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Monday, December 23, 2019

Interview with Luisa J. Preißler (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Illustrator Website

Today we are thrilled to feature an interview with Luisa Preißler. I first came across Luisa's amazing artwork when I noticed her covers for Ilona Andrews and Rachel Aaron. With stunning attention to detail and having a distinct style of having characters being forefront, Luisa's work has been extraordinary to say the least. She was very kind to fit me in amidst her hectic work schedule and more than patient with my questions. So enjoy this interview and keep an eye out for her work. It's only going to get even more stupendous....

Q] Hi Luisa! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. To begin with, could you tell us a bit about yourself and explain what attracted you towards drawing and illustrations? 

LP: Sure! My name is Luisa J. Preißler and I’m a freelance illustrator from Germany specializing in fantasy book covers. I mainly paint in Photoshop and love the endless possibilities of digital art. In 2011 I started out with pen and paper roleplaying game illustrations, went on to create concept art in a games studio and colored comics for a while. However, I realized that my true passion lies in illustrating book covers for traditional publishers like Heyne/Random House, Subterranean Press, Future Publishing and various self publishers.

You could also call me a huge book nerd - I simply love to get sucked into fantasy worlds, that’s where my main inspiration comes from. Honestly I can’t remember a time when I was not drawing or painting. Painting is a lot like solving a puzzle for me, I need to put together many factors like color, light, anatomy and perspective in a meaningful way. It’s really rewarding when all the pieces come together in the end.

Q] Your artwork is distinct and utterly beautiful to say the least. When did you begin your journey as an illustrator and cover artist for Indie and traditional publishing? 

LP: Thank you so much! My first book cover for a fantasy novel was for the German edition of "Bloodbound" by Erin Lindsey through a German publisher called Bastei Lübbe back in 2015. I mailed them a promotional postcard and was commissioned almost instantly, which was incredibly exciting! After that I did a few more covers for several German publishers and slowly started to gear my portfolio more towards book covers instead of pen and paper role-play illustrations. I also began posting my artwork on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram and started getting commissioned by self publishers in 2016.

Q] Could you give us a rundown of the process behind creating a book cover from start to finish? 

LP: Normally either a publisher or self publisher contacts me via email and pitches their project to me. If we agree on content, budget and timeframe I send out my standard art agreement - a contract to keep both sides on the same page. Sometimes I read the books the cover will be for, sometimes I get detailed descriptions of the character and a rundown of the story. It’s really essential for me to get a good feel for the character and I love to come up with ideas for a composition and mood. I usually create one colored sketch for the client’s approval so they can roughly image how the finished piece will look like and where the elements will be placed. If there are no revisions, I’ll do a reference photo shoot and start painting. Shooting reference photos has become more and more important in my workflow. I recently hired a professional model for my newest book cover painting to get everything from lighting to pose just right. Once I’m done, I send the final painting over to the author/publisher for approval.

Q] You have a distinct style that focuses on characters being center front in your artwork. I love how each of your covers has distinct characters. How do you decide on which character to focus upon and what expression, stance & their body language will be?

LP: I usually chose to portray the main character of the book and try to get a good grasp of his/her personality. That gives me plenty of ideas for the pose, for example if I want to portray the character as quirky, moody, mysterious, badass or sexy. Since I want the cover to set the tone for the book I also try to incorporate a background element that makes sense for the story and ideally emphasizes the genre (e.g. a cityscape for urban fantasy, gearwheels for steam punk, a castle for high fantasy). Sometimes I illustrate a cool scene from the story but mostly I try to summarize the character and the mood so that I don’t give away plot specifics on the cover.

Q] My introduction to your artwork was through the covers you had designed for Ilona Andrews’ Kinsmen & Kate Daniels books via Subterranean Press. Could you talk a bit more about how this collaboration began and how you communicated with Ilona (& Gordon) for these covers? 

LP: Ilona saw my work on Twitter in late 2017 and wrote that she was in the process of looking for an illustrator and passed my name on to publisher and agent. I was a fan of the Kate Daniels series for many years and I was over the moon about the possibility of working together with my favorite author duo. Then in early 2018 I got contacted by Subterranean Press and was offered to work on a short story compilation by Ilona Andrews called "The Kinsmen Universe". Of course I said yes!

All of the communication went through the art director, Yanni Kuznia. I had a lot of creative freedom working on the "The Kinsmen Universe" and "Small Magics" illustrations and it really was a dream job come true.

