I'm excited to share a very special interview - with cover artist Tony Mauro, who did the brilliant artwork for the Archangel's Kiss cover. Tony has also agreed to swing by and answer further questions, so please welcome him to the blog everyone!
(All the covers shown on this post feature art created by Tony - click through to his site to see more).
1. Could you give us an overview of the cover art process from the artist's perspective? (Perhaps with reference to how the Archangel's Kiss cover came about?)
Every project is a little different. Usually I'm given a relatively detailed character description and a loose scenario of what the publisher would like to see depicted on the cover.
For Archangel's Kiss the publisher already had a specific concept in mind and I was asked to depict the main character perched on a roof top overlooking the forbidden city.
At this point I start casting for a model, I have a bunch of local models that I work with on a semi-regular basis.
I'll roughly map out the cover in my mind before I shoot to establish the best vantage point for the viewer so that you can see enough of the city to give it some scope without taking away from the main character. In this case I found the rooftop shot I wanted to use first and then photographed the girl at the proper angle and lighting so it would match up when I put the shots together. The city in the background would be dropped in later as well.
The best case scenario for me is always to read the book first. That really gives me a good feel for the characters and makes it a lot easier to bring them to life on the cover. Unfortunately, there isn't always time to do that so I'll work from a synopsis provided by the publisher which works too.
On the flip side, sometimes you get a project where the art director just sends you the book to read and says "run with it" and gives you the freedom to do just that. Obviously it takes some time to establish that kind of trust but the more you work with the same people they really know what to expect from you and are comfortable enough with your work to let you go off on your own once and a while.
2. How do you create your art? On the computer? Sketches?
I was a traditional airbrush illustrator for many years so all of my training is in drawing and painting. Now I do everything on the computer but my traditional background comes into play with everything I do.
The best way to describe my process is photo based illustration. It's about 50/50 between photos and hand painted layers in photoshop. I usually like to paint the blowing hair and fabrics so that I can design the shapes and really control where they fall so I'll often shoot the girl with her hair in a ponytail. The photos merely serve as a foundation for me to build off of.
3. How long do you usually spend on a piece of cover art?
Every cover is truly different but on average I spend anywhere from 10 to 15 hours painting up a concept. Of course the more elements you have going on the longer it can take.
Also if you have a very clear image in your mind of what the cover needs to look like before you even sit down at the computer you can usually get there pretty quick. More time is taken up looking for the right model, setting up the shoot and getting wardrobe and props together than actually painting. The more work you do in the beginning the less work you'll have to do later.
4. You have created some amazing book covers - do you have any personal favorites among your creations?
This is a tough one for me to answer. It's kind of funny because my favorite piece may be my favorite just because of some minute little details that only I would ever notice.
I guess I have different favorites for different reasons. Unfortunately they often end up on the cutting room floor. This is tough for every artist but when you have a client you have to remember it's their art.
Enclosed is one of my favorites that didn't make the cut as you see it here. Originally this image was done for a vampire book called First Blood. The publisher chose one of the other concepts I did for this one but later on I was asked to remove the blood from this one and it ended up getting used for a different book. I like this image because is it's bold and simple. I always try and think of as if I were in the store walking down the isle with thousands of books staring at me would I stop and pick this one up.
My other favorite was another that didn't make the cut as you see it here. This one was for another vampire book that takes place in London. Ultimately they ended up removing the umbrella and the rain and cropping in tighter on the girl. The end result was very nice but I always liked this version.
5. You've worked with illustrations and movie posters as well as book covers - do you find big differences between the different types of work?
Absolutely, with movies you're selling the stars. Unfortunately the story will always end up taking a back seat to whoever is starring in the film. The nice thing about books is we truly get to sell the story without getting all caught up in some over paid celebrities ego....but I'm not bitter LOL. I absolutely LOVE doing book covers and have been shifting my focus exclusively to books. I still work on film projects here and there but the process is very different.
When working on a book I'll usually do 2 or 3 different concepts and 9 out of 10 times one of those concepts is chosen. When working on a movie you can easily do 20-30 different posters and none will get chosen because of the number of people involved in making the final decision.
The studio will look at over 300 posters from several different sources before picking one. You are always competing with other designers and agencies. Even after you have the job you don't really have it. Luckily everyone gets paid for their work regardless of whether or not it's used for the final poster.
6. Could you tell us a little about your personal, non-commercial projects?
I've always been a big fan of pin-up/fantasy art and learned a long time ago how important it is as an artist to have your own personal means of expression. No client, no product just art for art's sake. When I was in Los Angeles working at an agency that did video game packaging I was working crazy hours and just cranking out a huge amount of work.
It should have been fun because I was working on really fun projects but I was just getting burned out and decided then that I needed something for myself to keep me inspired. My boss agreed and encouraged me to explore a form of personal expression that I could really be proud of. That's when I started Darkdayproductions.com.
I first did a vampire series called When Darkness Falls which was a collection of all beautiful female vampires. Now I do calendars every year with a calendar publisher in the US and I had a book published out of Germany called the Dark Art of Tony Mauro which again featured all of my pin-up/fantasy art. It's been a really fun venture and has served its purpose well to keep me inspired and trying new things.
7. You've been working as an artist since the age of 23 - can you see yourself doing any other job?
I've actually been working as an artist since I was 19. I made my big move to Los Angeles at 23 which was when things really started to happen for me. But to answer your question, NO WAY.
This is what I've wanted to do since I was in first grade and my teacher used to hang up my drawings on the chalk board. My father is an artist as well so I grew up in a very creative household and I couldn't imagine doing anything else than what I'm doing right now.
8. Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I just want to say thanks for the opportunity and I'm looking forward to working on more of your books! Here comes the shameless plug...My 2010 calendars are available on my site as well as prints of any image in my book cover or fantasy art section. www.darkdayproductions.com
Thanks for the interview, Tony, and for agreeing to answer further questions!