The Artist’s Den Featuring Cover Artist GENE MOLLICA + Giveaway!

July 19, 2013 Artist's Den, General, Interviews 41





The Artist’s Den is a new feature here at SWR where I showcase something I’m obsessed about – fantasy art.  This feature is inspired by my previous posts under the SHELF CANDY meme which was hosted by the wonderful Maria at A Night’s Dream of Books.  I loved doing interviews with cover artists under that meme but found that I often wanted to feature the work of artists who had not done traditional covers but still did work related to fantasy and science fiction.  While I realize this is not always going to be book related, I do hope you enjoy these posts as much as I do.

Please note that all images are subject to copyright protection and are property of today’s featured artist – Gene Mollica.




I’m truly honored to welcome the talented and prolific cover artist, Gene Mollica, to the blog today.  Gene’s photo-illustrations grace the covers of some of my favorite books in addition to a host of others that are on my TBR list.  I love the drama and intensity he’s able to capture and the strong heroines he brings to life.  And, well, sometimes his images are just simply beautiful – Moonglow, anyone?  


Please welcome Gene to the blog!


SWR:  When did you know you wanted to be an artist?  Is there an experience that stands out as a defining moment for you in making the decision to become a fulltime artist?

GM: As a kid, Star Wars. I was ten and from the start, obsessed. Then Close Encounters, Planet of the Apes – and of course the Batman TV series. I made films in my parents’ basement with my father’s 16mm camera. I built models out of pieces of scrap plastics, and had all the kids on my block act in my movie – dressed them in costumes and everything. Movie poster art, fantasy and sci-fi films were everything to me. I copied loads of Boris Vallejo’s work.



Cover Art: Mind Games by Carolyn Crane, A Soldier’s Duty by Jean Johnson, and Jill Kismet Complete Series by Lilith Saintcrow


SWR:  What artists have influenced or inspired you and why?  

GM: Throughout my life, different artists have been influential. As kid it was all Boris Vallejo, and Sci-Fi novels, and movie posters. Once in college, that changed to the classic painters – like Degas, Velazquez. I’m a huge fan of impressionists – the American Impressionists, The Ten, and the Hudson River School. After graduating from RISD, I eventually went back to wanting to make the kinds of pictures I adored as a kid – fantasy and sci-fi – so the people who most influence me now are my contemporaries in cover art, movie posters, and matte artists.



Cover Art: Wolfbreed by S.A. Swann, Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines, and A Witche’s Handbook of Kisses and Curses by Molly Harper


SWR:  What is your creative process and are there any rituals or routines you have prior to starting a project?

GM: Panic! Kidding, of course. Long walks.  Any mental break in between projects, like gardening. I tend to actually read the briefs immediately and pepper the art directors with tons of questions. Then, immediately start planning the project out – sometimes in my head as I’m working on another assignment, or I scribble notes. My schedule is busy, so organization is key. I’m often juggling working on assignments with concepting and developing other projects in the pipeline.


SWR:  How would you describe your style?

GM: Not sure. Obviously photo-illustration, but describing the style… not sure.



Cover Art: Shadow Reader Series by Sandy Williams


SWR:  Most of your cover work is in the fantasy genre.   How did you come to the world of fantasy art?

GM: It was a winding road, because graduating from RISD undergrad, I was a painter. After a few years as a gallery artist, I realized again what it was I really wanted to do and somehow I found my way back. Just never lost sight of what meant the most to me, so I pursued opportunities that I thought could get me closer – like working in publishing as a designer, then freelancing as an illustrator. Giving credit to the art directors in publishing, they saw in my work, or the style of my work, that I might be good for paranormal romances. Then came more fantasy and science fiction work.



Cover Art: The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne


SWR:  Though you started in traditional painting, most of the work you do now is photo-illustration.  Can you take us through the process of turning a photo into a finished cover? 

GM: I start with making sure I understand what the publisher needs, starting with all the costume elements and props – most of which is created custom for each cover. Then I find the right model, think carefully about concept and how to light it, and what can I do in the studio vs. post. The work is cobbled together with a lot of stock photography for the backgrounds and custom photography for the main character. What brings it all together is the digital painting done using Photoshop.

I have always loved working with photographs to create illustrations. Photoshop and digital photography saved me as an artist – before all this, I struggled with my work. However, painting landscapes for years has come in extremely handy in the commercial work of cover art.



Cover Art: Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie


SWR:  You’ve done the covers for some of my favorite series – Darkest London by Kristen Callihan, London Steampunk by Bec McMaster, Disillusionist Trilogy by Carolyn Crane; I just recently bought a book specifically because of your cover – Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie.  Can you tell us how you got involved with any of the above covers and what direction you received from the art director when starting the project?

