Today Todd Lockwood is here on the blog to talk about the covers of the Memoir by Lady Trent series, by Marie Brennan, published by Tor Books.

Website | Twitter


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

A little of both. My parents encouraged my artistic pursuits, though they discouraged me from comic book art, sadly, which is what I enjoyed most when I was young. It’s how I taught myself to draw. In my mind, I was really telling stories, so writing and drawing at the same time. I went to the Colorado Institute of Art in 1979-1981, and leapt straight into advertising. I did design and illustration for a local design firm for a year and a half, then left to try my hand at freelance illustration. I painted many many beer cans and satellite dishes and other extraordinarily dull things for the next fourteen years. Throughout that time I admired the book covers of Frank Frazetta, Michael Whelan, and others, and played D&D with my friends to preserve my insanity. I was so sick of ad work, I was prepared to hang up my brushes and get a real estate license.

Then in 1994 I attended my first convention, World con in Winnipeg, Manitoba. A whirlwind two years later TSR hired me on to their art staff. It was a huge break—career saving, even.

How did you get involved with these covers and illustrations? Did Tor Books contact you directly, or did they already know your work?

TOR Books was the first publisher outside of TSR to hire me for cover work, so I’d known the art director, Irene Gallo, for quite a while. I’d done other work for her and she knew my dragons, in particular an anatomical study I’d done for my own entertainment.

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

The first one was, I believe, fairly directly inspired by my anatomical piece. I revisioned it for the cover—mine was a muscle study, but that would have been a little hard core for a book cover, but we wanted that feel of a scholarly study. So I left the skin on the front of the dragon and made it more transparent as it went toward the tail, gave it a jauntier step so it would feel alive, not flayed (as it turned out, that same dragon gets dissected in the book!). The conceit is that “Lady Trent” is also the artist, so I went with a pencil-and-watercolor look.

I honestly don’t recall how the second cover came about. I had met Marie some time after the first book was done—we met at a book reading in Seattle, and exchange emails regularly. I might have suggested it, or Marie and I in combination with Irene might have discussed it. I do recall that we switched from the original idea in order to choose a dragon that would be more interesting in motion. I had in mind the illustrations of an artist I recalled seeing a lot of during the 80s, Bob Ziering, who did these amazing, fluid motion studies. I had done something similar for the Draconomicon that Wizards of the Coast published a few years before, of a red dragon’s movements as it took off.

Marie suggested the third—a size comparison chart. I was totally on board with that. And Marie suggested a bunch of marine fauna to use and gave me the taxonomical names.

Do you have pictures of earlier designs?

See below for some earlier stages. The need for typography dictated the pose and motion to a certain degree, but I knew from the outset that it would be anther profile moving from left to right, back to front.

(click on the images to make them bigger)

DragonNature II_sketch_001 copy   DragonNature II_sketch_003 copy

DragonNature II_sketch_008 copy

From your experience, does the publisher have the final say regarding the design of the book, or does the designer/illustrator have free rein?

The degree of autonomy varies from publisher to publisher, but the publisher has final say, of course. I received a great deal of trust and free reign on these covers, which adds to the enjoyment of doing them. I was so into the project that I took it upon myself to design the typography for the title treatment. I didn’t want it done wrong. It needed to evoke the design sensibilities of the time in which the novels are set.

Was there anything particularly different about these illustrations for you?

They are a refreshing change of pace for me, in that I get to explore a look that doesn’t come up very often for me, the pencil-and-watercolor technique I mentioned previously. They’re almost all drawing. The paint part of it goes pretty quickly. But that means that the drawing is carrying much more of the load than normal.

Finally, what are some of the favourite book covers that you’ve seen (recently or not), from other designers and illustrators?

There are so many outstanding artists working these days that it would be impossible to pick a favorite. I grew up on NC Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Frederic Remington  (below), Charles Russell, and others. Then Frazetta and Jeff Jones, Whelan (below), Boris… Along come the TSR artists: Parkinson, Easley, Caldwell, Brom. So  many others working now whose works inspires and challenges me: Donato, Scott Fischer, Jon Foster (below), Rick Barry, Stephen Martiniere… Too many to name or remember!


Thank you Todd for your time!

Here are some other examples of Todd’s work:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *