Painting the Beast: The Art of Derek Riggs

Artist Spotlight is a new category of posts I’m making that will focus on some of metal’s best artists. These guys are an integral part of the metal aesthetic. One look at an album cover done by an incredible artist will let you know exactly what that album sounds like, and even add to the band’s image and atmosphere.

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Cover of Iron Maiden (1980)

The first artist spotlight will examine the art of Derek Riggs. He’s the one responsible for the now classic Iron Maiden covers off of their earlier albums featuring Eddie, the band’s ghoulish mascot. Although Riggs didn’t come up with the concept of Eddie (he was conceived by an art student who made an “Eddie” mask for a performance), his works have made him into the notorious figure we’re familiar with today.

Riggs was born in Portsmouth in 1958. Although he attended art school, he was kicked out and is mostly a self taught artist in both traditional and digital art techniques.

Iron Maiden came upon Riggs’ work when looking through his portfolio. They found “Electric Matthew Says Hello”; this picture would become the cover of their first album. The only thing they added was hair to Eddie’s head, since he was bald in the original illustration.

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Derek Riggs did the artwork for Iron Maiden’s albums in the 1980s and early ’90s.

Riggs would continue to work with Iron Maiden throughout the ’80s and early ’90s. In 1992, Maiden accepted contributions from other artists for their 9th album, Fear of the Dark. From this point on, Riggs would provide less of his artwork towards the Iron Maiden cause.

Riggs’s legacy as the original artist of Eddie the Head cannot be denied. Every subsequent artist has mimicked his grotesque and highly detailed style in one way or another. Eddie’s image has become completely synonymous to the band and their music.

As a character, Eddie has evolved over the years from an illustration on some album covers to a full blown entity all his own. There have been action t-shirts, buttons, pins, jackets, action figures, statues, bobbleheads, masks, and hundreds of other collectibles that bear his hallowed face. Eddie has even entered the digital realm as a video game character in a few Iron Maiden games, including the Ed Hunter computer game (1999) and the more recent Legacy of the Beast (2016) smartphone game.

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Eddie the Head collectible bobble heads.

We have Riggs to thank for such a memorable character that will surely be cherished by metal fans around the world until the end of Iron Maiden, and probably well beyond it.

Which Derek Riggs album cover is your favorite?

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