Behind the Cover – Alexandre Chaudret
(The Iron Trials, by Holly Black, and Cassandra Clare)

by Diana Sousa

BehindTheCover

Our next artist, Alexandre Chaudret, is the illustrator behind the cover of The Iron Trials, written by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, published by Scholastic. Thank you Alexandre for answering these questions!

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Based in France, Alexandre graduated from Supinfocom, Valenciennes, in 2011 as a GC Artist. Since then he worked as a freelance illustrator for several companies, designing characters, illustrating board games and trading card games, and, as in this case, book covers. He currently also works for Spiders Games in Paris, France.

 

How did you become an illustrator? Was it an area you always wanted to explore, or did it simply happen?

Since I was a kid, I always loved to draw. In fact, I always liked to tell stories, so I learned to draw them. Then to paint them. Finally, when I chose to do art for a living, I studied fine arts and traditional arts, before going in a 3D CG School (Supinfocom, France) where I graduated as a 3D Director. Since then, I worked in the video games industry, as a Cinematic Director and Concept Artist. Finally, I also have a freelance activity: that’s where I do illustrations and character design, as well as book covers, and role playing games or miniature figurines.

I can’t say if  was “driven by destiny” to become an illustrator, but let’s say it was close to fate!

How did you get involved with this cover? Did Scholastic contact you directly, or did they already know your work?

I was contacted directly by Scholastic. They had discovered my work on one of my websites, Behance, if I recall well. It was a great surprise, and I got involved in the project quickly. I think they wanted a kind of “concept art” approach for the cover, and my double activity may have been an advantage in the process.

How was the process of developing the cover? Was there a clear goal in mind?

I was given a lot a liberty in the sketch phase, which I always do in black & white values, just to get the composition right. I think my main focus was on the Enemy, because it was a very cool figure from the book. Once the sketch is accepted, it is just a long journey until it  gets finished, from first colours to final details. I always had a great liberty on the piece, through each step of the process.

How were the authors involved? Was there some back and forth conversation with Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, any ideas or suggestions?

I was not in direct contact with the authors, but of course, they were fully involved in the process. Each step had their validation. It is their baby. I had absolutely to get the right idea of their story, characters and mood.

I am just a “hand that paints”. They are the genesis mastermind!

From your experience, does the publisher have the final say regarding the design of the book, or does the designer/illustrator (and in some small ways, the writer) have free reign?

From my personal point of view, and my way of working, that is not the case. These kinds of projects are a team work. Everyone is involved, every one is important and has their responsibility. Of course, I am paid for this work, so my first goal is to please my client, editor and author as well.

In fact, I don’t really mind about “who has the final word”. I just want the project to be the best possible and please everyone. And I guess everyone I’m working with has the same vision. Anyway, I hope so!

The fonts are also particularly evocative. What can you tell us about those (names, reason you chose them, anything you’d like to mention)?

Ha ha, well you will have to congratulate the artist who did those beautifull letters. It is not mine! As I said before: everything is a matter of confidence. I was fully confident in the artist of the typography, and he did a great job.

(Alexandre doesn’t know the name of the typography artist, they worked independently)

Was there anything particularly different or interesting about this illustration, interesting facts you’d like to share?

As I said, I am more often asked for concept art and character designs than for full cover illustrations. So this was already a new experience. I really enjoyed it, taking time to get a really cool image done with all the details and stuff.

I don’t have a lot of fun facts about the process and all, but in the early sketches, I had done a “iron skull” mask for the Enemy. I guess we can’t change a guy painting skeletons and undead warriors all in one try, haha.

Will you be involved with the covers of the sequels? If so, are you allowed to share a sneak peek?

I don’t know if the second volume has been announced yet. But I think you should keep in touch ;)

Finally, what are some of your favourite book covers, whether they’re recent or not?

That’s a hard question…

I’ll just check the books I can find on my desk. Well, near to me are some mangas, and especially one serie I find absolutely extraordinary: Berserk, by Kentaro Miura. The author usually paints beautiful oil paintings for the covers, absolutely incredible.

Oh, all the Hellboy comic books by Mignola are absolutely gorgeous too.

    


Merci, Alexandre, for your time!

If you liked this interview and want to see more of Alexandre’s work, you can check it out on his website!

  

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