Q] I also noticed that you have illustrated the cover for another of my favorite authors. Rachel Aaron’s Part-Time Gods is breathtaking. Can you tell us about this piece and how you came to collaborate with Rachel?

LP: Thank you! I loved doing the cover for "Part-Time Gods". I wanted to try my hand at illustrating a cool cyberpunk cover for quite a while. An illustrator friend of mine, Tia Masic, had worked on Rachel’s covers previously and recommended my work to her. Rachel then introduced me to her main character Opal from the first book and suggested the concept of an upside down city in the background, which I thought was really cool. Before doing any sketches I read the first book, dove into the world of the DFZ and instantly fell in love with Rachel’s ideas and writing style.

Q] What are your preferred genres for reading in? Who are your favorite authors & titles irrespective of genre? 

LP: I’m mostly reading urban fantasy novels but honestly I’m open to any kind of genre as long as it’s entertaining and has cool characters in it. I have nothing against the occasional crime thriller or romance novel.

My all time favorite series is the Kate Daniels series (Magic Bites) by Ilona Andrews. I also enjoyed Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and The Fever Series (Darkfever) by Karen Marie Moning. Rachel Aaron’s Heartstriker Series (Nice Dragons Finish Last) kept me entertained for weeks. Wake of Vultures by Nina Bowen is amazingly different from anything I’ve ever read in the fantasy genre. I’m currently reading White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland and I figured out that I shouldn’t read it while having breakfast because… braaainnns.

Q] Who/what are some of your influences? 

LP: The biggest influence on my book cover definitely has the artist Dan Dos Santos, I still remember being absolutely amazed by his covers for the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. Charlie Bowater also does beautifully stylized covers with mostly female heroines. Tommy Arnold paints amazingly realistic covers and shares great tips on painting and the art business through the podcast Black White Grey.

Q] In your opinion, why is cover art important? 

LP: The book cover is the face of a book and ideally sparks the interest of the reader while also classifying the genre. It’s one of the most powerful marketing tools for books and makes them easier to sell. I can’t stress enough how important it is that both the cover art and the layout looks professional. And who doesn’t like to display beautiful art on their book shelf?

Q] Is there a particular book or author that you would love to illustrate a cover for? 

LP: If you had asked me that question two years ago the answer would definitely have been Ilona Andrews! :) Now that this dream has already come true I’m of course still interested in doing further work for the amazing author duo.

Aside from that I’m really open to new stories and authors as long as I can paint badass heroines from time to time.

Q] Out of all the covers you have designed, which one was the toughest for you to draw/illustrate and why?

LP: Each new illustration poses a unique challenge but it definitely wasn’t easy to get the likeness of Kate Daniels right. For ten books now everyone had their own version of such a popular character in their head - I definitely did! It was hard getting exactly that vision down on (digital) paper.

Q] You have designed covers for books from a few genres, but the majority of them are in the fantasy genre. What draws you to the fantastical side of fiction?

LP: I grew up with Sailor Moon, Harry Potter and Disney and these stories were sure as hell way cooler than the reality! I would have loved to be able to do magic as a kid. For me these fantasy books, films and tv shows are the best kind of escapism - they expand my imagination, spark new ideas and take me on a fun adventure I wouldn’t have been able to experience otherwise.

Q] Are there any fellow illustrators & artists whose artwork enthralls you? If so can you give out a shout out to them?

LP: Of course, I’m extremely inspired by my colleagues whose work I see daily on social media. There are too many to name them but I definitely have to mention my immensely talented friends Djamila Knopf and Anna Steinbauer. Also a big shout out to my partner in crime (I mean, art), Klaus Scherwinski, who helped me out countless times!

Q] What are you currently working on?

LP: I’ve just finished painting a comic book cover and am now working on three covers for a gritty new urban fantasy series for a self publisher. It’s right up my alley!

Q] In conclusion, what challenges are you looking forward to and what is your biggest goal for the future?

LP: I’m really happy about where I’m at right now but my biggest goal would be to illustrate for one of the big American fantasy publishers like Tor and Orbit. I’m constantly trying to push the quality of my artwork and a lot comes down to creating better references for myself that answer specific questions about light and form. I’ve started doing photo shoots with professional models and dipped my toe into working with 3D programs like Blender but I feel like these efforts are still at the early stages. As an illustrator you truly never stop learning and that’s what I love about it.

NOTE: All pics & artwork courtesy of Luisa Preißler.



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