Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Interview: Tony Mauro, Cover Artist for Archangel's Kiss

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 perspectiv
e? (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 th
e 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 m
ap 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. Ob
viously 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. Mo
re 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 stu
dio 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 a
lways 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 a
nd 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 th
e 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!


Willa said...

WoW! That was *so* interesting - it seems that Tony is responsible for some of the most gorgeous covers to appear in the last couple of years.

I really love your very distinctive style - clean lines with detail but not clutter!

So, can I ask when you go to a bookstore do you put *your* books face forward? *grin* and does it give you a thrill to see your work out there, on display?

Unknown said...

I see that you also did Ghostland by Jory Strong because the theme of the covers is very similar.

Courtney said...

Stunning, work, Tony! I recognize so many of your covers. Jory Strong's Ghostland cover in particular was talked about a lot; one blogger said Jory won the cover art lottery. Anya Basts Witch series is awesome, too.

I hope you get to do more of Nalini's covers. :)

Jennifer K. said...

Your work is gorgeous! I've really liked the covers I've seen of yours. I actually told Jory Strong how much I liked the cover for her book when it came out. I didn't know at the time that you'd done it.

Do you dream about your work? I mean, do you dream covers or about the actual process of making them? Do you dream in color?

Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

I've loved your work for some time now and I'm just thrilled by this interview with you.

The covers are just so lovely.

TonyM said...

Hi everyone, Thank you so much for all of the nice comments. I'm glad you enjoyed the interview.


I've always loved going to the book store to check out ALL of the new covers. I like to see what other people are doing. I just had a conversation last week with one of my clients and I was telling her how it's about that time to go spend some time at the book store to get some inspiration.

Diane and Courtney:

Ghostland was a fun piece and still remains one of my favorites. I really liked what the art director did with the type on both Ghostland and Spider Touched. Thanks for the kudos on the Anya Bast series too. I'm working on a new series of hers now. Hopefully it will go over as well as the Witch series did. I hope to continue working on Nalini's books also. I really like the feel of the series.

Jennifer K:

I wouldn't exactly say I dream my covers but they're on mind non-stop from when I start the project until the day I deliver it. I usually try and get as strong of a picture in my head of what the cover should look like as I can before I even sit down at the computer or take any photos.

Thanks again everyone for all of the kind words and if you have any more questions feel free to fire away.

-Tony Mauro

Tiona said...

Wow! That's awesome! We hear so much about the books we read, the actualy books, how they get created, but not a whole lot about the cover and the artists behind. Love it that we get to hear more about those covers that we drool over...I mean, appreciate! hehe

Tiona said...

Yes, and I just think your covers are awesome! Keep up the good work!

Una said...

Wow, welcome Tony! I'm in awe over the breadth of your cover art work. I will have to check out your website! Do you primarily do paranormal/fantasy work or any book covers that come your way?

I also want to say thank you to Nalini, we hear from so many authors about how a book comes together, but this is a first (for me at least) to hear how the cover art comes together. It's a real treat and I appreciate the opportunity to learn how much goes into it!

orannia said...

Thank you so much Tony and Nalini. WOW! That was fascinating. Tony - your covers are gorgeous. I simply love the First Blood cover - the detail of the cover model's back. WOW! And I love the cover of Archangel's Kiss :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony,

I like your kind of art, too.
Your pictures seem to be in motion.

Do you`ve an favourite artist? (When "yes" - why?)

Have you ever thought of an fantasy male calendar (I know it`s a silly question, but why only women *winking with one eye*?) or an one-time project like an paranormal-romance-hero-calender with one or more authors? (You see.. your art is very inspire:-). But don`t worry. I`ll stop now with dreaming.)

TonyM said...

Una: The paranormal romance/fantasy category has certainly been my best fit but I do a lot of different styles and genres. I really enjoy the suspense thriller category as well. When you go to my website check out my movie poster section and you'll see where I developed all the different styles I use for my book covers today. I'm always up for a challenge so I like when my clients call me with something totally different than what I ordinarily do for them.

Eva: I have lots of favorite artists for different reasons but the top 3 would have to be Norman Rockwell, Brom and Justin Sweet. They are all very different from each other and I don't think you can necessarily see their influence in my work but I love the work that they do and get inspired every time I see it.

I've actually done several covers with shirtless male heroes on the cover. LOL When I have enough to put together a calendar that may be a real possibility down the road. I guess if I felt like I was only selling calendars and prints to men it would be more of an issue for me but you'd be amazed by the numbers. I actually sell a lot more to women than men.

