Special Guest post … an Interview with the Wolf series’ cover artist Raphael
The Wolf, in League blog tour wouldn’t be complete without hearing from the artist that has designed the covers for the Wolf series novels. As much as the words inside the story are important, we all know that having something that grabs the eye is an absolute necessity, and Raphael managed to accomplish that with these covers perfectly. From the very first breath of me saying that that I had an “idea” of what I would like to see, Raphael’s creative wheels began turning. And I couldn’t be more thrilled with how they turned out.
So I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Raphael, cover artist, with a small interview, as well as share some fan art that he put together for both Wolf, WY and Wolf, en Garde. Am I blessed to not only have Raphael as a friend, but an artist? You bet I am!
Hello, Raphael, and thank you very much for joining us. Now, you already know how much I love the covers for the Wolf series, but in case you’d like to read it again… I am absolutely in love with what you’ve done with them. They encompass the atmosphere and emotion of each one of the stories, the graphics are vivid and dynamic, and I’m a really big fan of the non-traditional romance cover format. So all my kudos, buddy, and a million thank yous!
Raphael: You are most welcome! My friend, I can not thank you enough for having me here. This is very new for me and I can only tell you that in all seriousness, I am truly honoured. It makes me crazy happy that I was able to bring your visions to life. This is truly satisfying and let me thank YOU for giving me this opportunity!
Would you say that the covers for the various Wolf novels are consistent with the type of art that you draw most frequently? And if they’re not, what do you prefer to draw?
Raphael: *laughs* To be honest, the covers for your magnificent Wolf series were something completely different from the drawings that I usually do which are mostly gay couples – people. Your ideas for the covers required drawing a landscape and giving each a special mood. Until then, when I did landscapes, it was merely as background. However, your covers presented the landscape and the mood as the main “character” of these drawings. That was an exciting challenge to do something so different!
What about gay romance works for you enough to be able to inspire such interesting designs?
Raphael: You said it yourself, my friend. It is the romance. I am a incorrigible romantic and I want to show that in my art. That does not mean that I am above a good, passionate sex scene.
What many times bothers me when I search the internet for gay art is that the findings often turn out to be rough sex. There is no love, no romance, no passion. Mostly it is about one man taking another for the only purpose of satisfying his own needs.
I want not to show just sex but love making. A reason why I tend to do less elaborate backgrounds in my drawings is to show the whole situation in a context. It is not only about the act itself, I also want to tell a story about the mood.
Do you have a favourite of the three Wolf covers? If so, will you share which one it is?
Raphael: *laughs* That is a mean question! XD I can not really tell. Each has its own story as I will tell later.
But if I have to choose, I would say it is the cover for Wolf, WY because it was my very first published cover art of this style, and I was extremely happy to see how well it was received. A heartfelt thank you to everyone out there for your kind comments.
There is a rumour going around that you can be a little “particular” about finishing touches, final tweaks, just-one-more-this additions, and just-a-little-more-here polishes. But is there anything that you would go back and change on any of the Wolf covers now that all is said and done?
Raphael: OMG! You are not talking about drawing reflections in the insides of the holes of buttons, are you? *laughs*
In my opinion a piece of art is never finished. If I can afford it, I put a drawing aside and come back for it later. It helps to give me a new insight what needs a work-over and what does not. I would have liked to give the wolf eyes for the first two novels and the vampire eyes on the third cover more detail. I would have loved to add more to the iris which is an incredible piece of art from Nature if you look at it on high-resolution, close-up photos.
But as cover artist one has to be pragmatic sometimes and not everything one wishes to do would make sense for the final product.
Could you see yourself doing artwork like this for a living? What about any other type of artistic pursuit?
Raphael: That is a difficult question. After I left school, I could have gone to university to study art like my partner did. But I was not sure then if I wanted to change a hobby that I loved to do, and that enriched my life back then, as it does now, into a profession that has to pay the bills.
I also love my current profession. I worked very hard for it and achieved a lot. With that comes a certain level of quality that my life has. I have to look at this in a realistic way. Giving up my profession to become a full time artist would be risky. Bills still have to be paid.
But there is the other side of me that, yes, would truly love to make a living from art. The good thing about my job is that it allows me to pursuit my hobby and yes, if an opportunity for a commissioned book cover shows up, I will happily take it!
What is the most rewarding thing about art in general?
