First I would like to say how humbled and honored I am to be invited to be part of Drawger - reading through the list of names here is like a roll call of my heroes and inspirations. Thank you for having me.
This cover for "Wolves", a novel by Simon Ings that Gollancz is publishing in January of 2014, is in many ways a fresh start for me, and so perhaps a perfect way to begin my posting here. Two things came together and set me down the path that led to this job. First, I was painting a hamburger for a job in December 2012. And I realized that I was painting a hamburger. I hate painting hamburgers. I realized that my portfolio did not reflect the type of work that I wanted to be doing, and if I didn't do something about it I would be painting hamburgers for the rest of my life. Secondly, at the beginning of this year I was advised to get tested for a type of cancer that runs in my family. The first initial tests were not good. For a month or so I was confronted with the fact that my life might be a lot shorter than I had ever thought it would be. If I wanted to make work that was personal and important to me, I needed to get to work, and fast.
This is the book that made me want to be an artist. I lived in Germany when I was young, and my parents went to England on a trip and brought back "Tales of King Arthur" with illustrations by Victor Ambrus for me. I was hooked. Knights and wizards and dragons battled in my head as I ran around dark German forests with my brother, pretending to be Robin Hood and Ivanhoe, Lancelot and Conan. As I got older I read Frank Herbert, Gene Wolfe, William Gibson, Eiji Yoshikawa, Robert Jordan, Michael Moorcock, Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, on and on and on the list goes. I went to college for writing, and wrote horrible "literary" sci-fi that borrowed heavily from Thomas Pynchon novels, Andrei Tarkovsky films and Ray Bradbury stories. I drew comics trying to be the next Moebius, Sergio Toppi, Jose Munoz, and Jacques Tardi. I got side-tracked for 8 years in a band, but even the songs I was writing had lyrics about arrows and swords and mysterious lands and shadowed cities. My personal vocabulary, the images and thoughts in my head, were a stew of all those things that I had loved (and still love), the castles, the crypts, poisoned chalices, secret societies, monsters in the deep. But once I started working as an illustrator my work didn't reflect the kid in me that wanted to be an artist - it reflected the adult who wanted to pay his rent.
So I decided to do something about it. I got a secret art director.
This is my secret art director - me at age 7 or so, visiting my grandparents' farm in Tennessee. My grandfather would make me a bow and arrow from a tobacco stake and I would run around the farm saving damsels and loosing volley after volley at the French at Agincourt. I decided to try to make the art that he would want me to make, to try and put the imaginary world I lived in as a child on paper as an adult, to have all the magic and mystery and wonder that I had then be the starting point for building my personal vocabulary in my work. I wanted to evoke the same feelings in other people that I got when I went to the bookstore, saw an amazing cover, and found myself lost in the world that the cover hinted at. Feeling death's breath behind me as I waited for medical test results I started making work as quickly as I could, piece after piece trying to find the thread that would take me where I wanted to go.
A month or so later I had enough work to add two new sections to my website (one focusing on sci-fi/fantasy book cover work and another on simple silhouette prints) and a clean bill of health - the tests came back negative. I stopped promoting my work to the hamburger people (sorry hamburger people) and started sending work out to the people I had always wanted to work with but hadn't had an appropriate body of work to show them. Simon Spanton, the publishing director for Orion/Gollancz in the UK, got in touch with me and then put my name forward to Nick May, the Design Manager for Gollancz, for a new Simon Ings book. I was ecstatic when I got the call - my first cover, and for a writer that I not only had heard of but actually liked his writing! I didn't know what to think when they wrote back the next day and asked if I would like to do five more of Simon's books that they are putting out as well.
I love the way that Nick is designing these books, and am looking forward to being able to share the next five as we finish them up in the next few months. And I'm looking forward to seeing where my art goes as well - it would be the height of arrogance to presume that I am anywhere near in my young career where everyone else on Drawger is, but I'm working at it, step by step, piece by piece, arrow by arrow.