I am very pleased to present to you Chris McGrath, the wonderfully talented cover artist behind the huge bestsellers such as: The Dresden Files (Jim Butcher), Sign of the Zodiac Series (Vicki Pettersson), and many more.
You can visit Chris around the web here: Website
DFT: Are you trained as an artist?
Yes. I was trained classically at The School of Visual Arts in NYC. At the time Photoshop was not around so I learned to draw and paint with traditional media such as oils.
DFT: How long do you generally spend on a project?
That really depends. The sketch phase can be the longest sometimes. Science fiction covers generally take a bit longer than the urban fantasy one because there is usually more detail involved.
DFT: How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
I think my style has changed a bit since I started. I wasn’t looking for a style when I found it. That’s something that just comes to you when you are painting or drawing the things that are important to you and the things that you like. Be true to yourself and your “style” will find you.
DFT: What are some important things to keep in mind when pursuing a career as an Illustrator?
Don’t give up so fast! It takes a lot of time for most people. Also, remain consistent. Don’t jump around with your subject matter too much or people won’t really know what you are after. Direction is very important. Have a clear idea of what kind of illustrator you want to be and focus your portfolio on whatever genre it is that you like.
DFT: Are your originals for sale, owned by you or licensed?
I have prints for sale on my site and the few oil paintings I have on there, I may consider selling one day. I own all the rights to my covers.
DFT: Do you accept private commissions?
Not really. I have a full schedule usually so it would be difficult. But for the right price I could make an exception!
DFT: Is any of your illustration work digital, or is it all analogues?
Most of it these days is Photoshop.
DFT: How did you get into doing work as a cover artist?
I went into college with a clear idea of what I wanted to do and stuck with it. When I graduated it took a few years for me to get my act together but I was always determined to be a cover artist and just kept dropping off my portfolio until I got a job. Then from there it was a few years before it was really a full time job.
DFT: What process do you use to create a cover? Do you read the book?
Sometimes I get to read the book but pretty often the book company already has some ideas as to what they want on the cover. From there the sketch phase begins and sometimes I can nail a good idea right away but most of the time it is a struggle to come up with ideas. Especially when you’ve been doing covers for 9 years it becomes harder and harder to come up with different concepts.
DFT: Describe your work setting.
I had a friend over last week and she said my desk looks like landfill. It’s pretty messy. Lots of notes and paper and audio equipment etc…I basically have a 20inch apple display and a quad core Mac with a Wacom tablet.
DFT: Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
I have them all the time. I haven’t figured out a good solution yet. I just keep sketching, watching movies and so on, hoping something will come to me. Sometimes the project itself is different enough that it will work itself out.
DFT: Is there a cover that you wish you had done or that you just really love?
There are so many. More recently, maybe Craig Mullins “When Gravity Fails”. I really like Eric Fortune’s stuff too.
DFT: What was one of your favorite projects?
I really enjoyed doing “Midwinter” and the “Mistborn” series. Also, the Clone Republic series is a lot of fun.
DFT: Which author would you love to do a book cover for?
Michael Moorcock, Frank Herbert or Dan Simmons.
DFT: Are there any of your covers that you ended up not liking?
Tons! For every ten covers I may be ok with 3.
DFT: Do you feel that a cover should accurately reflect the characters inside the book?
Sometimes that’s hard. Especially when the book is not finished. As long as it catches the mood and vibe of the book, I think it’s ok.
DFT: Do you have any current projects that you would like to tell us about?
There are a few I’m looking forward to starting soon. Wicked City 2, Vampire Empire, and the third book for Joe Abercrombie’s series to name a few.
DFT: What is your favorite fairy tale? Why?
I’m not sure. Does the Elric series count? If so, that would be the one.
DFT: What do you like to read for pleasure?
I read mostly science fiction and modern fantasy. I really love Haruki Murakami, Jeffrey Ford, Dan Simmons and writers like that. I do have to say, video games have taken up some of that space, though.
DFT: Many thanks, Chris. I appreciate you taking the time to do the interview.
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