Raphael: Maybe this is surprising, but for me it is not finishing a piece but the actual work on it. I always look to try something new, be it lighting and shading, a pose, or drawing something that I have always avoided. A good example would be water running down naked skin. It was greatly satisfying when I finally dared to approach that in the fan art for your wonderful novel ”Second Star to the Right“. I fear and love to face new challenges and the most rewarding thing is to overcome hesitation and make something work.
What is the most frustrating thing about art in general?
Raphael: To be honest, I can not really come up with something. Perhaps I could say that it might be frustrating if something does not work out as imagined, but that is not my way of thinking. Even in failure there is a chance to learn and what keeps me from trying again?
I’ve seen different artists complain about issues like drawing hands, or feet, or hair… what is that one thing that you loathe to have to draw?
Raphael: *LAUGHS* Curls? Just kidding! Every artist in the business of drawing has it’s strength and weaknesses. Or what they like or dislike to draw. Yes, hands are evil. Personally I think this still is the greatest ongoing joke the Universe came up with. Creating the very complex concept of a human hand and then bringing humanity to the concept of the art of drawing, means knowing that at one point we would end up having to draw hands. This thing that is so hard to draw, a human hand, requires exactly that to achieve it — a human hand.
Another thing that I find very difficult to draw is expression like happiness, flirting, anger, sadness, whatever we are capable of showing with our face and not making it look ridiculous in a drawing.
Is there a specific artist’s style that you’ve found to be most inspirational? If so, would you say that you utilize their features in your own, or has their style influenced what you do?
Raphael: Actually there are several artists who have influenced me:
Benjamin Zhang Bin from China, with his wild and colourful style. I love colour and his art really goes wild with it. His sometimes extremely loose brush strokes remind me that a piece of art does not always has to be about perfectly detailing things, but that it is about overall impression as well.
Renato Casaro, an Italian artist and illustrator who always had fascinated me with his gorgeous movie posters in a time when they were still actually drawn. His work impressed me with two things — composition, and that a single still life can tell a story.
Jan van Eyck, a flemish artist and scientist who lived from 1390-1441. His ability of detailing and hyper-realism always fascinated me.
Michelangelo Caravaggio (1571-1610), another Italian master who certainly influenced me with the bright/dark contrast style in his paintings. It can add a lot of drama to a scene. *laughs* And I believe we have to thank him for people still believing that artists are a bunch of people with a wild, extravagant, fuck-the-rules lifestyle!
(Henley side note: They ARE! XD)
And this list would not be complete without particularly mentioning my partner who, among many other things, taught me to be patient with my work. To put it aside if necessary and come back later with fresh ideas and a new view on it.
If the Art Fairy Godfather showed up and offered you three wishes, but they had to be art-related, what would those three wishes be?
1. Please make me a good artist who can live a decent life from his work.
2. Please make me a good artist who can live a decent life from his work.
3. Please make me a good artist who can live a decent life from his work.
On the other side of things, if the Art Devil showed up and said that you would have to give up your ability/desire to draw, but you could be graced with one other ability in its place, would you be able to come up with something to exchange it for?
Raphael: *laughs* Yes! Make me a genius in physics and math so I can become an astrophysicist or cosmologist and help uncover the secrets of the Universe.
Thank you again for sharing with us today, Raphael, I hope you enjoyed the visit. But before I let you go completely, I’ve included your Wolf artwork below. I would love it if you could take a moment to walk through them with us and chat about what you were trying to do with each of them, if you think you succeeded, and any challenges, issues, or moments you might have with them…
The Wolf Series Covers
Raphael: This one was the truest challenge because it was the very first time I did this kind of work. At first I was like: drawing a landscape? Sure, how difficult can that be? Until it hit me that I had to work within strict dimensional limits, and had to make it simple on one hand but eye catching on the other. I remember that we had some harsh winter days here as I drew the cover for Wolf, WY. As my desk sits directly in front of the windows, and with what Mother Nature dealt us at that time, it made coming up with the cover for Wolf, WY easy. Well, after I had finally figured out how to give a landscape some depth.
Wolf, en Garde
Raphael: The cover for Wolf, en Garde was kind of a lucky shot. The result I got from drawing the trees did not satisfy me at all. Then I went to kind of a picture taking safari in the south of our city. On my way back, I passed a small group of trees, chatting with my partner, when suddenly something made me stop and turn around. It was how the sun shone through the trees and made them appear like a silhouette. I knew that I had found the cover for Wolf, en Garde! The rest was playing with the footage in Photoshop and giving it the look that you and I wanted.
