As a part of his Brandon Sanderson special, Alexander Páez is interviewing today three of the artists that have illustrated Sanderson's works. He has been so kind as to letting me reproduce the English version of the interviews (you can read the one with Ben McSweeney and check out for another one later today) and you can read the translation into Spanish at Alexander's blog, Donde acaba el infinito. Hope you enjoy!
Alexander Páez: We know a lot about your works on Robert Jordan’s novels and now on Brandon Sanderson’s novels. Are you specialized in fantasy illustration, or do you find yourself comfortable working in other contexts?
I only did the one Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson novel: A MEMORY OF LIGHT.
But I have always done a variety of book covers: science fiction, fantasy, horror. My paintings have appeared on books for Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Anne McCaffrey, Michael Moorcock, Tad Williams, Robert Heinlein, and Stephen King - just to name a few of the most popular authors.
AP: How is your workplace? Any technique that you prefer to use or you feel more comfortable?
For my illustration work, I usually use Acrylics, but I also do work in Oils.
Some digital art is excellent, some is not. It’s neither better nor worse than other forms of art, it’s just different. A computer is a tool for producing a finished work of art and just like with paints and brushes, the most important part of the process is the artist who is doing it. Sometimes, I do sketches and other preliminary work on the computer, but on the Sanderson covers, I sketched and painted them in the traditional way. The computer probably won't replace traditional painting for me. I would miss the tactile sense of actually holding and physically manipulating my art by hand. There’s no comparison between the “romance of the studio” and sitting in front of a monitor! However, it’s certainly the direction that the illustration field is going. Among new illustrators, I’d guess that the majority of them work digitally. It’s ideally suited to the publishing world for artists, art directors, and printers.
AP: What graphic novel or book, would you have liked to illustrate?
Since the 1990's, my main focus has been my personal gallery work and the covers I do for special authors. So far, I haven't been interested in doing a graphic novel.
AP: Is there any work of yours that you appreciate specifically?
I have many favorites for different reasons. There are ones that I enjoyed the process of painting, there are others that remind me of a favorite book, and still others that I regard as important works in my development as an artist. My most successful commissions are ones in which the image says as much about me as it does the book which inspired it. Some examples: THE GUNSLINGER ON THE BEACH, 2010: ODYSSEY TWO, THE SNOW QUEEN, ROBOTS OF DAWN (GISKARD), DRAGON ABOARD, THE WAY OF KINGS. In fact, THE WAY OF KINGS is my most favorite cover painting of the last decade.
AP: You did several covers for Brandon Sanderson’s novel. Do you read the book first? Do you imagine the whole world and then pick up an image of it and put it on the paper? Do you discuss with the author the ideas?
I always read the manuscript - usually 2 or 3 times. First, I usually discuss cover approaches with the art director. With Brandon's covers, I also get input from Tom Doherty - the owner of Tor Books as well as from Brandon and his staff. Most notably, Ben McSweeney who has done the interior illustrations for the Stormlight Archive has been an invaluable help to me in realizing the details of Roshar's flora and fauna.
AP: When making the cover art for a book, there is a problem with the spoilers. How do you choose the scene you want to illustrate?
I would never want to show a spoiler on the cover! I think about that a lot when deciding on an image.
AP: Did you know about the Cosmere? Does that have any influence on the illustrations?
The Cosmere is news to me! I looked it up in Wikipedia and it is very intriguing and I hope to learn more about it before I work on Book 3.
AP: What was your first work for any Sanderson’s novel?
A MEMORY OF LIGHT - the last book in the Wheel of Time series by Brandon and Robert Jordan.
AP: Are we going to see more of your work in upcoming Sanderson novels (apart from the Stormlight Archives)?
The third book in the Stormlight Archive, but not Brandon's other series. I only have time for 1 or 2 book covers per year.
Yes - Brandon's vision of his universe is so complex and visually detailed.
AP: What image (scene) or character of a Sanderson’s novel would you like to illustrate?
There are too many to choose from!
AP: Do you think that we can judge a book by its cover?
One of the main reasons I became a cover artist is that I wanted the reader to be able to judge the book by my cover. As a reader myself, I always find it frustrating when the cover doesn't tell you anything about the book inside, or even worse, gives you the wrong idea. I don't think a cover image should always be a narrative scene from the story - a great cover can be an image that evokes the feeling and themes of the story. But for epic fantasy, narrative scenes often work well.
AP: Do you think that Sanderson’s novels are specially good for a graphic work?
Yes - Brandon's imagination and world-building skills are very visual - there is an illustration idea on every page!