I’m really happy to be joined by cover artist Tom Edwards. He did the artwork for the upcoming Woodbridge Press anthology, Explorations: Through the Wormhole, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the end result.
A little about the man behind the art:
Tom Edwards is a freelance illustrator living and working in the UK. His main source of work is book cover illustration, but he also designs characters and creatures, as well as board game artwork for various clients. He enjoys creating science fiction and fantasy covers for indie authors, and would love to expand his client list with some larger publishers in the future.
Nathan: Tom, thank you so much for joining me here! I am really happy to have a chance to pick your brain about what you do. Can you tell me a little about your art background and how you started doing book covers?
Tom: Hi Nathan. It’s a pleasure to be here. I started drawing at a very young age. My father was an architect, and he used to draw tractors for me while I watched. I drew for fun throughout my childhood, and I used to get a lot of nice comments from people (mainly family) about how good I was for my age. I stopped drawing when I hit my teens, due to owning a PlayStation.
I didn’t really get back into it until I went to college. I wanted to be an architect like my father for years. I wasn’t clever enough to study physics and maths, so I decided to take a graphic design course. I only did this because my friends were on the course, and I didn’t have any idea of what else to do at the time. It wasn’t until the second year when I got my hands on a Wacom tablet for the first time. That was it, I was hooked again. I couldn’t believe the freedom I had, and the digital tools I had at my fingertips.
After college, I continued to study game art at University. The course was heavily 3D focused, but it enabled me to continue to practice my digital painting skills too. I also learned how to build objects in 3D, which would prove an invaluable skill that I use extensively today.
Before I finished my degree, I was offered a job at the UK-based games company, Codemasters. It was my first job in the industry, and I learned a lot of new skills. I worked with well-known artist Fred Gambino. He was a great inspiration to me, and he was a very successful book cover illustrator, among other things. He taught me a lot, and he was the main reason I started to tailor my work towards book covers, especially science fiction. He made it possible for me to meet John Harris, another influence of mine, and a fantastic sci-fi artist.
I left Codemasters to work full-time on book covers and other freelance projects. I don’t think I could do anything else now.
Nathan: Your artwork is just great, specifically your Science Fiction space shots. To me you are one of the best out there. Where do you get your ideas for ships?
Tom: Thank you, that means a lot. Personally I think I still have a long way to go to secure my name with the greats like Fred and John, but I really appreciate the fact that you like my work. I have a habit of collecting art books for games and films. I tend to look at those for ideas, but a lot of the time, I just go with what I think looks cool.
I always think to myself, ‘would I like to own or fly this ship?’ If the answer is no, I’ll try something different until the design looks good to me. I love the ship designs in Star Wars (who doesn’t) and games like EVE and Mass Effect.
Nathan: When you work with the authors or publishers, do most of them give you a clear-cut vision of what they want, or do they ever just give you a basic idea and you get free reign? I know for Explorations we had A LOT of messages back and forth until we ended up with the end result that I just love.
Tom: Sometimes the client has a solid idea of how the ship should look, so I try my best to realize their vision. In other cases, I’m left with more freedom to come up with something unique. Most of the time it’s somewhere in between, which is great. It means I have a direction to start with that I can build and work on. Hopefully giving the client something more than they were expecting, which is always my goal.
Yes, I remember. It’s all about refining and creating something the client and I are both happy with, but the client always has the final say on the design.
Nathan: Do you ever read the books you do covers for? Are you a Science fiction and Fantasy fan?
Tom: I would love to if I had the time. I’m very busy creating covers, so my spare time is taken up with my girlfriend Natalie, the gym and trying to get better at golf. I’m a very big fan of both genres, and I would love to read more. Maybe audio books are the way forward for me.
Nathan: I’ve given up at getting better at golf, and have settled with ‘I like the fresh air’. With the huge success of the SF Indie authors out there, do you have a full plate or are you able to schedule projects in as needed?
Tom: I’ve been getting increasingly busy over the past year. I started working as a full-time freelance illustrator at the start of 2015. The work was steady to start with, but now I’m booked up a few months in advance. I don’t like letting people down, so I do my best to fit the work in when I can, even if it means working on the weekend.
I really enjoy giving the client a cover that they love, and hopefully the cover will aid in their success. The cover I did for Nick Webb’s Constitution still gets me clients today, so I’d like to think the artwork resonates with people.
Nathan: I have to admit, I saw Constitution and said ‘I have to have that guy!’ I have commissioned another cover from you for a great fantasy collection Woodbridge Press is publishing. I know most of your work is SF but do you enjoy doing fantasy and character covers as well?
Tom: Yes, very much so. I think my strengths lie in sci-fi covers, but I’m very open to other styles and genres. Most of my time at University was spent creating characters for fantasy and sci-fi worlds. I’ve done quite a few fantasy based covers, and I’d love to expand my portfolio with more of them in the future. Who doesn’t like knights, orcs and dragons!
Nathan: Thank you so much for joining me today, Tom. One last parting question: What is your all-time favorite book cover?
Tom: I have a few favourites. I remember my Dad read Dune when I was young. It’s the cover with the blue-eyed Fremen and the Ornithopter. I think because I was so young the image has stuck with me. I also like the covers for Mark Lawrence’s ‘Of Thorns’ series, painted by Jason Chan.
Nathan: Good picks! I look forward to working with you on a couple upcoming projects. To keep up with Tom’s work, please check out the below links.