GM:  I was just very fortunate that the art directors chose me for those assignments. In each case, I worked very closely with the art directors – had them to the photo shoots and collaborated to get the best cover possible.



Cover Art: The Powder Mage Series by Brian McClellan


SWR:  The Powder Mage covers.  I love the intensity of those images.  Can you tell us bit about the process of working on those covers with Orbit Art Director, Lauren Panepinto?

GM: Lauren wanted a really hyper-real feel to the art. She and I usually work pretty closely together – we talk a lot about the character, details and concepts – then work together in the shoot to try to achieve the edge we want.


Steampunk London

Cover Art: Steampunk London Series by Bec McMaster


SWR:  How has the rise in popularity of ebooks changed the art of the book cover?

GM: I’m not sure that it has. We’re now making e-book covers to go along with the launch of a new series or title – usually simplified versions of the cover concept.


SWR:  If you were given the opportunity to create the cover for any one book, what would that book be and why?

GM: I don’t have a particular dream assignment. I’m extremely fortunate that I continue to get new and different projects. I’m currently working with Orbit on a series that I can’t divulge, but we’re close to announcing – and for that we made a complete behind the scenes video showing the shoot and the preproduction labor that went into the costumes and working with the talent during the shoot.



Cover Art: The Deacon Chalk Series by James R. Tuck


SWR:  What is the last book you read that you’d recommend to a friend?

GM:  “Bear Snores On” and “Hippos Go Berserk” – I have a two year old daughter and those are a couple of my favorites. If you’re looking for new books you’ll love these.


SWR:  What side projects, passion projects, or upcoming work would you like to share with us?

GM:  I am working on a personal set of images which I’m very excited about. It’s been years since I’ve done anything personal. With these images, the goal is to create more cinematic images and push the imagery, doing more world building. Pushing the photography. If it’s all successful, then stepping the images out into some animation or 2.5 D with some camera moves.



Cover Art: Darkest London Series by Kristen Callihan


SWR:  Finally, I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones and the Song of Ice and Fire series in which every family has a motto – the Starks have “Winter is coming” and the Lannisters have “Hear me roar!”  (or, more popularly, “A Lannister always pays his debts.”).  What is the Gene Mollica motto?

GM: What I tell myself is that I want the strongest image possible – what that translates into is just pushing the digital painting skills.



Cover Art: Sword of the North by Luke Scoll




To celebrate the redesign of his website and the launch of his new Facebook page, Gene is very generously offering a fantastic giveaway – one signed print from his online studio!  Check out his website to see the incredible work he’s done as the images shown here are just a small sampling.  U.S. addresses only.

Thanks, Gene!


a Rafflecopter giveaway



About the Artist


Gene Mollica

I’m a photo-illustrator specializing in fantastical and otherworldly images for the entertainment industry, most frequently for book covers. Originally a painter (RISD grad ‘90), I made the switch to digital media in graduate school (School of Visual Arts ‘01). It was a daunting transition at first but now it’s an equally obsessive process. Creating images that the authors feel translates their original vision and offering a window into that world for the reader is as much fun as I’ve ever had.


My work has appeared on the covers of books by authors like L.A. Banks, Patricia Briggs, Jennifer Lee Carrell, C.S. Harris, Barb Hendee, Conn Iggulden, Caitlin Kiernan, J.F. Lewis, Richelle Mead, C.E. Murphy, Brian Ruckley, and Thomas Sniegoski among many amazing others.


I live and work in Maplewood NJ with my wife, daughter.


Please visit GENE at his favorite spots:



41 Responses to “The Artist’s Den Featuring Cover Artist GENE MOLLICA + Giveaway!”

  1. Susan W.

    All of them are gorgeous but Wolfbreed is my favorite. There’s something about her eyes and the foggy atmosphere that I love.

  2. ellen

    It is hard to pick a favourite. I have often purchased a book because of his cover. I guess I am going to go with the Iron Druid covers- especially the last one HUNTED

  3. laurie g

    all of them are gorgeous but Wolfbreed is my favorite. There’s something about her eyes and the foggy atmosphere that I love.

  4. Annie

    Always with the favorites!! LOL SO hard to pick. Fantasy art is so beautiful, it really calls to me. Some of Gene’s covers are my favorites. I think Sky Cowboy is one of my favorites. The combination of various textures is lovely and enchanting. Thanks Gene & Lee for this chance to win!

  5. Kristofer Paul

    I love his work so much! What in inspiration to artists like myself to never stop reaching for excellence! The Kevin Hearne series is awesome!