TonyM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joyroett said...

Beautiful covers and what an awesome interview! Love the insight into the cover process. Especially the mixing photo with painting bit. I find that amazing. Painted people on covers always look strange to me, I've always preferred "real" people (or so I thought). My illusions are shattered. lol

You mentioned sometimes getting the opportunity to read the book first before you do the cover. Have you ever had to do a cover for one of your favorite authors? Was it more pressure?

Nalini Singh said...

Tony, thank you for coming by!

I just posted a link to this interview on Twitter, and got a huge response from people saying how much they love your work :)

Lauren Dane said...

Let me jump on the Tony Mauro fan club bus here - I love your work (as I've gushed to you before) and I'm so thrilled to see all these gorgeous covers, mine included!

Una said...

Tony, thank you for answering my question. I did hop over to your site and I was blown away by your work. The covers (or cover studies) were amazing and I was surprised by some of the movie posters you have done. You go from family-friendly to horror and everything in between. Plus, your artwork was stunning. It seems you have a flair for the fae in it, have you done a fae cover before? May I assume that what you have up on your website is just a small collection of what you have produced? Your favorites perhaps?

TonyM said...

Thanks again everyone for all of the kind words. You guys are making me blush now. It's so great to hear from the authors and the people actually buying the books.

To answer joyroett's question:

I actually got the call over the Summer to do the trade paperback version of the new Stephen King novel Under the Dome. It won't be out for a while so unfortunately I can't show the art to anyone yet. It will be different art than the Hardcover that was released today.
I was really feeling the pressure on that one. LOL

Una: You're absolutely right about the website collection. I'd have to update the site every 2 weeks to truly keep it current. I went through and tried to pick images that showed a good range of styles and target audiences. I hope to do better than I have in the past to keep the site updated. The whole site got a big update and face lift this Summer so I feel pretty good about it now.

TonyM said...

Hi Nalini, Thank you so much for the invite. I'm happy to be here. I'm glad to hear it went over well on twitter too.

Hi Lauren, thanks for stopping by. I'm happy you're happy!!


Ang from Oz said...

Thanks Nalini, & Tony that made for interesting reading. It was great to get an insight to how the book cover process is done. Definately some fabulous work in there.

Bridget Locke said...

*fans self* Okay, you're just crazy, smokin' talented. All of your covers are amazingly hot. Sheesh!

Deborah Cooke's covers are some of my all-time faves. Now I know who I want doing my covers when I make the big leagues. :D

Anonymous said...

Tony, I LOVE the cover for Archangel's Kiss. I saw it first about a month ago, and since I work at a book store, I sometimes pull it up on our computers to study it.

Also, I actually bought a book once based on your cover art. The blurb had me interested, but it was the art that made me want to find out more about the character represented. (I actually ended up not liking the book so much, but the cover remains a favorite of mine.)

Your interview here has been very informative and helpful. Would you be willing to talk via Skype or teleconference to a college class I'm in? We have a lot of speakers who are video or ad people, but a friend of mine in the class wants to be an artist and isn't sure how to go about it. I know there are a few other people in the class who love art but don't know what kind of career they'd like to pursue. We're trying to diversify our speakers. We had an author speak Monday. An artist would be great!

Christina said...

I love your work, Tony! I popped over to your website and I was happy to see I recognized a lot of your work. I loved Nalini's cover, and Yasmine Galenorn's covers are always interesting.

Thanks for the insight into what goes into a cover! I've been curious for awhile.

TonyM said...

Steeldragonstear: Sure, I'd be happy to talk to your class. Email me at tmauro@earthlink.net and we can talk about it further.


Kandy Shepherd said...

Thanks Nalini for posting such an interesting interview.
Tony, I found it fascinating to read your process for designing amazing covers. Visiting your website I saw movie posters that we all know very well.
Thanks for sharing.

Veronica Wolff said...

Thanks for the fantastic interview!! Readers are *always* asking me about the cover artists and how that process works. I'll definitely link to this from my site!

dd03 said...

Sorry I missed this! I love Tony Mauro's covers! Especially the Otherworld series books he does for Yasmine Galenorn!

Wonderful wonderful work!

Eleni Konstantine said...

What fantastic art work. Thanks for the interview Nalini and Tony for sharing your work and process with us.