Wolf, in League
Raphael: Your idea for the third cover required an autumn-ish look. Dark and moody. I knew immediately what I wanted to do — go back to another forest where I had been during summer, and taking pictures in the dull daylight of a rainy October day. I wanted wet ground, wet leaves and stems.
So one day my partner and I went to that forest. We walked one and a half kilometre from the train station to the forest and another back in steady rain, we walked through that forest with its muddy, slippery ground. We had to make sure that the rain would not ruin the camera and had to kneel down in the mud to get the proper angles and perspective. *laughs* We were soaked and dirty but we completely enjoyed ourselves! I think it was because it was moving away from the comfort of the drawing table at home and getting out there; not being apprehensive to do what was necessary to get the work done.
I then put the pictures together and painted over where it was needed – very much like creating concept art. It was a great and fun to do!
Of course, the fun didn’t stop at the covers by any means. You also did some fan art that I have to include. Tell us a little bit about:
Wolf, WY Animation
Raphael: That was a fun project because I suddenly had the urge to do an animated banner. You know, trying out new stuff and facing challenges. It was fascinating to do and although this is a very basic, very simple animation, I learned a lot from doing it.
Shield Wolf Among the Pack
Raphael: With this one I wanted in a way go back to the Wolf, WY cover with its harsh snowy and stormy background. This time, though, I wanted to show your heroes Randy, Vaughn, and Lyle. My idea was to make them naked because I wanted to show the contrast of bare skin in such an environment. It also gave me the opportunity to show how I imagine these three guys, and with showing the closeness between Randy and Vaughn and Lyle’s angry expression what is going on in your novel (on a very basic level).
Wolf, en Garde Pic
Look What the Cat Dragged In
(please click through HERE for the full, NSFW version on Raphael’s own site — Note: 18+, NSFW, nudity)
Raphael: I soooo wanted to draw Arius and Rafe! When I started the work on Shield Wolf Among the Pack, I already knew that I wanted to do a similar picture with the Wolf, en Garde main characters and doing them in almost the same position, posing, posture.
With Lyle being so angry about his dad and Randy in the first pic, I wanted to change roles and put Lyle in the position that Randy was earlier and Rafe, who becomes Lyle’s boyfriend, being the one having to witness the ongoings.
The difference is that Lyle is far less comfortable looking and Rafe is more worried and anguished for Lyle.
I am definitely blessed. 😀
For much more, please check out Raphael’s personal blog site at https://boysininkandcolour.com/
A great big thank you to Raphael for joining me for this special blog tour post, and another one to you for stopping by and spending some time with us. Be sure to keep reading below to find out how you can get in on the Wolf in League blog tour and giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Please leave a comment or question below, for either Raphael or myself, then click on the Rafflecopter link to mark your entry into the Wolf, in League blog tour and giveaway! The prize consists of a signed, print copy of Wolf in League, a “crystal and silver” diamante Howling Wolf Pendant, and a $20 gift certificate to the Less Than Three Press book market.
For all the terms and conditions, please check out the t’s and c’s posted on the Rafflecopter.
** Please note that this giveaway is being offered tour-wide and there will be one winner awarded for the entire event.
It’s been months since anyone at the Committee has had any contact from the O’Connell family or their pack members, and they are not happy. Suspicious of the activities that took place in D.C. and determined to find out what the wolves are up to, the Committee recruits one of their newest residents, Doctor Matthew Dietrich, to play the part of neighbor and infiltrate the family.
Matthew has always been a keep-to-himself kind of person. Though idealistic and optimistic, he prefers to work in solitude, at night, while he researches the findings that he hopes will one day change the world. When he’s approached by the executives of the Center, he has no idea why they’d choose him. And to say he is skeptical over the concept of men that can shift into wolves would be an understatement. Until he meets his new partner, the man that will play the part of his “husband” in the Committee’s scheme, Doctor Gavin Strauss.
Genre: Gay, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Notes: Wolf, in League contains some explicit and violent content
Book 3 in the Wolf series
Purchasing Link -LT3 – Also available at your favourite online supplier!
Thank you for joining us! Hope to see you at the next stop!
