Shelf Candy is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Five Alarm Books. This meme gives us an opportunity to highlight a cover we love and the artist who created it. Please click the button above to find out how to participate and to see what other covers are being discussed this week.
This week’s Shelf Candy…Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson,
cover art by Chris McGrath.
WHY I LOVE THIS COVER:
What I love about this cover is what I love about all of Chris McGrath’s work: it’s dark, mysterious, dramatic, and cinematic. Because of its period setting, this one in particular looks like an old master painting with a touch of magic. And the use of light and texture is pretty phenomenal. It really is beautiful work.
Chris McGrath is a native New Yorker and a graduate of the School of Visual Arts. He has been an illustrator in the publishing world since 2001 and has done work for such authors as Jim Butcher, Kat Richardson, Rob Thurman, Seanan MacGuire, and Brandon Sanderson.
Without further ado…Chris McGrath.
SWR: Describe the moment you realized you wanted to make art your life and profession. And what were some of the major influences that put you on this path?
I would say it was when I was around 11 or 12 years old. I had been drawing my whole life and really into sci fi , but one evening I was at my uncle’s apartment and he had a Frazetta art book on the table. When I saw that book I was blown away and right then and there I decided to get into illustration.
From that point on I never looked back or changed my mind. Although I do have other interests in the arts as well.
SWR: How did you get involved with creating cover art specifically?
When I was in college I just stuck to my guns on being a sci fi fantasy illustrator. There were teachers of mine that were doing book covers at the time so I was able to get a good idea of what I had to do to get a job. Plus my good friend Dorian Vallejo was already doing covers so it gave me a certain insight as to how to approach art directors. His advice came in handy for sure.
SWR: Looking at your gallery of work, one thing that strikes me is how dramatic and cinematic the images are, almost like a frame grab from a film. Does film influence your work at all and, if so, what are some of your favorite films?
Film is definitely an influence as well as some photography but I like the pretty standard stuff such as Blade Runner, Alien, Star Wars and so on. My list is pretty similar to everyone else working in my field.
SWR: How would you describe your style and how do you think it has evolved over the course of your career?
I’m not sure. Pretty dark at times. Subtle in symbolism maybe. I was very into Caravaggio and Rembrandt in the way they used light to get ideas and symbolism across. I wasn’t really looking for a style. I just did the type of thing I wanted to do and it found me I guess.
The Art Director at Tor books thought I would be a good match for the look of the cover. Probably because of the work I do for the Dresden Files.
SWR: Had you read the manuscript prior to creating the art, and, if not, what kind of direction did you get from the publisher? What was the single most important thing you wanted to convey in the cover?
The Publisher gave me a scene that they really liked but were not glued to it. I read the first several chapters which were great. I’m actually looking forward to reading the book when it’s released, but the time period and setting was super intriguing to me and I had always wanted to do a colonial period piece. So getting a spooky, colonial vibe across was important. I tried out a few different ideas in the sketch stage but ended up going with the scene that the publisher had recommended. Once and a while I’m happy with a cover and this was one of them. Though it’s far from perfect and there are still some things I’d like to fix on it.
SWR: What, if any, are covers, or cover artists, you consider iconic or influential?
SWR: If you were given the opportunity to create the cover for any book, past or present, what would that book be and why?
I would say Dune or Elric of Melnibone. Hard to choose which one but both had a big influence on me and both offer the opportunity to do something visually different and exotic.
SWR: What side projects, passion projects, or upcoming cover art would you like to share with us?
Well, my other big passion is music. I’ve been playing guitar for 24 years and have finally gotten around to recording some stuff I’ve built up over time. If I ever get it done it will be a guitar instrumental record. We’ll see. I’m almost done with a couple of songs. I also have a story I’ve been developing for quite some time that I would like to write and have a whole set of visuals for.
But that’s probably a few years away.
SWR: Finally, I am a Game of Thrones fanatic. Every family has a motto – the Starks have “Winter is Coming,” the Lannisters have “A Lannister always pays his debts.” What is the Chris McGrath motto?
Haha, that’s easy, “Don’t Panic”
Let’s get pretentious for a moment…the Pivot quiz. Chris was cool enough to humor me and play along. Here are his answers:
What is your favorite word?
Not sure I have one
What is your least favorite word?
Same, not sure
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
What turns you off?
Doing something just for the sake of it.
What is your favorite curse word?
My mom might read this.
What sound or noise do you love?
What sound or noise do you hate?
Construction out my window at 7am
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
What profession would you not like to do?
Anything with math
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
You are way too early, go back.
Please visit Chris at his favorite spots:
Take a moment to learn more about D.B Jackson, author of Thieftaker: