Monday, March 15, 2010

Fantasy Art - Todd Lockwood

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Todd Lockwood hardly needs an introduction. The well-known American artist was born in Boulder, Colorado and he specialized in fantasy and science fiction illustration. Todd Lockwood studied at The Art Institute of Colorado in Denver, graduating in 1981. Todd has an illustrious freelance career and he is best known for the paintings made for TSR/Wizards of the Coast. Todd Lockwood illustrated the popular games released by Wizards of the Coast, their novels and magazines, among them the covers for the famous R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden series of novels. He also illustrated other magazine covers such as Asimov’s Science Fiction, Analog Science Fiction or Realms of Fantasy and on many other book covers. His work and talent was recognized with numerous awards, including 12 Chesley Awards and 2 World Fantasy Art Show Awards, and his career was presented in the only book published so far dedicated to his art, “Transitions”, released in 2003.

Interview with Todd Lockwood

Mihai (Dark Wolf): Todd, thank you very much for your time and the opportunity of this interview.
Your bio states that you started to draw before you were two and this question might sound awkward for an established artist such as yourself, but may I ask what is your first recollection of art?
Todd Lockwood: My first memory of art is sitting on my father’s knee while he drew cartoon animals for me. My father was a fairly talented artist who never pursued art as a career. He ended up as a civil engineer.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): Who do you think that inspired and influenced your development as an artist? Who do you consider to be the most influential figure in your career?
Todd Lockwood: In no particular order: My father, Walt Disney, Frank Frazetta, Michael Whelan, Jeff Easley, Rick Berry, Donato Giancola, Brom, Keith Parkinson, Frank C. McCarthy, NC Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, Rembrandt, Maxfield Parrish.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): After graduating from the Colorado Institute of Art you worked in design and in advertising. What influenced your decision to become an illustrator and in which context came this decision?
Todd Lockwood: After fifteen years of advertising I had literally burned out on art. I decided to get a better level of work or hang up my brushes and find another career, most probably real estate. Illustration is what drew me to art in the first place. Once I discovered the convention circuit, I knew that it was this or nothing. I remember in particular doing a test painting for my art agents in New York; they wanted me to get the Camel Cigarettes account. I had to do a test painting of Joe Camel, their cartoon mascot. At the time there was a great deal of concern about cartoon characters being used to sell cigarettes, because of the influence it might have on children. I didn’t really want to do Joe Camel, but I sure could have used a good account like that at the time, with three kids and a mortgage. So I agreed to do the test painting.
The whole time I was working on it, I could not escape thinking about a scene from a novel I has read, called Inferno, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. It was a contemporary take on Dante’s Inferno; the hero of the story awoke in Dante’s limbo and had to take a journey through the heart of Hell in order to win his way to a better afterlife. Along the way he spied a friend trudging through a pit of human excrement, and was shocked to see this loving, hard working family-man in such an awful place. He asked his guide what this horrible torture was intended to rectify, at the same time trying to get his friend’s attention. His guide asked him what his friend had done for a living. “Advertising” was the answer. And as his friend opened his mouth to speak more human excrement came out of his mouth, while his guide explained that this was the hell for false flatterers.
I didn’t get the account, and I was always secretly glad.

M(DW): Today there are wonderful pieces made with digital tools and an increasing number of digital artists. What is your favorite method of work, the traditional or digital one? Does it happen to mix these methods in some of your artworks?
TL: I have never mixed the media other than to do a drawing in the computer, then print it out onto water color paper to paint it in oils. I primarily use Corel Painter, on my Macintosh computer, with a smidgen of Photoshop here and there. I really enjoy painting digitally; it solves so many problems that illustrators face. There is no drying time, no clean up, no photographing the art, no shipping costs, no fumes. But there is no painting at the end, only a file, so it’s a love-hate relationship either way I go.

M(DW): Do you have a favorite place where you feel comfortable when you work? What do you do when you have an inspiration and the place is inappropriate for drawing? I know that my mother used napkins when a situation like this happened.
TL: I’m a professional; I do my work in my studio, mostly at my computer. I spend eighteen hours a day in the same 5 foot by 5 foot patch of real estate. I do prefer to have no one else in the room, though. Sometimes I prefer silence, sometimes I want music, and sometimes I will put a movie in the other computer (the one that runs my prints) and listen to it while work.

M(DW): You are a long fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy works and also an avid Dungeons & Dragons player. Working on personal pieces do you like to inspire from such works or do you like to create your own fantasy worlds (I know that you have one in your basement :))?
TL: I prefer my own worlds and inventions. I never used modules when I DM’ed for my friends. I don’t get many opportuinities to do pieces for my own entertainment, but when I do they tend to be personal explorations of spiritual (or what some might consider religious) themes, like Kali-Prakriti or War of Angels.

M(DW): Speaking of fantasy, I have read a very interesting post on your blog, “Red-Headed Step Child”, about the under-appreciation of Fantasy Art. Why do you think that fantasy genre in general and fantasy art in particular is seen in this way? Do you think that such critiques fail to see the value of an artwork because it’s categorized in a genre or other?
TL: It’s strange, because I think it is only true in America that fantasy is regarded as childish. To really answer that question, I should just ask you to post a link to that blog entry ( But the short version is somewhere between the influence that Walt Disney had turning “fairy stories” into movies for little kids, and the fact that many Americans with entrenched, hard-core religious ideologies are threatened by anything that dares to view the other side of the veil through any lens but theirs.

