Painting A “Friend” Cover: Graham Bleathman

J Campbell Kerr

This week’s cover of lovely Ledbury was painted by the artist Graham Bleathman.

Graham’s one of the select few who paints for us under the moniker J. Campbell Kerr, and this snowy scene of the Herefordshire market town was his 200th cover!

We caught up with him for a wee chat about his work.

How long does it take to do a “Friend” cover?

It normally takes around 3 to 4 days to complete a cover, depending on its complexity. I often get a couple of cover commissions at once, so I tend to draw both scenes in pencil on to the art paper at the same time before commencing the cover that has the more urgent deadline!

What are your favourite scenes to paint? Urban or natural? Summer or winter?

I prefer urban scenes featuring all types of architecture; it reflects some of the other work I do in other genres, which is often more technical, usually involving illustrations of buildings and vehicles. I don’t mind what season I am asked to illustrate; most of the covers have a summery feel to them so it is nice to do the occasional winter snow scene by way of a change!

Do you start with a pencil sketch or go straight in with the paint?

I start by drawing the scene out in pencil on the paper the final artwork will be painted on; mainly to ensure that nothing vital is covered by the masthead or other graphics on the cover!

When was your first “Friend” cover?

I have worked on covers for the People’s Friend in two stints; a short period in the mid-90s, then from 2006 onwards. My first printed cover was in March 1995, and this was Loch Leven in Argyll, although the first to be actually commissioned was of Forde Abbey in Dorset, which appeared in October that year. Glasgow University was the first one published when I restarted in May 2006!

When you’re not painting for the magazine, what subjects do you normally paint?

Although I still use traditional methods, “Friend” covers are quite a departure from my “normal” work, which is often related to science fiction TV series in the main. Most of my work involves painting “cutaways” –illustrations showing the inner workings of fictional locations and vehicles – for books about Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Wallace & Gromit and Dan Dare.

I also do similar illustrations for real life locations such as the SS Great Britain, which are used for publicity purposes. I also get asked to do production/background and concept art for animated releases on DVD of old (and believed to be wiped) episodes of Doctor Who every now and then, too! However, the PF covers keep my hand in doing landscapes, which I really enjoy doing!


Alex Corlett

Alex is the "Friend's" Features Editor, working with the talented Features Team to bring you everything from cryptic crosswords to financial advice, knitting patterns to international travel and inspirational real life stories. Always on the hunt for a new feature idea, Alex also enjoys cycling and loves a good tea room.