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Artist Alley: Timothy Lantz Illustration

May 18th, 2010 Angela Posted in Artist Alley 2 Comments »

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

Welcome Timothy!

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.


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Artist Alley: Gene Mollica Illustration

May 10th, 2010 Angela Posted in Artist Alley, Interview 8 Comments »

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


Welcome Gene!

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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Artist Alley: Aleta Rafton Illustration

March 23rd, 2010 Angela Posted in Artist Alley 2 Comments »

I am very happy to welcome artist Aleta Rafton here to DarkFaerieTales.com to talk about her book cover artwork.

You can also visit Aleta around the web here: Website

Welcome Aleta!

DFT: How did you get started in the illustration field?

I got started in illustration after graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in fine art and realizing I needed to make a living. My interest was always in painting people and I discovered that painting paperback covers was a way to paint people and make money.

DFT: How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?

I’ve always painted realistically so there is some consistency to my style over the years. I have a range of realism however that goes from impressionistic to nearly photographic depending on the project. I’m always working to improve it though by studying older painters as well as my peers.

DFT: How long do you generally spend on a project?

I generally spend anywhere from 2-5 days on a project. There’s always the one that goes way beyond that too.


DFT: What are some important things to keep in mind when pursuing a career as an Illustrator?

Getting started today would be especially difficult because of the economic situation of the world. My guess is there is less work as well as a reluctance of those hiring to try new people. That being said, I think it’s best to always remember that your primary goals as an illustrator is to capture attention and tell a story quickly and dramatically. Secondly you must respect the wishes of the client and be able to easily put your ego aside. Often an art director will have a suggestion that makes the piece really work. So rather than being upset by the change, embrace it.

DFT: Do you have any advice for an artist that is interested in doing book cover work?

Study the covers of books you like and pick a genre you want to pursue. Do at least 20 samples. Then get someone who really knows their stuff to critique your work. Put your ego aside and rework your images.

DFT: Are your originals for sale, owned by you or licensed?

Many of my originals are for sale.


DFT: Do you accept private commissions?

Yes, I do private commissions but only rarely.

DFT: Is any of your illustration work digital, or is it all analogue?

Nearly all my work is digital now but prior to about 10 years ago, it was all oil painting. I never foresaw that I’d love the computer as much as I do. I have more flexibility and can be more creative using it. I’ve taken 4 classes in 3D and if I was starting out now, that’s most likely the direction I would pursue. The possibilities are endless there. You can create an entire living breathing world in your computer.


DFT: How did you get into doing work as a cover artist?

An illustrator friend gave me an art director’s name and recommended I contact him to get a cover assignment. The guy was wonderful and wanted to help me out. He gave me a few assignments right away. After that I contacted other publishers in NY and started getting work. Soon after I got an agent there and have been busy ever since.

DFT: What is your process when working with clients? Can you run us through a typical job? What is your creative process?

The cover process is different with every art director and every job. I can work from a manuscript, a phone call, an email, or a fact sheet. Some covers have very specific direction while others are more open ended. Once I get the information for a cover, I visualize a concept.  Sometimes if that’s not working I start looking for inspiration from images of what I think the setting should be. The most important thing for me is the mood or feel and who the target audience is for the book. Then if necessary I shoot a model in a few poses. I find a couple that really work and create tight comps for review.  Changes are made and I finish up making it as beautiful and dramatic as I can.

DFT: Is there a cover that you wish you had done or that you just really love?

There so many covers I wish I had done. Too many to name but they are what inspire me and keep me trying to get better.


DFT: Which author would you love to do a book cover for?

Off hand I can’t think of an author whose cover I’d like to do. I have been getting amazing assignments and am so grateful to be busy.

DFT: What is the best part about what you do?

The best part of what I do is that I get the opportunity to use my mind creatively and have the opportunity to grow and improve every day.

DFT: Do you ever have creative slumps?  What do you do then?

I probably still get creative slumps but I don’t call them that. Whenever I feel challenged creatively, I start looking around for visual stimulation. I go to museums, galleries, movies, book stores. I look at video game art or collector art. I look at old art and new art and see where that leads.


DFT: What was one of your favorite projects?

I have several projects I could call favorites. Usually it’s the most recent one I’m working on.  What creates a favorite project for me is when I push the image either by choice or the art director’s guidance that results in something unexpected. It’s what I call the happy accident. Or when I just have this amazing clear idea that’s very strong.

DFT: Describe your work setting.

