bob also had a short career with the British post-punk/new wave band Modern Eon, performing strings, vocals and percussion.
Bob created some of the artwork for Modern Eon's vinyl single sleeve covers and also for artists such as Holly Johnson. But his real passion was the style of artwork used in American comics from DC and Marvel. His main inspiration for his choice of vocation.
Bob began his 11-year freelance career with Ocean Software in 1983 (when the company was originally known as Spectrum Games), and created almost a hundred pieces of artwork for both Ocean and Imagine games. Ironically, Bob had no interest in video games whatsoever and considered them antisocial!
I suppose I should feel guilty for it.
Sometime during the 1990s, Ocean moved from their location on Central Street, Manchester to a more modern office complex in Castlefield, Manchester. During the move, Bob was contacted by Ocean's Art Director who warned him that, due to the move, all his original artwork was about to be trashed! Fortunately, Bob was able to rescue most of it, otherwise this page would be severely lacking in colour!
Bob's last Ocean-commissioned work "Central Intelligence" was in 1994. Since then, Bob has continued to create artwork for books.
Sadly, Bob passed away on January 20, 2018, due to health problems.
Around late 2006/early 2007, we contacted Bob to see if he would like to have his own page on the (at the time) new ExoticA wiki. So tricky was it to track him down that our e-mail almost went unread, having gone to an older unused account and branded as spam, but within a month Bob responded with, "Thanks for the appreciation, knowing there are people out there who give a shit means a lot to me."
Bob didn't have his own web site and any other on-line references to his artwork consisted of box scans on retro sites including ExoticA. With regards to having his own web site, Bob mentioned, "A website is one of those things I keep meaning to do but then get too busy to actually follow up.... maybe this year!"
Whilst Bob didn't design the original Ocean logo, he was responsible for painting the full colour version used on nearly all releases since then. He didn't have the original logo artwork anymore, as this would have had pride of place in the gallery.
Bob kindly provided a steady flow of scans and comments to ExoticA for the next 4 years, typically requiring several reminder e-mails! Then Social Media got in the way!
Due to sites like Facebook making it easier to locate people and crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter making it easier to create a product, Bob became bombarded with all sorts of retro-related commercial projects, from books to videos to merchandise. It was about time Bob received due recognition for the part he played during the golden age of home video games.
It's just a shame that updates to this gallery fizzled out. Curse you Facebook!
That said, we are eternally grateful that Bob took the initial plunge and actually conversed with us nerds! As you read through his gallery comments, you'll hopefully appreciate how talented and witty and colourful he was on canvas and in person.
RiP Bob. You will be missed.
Athena was based on Lisa Lyon, an eighties pioneering bodybuilder. The Minotaur and tree were sketched out for me to finish by my mate Floyd Hughes.
Batman The Caped Crusader
Billy The Kid
I was told to try and make this one of the best illo's they'd ever had 'cos this was going to be hugely important for the new direction Ocean was taking. Spent a loooong time painting it, gave 'em the bill, and got knocked back. I negotiated a lower fee, but I can tell you I was severely miffed getting slapped in the face after all the years I'd spent meeting stupid deadlines for 'em.
The game went down the toilet.
Mr. 'Operation Wolf' makes another appearance here. Isn't he cute? Hope you're well, Baz.
I think it was '95. I remember seeing it printed on a box maybe a year later, but really small with a load of extraneous crap all around the design. Then it disappeared, (just like Ocean.)
The world map was a digitised photo that I cut around the lettering and then pasted in. What a nightmare idea that was, just flopping around, stretching out of shape and getting spraymount all over the art. I should have just shot myself in the head. Thank god for Photoshop!
This was the second attempt - my first was a Chinese prop-art style pastiche. It was more interesting but not what Ocean needed in their early days.
I gave the first one away without scanning it. Bummer.
I used to love doing explosions, mist and dust with the old airbrush and bog paper, ya can't quite get the same effect with Photoshop.
I would never have drawn raccoons like that - they're pretty f***in' weird.
That's all I remember about this pretty unmemorable illustration.
Daley Thompson's Decathlon
I probably spent around two days on it. Daley looks okay, the lettering and background are crap.
Steve Blower stuck some kind of plastic butterfly on it for the final box art.
Feckin' bizarre! He didn't even do drugs.
I can't remember the name of the guy I met up with from the team that developed this, but we had a long meeting discussing exactly what kind of illo he envisaged in his stoned brain for the box. So, I spent a long time getting this one together, and thought I did a pretty decent job getting what he wanted.
I delivered the art to Ocean, it was shown to the chappie, and he didn't like it. Nothing like what he wanted. A perfect example of why one should not engage in creative discussions when one's mind is addled.
Dave Ward liked it, so his 'opinion' was rendered irrelevant.
The pilot was the mongrel offspring of Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson.
To do the art, I was given a load of photos to choose from. Much to my chagrin, as Ocean was based in Manchester, it was thought that one of the shots involving a Scum player would be appropriate. As a Liverpool Red, this was akin to asking me to perform oral sex on Margaret Thatcher!
