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.