Roger Dean (born 31 August 1944), is an English artist, designer, architect and publisher and perhaps best known for his iconic work on progressive rock band album covers. His unique, instantly recognisable style often features exotic landscapes populated with dramatic and impossible natural rock formations, lush alien flora and fauna, and strange organic structures.

After the release of James Cameron’s blockbuster movie ‘Avatar’, Dean enjoyed a surge of interest in his work. It’s obvious Avatar’s design team have borrowed many visual motifs found in Dean’s work. To be fair, it’s inconceivable to think of fantasy and sci-fi art without being influenced by the superlative work of Roger Dean.

To celebrate his work, I’ve asked a selection of contemporary designers and artists to select their favourite Roger Dean piece and tell us in their own words why.  Roger Dean, as chosen by those he has inspired.

Roger Dean - Billy Cox "Nitro Function"

Billy Cox “Nitro Function” (LP Sleeve 1972)
Chosen by: Eric Carl

“One of my favourite Roger Dean pieces would have to be the 1972 album art for “Nitro Function” by Billy Cox. It wasn’t a piece I was familiar with until browsing through his first art book, “Views”. While most of Roger Dean’s work focuses on landscapes, it’s his more character-driven pieces like these that I’m most drawn to. There’s a few different aspects of the image that I find interesting:

First would have to be the unusually sparse composition, as the primary characters actually make up rather little of the image. Most of the real estate is occupied by negative space.

Second would be the depiction of the characters themselves—while the horses and hybrid spaceship/alien creatures (what are they exactly?) all appear to be living, breathing entities, they take on more of an architectural and structural sensibility within the landscape (particularly the most prominent horse and rider located in the foreground). Roger Dean has admitted himself that he’s not so great with figure drawing—maybe his rigid characters here are just a result of that, but I think the ambiguity between inanimate object and lifeform makes for an intriguing image.

The last thing I love about this piece is exactly how he’s chosen to occupy all of his negative space—with one epic, swirling cloud of who-knows-what. Is it an atomic explosion pouring a poisonous toxin across the wasteland? Or just the common night sky on an alien world? Regardless of its literal intent, the technique used here (known as “marbling”, a combination of oil-based paints and water) does a great job of setting an ominous, other-worldly tone to the scene.”

Eric’s portfolio site is here:

Roger Dean "Red Dragon"

Red Dragon (Acrylic on Canvas, 1987)
Chosen by: Dan McPharlin

“My first encounter with Roger Dean’s paintings was in the late 1980s with the lavish packaging he produced for Liverpool software house Psygnosis. This work, Red Dragon, was used on the packaging for Barbarian in 1987.

I think what I love about this, in particular, is the graphic punch of the vividly coloured subject (apparently a later addition) against what is essentially a monochromatic backdrop; a strange, almost oriental landscape full of distressed bone-like forms in geological upheaval, now draped with silvery waterfalls, clumps of vegetation and thick fog. We are left to ponder the red dragon’s place in this world; no doubt near the top of the food chain, prowling a rocky outcrop in search of his next meal.”

Dan’s Portfolio Site:

Roger Dean - Virgin Records Logo

Virgin Records Logo
Chosen by: Dick Hogg

“I am going to choose the original Virgin Record label. It is as old as I am. It combines two of my favorite things fantasy art and graphic design. Two things that don’t normally mix very well but in this case I think it is perfect. It is also the piece of his work that I see the most. I don’t own any Yes albums and all my old Amiga games are in the loft but I do have a 7″ of In Dulci Jubilo that I play occasionally and the label always makes me smile.”

Dick’s portfolio site:

Roger Dean "Floating Islands"

Floating Islands
Chosen by: James White

“Selecting a favourite Roger Dean painting was a bit cumbersome because his portfolio is as vast as the landscapes he depicts. But to me, Roger Dean’s “Floating Islands” best represents his body of work. Those islands look perfectly at home suspended in mid-air, and I love the palette and composition of this painting. It’s very calm, serene and natural, almost like he sat on one of those islands to paint his surroundings.

This might have been one of the first pieces I saw by Dean, so to me it remains very symbolic of what he does.”