M(DW): You are also interested in mythology and hidden meanings of Myth. Does your interest in mythology manifest in your artworks? Do mythological figures have a place in your art pieces?
TL: I refer you again to Kali-Prakriti, War of Angels, and also to Cerberus; these were done for me, and there are others like them waiting in my brain for the opportunity to be painted. And then, most fantasy in America is derived from old mythologies (especially D&D, which borrowed shamelessly!).

M(DW): As a long Role Playing player starting to work for TSR and later Wizards of the Coast must be a dream come true. How did you come in touch with TSR and how did you feel when this job opportunity arose?
TL: I met a guy at a convention who was a friend of one of the art directors at TSR, and he introduced me. Within six months I was freelancing for them, and then two of their artists quit, creating an opening that I jumped at.
It was a dream come true in many ways. It saved my art career in a very big way, because suddenly I was being paid to do the work I’d always wanted to do.

M(DW): One of my favorite characters is Drizzt Do’Urden and if R.A. Salvatore is the father of Drizzt I believe that Todd Lockwood is the man who gave him a face. What is your relationship with R.A. Salvatore and Drizzt Do’Urden?
TL: Bob Salvatore and I have become friends; we share a lot of values and opinions, quite apart from the character that we share. As to my relationship with Drizzt … it’s complicated. On the one hand, I love him: I got to design the look of him to my standards, and Bob’s books are incredibly fun to illustrate. On the other hand, there was a period when it seemed that all I was painting was Drizzt, and I started to hate him a little bit. Too much of even a good thing is still too much. But that was while I was doing new covers for the old books. Once those were done, the pace slowed down and I was able to like him again.

M(DW): Does Drizzt Do’Urden feature characteristics of Todd Lockwood’s personality? Do other characters you drew feature some of your characteristics and personality?
TL: It is said that every character in a book is the author. I think the same is true of characters in paintings. I dabble in writing myself, and have a project going on the same that I hope to get back to very soon. Whether you are writing the story or painting a picture of it, your sense of story is very important. What you know about every character’s actions and reactions comes from your own experience, so of course they are all in some way an extension of yourself. Perhaps some more than others, but it’s true across the board nonetheless.
As to Drizzt, he is sort of the angst-ridden teenager that lives in all of us, with an unnatural ability to act out his frustrations in a very effective manner. No wonder we all identify with him!

M(DW): Many other books covers on the Fantasy market benefit from your artwork. What involves the work on a book cover and do you have a preferred method when it comes to cover art? Are you advised on by the authors of the novels as well?
TL: It varies from job to job. Sometimes I get a manuscript to read, sometimes (and almost always with a new Salvatore book) the book hasn’t been written yet when I have to paint the cover. In those cases, I get an outline or synopsis, and if I can arrange it I love to chat with the author. I’ve become friends with some authors after doing their covers.

M(DW): You also have created many works for collectible cards. Is it very different a work on collectible cards than cover art? Is it necessary to have a different approach when it comes to collectible cards?
TL: Yes; collectible cards have to work at a very small scale, but the buyers usually want to also be able to scale them up for marketing purposes, so they have to be tight. Details have to be simpler for card art. Otherwise, both require the careful application of the fundamentals of design that we use as illustrators.

M(DW): Your wonderful career and artworks were rewarded with many awards, among others 2 World Fantasy Art Show Awards and 12 Chesley Awards. How do you feel when your art is appreciated in such way? Besides the awards rewarded for a particular piece you received also the Chesley Award for Artistic Achievement in 2004. Does this award have a special meaning for you?
TL: It’s always nice to get an appreciation like those. I have had a silver medal in the Spectrum competition as well, which is perhaps my favorite award — for War of Angels. Illustrators spend many long hours alone crafting their works, hoping that they are doing a piece that will be appreciated. So it’s nice when our “children” go out into the world and are well received.

M(DW): Your art was gathered in a volume, “Transitions”. How was this book received? Do you plan the appearance of other volumes that will gather your artworks?
TL: Transitions was received fairly well, though the publisher entered into financial difficulties and has not been marketing my book at all, and won’t return my queries. It’s frustrating, because there are copies left out there, and people who want them, but I can’t get them to sell them. Bad situation.
I do have more than enough artwork to put together another book of art. I just haven’t had time to pursue it …

M(DW): Your artworks are also presented on different SF and Fantasy conventions. How is the interaction with the viewers and the admirers of your art in these cases? Would you like to have a larger personal art show?
TL: I enjoy the conventions. It’s nice to meet the fans and have interactions with them.

M(DW): I’ve seen on the Internet step-by-step pictorials with the creation of your art pieces. Are you asked often for guidance by new and emerging artists? Would you like to teach an art class to young artists?
TL: I get requests for advice every day! I would like to teach one day. I’m in the process of getting my studio arranged so that I can take on an apprentice, though the time is not right yet.

M(DW): At what are you working right now and what other future projects do you have?
TL: I have several book covers coming up (two for Salvatores, Bob and his son Geno), a personal project or two, and several large conventions to prepare for.

Thank you very much for your amiability and answers. It has been a pleasure.

For complete biography and a more comprehensive portfolio of Todd Lockwood, please visit his website, The Art of Todd Lockwood.

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.


Maria said...

Awesome! Just AWESOME!

Mihai A. said...

Thank you, Maria! I am delighted to have Todd Lockwood as my guest :)