I’m so excited to welcome the amazingly talented cover artist Tony Mauro here to DarkFaerieTales.com to talk about his work. Tony is the mastermind behind the brilliant artwork for Yasmine Galenorn, Anya Bast, Jory Strong to name a few.
DFT: How did you get started in the illustration field?
After graduating from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 1991 my first job was for a small illustration studio in Buffalo. They specialized in graphics for pro sports apparel. We did airbrush illustrations for all of the pro teams for baseball, football, basketball and hockey. It was a great place to really refine my skills. I worked there for 3 years and probably did over 100 illustrations in that time.
DFT: How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
I think I really started developing my style after about 8 years in the field. It can take quite a while to really start to see yourself come through in your work. I think in the beginning you’re still looking at a lot of other people’s work and trying to mimic what has already been proven to be successful. You also have clients asking for a certain look or style. As you mature in your career your clients will start calling and asking you to do your style.
You’re always growing as an artist so I think it’s natural for your style to grow and change over time as well. I think if you look at my early airbrush work and compare it to my digital work now it’s still obvious that it was done by the same person but is very different at the same time.
DFT: How long do you generally spend on a project?
This is kind of a tricky question to answer because there is a lot of time that goes into a piece even before you get to the drawing board (so to speak). I’m usually given about 3 to 4 weeks for a book cover commission. I’ll spend the first week or two finding a model, props, outfits and anything else that might be needed for the photo shoot. Once the shoot is done and I have gone through all of the shots and selected which ones I will use. I usually spend about a week on the computer building a few different options for my client to choose from.
DFT: What are some important things to keep in mind when pursuing a career as an Illustrator?
I guess I’d have to say stay focused on what you really want to do. There are so many different ways to make a living as an illustrator so it’s important to decide what area you want to work in and really go after that. It pays to be specialized. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to be versatile but clients are much more comfortable when they hire someone who specializes in what they need.
DFT: Do you have any advice for an artist that is interested in doing book cover work?
Go to the book stores as often as you can and look around at what’s popular and what the trends are. Inside every book is the name of the cover artist and usually the art director that hired him. That’s a great way to get contact names at the publishing houses. There is also a book called the Illustrator’s and Designer’s Market. It’s an annual book and is filled with client contact info for ALL aspects of the industry. It’s a must for any freelancer.
DFT: Are your originals for sale, owned by you or licensed?
Now that I’m all digital, unfortunately there is no “original” anymore. I own the art when it’s for a book cover and I license it to the publisher for use in their own market. If Germany, France, Latin America etc… want to use the art for their edition of the same book they each have to pay the artist a separate licensing fee.
DFT: Do you accept private commissions?
Private commissions are really tough. My commercial work and my fantasy work keep so unbelievably busy that it’s a very rare case that I’d take on any private commissions.
DFT: Is any of your illustration work digital, or is it all analogues?
I was a traditional airbrush illustrator for about 8 years before going totally digital in 1998. Now all of my work is done in Photoshop. I still paint the exact same way as I always did only without the mess.
DFT: How did you get into doing work as a cover artist?
An art director at Penguin Publishing saw my fantasy work in one of the Spectrum books (Spectrum is an annual worldwide illustration competition where illustrators from all over submit their work to be judged. They put out a book every year featuring all of the winners.) and called me to work on a new series she was assigned. The rest is history, the series went over great and Penguin has since become my biggest client. That was about 3 years ago and I’ve done over 70 covers for them since then.
DFT: What is your process when working with clients? Can you run us through a typical job? What is your creative process?
I’m usually given either a manuscript or a synopsis to read at the beginning to get familiar with the story and characters. From there it depends on the art director. Sometimes I’m given a detailed description of what they would like to see for the cover and sometimes they say go ahead and work up some concepts and we go from there. Either way is fine with me. I love to conceptualize but it’s also really nice when you have a client that is very clear and concise about what they want. From there I start casting a model to be featured on the cover (if it’s applicable). Like I mentioned earlier, I’ll start getting the outfits and any props necessary together for the shoot. After the shoot I go through all the shots and make my selects. That’s when I actually sit down at the computer and start building my designs. I usually give them 3 or 4 versions to choose from.
DFT: Is there a cover that you wish you had done or that you just really love?
I really like all of the Twilight covers. Not because of the success of the series but because I love simple, bold and iconic images. I’m also a big fan of small tasteful type layouts or as I like to call it “tasty type”.
DFT: Which author would you love to do a book cover for?
I just finished working on the trade paperback version of Stephen King’s new novel Under the Dome. The hardcover just came out so they won’t release my paperback version for a while but that was really exciting to work on. My favorite author is James Patterson though, so I’d be thrilled to work on one of his books.
DFT: What is the best part about what you do?
I can honestly say I love the whole process from beginning to end. The shoots are a little stressful for me because I never considered myself a photographer. In my case the photos are just a means to an end. All of my work comes in when I sit down at the computer and start cutting apart the shots and making something out of them. You’ve heard me use the term “building” a few times already. It truly is a building process when designing these covers. Any one cover of mine that you look at is usually made up of anywhere from 5 to 10 photos that have been cut, stretched and distorted like crazy. If you see trees in any of my backgrounds it very likely that each tree was on a separate layer and was strategically placed by me to move your eye around the image or to simply stop your eye from going right off of the page. You’d be surprised at how much thought goes into every element that you introduce into an image. Everything has to have a purpose or it doesn’t belong.
DFT: Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
Oh yeah, I usually call it a creative rut. I think it comes on by being over worked. All artist have to be careful not burn themselves out. If you work too much you really run the risk of losing your edge because you simply don’t have the time to do it right. The cure is a break! Even if it’s only a long weekend. Sometimes you just need to step away from it all and let your mind recharge.
DFT: What was one of your favorite projects?
The Stephen King project was definitely the most exciting because he is such a high profile author. That image will most likely be picked up in every market around the world so that’s pretty exciting.
DFT: Describe your work setting.
In a word DARK. LOL…my office is like a cave. I have black out windows so it’s always dark in there. I love my office though, I’m surrounded by swords and prop guns and all kinds of funky items that have been used in past illustrations. The house of an illustrator is usually a pretty interesting place because of all of the props we acquire over the years. Just yesterday I ordered a medieval wooden crossbow for a new project I just got in. After the projects over that crossbow will probably find a place on my wall in my office until there’s a call for it again.
DFT: Do you have any current projects that you would like to tell us about?
Well I’m really happy about my new 2010 calendar being out. Just in time for the holidays (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) they’re available in the store section of my website at www.darkdayproductions.com
DFT: What is your favorite fairy tale? Why?
The Poor Man and the Rich Man.
This fairy tale seems scarily relevant to the state of our country and our society these days.
DFT: What do you like to read for pleasure?
I love suspense thrillers. Like I said before James Patterson’s Alex Cross books are my absolute favorite to read.
DFT: Many thanks, Tony for stopping by Dark Faerie Tales.
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