Artwork copyright Iron Maiden & Derek Riggs
The genius of the artist Derek Riggs
Derek Riggs is the artist responsible for the artwork of heavy metal band Iron Maiden. Iron Maiden have sold over 100 million albums, and have been going since the late 1970s. Riggs designed the character Eddie, the band’s iconic mascot, and illustrated the artwork up until about 1990.
As a kid I loved the first few albums, Iron Maiden, Killers, and The Number of the Beast. The earlier material had more of a punk feel, and I loved the music as a teenager, but it was the artwork that really drew me in. Riggs is still one of my favourite artists.
There was never that much known of Derek Riggs, his work was active largely pre-internet, and he no longer works with the band, a brilliant interview here from 2013 tells his story. For me as an illustrator who has been lucky enough to work for some fantastic clients, and the occasional difficult one, it’s a fascinating insight into the work of a commercial artist, and some of the issues we meet. In particular I had a rye old laugh at this comment.
“You know, Steve Harris‘s (the bass player and band founder) idea was he wanted to link Eddie to his favorite football team,” he said. “It’s like, you’ve got a legendary rock ‘n’ roll icon, and it’s the best selling icon there’s ever been in rock and roll and you want to tag it onto the ass-end of some fucking second-rate football team (Harris is a big West Ham supporter). From then on I just kind of lost interest: ‘If you want to do it, you fucking do it. Let’s see what you’ve got.’ And what they had was nothing.”
And while as a designer and illustrator I regret every angry email I’ve ever sent, (I go into that in more detail here) and will never write another one, one of the hardest things to learn as a designer and illustrator was to ‘let go’, and let the client be in charge. Reading that quote from Derek Riggs, all I can say with a huge grin is, yeah, I’m see why you moved on.