Updated: Feb 15, 2019
Suspects & Scales 02/22/19
Meet the cover artist of all of my novels, my best friend of 20 years, Shaleah Poster!
What is your art background? I've always been an artist in some capacity. Throughout my life, illustration has carried me through (I even made a career for a while drawing fruits and vegetables!) but I've also done all types of painting, photography, sign-painting and lettering, cinema, and at least tried just about every other visual art you could list.
What is your favorite medium to work with? Pen and paper, and after that, Copic marker. I typically illustrate with a blend of Copic, watercolor, and colored pencil. Even a digital design like you, I'll often mock-up digitally (while I'm with the client) and then do an analog sketch. Then I'll bring it back into digital format again. I do a lot of dancing between the two; that's just how I process things. I'll admit that having an iPad with an Apple Pencil did a lot in bringing me into a digital field without too much frustration.
Do you listen to music when you draw? Absolutely. My music taste varies a lot, especially depending on the mood of the piece-- but to summarize: Shintaro Sakamoto, Ray Lamontagne, RJD2, Victor Rice, James Taylor, Neil Young, Thes One, Alt-J, Menahan Street Band, Amos Lee, Martin Crane, Omniboi. That may not seem like a summary, but given the amount of music that I listen to, I assure you that it was. I know art has always been a passion for you and you have many inspirations. Can you talk a little about what inspires you to create? This is super broad, because I guess I'm both an illustrator and a designer. For fine art, first and foremost, Howard Pyle and all of the Wyeths. If I'm ever stuck in life or need to find inspiration, I pick up Wondrous Strange and thumb through it, even if it is entirely unrelated. I'm a huge fan of Japanese woodblocks and K. Nishijima, which bridges into my design inspirations. Those would be vintage books and posters, travel posters, and most anything that reaches back to old-school printmaking. Old enamel signs. I love the feeling they give me! Tea towels. Old soda bottles and airline advertisements and cinema lobby-cards. Look, its a lot of things and it's stressing me out trying pinpoint it. There's inspiration in everything. Professionally, Mateusz Urbanowicz and Luis Mendo are kind of where I'd like to be doing what I'd like to do and they're wildly talented in different ways from one another. When we sat down to design the cover for Heartache & Hoofbeats, you pitched me the idea of doing something in the vein of old school American adventure novels with a minimalist flair. Can you discuss a little about how we collaborate on designing the covers for everyone?
Here's a good time to flesh out a lot of my feelings. Right? No matter what caliber or genre of creative you are, respect your craft. Respect your work. Respect what you're creating and what you love. So that's my approach to design and illustration commissions. How do you honor all of the time and effort, all of the emotion that went into creating your literature? That's really important to me. You're creating literature. So our next step is: How do you want people to feel when they see it? Of course we're talking about books, so we're talking about covers. You know the old adage about "Don't judge a book by its cover?" Throw that out. This is your one chance, in one tiny rectangle, to take someone's breath away and make them want it. Now we're getting into the good part. Your books are not conventional and neither are your stories, your characters. They're adventure! They're fun! They're sometimes somber and they're very very intricately formed. How can I communicate all that? Well, entice people to travel into them. Just like an old travel poster. Lets entice people to get lost in dusty adventure under a hot white sun. Old cowboy novels and romanticized sweltering visions of the old west are right in line. That's how I'm going to approach any piece I work on with someone-- I'm not going to get a commission for a romance novel and just draw what I think a romance novel usually looks like. I have a whole story to tell so that you can tell yours. Professionally, what’s your goal?
Just draw all day. I want more commissions because when you draw a commission you get to see the person light up when what they've had in their head or their heart is lying flatly in front of them! One of the things I feel I'm very good at and don't get to do much is character drawings. I'd love to illustrate some books and do backgrounds, work on magazine covers, that sort of thing. I always aim to improve my skills-- and watercolor scenes are next up as I move to Japan and get used to my new surroundings.
If you could travel back in time and hang out with anyone, who would it be and why? This is a loaded question. Do you have some time? I have many deadcrushes. I'll mention quickly: Amelia Earhart and Bessie Stringfield-- and Jean Lafitte has always fascinated me. But there's a new contender. Kenji Miyazawa, as I fondly refer to as my husband. I swear I think we were meant to be together, it's just that he died tragically young and we were born 90 years and 3 days apart. He's one of the most strange, creative, and brilliant individuals I've ever heard of-- and I'm stunned he's not more well-known outside of Japan (especially with the global love for storytelling like Miyazaki's). He was creative and smart beyond his time and his means, and in a way ended up ostracized by it. He had no interest in following the expected path of business and marriage, and then he died at age 37! Oh my love, you were too brilliant for this world. Also, he'd probably just be perfect to sit down and have a cup of tea with. Is that the note we're ending on? The weirdest one?
If you're like me, you love supporting indie artists! Please go visit Shaleah's website and donate to her pateron if you can! She's moving to Japan soon and would love to keep making art. Follow and support my amazing friend Shaleah: