The level one dungeon shield room.


By Keith McDonald

The much-loved handpainted designs of Knightmare's early dungeon rooms were the work of artist and illustrator, David Rowe.

By the 1980s, David was an illustrator of computer game artwork. It was this that drew him to the attention of Knightmare creator and gaming enthusiast, Tim Child.

Tim had seen an opportunity to create a fantasy gaming environment through television, but it needed the artwork to bring it to life.

David was asked to create some test rooms, before later becoming the principal artist for the first three years of the show.

Matching to a grid

As an illustrator, David was used to working to briefs and constraints. But Knightmare posed a different challenge – how to create artwork that would match the exact dimensions of the studio.

A grid of the void created by Jean Peyre for David Rowe to create his memorable handpainted artwork.
Jean Peyre's perspective grid

The answer was a grid that copied the exact view from the camera. Tim Child consulted with French special effects expert, Jean Peyre, to create a series of grids that would reflect the exact view of the camera.

This wasn't just vital for perspective, but also for set design. When one of David's finished paintings contained a wellway, a staircase, or a rocky chasm, a corresponding blue prop needed to be in the exact same position on the studio floor for the overlay to work.

A bluescreen shot from 1987 featuring Lillith (Mary Miller).
Above: Using the grid, Lillith's seat was set at precisely a metre high in that part of the studio. Blue blocks are enough for the illusion to work.

The commission for a dark and mysterious environment captured David's imagination. He reveals in his book, 'The Art of Knightmare' that he particularly enjoyed creating techniques to recreate wet stone and an aged effect.

From airbrush to photoshop

Years later, David was asked to design Lord Fear’s domain for the Geek Week episode, which was released to YouTube in 2013.

The dungeoneer enters the Corridor of the Catacombs. Remastered for the Geek Week episode of Knightmare (2013).
The original rooms are remastered for the 2013 episode

This was done by scanning and using Photoshop, eclipsing the early methods of faxing drafts. Some of the columns were produced as textured models for close-up shots, David revealed.

Original handpainted rooms

Original artwork from the first Merlin chamber designed by David Rowe.
Hall of Folly, Merlin's Chamber: Series 1-2

Original artwork from the Level 2 clue room designed by David Rowe.
Level 2 Clue Room: Series 1-3

Original artwork for the scene of Mount Fear designed by David Rowe.
Mount Fear: Series 6, Geek Week

Inline version of the original 'bomb room'.
Bomb Room: Series 1-3

DownloadBomb Room Desktop (759.84kB)

Inline version of the original 'shield room' (Corridor of the Catacombs)
Shield Room / Corridor of the Catacombs: Series 1-3

DownloadShield Room Desktop (1.13MB)

See more original Knightmare artwork.

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