I’m so excited to welcome the super talented cover artist Gene Mollica here to Dark Faerie Tales. He’s the artistic genius behind many of today’s hottest reads.
You can visit Gene around the web here: Website
DFT: How did you get started in the illustration field?
I studied illustration at RISD with a focus on painting and drawing. I knew I didn’t want editorial illustration, so I just kept painting, and became a gallery artist for several years. Eventually I decided to get my masters, and it was during that program at SVA that I got really interested in digital media and transitioned from a classical approach in painting to being a primarily digital artist. That was also when I decided to really pursue entertainment/ media illustration.
DFT: How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
It’s changed completely. My painting style was more impressionistic. I had to invent a figurative style when I moved into commercial work, so I started using photography and tried to combine that with all the textures and tactile sense of media that I enjoyed as a painter. But the shift from painting to digital media obviously changed my style completely.
DFT: How long do you generally spend on a project?
There’s a lot of juggling – I’m planning one while I’m illustrating another. Usually there’s about a day and a half of prep work with model castings, costume design, and concepting. Later, there’s maybe two to four days of actual illustrating. So probably three to five days total on each project, but it’s not a straight linear process.
DFT: What are some important things to keep in mind when pursuing a career as an Illustrator?
Illustration is a huge field because there are so many different areas to specialize in, and it keeps changing. So I would say really figure out what it is you want to do and don’t let anyone influence you one way or another. Figure out what it is you want more than anything else and stay on that path.
DFT: Do you have any advice for an artist that is interested in doing book cover work?
If you don’t love books, don’t do it. Read the books and become a fan. But also keep going to bookstores, observing what publishers are putting out there, and keeping track of the trends.
DFT: Are your originals for sale, owned by you or licensed?
I own the rights to everything. The originals are all digital. In the future I will have a way to sell prints but I haven’t put that together yet.
DFT: Do you accept private commissions?
Not really, unless it is within the industry – working with authors directly, for example. I keep my way of working pretty focused.
DFT: Is any of your illustration work digital, or is it all analogue?
All my finished work is digital — painted and created in Photoshop.
DFT: How did you get into doing work as a cover artist?
I started looking at what people were doing on book covers, and I could tell a lot of them were formerly traditional artists who had moved digitally like I had. I thought it would be a great place to be, and I just worked my way in, mostly through networking. I worked in-house at a publisher and designed literary novels for a while, doing experimental stuff on the side and making the things I wanted to make – working with Photoshop, doing landscapes, and moody, darker types of design. I started getting more illustrative assignments and eventually more and more until I finally settled in to what I am doing now. The ironic thing is that doing fantasy illustration and artwork for the entertainment industry is actually something I’ve wanted to do my whole life – it just wasn’t a straightforward path to get here.
DFT: What is your process when working with clients? Can you run us through a typical job?
A client calls and gives me a brief synopsis of what it is they need me to do, for example whether it’s a fantasy, science fiction, or historical project. We’ll talk about it quickly, and then they’ll send me a manuscript that I review. The first things I address are costume and props – what has to be bought and what has to be designed. One of my favorite parts of this is working with costume designers, developing gowns and armor and weapons and so on. Those take a little lead time, so while I’m waiting I spend more time with the book and concept what I’m going to do. Once I have everything together I’ll do a photo shoot. And then I just create the piece.
DFT: Is there a cover that you wish you had done or that you just really love?
I love a lot of the covers out there, I don’t have just one. I have my favorite illustrators. They keep me motivated and excited to keep going. There is a lot of good work out there.
DFT: Which author would you love to do a book cover for?
I love all the authors I work with. The authors I am doing work for are my favorite.
DFT: What is the best part about what you do?
Everything, start to finish. I like the whole process, all the way up through seeing it on the shelf. What’s really great is that I have a lot of creative freedom – I get to read the book, decide the right look, cast the model, design the costume, and build the scene. That’s what I’m most proud of.
DFT: Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
As a professional you’re constantly going. You do get down and burned-out sometimes, but it’s not really about a specific cover or idea, it’s the constant developing process of your work. The good thing is you get to practice and hone your skills every day. You just keep working and hopefully every day you become a better artist and more creative thinker.
DFT: What was one of your favorite projects?
One recent one was Memories of Envy by Barb Hendee – it’s a different type of character that was a lot of fun to create and depict visually, and I was working with a great art director who helped get to better results.
DFT: Describe your work setting.
It’s a cave. It’s a dark cave so I can just focus. There are tons of props and costumes in there, in a somewhat orderly fashion. It’s my den. During the day it’s just me in there and the cat.
DFT: Do you have any current projects that you would like to tell us about?
I’ve just finished a really big season and I’m excited to see a lot of it come out – some that stand out in my mind are Wolf’s Cross by S.A. Swann and C.E. Murphy’s Truth Seeker.
DFT: What is your favorite fairy tale? Why?
It’s not really a fairy tale, but Where the Wild Things Are is my earliest memory of an image that really captivated me. I slept with that book.
DFT: What do you like to read for pleasure?
Mostly historically based fiction and biographies, when I get the time.
DFT: Thanks so much Gene for stopping by Dark Faerie Tales.
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