My work setting has several computers, a easel, lots of books and is generally a mess by most standards.  I read once that a messy desk is the sign of a creative mind. That way I don’t feel bad about it.

DFT: Do you have any current projects that you would like to tell us about?

I’m working on several demon covers that are dream jobs! Great art directors, Tom Egner and Ray Lundgren, and great jobs!


DFT: What is your favorite fairy tale? Why?

Pinnochio is one of my favorite fairy tales because truth is so important and it’s so easy to be deceived. Many of Grimm’s fairy tales are wonderful too.

DFT: What do you like to read for pleasure?

I love to read anything by Malcolm Gladwell, history, current events, good sci-fi or fantasy.  The only problem is that I realize to become really good at my work, the more time I spend at it the better I get. Besides working out a lot at the gym, there isn’t a lot of time for anything else…

DFT: Aleta – thanks for sharing and taking the time to stop by.


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Artist Alley: Val Cox Illustration

March 12th, 2010 Angela Posted in Artist Alley, Interview 6 Comments »

I am very pleased to welcome Val Cox here to DarkFaerieTales.com to talk about her illustration work.

You can also visit Val around the web here: Website | Facebook

Welcome Val!

DFT: How did you get started in the illustration field?

It was a sort of a learn to walk, start drawing, haven’t stopped since kind of process :) Professionally, I started about 8 years ago.

DFT: How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?

I have always leaned towards an adult comic/graphic novel style which I find I perfect and grow into a little more every year.  As my characters develop, they still sneak up and surprise me at times.


DFT: How long do you generally spend on a project?

It really depends on the project… Any given illustration can take up to 10 hours, depending on complexity.

DFT: What are some important things to keep in mind when pursuing a career as an Illustrator?

It is important to have a unique style that’s yours, one that’s easily recognized.  Having samples of your work on hand to leave with or mail out to prospective clients is a great way of getting yourself recognized.

DFT: Do you have any advice for an artist that is interested in doing illustration work?

Have a print portfolio and/or the above mentioned samples ready to show and go after what you want shamelessly!  If you have your eye on a project it never hurts to ask for what you want.

DFT: Do you accept private commissions?

Of course! I’ve done personal portraits and couples portraits, they’re always lots of fun.  People like being immortalized as their own personal version of a kick-ass comic book character.


DFT: What is your process when working with clients? Can you run us through a typical job? What is your creative process?

Each project is unique – it has everything to do with the client and their need or vision.  Usually clients come to me because they like my illustration style and they want me to come up with the designs from scratch.  Other times the client’s input can be surprisingly insightful and inspiring, taking me in a direction I wouldn’t have thought to go.  That’s always a nice surprise.

DFT: Which author would you love to do a book cover for?

Oooooh – Neil Gaiman!

DFT: What is the best part about what you do?

It’s hard to narrow that down to one thing!  But I would have to say that it is wonderful to have the kind of work one can get lost in.  To be creative for a living is a very lucky thing.


DFT: Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?

Well, on a deadline you’ve just got to push through.  Luckily I haven’t had a lot of that problem yet!

DFT: What was one of your favorite projects?

Working with Judith Graves and Kitty Keswick on illustrating their amazing young adult novels (Under My Skin and Freaksville, both published through Leap books) was amazing.  Any projects with character development are definitely favourites.

DFT: Describe your work setting.

I always have a coffee going, music playing, often a pug snoring… Music is instrumental in my creative process.


DFT: Do you have any current projects that you would like to tell us about?

Currently, I’ve just finished up doing some funky swag pieces for Judith Graves’ Under My Skin book launch (March, 2010, Leap books). I’m also working with local Edmonton poet, Lorraine McFaddin, on designing the cover of her poetry collection, Steel Wool and Honey.

DFT: What is your favorite fairy tale? Why?

Hansel and Gretel.  Candy!!

DFT: What do you like to read for pleasure?

I’m a sucker for celeb gossip mags and Henry Miller.

DFT: Many thanks, Val – I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by.


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Artist Alley: Keith Thompson Illustration

February 8th, 2010 Angela Posted in Artist Alley, Interview 3 Comments »

I am very pleased to welcome the extremely talented artist Keith Thompson here to DarkFaerieTales.com to talk about his illustration work.

You can also visit Keith around the web here: Website

Welcome Keith!

DFT: Are you trained as an artist?

Most of the knowledge I use had to be self-taught.  I studied Illustration at Sheridan College.

