Thursday 2 October 2014

A Work of Orc

Happy Orctober one and all!

I'm sure you're aware Erny has launched Orctober once more and there has already been a plethora of Orcy articles on numerous blogs.
Last year I pondered on the subject - What a thing an Orc is?

This time around I thought I'd examine why I have such a fondness for all things Goblinoid and green (and for that matter orange, brown, black, etc). Much of the reason for this is all the amazing artwork that seared itself into my young and impressionable brain. So to kick off this month's celebration of all things Orcish I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite Orc illustrations.

As it was Fighting Fantasy (along with Heroquest) that first whetted my appetite for all things Fantasy, I'll start with some of those amazing Orcy front covers - which looking back seem to mostly come from the talented hands of Chris Achilleos.

Armies of Death is a case in point. With a burning town to his right and a gibbering horde to his left, the central character in this portrait is a fine figure of an Orc. Heavily armed and armoured and standing on a pile of his vanquished foes, this is one Orc not to be tangled with! Might have to see about making a similar standard pole for my army standard bearer when I get round to it...

Orc War Banner 1987 Chris Achilleos

You'll have seen this image here a few times because of my Trolltooth Wars project - and you'll see it again because I never get tired of it!

Orc Hero 1988 Chris Achilleos
On Chris' official website there's a nice bit of text to go with the painting -

This painting was inspired by the empathy we can sometimes feel for the monster, when it is attacked and brought down by over-whelming odds.

I think no matter what your feelings are towards Orcish kind, you're definitely rooting for the big guy in this one!

As a small aside I think I have to say that Chris Achilleos has got to be pretty much my favourite fantasy artist of all time. While I was browsing the gallery on his website I spotted this painting, which I'd not come across before -

Berserker 1989 Chris Achilleos
I particularly like the Orc champion getting ready to clobber the titular berserker round the head with his huge club! Good to see a liberal sprinkling of undead nasties in amongst the green horde too!

Although I came across this next image much later - probably on the front cover of an old White Dwarf or of course Ravening Hordes - I can't talk about Chris Achilleos and not mention The Orcs Charge. There is not another more iconic image of a Ravening Horde that I can think of.

The Orcs Charge 1985 Chris Achilleos
They seem to be more associated (at least in my and a few other Oldhammerers' minds) with Hobgoblins, rather than Orcs - I suppose because of the brown hue of their skin and slightly Eastern appearance of their equipment.

Of course there's no mistaking John Blanche's green meanies and although I've never played Chaos Marauders, I have the 3rd ed. Warhammer Fantasy Battle rule book to thank for introducing me to the artwork.

Chaos Marauders 1987 John Blanche

You gotta love them Venomous Creeps!
Blanche's depiction for Ugezod's Death Commandos is another favourite - grim and grimy as this Dirty Half Dozen should be!

The Mighty Ugezod's Death Commandos 1985 John Blanche
Blanche strikes again with his rendition of the Drastic Plastic Orcs - I missed them first time around and again only know this image from the 3rd ed. rule book. I have since then picked up one solitary Drastic Plastic Orc - might be nice to get a unit together for completeness' sake at some point. Anyhow, it's another classic image of the green menace.

Drastic Plastic Orcs 1986 John Blanche
I couldn't embark on a round up of favourite fantasy artists without mentioning Gary Chalk. I must admit he was a grower on me - as a kid I wasn't convinced by his unique style. Now  I love it and having immersed myself in Bloodbath at Orc's Drift for several years, these images are like old friends now.
Bloodbath at Orc's Drift 1985 Gary Chalk
One of the Wood Elves of Kachas Pass meets a sticky end!

Magyar Ironfist - Chieftain of the Kwae Karr Tribe

Orcs of the Kwae Karr tribe - I wonder who does their shields and banners?
Best not forget Gary Chalk's superb illustrations of the Orc-like Giaks from the world of Magnamund in the Lone Wolf game book series.
Another giant of the fantasy art world is Ian Miller and I've been hooked on his weird, organic and intricate style since reading the Fighting Fantasy adventure, House of Hell. The glorious front cover of the Siege rulebook showcases his take on Orcish kind in full colour. I think his chaotic imagery suits the subject matter well. 
Warhammer Siege 1988 Ian Miller


Ian Miller also contributed various illustrations to the Tolkien Bestiary, first published in 1979 - a book I recently picked up for a few quid in a charity shop. Lots more brooding artwork of Uruks and other monsters like this one!

Uruk Hai 1979 Ian Miller

A year or so back I did a half term's work on The Hobbit with my class, culminating in a performance of the whole story which, might I say, was done in one instalment and was a lot more faithful to the text than a certain Mr Jackson managed!

Anyway one of the more enjoyable (in a very enjoyable half term's work) jobs I had to do was find as much imagery as I could to inspire the kids with their writing, drama and artwork. One of the images that stuck with me was John Howe's painting, The Uruk Hai, which was done for the 1987 Tolkien calendar. A superb and realistic portrait of an Uruk patrol, perhaps awaiting orders on the slopes of Mordor or perhaps abroad somewhere in Middle Earth, preparing for a raid. Apparently this painting was one of three that was stolen and never recovered from a gallery in France in 1997!

The Uruk Hai 1987 John Howe
I can't really mention Tolkien illustrators without mentioning Alan Lee. Having never seen the edition of The Lord of the Rings that he illustrated (I obviously led a very deprived childhood!), again a lot of these images were new to me when I discovered them when researching and preparing for the Hobbit topic I mentioned earlier.
This study of a Mordor Orc and one of the Uruk Hai offers another view of these most numerous servants of Sauron.

The Land of Shadow 1995 Alan Lee

I'm sure there are many more iconic images and illustrations of Orcs out there - these are a few that stick in my mind.

So how about your good selves? What shocking omissions have I left out? What do you rate as being definitive depiction of an Orc?


  1. What a great visual trip down memory lane. Some classic artists that I remember fondly.

    1. The l;ate 80's was definitely a bumper decade for Fantasy art!

  2. Another one is Paul Bonner. I loved his 40k Orks DAK style.

    1. Yep - definitely! I knew I'd forgotten someone! Love his Space Orks and his Fantasy stuff is beautiful as well.

  3. Fantastic and evocative choices of Orc images. I really need to rebuild my bank of inspirational artwork from such a wide range of sources, many thanks! Certainly agree on Paul Bonner.

    1. Glad you liked them - there were loads of more modern images I could have included too but I thought I'd keep it nostalgic.

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  5. Happy Orctober! Great post. (Previous comment deleted due to spelling errors).
    For my money, I love Chalk's orcs -- there something in his pictures that captures that same sense of mischief that you see in Kev Adams' sculpts. And incidentally, as Orlygg has pointed out, the original painting of the cover of Blood Bath at Orc's Drift (depicting Hagar Sheol) is now for sale on eBay. Only 800 GBP!

    1. Happy Orctober to you too!

      I think you're right about Chalk's Orcs - look at the child-like glee on that Orc's face as he pops out of the bush to impale an unfortunate Wood Elf!

      £800 - what a bargain!

  6. Never played Chaos Marauders? It's great fun, and when Blanche gets his cartoon head on theres a lot of really fun details. I think the Achilleos "Orcs Charge" also appeared in the FF Out of the Pit book (A4 version).

    1. Definitely something I need to remedy - love Blanche's work in it.

      Had a flick through Out of the Pit and couldn't see Achilleos' work in it - Beyond the Pit maybe?