Behind the Cover – Karl Kwasny
(The Year of Shadows, by Claire Legrand)

by Diana Sousa

BehindTheCover

Karl Kwasny joins us to talk about the cover he did for The Year of Shadows, by Claire Legrand, published by Simon & Schuester, as well as the illustrations he did for the same book.

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

Well, I’ve always wanted to do something artistic, but it took me a while to discover exactly what that was. I bounced around various courses at university for a while until I ended up doing graphic design at QCA in Brisbane. I love design and typography and so on, but I didn’t want to end up working at some design studio doing work I didn’t care about.

So I decided towards the end of that course that I needed to have a proper go at being a freelance illustrator. I started sending out emails to every art director I could find the contact details for and eventually started getting a few jobs. Then I got an agent and work started coming in more regularly.

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

I think this one was through my illustration agency, actually. I’m not sure if the art director knew about my work beforehand. It’s hard to tell sometimes unless you ask.

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

The brief was fairly open to begin with, aside from the fact that they wanted a full bleed image, meaning the art goes off the edges of the cover. Although, on the final version there’s an ornamental border.

I did a few thumbnails of possible directions the cover could go in, and showed Lucy Cummins, the art director. She then chose a direction (thumbnail 5) and we started developing the final cover.

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Roughs

How was the author involved? Was there some back and forth conversation with Claire Legrand, any ideas or suggestions?

Well, in my experience the publisher tends to distance the author from the illustration process. I emailed Claire a few times to clarify some things, but the publisher much prefers if you don’t. I can understand why they take this approach – it makes it much easier for them to keep the process under control. If you have the illustrator interacting with the author and making decisions without the publisher being aware of it, it could cause some confusion.

Do you have pictures of earlier designs of the cover?

Just the early thumbnails of other design options and sketches for the cover we ended up with.

OliviaEarlyDesign  CoverVeryEarlyRough  BGPencils

What about the interior illustrations, how was the process there?

Well, as I recall I was given the manuscript and a series of illustration suggestions – the editor and the author went through and picked out parts of the story they felt ought to be illustrated. I picked my favourites and started working on them. Like the cover, I sent over a series of thumbnails first, then I was given the go-ahead to work on the final versions.

The deadline was pretty tight on this project, and I had several other projects to do simultaneously, so I ended up needing to substitute one or two of the more complex interiors for less detailed ones. I wish I had more time to work on the interiors because I really love the book, but there’s not much you can do once it goes to print!

interior001 interior002 interior003

interior008 interior009 interior010

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 publisher definitely has final say on projects like this. They have to get all sorts of approvals from their marketing people and so on. If you’re working on your own project – your own intellectual property – I imagine you have a lot more freedom than if you’re working on someone else’s project through a publisher.

What can you tell us about the title typography?

Typography is one of my favourite things to work on. I seem to remember that I did a sketch one afternoon for the type, and sent it over to the art director to ask her what she thought. We ended up using that version for the final cover! I’m not sure how much there is to say about it really. They wanted something script-ish with some flowing embellishments. I always love experimenting with different ways to combine letters.

Was there anything particularly different or interesting about these illustrations and cover, interesting facts you’d like to share?

Well, this was my first proper book illustration project where I worked on both the cover and interior illustrations, so in that sense it was something of a milestone for me.

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

Hmm, the one that most recently impressed me was Wild by Emily Hughes. I also discovered Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D. B. Johnson the other day. I quite like the style, but mostly I like it because it teaches kids about Henry David Thoreau’s philosophy.

  


Thank you Karl for your time and your answers!

Here are other works Karl has done in the past:

    

Behind the Cover – Todd Lockwood
(Memoir by Lady Trent series, by Marie Brennan)

by Diana Sousa

BehindTheCover

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.

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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:

    

Behind the Cover – Chris Riddell
(Coraline and The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman)

by Diana Sousa

BehindTheCover

 

Chris Riddell is known for illustrating Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and The Graveyard Book, as well as his own books Ottoline and Goth Girl, and political cartoons for the Observer. He has won awards such as the Nestlé Gold Award and the rare honour of two Kate Greenaway Medals. Chris lives in Brighton.

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How did you become an illustrator? Was it an area you always wanted to explore, or did it end up happening?