DFT: How long do you generally spend on a project?

As long as is possible.  I could work on an artwork indefinitely.  Limits are usually defined by the budget and deadline on professional work, or by me moving onto a new idea for personal work.

DFT: How did you find your style?  Has it changed since you started?

I don’t like playing around with the medium much as I’m usually too eager to achieve a final goal.  My identifiable style and approach was suddenly born when I painted The Scribe in ’04.  It was always in me and bits of it shows up in all my prior art, but that was the point where all the instruments in play settled into their places.


DFT: What are some important things to keep in mind when pursuing a career as an Illustrator?

It’s all up to you; no one’s going to show you how it’s done.  Try to achieve the same things that you love in other artists, it’s a reliable measure.

DFT: Are your originals for sale, owned by you or licensed?

My career is so geared towards reproduced art that I’ve just never focused on preparing the original work for sale (all my original stuff goes in a vault for when I can get around to approaching original artwork and its selling.)  I’m currently just too pressed for time to properly focus on preparing the originals properly for collectors, so they sit in the dark, waiting.

DFT: Do you accept private commissions?

Yes, when I can I love to.  It can be a bit tricky to work things out, but when they do the results are exceptional.


DFT: Is any of your illustration work digital, or is it all analogue?

I use black colerase pencil on 110lb paper.  Halfway through the process the art is scanned and glazed using soft light layers in Photoshop.  So basically it’s 50/50 traditional and digital.

DFT: What is your process when working with clients? Can you run us through a typical job? What is your creative process?

Completely varies on the industry.  My consistent approach is to try to only talk to clients from the position of a professional, as people are rarely interested in discussing art itself.  When things are settled I turn my thoughts to that of an artist’s role and address the project.  I do a lot of pacing around and thinking.  Most of my work time is not spent drawing or painting but walking around and staring at the arts progress, ensuring it’s following the path laid out in my head.

DFT: Are you a big fan of steampunk?

It’s a coincidence for me to have something in common with a current popular movement, so I’m unsure of how to address it.  I’d be working with and enjoying Victorian aesthetics regardless.


DFT: Did you have to do a lot of research for Leviathan to capture the historical details?

I already had a good hold on an Edwardian look in my art (very early though, straddling late Victorian.)  However I wanted to use it as an opportunity to really get a feel for the details of the time.  Most of my research hardly shows up in the art, as is usually the case.  However I think it delivers a real richness that can’t be achieved otherwise.  It’s easy to get carried away though and start looking up period Ottoman doorknobs…

DFT: I absolutely love the Caricature Map of Europe 1914. How did you come up with that idea?

It’s based on a lot of caricature maps from the time, which seemed to be a common type of illustration.  It really was the Golden Age of Illustration, and the political art at the time was sublime.


DFT: Describe your work setting.

My studio has lots of warm lighting and walls covered in framed art.  I draw at an easel that is either set up for me to work while standing or moved down to the floor where I sit cross legged on a Persian rug (usually when I have to lay out a lot of books while researching.

DFT: Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?

I never have creative slumps; rather most of my ideas never get the chance to be born.  The biggest problems are when I have a certain passion for an idea that distracts me from another project.

DFT: What was one of your favorite projects?

The How to Draw books I wrote and illustrated were amazing because I was given 100% free creative reign on the artistic content by the publisher.  Almost every piece of art and little story that went into those books came out extremely well.


DFT: Which author would you love to do artwork for?

It would really depend on how well the collaboration between the author and I would end up (sometimes quirks and approaches can really clash.)  I started reading China Mieville after people began mentioning a similarity in tone between our work, and I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve gone through.

DFT: Are there any of your designs that you ended up not liking?

I don’t like it when a design ends up stripped of a background or cultural richness.  Usually I can avoid it, but sometimes a jobs specifications force all of an artwork’s edged to be polished down to dull nubs.

DFT: What is the best part about what you do?

Creating things I felt should exist in the world for others to enjoy.

DFT: What is your favorite fairy tale? Why?

I love fairy tales, it would be too hard to pick a single favourite.  One of the latest I’ve liked a lot is The Armless Maiden.  It has an eerie tone and atmosphere that I find evocative.

DFT: What do you like to read for pleasure?

At the moment I’m reading Harvey Broadbent’s Gallipoli.  I’ve also recently gotten a big kick out of some history inspired manga: Historie, Vinland Saga and Cantarella.

DFT: Keith – I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by.


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