  6. Richard Auffrey

    Some of my fav book covers have been done by this compelling artist.

  7. Rachel V.

    I love the Deacon Chalk covers, because honestly I like looking at big bald tattooed guys.

  8. Stephanie Scott

    I love the Shadow Reader covers. All of Gene’s work is gorgeous though! Very cool feature.

  9. Robert S

    Love you work. Bought a few of the books I own because of your cover art. Thanks for allowing us to view your amazing talent.

    Robert S

  10. Eva Millien

    I like the S A Swann Wolfbreed cover. Because it looks like the wolf and the woman is coming out of mist. Very fantasy, I love Fantasy.

  11. Rhianna

    So many of my fave covers were done by Gene. I was so wowed when I first saw the Atticus covers because it was like the character as I had read him in the blurbs had sprung out just as I pictured him. 🙂

  12. Jean S.

    I didn’t realize that the same artist created all of these covers. Picking a favorite is difficult. I think I have to go with the Shadow Reader series, because of the colors. So pretty! Out of those, if I had to choose only one, I’d go with The Shattered Dark cover. I love the detail of the background. Thanks for the giveaway!

  13. LadyVampire

    I love all the artwork! But right now my favorite piece would be Sharpest Blade. I am really captivated by the pose of the heroine in this piece, the look on her face, the movement of her hair. I also like the mix of colors. A brightness among darker shades and with energy.

  14. Roxanne Rhoads

    It’s so hard to choose- I lboth of the Darkest London Series covers and the Steampunk London Series covers, but I really love the Wolfbreed cover too

  15. Sheila

    Though I am a huge fan of all of them, I love the Deacon Chalk Series the most. Mostly because I love James R. Tuck the most. lol

  16. Braine

    So happy you’re not a gallery artist anymore!

    So envious you met PMarron in person. Ha!

    Favorites: Darkest London & London Steampunk ALTHOUGH I am loving BEST SERVED COLD (she looks like my girl crush, Amber Heard) and Amber Mage is indeed frickin intense! I want the covers first followed by the books.

  17. Danielle D

    I don’t think I can pick just one, but I’d go with the Iron Druid series as a collection or the Remy Chandler ones.

  18. Paul Watson

    Really thought Book One the Powder Mage series really caught my eye. The painting really caught the whole vibe and premise of the story as well.

  19. Nita

    I adore both the Darkest London series and Iron Druid series covers. They fit the books perfectly and are just beautifully done.

    • Kathy

      The Power Mage series are my favorites because of the intensity of the male characters.

  20. fishgirl182

    thanks for the awesome interview, lee. i love these cover art features.

    i have definitely seen gene’s work before but did not know his name. so glad i do now. i have to say that i love the darkest london covers but that joe abercrombie cover is awesome. i would buy it based on the cover, too. 🙂

  21. Chantaal

    I personally love the Iron Druid Chronicles covers, but I wasn’t really aware of Gene’s work until this post. I’m absolutely IN LOVE with the cover for Best Served Cold.

  22. Aron M

    I love the Powder Mage covers! I love the dark and gloomy look.

  23. Heidi

    I love the Iron Druid covers. I had no idea you also did the Libriomancer cover – can’t wait for book #2 in that series.

  24. Chris

    It’s hard to choose just one cover, but I love the last illustration on the article. Just a very dynamic look to it.

  25. Wendy Beck

    Only 1 favorite! Good lord. I love so many: Kevin Hearne, Kristen Callihan, Kylie Griffin, Bec McMaster, and that Pile of Bones cover is hawt. I think it’s Allegiance Sworn. He nailed it for those 2 characters with their expressions, their stance, clothing… perfection.

  26. Shaunesay

    I like all the Iron Druid covers because I think he’s captured Atticus really well. All of them are beautiful though, the lighting and the colors are amazing!

  27. gene

    Hey Guys I just wanted to say thank you. Greatly appreciate your comments and support. And if anyone has further questions just ask, please!

  28. A.J. Larrieu

    Oh, these are so beautiful–and I recognize some of my favorite books! Now that I know Mr. Mollica created the covers, I can recognize his style. Thanks so much for giving us a window into the process!

  29. Colleen Magee-Uhlik

    I don’t know that I can just pick one as a favorite!! All of them are amazing! I do especially love the Iron Druid ones though.

    • Colleen Magee-Uhlik

      Also, thank you so much for doing this! So cool for letting us “talk” to you like this.

  30. Nevey

    My all time favorite are the covers of Steampunk London Series by Bec McMaster; he captured the essence of the novels and brought it to life.