I became an illustrator because my twin passions were reading and drawing. The books I read provided the inspiration for my drawings. I decided when I was quite young that I wanted to illustrate books. My heroes were Sir John Tenniel and William Heath Robinson (shown below, respectively).

  

How did you get involved with these covers and illustrations? Did Bloomsbury / Neil Gaiman contact you directly, or did they already know your work?

Sarah Odedina at Bloomsbury contacted me and sent a message to Neil, who e-mailed me the first draft of The Graveyard Book. I loved it and readily agreed to illustrate it.

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

The process with the covers of The Graveyard Book and Coraline were similar. The designer gave me a loose cover brief and I drew a rough and suggested hand lettering. Neil and the designer approved my rough with no alterations and I went to finished artwork.

How was the author involved? Was there some back and forth conversation with Neil Gaiman, any ideas or suggestions?

Neil is remarkable in that he doesn’t give directions for how I should interpret the characters. As long as I respect the text, he gives me freedom to envisage the characters as I see fit. The only comment was Neil asking me to change Silas’ hair from white to black.

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

Bloomsbury have been very good at allowing me free rein to draw the covers and illustrations in my own way.

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

Neil creates a visual space for his illustrators to occupy, giving us texture, description and leading details to fire our imaginations. He is a perfect writer to work with in this respect.

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

I love Shaun Tan’s work, David Roberts, and Alexis Deacon. My favourite cover is “The Adventures of Uncle Lubin” by William Heath Robinson (shown above).

  


Thank you Chris, for your time!

If you want to see more of Chris’ work, including his other books and illustrations, you can check out his website! I hope you liked this interview.

  

Behind the Cover – Tom Bagshaw
(Pantomime and Shadowplay by Laura Lam)

by Diana Sousa

BehindTheCover

Our first artist is Tom Bagshaw, the creator of the Pantomime and Shadowplay covers, written by Laura Lam and published by Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot). Thank you, Tom, for joining us!

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Based in the Georgian city of Bath, England, Tom Bagshaw works as a commercial illustrator under the moniker Mostlywanted. For his personal work he has developed a highly rendered digital painting style through which he explores themes of fantasy, beauty and mysticism. While his work deals with imaginative content, it also aims for a strong level of realism in its presentation. Feminine beauty and portraiture play a large role in his work, but the women he depicts are never frail damsels in distress. More often than not they are strong, intriguing characters, with an air of mystery to them.

      

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

I had always wanted to do something creative and set out with an idea of becoming an illustrator or fine artist. What I’ve done has changed over the years, but I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve done.

How did you get involved with these covers for the Micah Grey series? Did Strange Chemistry contact you directly, or did they already know your work?

I was contacted via my illustration agency (Central Illustration Agency) – they had been approached by the publishers and were interested in working with me on the covers.

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

The publishers had a strong idea of what they wanted me to do and fortunately it was something I could really go with – sometimes it really doesn’t happen that way!

How was the author involved? Was there some back and forth conversation with Laura Lam, any ideas or suggestions?

After a rough version was sent to the publishers for feedback I had some little changes to do which were things that Laura wanted to add in (things that were more relevant to the story).

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

It really does depend on the job – some publishers are incredibly specific and will be completely inflexible making you do a piece that isn’t your best. Others are wonderful and allow free reign with a little direction – but those with no clear direction are actually some of the worst to deal with, all they can tell you is what they “don’t” like. That’s not good direction.

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

Because of how well the publishers and author were able to communicate and give clear direction these were the most hassle free and enjoyable book cover commissions I’ve had!

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

I don’t really have any one book that is a favourite but since my youth I was always very fond of Josh Kirby’s work for Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

    

Laura Lam is also here to give us her opinion on these amazing covers!

I love Tom Bagshaw’s work and feel he did such a wonderful job representing Pantomime & Shadowplay. I wasn’t involved in Pantomime’s initial brief, but when I saw the image I found it very striking.

I came up with the concept for Shadowplay and was delighted when it went through. I suggested some details to have it fit the story better on both covers, which Tom integrated really well. For instance, the mask on Pantomime initially has a lion, but it changed to a dragonfly. I doodled some crude designs for Cyan’s forehead markings on Shadowplay and he took them and made them beautiful. Love these covers.


Thank you to both Tom Bagshaw and Laura Lam. I hope you enjoyed this interview, and until the next one I’ll leave you with more work by Tom. You can see more amazing pieces such as these ones on Tom’s website.