However, I like money. I did what I was asked.
Ocean went ahead and printed up a bunch of stuff. Then, apparently, someone at the FA went apeshit that Ocean had gone ahead without their completing the deal. Game Off.
I still got paid though. Prostitute that I am.
Did some quite nice lettering to compensate for my extreme lack of imagination re the rest of the illo.
Another picture of a warplane.
All I got for reference was a couple of screen shots. Never saw a demo. I remember avoiding the problem by going to the pub and playing pool every afternoon for a couple of weeks, and every time I got back to my studio the damn thing was there, taunting me.
Not a great illo.
In those less sophisticated times, the box art usually got done in a day. They were fun to do, because one didn't have to sweat over them - it was get an idea and bang it out. I think this one is fun, and has a spontaneous energy about it.
The wheelbarrow was drawn by Blair, who introduced me to Dave Ward and shared my studio for a time... until his insanity became too much for me to bear and I had to kill him!
(Or was that just a dream?)
A thoroughly boring job to do, although a couple of my survivalist, body-building, 'Nam-obsessed mates thought it was cool.
I did a crap illo for him (Rage) years later in two days flat on a piece of old mounting board I had lying around. I convinced him it was the emperor's new clothes and got paid ten times what it was worth.
A small victory, but it cheered me up for a few days..... sad, I know, but I'm easily pleased.
I think they deleted the splash of blood from the packaging - in true 1950's style!
Apparently the game was cack, but lots of people bought it 'cos they liked the box.
That's my job, suckah!
Hunch Back II - Quasimodo's Revenge
Dave Ward loved the cartoon breasts.
Staying awake was the most difficult aspect of the job.
International Open Golf Championship
The guy in the sweater was my photographer and skateboarder mate, Meanie. His mum made him the sweater.
All the other characters were lifted from golf magazines. Surprise!
I hate golf.
Island Of Death
Swords/guns/violence of any kind was always more interesting to my childlike mind than any other subject (with the possible exception of bounteous curves.)
Apparently, both the name of the game and the image I painted were too violent for someone's delicate nature. Probably the Germans.
IT'S A FRIGGIN' CARTOON FOR GOD'S SAKE! LOOK, THE BUNNY IS LAUGHING AT THE FLAT-TOPPED MORON! THEY'RE HAVING FUN!
I really liked this piece of work - shame it was never published.
I was either bored sh*tless or under the influence of something much more fun than illustrating a box for another stupid game.
This was one of a couple of pieces I did for Ocean Software close to the end. I can remember having a general bad feeling about what was happening at Ocean around this time, even though I was kept in the dark about the situation. There were fewer games, I was being squeezed on budgets and it was becoming increasingly difficult to get to see bossman Dave Ward. The red glow of the apocalypse had appeared on the horizon.
So I found other clients and got on with my life.
A few months later, I got a call from a good guy at Ocean - 'THEY'RE CLEARING OUT THE WAREHOUSE AND ALL YOUR ARTWORK IS GOING IN THE SKIP!'
I got a van, got over there, and got my artwork. Some was missing but I probably got around 80% of it.
I was seriously pissed off that my artwork had been treated that way, and if I'd have got my hands on ANY of the motherf*ckers still in charge on that day, I'd have probably only recently been paroled for my crime.
These early-ish Ocean jobs are not the finest examples of my art.
Copied a load of photos out of a football book and changed the kit (badly) and faces (badly) and hair (badly) then went to the pub.
A lot of time, effort and money went into printing this as posters, ads and inlays before Don Johnson's agent (apparently) informed Ocean that Mr. Johnson did not take kindly to artistic interpretations of his beautiful mug, and Ocean must immediately dump this appalling scribbling and replace it with a photograph that fairly represented his luminous handsomeness!
You'd have thought that Ocean would have always checked the acceptability of the images they were about to use on licensed properties.
Not that I cared - 'cos I still got paid - and was by this time getting accustomed to the frequent cock-ups.
My mate Floyd was visiting again, so I got him to draw the background characters for me to paint, thus enabling us to spend more time in the pub.
It was my choice, though, and often jolly good fun!
I'm OK now, for those of you who may be concerned.
Ocean were obviously trying to do a 'Sonic' with this game, and there was definately a feeling of nervousness and uncertainty in the air when discussing the right approach to take with the artwork.
Dave Ward wanted Nutzy's footwear changed from 'converse' style to a 'streetwise' style with the laces undone and the tongue hanging out. I opined that that fashion was already fading away at the time, and that the more classic 'baseball' style was a timeless look, and would be a better choice.
What happened next was that he got a guy in their studio to do alternative footwear versions of the character and suddenly we had different footwear on different packages.
There was also a lot of screwing with the box art background, but I almost lose the will to live when I try to remember the convolutions that went on at the time.
Frankly, the whole saga got on my tits and was only redeemed when I got paid. And that wasn't enough!
Obviously, being chased by a cannibal egg and a psychotic sausage is a very realistic and scary scenario if you're a corporate moron or a young-ish person.
The colour has faded somewhat due to it being left on the floor of a warehouse for several years.