I'm very excited to bring you today's interview. My victim happens to be the illustrator of Winell Road's cover, the fabulous Paul Mudie. I found Paul on Twitter after my plea for help and illustrator recommendations. And the minute I looked on his website, I just knew. The designs showcased in his gallery matched the vision I had of the style I wanted, so after a bit of back and forth discussing ideas, Paul disappeared, popping back occasionally with sketches for me to review, until eventually he nailed it. The process was fast and fun, and Paul was forever professional and polite - yes, I probably was extremely irritating with my demands and worries! I am super thrilled with the end result and the feedback from readers has expressed equal satisfaction.
So please, readers, meet Paul.
1. How did you get started as an illustrator?
I suppose I’ve been an amateur illustrator all my life. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t doodling away with a pen or pencil, but I stated doing it professionally after leaving college in the early 90s.
2. What is your favourite genre to illustrate for?
Horror, fantasy and science fiction, but especially horror. For some reason, that’s the genre that seems to fire my imagination the most.
3. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, specific routine, etc.?
If I’m doing a commission, it all starts with the brief. The client usually gives me a pretty specific idea of what they want, and then it’s my job to visualise that. If I need to gather visual references I’ll go and do that, then create a rough sketch image, and send that to the client for approval. If they’re happy with the way it’s going then I’ll continue working, showing the work to the client as it progresses to make sure I’ve not gone off the rails, and eventually – hopefully – I deliver a finished image that the client is happy with.
If they’re not happy with the initial rough then I re-think my approach and try to come up with a new concept that better represents what the client has in mind. This doesn’t happen too often, thankfully!
I paint digitally, in Photoshop, using a graphic tablet. I used to work in traditional media but over the years the digital side has been creeping in until I just became more comfortable working that way from scratch. It saves time faffing about with scanners and is very flexible and convenient way to work. Many people seem to be surprised that I don’t work with actual paint, so I think that’s a good sign.
Can you explain the relationship and involvement between illustrator and writer?
I think the relationship is very important. It’s my job to serve the writer’s vision, and I always try to stick as closely to the spirit of the work, and the detail of what they’ve written, as possible. It always irritates me when I see an illustration of a character or creature that differs from the written description. That’s an illustrator who hasn’t done their homework!
How much information do you need before you start work on a commission?
It depends on the commission. Sometimes I’m just given a very simple and loose idea of what’s needed (“Give me a werewolf!”) but if I’m to illustrate specific characters or scenes from a novel, for example, I need all the descriptive detail I can get to make sure I’m correctly representing the written work. I like to be as accurate as possible regarding period costumes, architecture etc, so I will look for any visual references that’ll help me get those things right. Google image searches are a great help!
How did you find your particular style?
Hard to say, really. I think I see things in a certain way and that tends to inform the work I do. I’ve also been influenced by other artists and illustrators – people like Gustave Dore, HR Giger, and Tim White, to name a few. I tend towards a realistic style, but I also want my illustrations to look like illustrations, not photos.
Do you think your style has changed since you started?
Yes and no. I think there’s a basic look to my work that probably hasn’t changed much but I think it’s evolved in small ways as I’ve learned new techniques and so on. I can certainly see the difference between my recent work and my older pieces, but I don’t know if anyone else can!
Do you ever get creative block?
There are times when I just can’t seem to visualise the thing as clearly as I need to, or the creative spark isn’t quite there. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen too often. I’m usually quite quick to see the image in my head and then get cracking on turning it into reality.
What's the best/fun and worst/most difficult parts of your job?
The best part is when I’m working on a project that inspires me, the brief gives me a good, clear picture in my head, and the final image matches up with – or turns out better than – what I had initially visualised. Best of all, I’m always pleased if the client is pleased.
The most difficult part is if I find myself in the situation described in the previous answer. If I start out with a shaky idea, and get myself in a mess trying to make it work or I’m visualising something that doesn’t seem to match up with what the client has in mind, then it can get pretty frustrating. But as I said, that’s a rare occurrence. Illustration is generally good fun!
Do you have any future projects on the horizon that you can share with us?
I’m rather excited about a graphic novel project that I’m currently working on. I can’t go into too much detail but it’s based on the work of one of my favourite horror authors. If things work out, this will be my first venture into the wonderful world of comics. It’s an area I’ve tried to get into a few times over the years, without success. So I’ve got high hopes for that one!