James White’s ever popular blog:

Roger Dean - Paladin "Charge"

Paladin “Charge” (LP Sleeve 1972)
Chosen by Jeff Love

“Roger Dean can lay claim to defining two areas of artistic expression; the vinyl record sleeve and Science Fiction art. This image – like much of Dean’s work – falls into both categories, and was possibly commissioned as an LP sleeve for progressive rock band Paladin’s 1972 album “Charge”. I was lucky enough to find a huge poster of this painting in a dirty record shop in an alley in Glasgow’s West End, I now have it framed and hanging on my wall.

There appears to be no great meaning to be found in the painting, however like most SF art it works best when used in conjunction with the imagination of the viewer. Personally, I’m always drawn the the mechanical horse’s head, where the Paladin appears to be manipulating and controlling the beast via some method of hand-held control.”

Jeff runs the excellent

Roger Dean - Terrorpods

Terrorpods (Box Art 1987)
Chosen by: Lopetz (Büro Destruct)

“For me the name “Roger Dean” is instantly connected to “Commodore Amiga” plus the purple owl game-publisher “Psygnosis”. I’m beamed right back to 1987 into my room when I was a teenager playing those fantastic games like “Barbarian”, “Shadow of the Beast”, “Obliterator” and last but not least “Terrorpods”. I selected “Terrorpods” as my favorite Roger Dean artwork for the frightening sci-fi atmosphere in the illustrations on the cover and the poster which accompanied the two floppy disks. I was so curious to meet those Tripod creatures in motion. As the game graphics were poor compared with today, the storyline/gameplay was clever and Psygnosis understood to attract players by impressive packaging artworks from illustrators like Roger Dean. Just guessing James Cameron played that game too 😉 Just have to search for those dusty floppy disks in my parents house roof room now.”

Büro Destruct:

Addendum Jan 2011 – Art is actually from Tim White based on a earlier Roger Dean Designs (thanks Rarius)

Roger Dean "Psygnosis Logo"

Psygnosis Logo
Chosen by: Kieran Kelly (Sci-Fi-O-Rama Admin!)

“I’m notoriously useless at making executive decisions, particularly when they involve favouriting. I’ve decided to go with the piece that best encapsulates all my first Roger Dean A/W memories; I’ve chosen the memorable Psygnosis “Silver Owl” Logo. Anyone who owned an Amiga or ST will instantly recognise it.

Psygnosis, for those that don’t know, is a Liverpool based game developer originally founded in 1984 and now known as “SCE Studio Liverpool”. Back in the late 80s Psygnosis produced a stable of games primarily for the 16-bit Commodore Amiga and Atari St platforms, as Lopetz alluded to in his notes. Graphics back then were far simpler than today so exciting and enticing box art was critical….. and no one did it better that Pysgnosis!”


Top image is ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ and was produced as Album art for British Prog Rockers ‘Yes’.

Read more about Roger Dean here on wikipedia and visit his personal site as well.

A large selection of Roger’s landscapes and plenty of discussion in this article: Did Prog Rock’s Greatest Artist Inspire Avatar? All Signs Point To Yes

See more of Dean’s Psygnosis work at:

Psygnosis fans should not miss these either:

Finally, check out Sci-Fi-O-Rama friend ‘John Coulthart’ and his many rumination on the transcendent Roger Dean.

19 thoughts on “Roger Dean – As Chosen by Those He Has Inspired

  1. Got hooked on Yes and Roger Dean with Yes’s “Fragile” album as a kid. Had posters of “Tales from Topographic Oceans” and Paladin “Charge” hanging in my bedroom.

  2. Credit were credit is due: The “Terrorpods” illustration is by Tim White – not Mr Dean. The machine is however based on designs by Roger Dean, from his aborted “War of the Worlds” project.
    See pages 96-115 in Roger Deans 1984 book “Magnetic Storm” for more of these images by Roger Dean, Tim White and Richard Clifton-Dey.

  3. Thanks for pointing that out Rarius,

    I haven’t tagged the Post with Tim White although when I posted it prior I did mention this…. I didn’t however realise the complete rendering was Tim White….

    I’ll update…

  4. I have a book of roger dean’s VIEWS it is autographed twice, one is to an andree giles in silver, the other is in ink. Any one interested?

  5. don johnson says:

    March 6, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    I have a book of roger dean’s VIEWS it is autographed twice, one is to an andree giles in silver, the other is in ink. Any one interested?

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