AF Henley ❤
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Fascinating, always fun to hear different perspectives on things. And I’m now currently shocked to hear these are all made and not photo manipulated. In hindsight, I suppose it’s obvious but I so did not get that impression originally. Now I feel silly. Amazing work, and glad to learn more about you North. 😀
Thanks, Frosty! I think a couple of the backgrounds were… hmm… photo inspired? Painted over? On Wolf, en Garde and Wolf, in League Raphael had mentioned that they began with photos. It sticks in my mind because I remember getting the opportunity to peek through the photos with him, and they were awesome. 😀
*hugs you tight* Thank you very, very much for this, my friend! I loved to do this and had great fun!
My pleasure! Thank YOU for ALL you do! ❤ 😀
I don’t suppose this specimen of being we know as Raphael is actually not human at all and comes from the realm of the Fae and who may have an ancestor from the celestial realm? 🤔
I think one of the reasons why I wish I could draw but never truly stepped into it was the daunting task. Writing is difficult, but drawing is, in my mind, even more so. The first time I saw someone put in all the intricate details by hand, I pretty much had Matthew’s reaction from Lyle’s educating him about shifting. If I hadn’t gripped whatever it was I was holding AND sitting down, I would be on my buttocks for sure.
Couldn’t tell that you never did this kind of art before the covers. Looks very natural, but I don’t have a trained artist eye, so take that how you will. 😅
Thank you for the peek into you! ❤️😋👍🏼
I couldn’t agree with you more! The ability to draw, to create life/atmosphere from a single picture, has always fascinated me. And watching Raphael’s progress was even more so. It never came down to a visual concept with any of the three covers, it was always a mood thing. We could talk for hours about what we should “see” in the picture, but the moment we broken it down to what we should “feel” about the picture, Raphael HAD it. 😀
Thank you for stopping in to read and comment! ❤
I enjoyed the interview with Raphael it was so interesting find out how the covers were made and also learning how much work goes into them, I also liked finding out more about the artist and his work. AF you were lucky to get such a great artist for your book covers.
Thank you, Shirley! I couldn’t agree with you more. 😀
I can’t tell you how happy it’s making me that you (and the other awesome readers) are enjoying the tour so much. It’s great to be able to read all the comments again and just say “heya!” to you all again after so much time. Thank you very much for taking the time to read and comment! ❤
I thought the cover was gorgeous. To be honest, I always prefer NON human cover for my books; or there are couples I prefer them with clothes on *LOL*. I am not a visual person, so I didn’t care about cover featuring people. And I’m asexual so all those naked torso or men/couples that my friends sometime all drool on just don’t do anything for me. But give me cover like this, that give moods, or cover with landscape, or still-life, or simply gorgeous typography art cover, and I’m hooked!
Thank you! I’m thrilled you like them as much as I do. 😀
I don’t mean to talk ill about anyone else’s cover, but the naked torso guys don’t really do it for me either. Not when it comes to a cover, anyway. I’m like you — I like the atmosphere to be displayed. Also, I remember reading a tweet that Megan Derr put out about how covers like that (naked, sexy people) aren’t allowed everywhere. I think, in respect to her particular tweet, it was about shipping novels into prisons.
Thank you very much for your kind words and joining us again! ❤
Love the banners. Thank you for the interview with Raphael, it was intriguing to hear about the production of the covers.
I was so excited when I saw the banner that I think every neighbour in my apartment complex heard me yelp. XD
Thank you so much for stopping in to read and comment! I’m happy I got to share him with you all. ❤
They’re beautiful covers, and it’s great to learn Raphael’s inspirations!
I happily agree with you, Trix. 😀
Thank you very much for stopping in to read and comment. ❤
Wonderful pics. Congrats on your new book. It sounds great. I love gay urban fantasy and paranormal, and the book blurb and excerpt made it a tbr.
Thanks so much! I’m glad to hear it. 😀
Good luck! ❤
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Wow, this was truly an adventure for Raphael and one that came out super fabulous! I really like the covers, especially the first and last. I’m on my way to check his other art.
Much success to you, Henley, and also to Raphael!
taina1959 @ yahoo.com
Thank you very much! I hope you like what you see. 😀
Good luck! ❤
I love reading interviews. This is the first I’ve read with the artist of the cover. Just reading about the artistic process is so exciting. Please pass along my best wishes for Raphael to reach dream of making him a good artist who can live a decent life from his work. (I believe he is on his way!)
I will absolutely do that! Thank you very much for your kind thoughts and for taking part it the tour as well!
Best of luck! 😀