I hope she will continue to design my covers in the future.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a 23 year old illustrator, working freelance under my business name MM illustrations. I like to stay active, dabble in photography and absorb as many interesting and often useless bits of information as I can.
I graduated a couple of years ago from Derby University with a First in Visual Communication: Illustration, and have since been working as a freelance illustrator. It can be a lot of hard work and disappointment, but very satisfying when things start to work out.
When I’m not busy I like to go on long walks in the countryside with friends or family and visit historic houses. I find these are both great places to practice photography and build a collection of reference images to draw from.
What made you realise you wanted to pursue a life in the creative arts?
From really young I loved drawing and for a long time it was my main strength. So at primary school when we would be asked, “what do you want to be when you’re older?” I would always say I wanted to be an artist. As I grew up more options and possibilities opened up, but I guess those early dreams never left me.
Who or what are your influences, artistically?
My art is in many ways inspired by the Far East, by both the art and general culture, which I’ve always been drawn to. Sometimes it’s obvious, such as in the geisha project I did to complete my degree, but other times it’s very subtle and subconsciously done.
Specific artists that have inspired me are Alphonse Mucha and Aubrey Beardsley. Both associated with the Art Nouveau movement and inspired by Japanese woodblock prints, so I guess there is an affinity there. I like the stylisation and flowing shapes both used, Beardsley in particular used these to great effect and was a master of black and white drawings.
I’m also inspired by nature, music and history. History is helpful for researching topics, getting ideas from stories and past events etc., but I often feel most inspired while out in the park or listening to music even if the end image has nothing to do with either.
How did you get into book cover design?
I was pretty much willing to try any commission I was given after finishing my degree, though I did want to aim for publishing. So when you were looking for an artist to create your latest book cover I jumped at the chance and fortunately so did you.
Talk us through the process behind designing a cover.
First I spend a bit of time thinking about what I could do. From the basic description of the plot I try to find an original way to interpret the story into an image that will give the reader an immediate sense of what the book is about. I make some sketches based on my initial ideas and show these to the client to see which suits them best.
As I’ve got to know you over the course of producing several covers I now seem to know what you want straight away so you didn’t actually get a selection on the last cover.
From there I neaten up the drawing, add colour and texture if necessary and that’s it, all finished.
Apart from designing book covers, what else are you up to at the moment and what are your plans for the future?
As well as book covers I’m working on some projects of my own. The main one is an idea for an animation loosely based on the life of the last princess of China. I don’t want to give much away at the moment, but the idea is that it will make a social/political comment on China’s recent history. Hopefully my illustrator friend Claire Stamper will be helping me speed up the process with the addition of her skills.
I’m also working towards a qualification in web design, which I am close to completing. I will be building my own artist’s website as part of the course, so hopefully it will soon be up and running.
As for the future I hope to get the attention of an agent or an artistic director at a publishing house, which will hopefully bring in more jobs for me and of a greater variety. I would really like to be able to direct some big animation projects of my own but for the moment at least, that’s just a dream.
Apart from my books of course (!) whose books do you enjoy reading?
At the moment I’m reading a behind the scenes ‘inside HBO’s Game Of Thrones’, a theme that has dominated my reading since I saw the end of the first season last year. Then I had to read all George R. R Martin’s books from the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series because I couldn’t wait for season two to find out what would happen next. The fantasy genre is quite prevalent in my reading but I have recently been reintroducing myself to the classics with some Jane Austen.
Finally, out of the four covers you’ve done for me, which one is your favourite and why?
I think the latest one, ‘Seance of the Souls’. It might just be because it is the most recent and I always tend to like my most recent work best, then go through a period of seeing lots of faults in it and hating it, before coming round to think it’s pretty good again. This cover also just seemed to work that bit better than the previous ones, perhaps because I’ve had some practice with the style, but I think the extra textures help make it that bit more special.
Michaela's facebook page can be found here - https://www.facebook.com/MMillustrations