I’m very pleased to welcome the wonderfully talented artist Timothy Lantz here to Dark Faerie Tales to talk about his book cover artwork.
You can visit Timothy around the web here: Website
DFT: Are you trained as an artist?
Yes. I have degrees in Art Education and Communications.
DFT: How long do you generally spend on a project?
This really varies, but I’ll say ten to twenty hours once I have my resources and sit down at the computer. There’s a lot of extra work that goes in before that with recruiting models, setting up the shoots, and locating any needed stock resources.
DFT: How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
My style just evolved through experimentation. I spent a year working on the Archeon Tarot and it was during that time that I really found a direction. It’s something that continues to evolve however and I’m still not satisfied with where I’m at yet.
DFT: What are some important things to keep in mind when pursuing a career as an Illustrator?
Learn to compromise! You might be the artist, but at the end of the day you still need to deliver what the art director wants. A good AD will work with you to bring out your talents and let you show off your skills while delivering what they need, but you need to really listen to what they tell you.
DFT: Are your originals for sale, owned by you or licensed?
I mostly license my work, but when you work for a lot of the major publishers, they contract you on a work for hire basis.
DFT: Do you accept private commissions?
I rarely do private commissions. With the contracted work and my own projects taking the majority of my time, I just can’t fit it in.
DFT: Is any of your illustration work digital, or is it all analogue?
Its mixed media, but my “finished” pieces are all digital. I do incorporate some traditional media in my work, but this is usually scanned in and further manipulated digitally.
DFT: How did you get into doing work as a cover artist?
Having the Archeon Tarot published was really my start. Once that was out in the public view I started receiving offers for other projects. Shortly after that, Sean Wallace and Paula Guran at Prime/Juno Books came to me and I ended up being the primary cover artist for Juno Books. That really opened the door for me into the much larger realm of publishing.
DFT: What process do you use to create a cover? Do you read the book?
Rarely do I read the book. Most of the time, I don’t even receive a copy of the manuscript. The Art Director usually supplies you with key scenes or character descriptions and a direction they want to see.
DFT: What is your process when working with clients? Can you walk us through a typical job?
Since a lot of my client work is character based, I usually begin with the model. I will read over the description or outline I’m given and try to find a model that I think will be a good fit for the image and ideally be someone I’d enjoy working with.
Once I’ve found the right person, I’ll set up a photo shoot and begin my other research. This typically includes gathering additional resources and information based on time period or setting.
During the photo shoot, I usually have a few loose ideas of what I want to capture, but this often changes based on what the model brings to the table. I consider the photography to be nothing more than a rough sketch or reference in most cases and will shoot about 800 to 1,000 reference shots per session.
It’s after the shoot that the real work begins. I’ll sift through the shots, layout a basic composition, maybe even decide on a color scheme and begin building it in Photoshop. This part is a lot like a digital version of paper dolls, where I sort of “Frankenstein” together the pose I want from all of the reference material I’ve acquired.
Once I have the basic idea down, I begin layering and over-painting, sometimes even printing the image and working directly on the printout with traditional media, though ultimately, I scan it back in and work it to completion in Photoshop.
DFT: Describe your work setting.
Nothing fancy, I just have a small office space in my house with a computer and a drawing table. My computer is an Alienware PC, with dual monitors.
For photo shoots, I set up a backdrop in a spare room and use a simple three light set-up.
DFT: Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
Yes. Mostly, I just try to forget about being creative and go back to doing the things I enjoy – reading books and comics, watching movies, playing World of Warcraft.
DFT: What has been inspiring you lately?
Maxfield Parrish and J.W. Waterhouse have really been my art idols of late. I visited the Waterhouse exhibit in London last summer and it was just amazing.
DFT: Is there a cover that you wish you had done or that you just really love?
I love Dan Dos Santos’ work. His cover for the first Patricia Briggs’ Moon Called is perfect.
DFT: What was one of your favorite projects?
Working for DC Comics on the Vs. trading card game, was a dream come true. I got to illustrate one of my favorite characters, Silver Banshee.
DFT: What is the best part about what you do?
What I love most is that it gives me a creative outlet that I enjoy, while providing a sense of challenge at the same time.
DFT: Which author would you love to do a book cover for?
I’ve been online friends with Cherie Priest for a few years now so it would be fun to provide a cover to one of her novels.
DFT: Are there any of your covers that you ended up not liking?
Of course! It would be impossible to love everything you do. Sometimes, you just run up against a deadline, or the publisher changes something or some other factor makes you think, “I could have done that better.” The key is to learn from that and make the next project better.
DFT: Do you feel that a cover should accurately reflect the characters inside the book?
To some extent, I think you owe it to the audience (and the author) to capture the essence of the character. Ultimately though, a book cover is a marketing tool to entice someone to pick that book up off the shelf and some artistic leeway should be granted. It wouldn’t do the author or the publisher any good if you create the most accurate depiction of a character down to the color of their teeth without making a compelling image. In my case I think my style tends to be a little more impressionistic, so I try to add recognizable character traits, without concerning myself with every tiny detail as described in the book.
DFT: Do you have any current projects that you would like to tell us about?
Currently, I’m working on the cover for The Vespertine, by Saundra Mitchell for Harcourt, after that is a new Sherlock Holmes anthology cover for Moonstone and an illustration or two for some upcoming books.
DFT: What is your favorite fairy tale? Why?
I’d have to say Little Red Riding Hood, mostly due to Neil Jordan’s film The Company of Wolves, which has really changed my perception of that story and I just love his take on it.
DFT: What do you like to read for pleasure?
I grew up reading mostly sci-fi and fantasy, but about ten years ago I began reading the works of Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and others from the pulp era and now I’m fully entrenched in that genre. There’s just something fascinating about that time in history, it’s familiar and yet so different from today. I’ve also grown to love their style and how they can say so much more with just a few words than a lot of authors do in 400 pages.
DFT: Thanks so much Timothy for stopping by Dark Faerie Tales.