I saw the above cover by Joshua Middleton for Holly Lisle’s The Ruby Key at my local bookstore and became green with envy that it was not a Tor cover. I went home and spent a long time at his website. Now, putting together this post about a week later, I spent even longer trying to decide which images to show here—having to remind myself there is no need to duplicate his entire website. Hopefully I will be able to work with Joshua someday, but in the meantime he has gracioulsy agreed to answer a few questions and be in our Tor.com galleries.
Do you remember the first time you knew you wanted to be an artist?
I once saw a paper I wrote when I was around seven years old that said, “Someday I want to be a Disney animator or work for Marvel Comics.” Art has been my life from day one, really.
Your biggest influences?
Classic Disney, Frazetta, John Buscema, Alan Lee, Brian Froud, Miyazaki, Rockwell, Rackham, and Tenggren, to name a handful.
What are you working on now?
I always have some DC Comics covers to keep me busy, and I am just starting another Supergirl now. I am also putting the finishing touches on the cover for The Silver Door, the second book in the Moon and Sun series for Scholastic (The Ruby Key was the first cover in the series, and also my first book cover, ever.) Finally, I am wrapping up another wraparound cover for a book called The Unknowns, this time for Abrams Books.
Do you have to like the book/comic/movie to be excited about the project?
Absolutely. I am terrible at faking interest, although I do my best to make the most of whatever is on the table. When I don’t care for the project, the work is extremely laborious and the end result always suffers. I know this because I almost always work too hard on stuff I don’t like. It is infinitely more satisfying to draw the things I love. I admire and envy artists who are able to make even the most mundane assignments brilliantly their own, but it just isn’t within me to do the same.
My dream assignment at the moment would be to draw classic fantasy: faeries, barbarians, dragons, otherworldly beings, etc. I adore that stuff, but have yet to really draw it professionally, which is quite frustrating.
Do you have a set image in your mind when you first start sketching or do you start out abstractly and let the process of doodling take over?
If it is a commercial assignment, then I probably have some elements I must include in the composition, so my sketching process usually starts with those general puzzle pieces in mind. I don’t always have the luxury of time to doodle, so I have to work out a lot of drawing in my head before the pencil days, which is often the case with comic book work. If the work is purely personal, or the deadline is loose, I might explore more and allow the image to work itself out based on a vague concept or feeling I am trying to get across. I am always happy when I can scribble a bit and stumble into a happy accident. In any case, the challenge is always to refine the image without losing the energy of the sketch.
Whichever one will fix the awful mess I am looking at in Photoshop right now.
Do you have a five year plan or do you just take each job as it comes?
If by “five year plan” you mean trying to draw a personal project for the last five years, then yes, I definitely have a five year plan. I will probably spend another five years trying to get it done while taking other jobs as they come.