Monday, April 29, 2013

The First of Three: An Interview with Artist, Tom Vandenberg

Hello, folks! Mark Nelson, here. This month's guest post is from Tom Vandenberg. I met Tom through my sister who offered his name up when I expressed some misgivings about trying to find an artist to do the cover for The Poets of Pevana. Tom has now become an important element in the developing "look" for Hadley Rille Books. He has done the covers for my novels, and has expanded his portfolio quickly by working with fellow HRB authors. I love Tom's work. He brings fun, color, intelligence and great skill to the process. With King's Gambit set to release in May, I thought it would be timely to let him have this space, and give us a look at the author/artist interface.

Ladies and gentlemen, Tom Vandenberg.
Tom and Mark, sent to my cell phone just to taunt me. TLD
In the fall of 2011 my wife, kids and I travelled to our favorite little college town, Ellensburg, Washington to spend the weekend with our old and dear friends, the Sherrells.   Over wine and some tasty local brew, that first evening, I recall Lori telling me about her brother, Mark and his book, “The Poets of Pevana.”  She said, “Tom, you gotta’ read my brother’s story, it’s so good, and it’s so different from other stories because the main character, Devyn, is a poet…and, they battle it out through poetry and it is really cool . . . “  or something to that effect, anyway.  I was moved by Lori’s belief in her brother’s stories.  About a month later he gave me a call.

I had never worked in collaboration with an author before Mark Nelson, Author of “The Poets of Pevana” and the soon to be released follow up, “King’s Gambit.”  Most recently I had been making money as a chalkboard artist.  I had primarily focused my sights on producing logos, designs and illustrations for corporate spirits distributors, restaurants and nightclubs and worrying that my next paycheck was going to be on a “Net 30, 60 or 90.”  Ouch. 

When Mark first called I was pleasantly surprised.  This was new.  Different.  I welcomed the chance to use my drawing and painting skills. 
After the initial meeting between he, Eric Reynolds, of Hadley Rille Books and myself, Mark and I began emailing our ideas back and forth.  I started my first book cover research:  Architecture, landscape, people, clothing, weapons . . . and trees.  Lots of trees!    

This first image is of the ancient oak tree and the first of the pencils I did for the cover.  This tree really is the centerpiece of the cover illustration.  For further work I altered the image digitally and built the cover around it.
This next drawing is of Kembril, the first character Mark and I worked on together.  I read the scene many times to get the feel for Kembril.  After a few times through he started to remind me of a less crotchety version of my Grandpa Thompson, who also loved his drink, mixed with a battle scarred Leonardo Davinci.  This image was, I think, the third pencil in a series I used to create his likeness.  He was loads of fun to draw.

 An email from Mark 11/3/11
“This is awesome. Give him some dusty, raggy clothes, set the bole of the tree at his back and a root for the stump, and you are practically in my head.” 
It’s not an easy job creating the main character.  I’m sure Mark would agree.  Through many emails we hammered out the first of my digital drawings.  Welcome to the early stages of Devyn Ambrose.  After penciling him in I decided to scan his image and draw the rest using my new painting programs and Wacom pen tablet.  Yes!

Pencils of the oak tree were a good start, however, our next step was to set up the scene for the cover.  There were a number of different versions of the tree I created before the characters were put in place.  Here is one of those versions.  I still like this one because of the softness of the digital airbrush’ softness. 
Part 2: Creating the Villain
Creating a villain wasn’t the difficult part, however, where to put him was.  Front cover?  Back cover?  lots to think about.  I sent many images to Mark Nelson, Eric Reynolds . . . and Mark’s editor, Terri-Lynne DeFino, who later became a great friend when I finally got to meet her at Conquest 2012 (Conquest 44 is going to ROCK!).   

My email introduces a marked up image, trying to locate “Jaryd Corvale’s” spot on the cover.  I think this is a good example of how some artists collaborate through the web.

“Here is an improved version with run down streets, buildings, cart, people walking off in the distance, a rat, and . . . two potential places Jaryd could be lurking.  I like choice "A" best, because he is less conspicuous and I can have him leaning out the doorway in a shadow . . . or I could pop a window in that same building and have him peaking out from the shadows.  Point "B" is okay, but, it's too obvious IMO.  I could pop a doorway/window in just about anywhere.
Headed in the right direction?”
An email from Mark:
“I love the grimed up look. This is FANTASTIC. Terri likes A. I can see C. Imagine a book blurb on the left side either superimposed on the scene or in a text box. Creates some separation, which is cool. C allows the figure to be half on the spine but unencumbered by the blurb. Hmm.”

Jaryd didn’t end up in any of those proposed locations.  I created a new one by using the open space between two buildings.
I officially met Eric and Terri when I got the privilege to take part in last year’s Conquest 43 along with the rest of the Hadley Rille family.
Thanks for allowing me to post this blog.  And, thank you Terri for posting it up for me.

I look forward to taking part in “King’s Gambit” blog whenever that happens!  I have a TON of images showing the cover illustration process of this incredible novel. 




Terri-Lynne said...

Ah, the memories...

Thanks for this wonderful evolution of artwork, Tom! It always thrills me to see your work. I hope you'll come back after King's Gambit goes out into the worl.

Terri-Lynne said...

um...worlD. D'oh!

Unknown said...

I am not going anywhere just yet, Terri. I am working with a few other Hadley Rille authors, as well. It's all good!

Thank you for the compliments.

Terri-Lynne said...

I meant HERE, to the blog, silly. Don't for a moment think that HRB is going to let you out of our clutches...erm...I mean...yeah, that's what I mean. ;)

Heroines of Fantasy said...

Awesome thoughts Tom! I think we will have to do a King's Gambit post sequence in MAY. Perfect timing!

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Tom, this is a great post. It's so cool to see a work of art coming together. Great sketches!

I invite you to take the King's Gambit sequence to my blog for EOLYN, as well. Would love to have you both there in May (and beyond)!