Post 13 (Odin): Roger Dean 1970’s surrealist master

Posted: June 5, 2012 by Odin in Uncategorized


“I never thought of it as fantasy. Essentially, I paint landscapes. Most are real, like the trees, but I add something that is not real like waterfalls with no source of water or rocks that float. But these are all inspired by places I’ve seen,”

Born in 1944, Roger moved around the world as a child, being the son of an army soldier. When he was twelve, he returned to England where he has lived since then, but the influence of exotic landscapes would resurface in his art and design in his adult years.

Budgie – Never Turn Your Back on a Friend

After graduating with qualifications in both design and art in 1968, he worked on a number of album sleeves over the next few years but it was his cover for Osibisa’s first album that made him famous, displaying his talent for surrealist imagery and also his distinctive typography and logo design.

Osibisa (1971)

It was his work for Osibisa that led to his work for the band Yes, whose album sleeves he would produce over the next decade, and for which he would be most famous. He also worked on the spin off supergroups that comprised members of Yes and other progressive rock / metal bands of the time.

yes – Close to the Edge (1972)

Yes logo

Yes – Fragile (1971)

His influence in graphic design is heavily felt, as numerous artists sprang up copying his style and content (sometimes quite slavishly). His style became synonymous with the music of prog-rock, with his themes often echoing the lyrical fantasy and whimsy of the music, and his painting techniques visually representing its feel.

Budgie – Squawk (1972)

In 1976, he co-founded the publishing company Paper Tiger, which publish art books and posters by artists who had fantastic and surrealist leanings, some of who were influenced heavily by Roger.

Album Cover Album – Paper Tiger publisher (1977)

Artists working on fantasy book covers, comics and poster-art, have often used his style, but the most obvious influence has been seen with the landscapes and creatures of the film Avatar. Though not formally acknowledged by the films creators, a comparison of Roger Dean’s art and the film are very revealing, to say the least.

A painting by Roger Dean

Since the 70’s, Roger has worked on numerous other projects from computer game design to eco-architecture, but it is his dreamlike landscapes and flowing typography for which he is most remembered.

Yes – Yessongs (1973)

Uriah Heep – The Magician’s Birthday (1972)



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