With The Dragon Keeper Chronicles, I’ve had the pleasure of working with an amazing artist, Ricky Gunawan. He is an illustrator, sequential artist, and digital painter. I have wondered how he goes about creating such amazing works of art. I’m sure readers are just as curious about his creative process. Ricky was kind enough to grant me an interview.
Tai: Ricky, I am so glad to have a chance to interview you. I am sure my middle grade readers will love to know about you and how you create such awesome covers. Let’s get started. Where are you from? Where do you lived, and how has that influenced your work?
Ricky: I am really glad for the chance to do this interview. I am an illustrator and sequential artist from Indonesia―some people might know it as the biggest South East Asian country. It is recognized by its Bali island. I live in Surabaya City, the second biggest city in the country. I have had an interest in artistic things for as long as I can remember, and I have always been supported by my parents to pursue an artistic career. Indonesia is a developing country and is only focused in industrial and trading fields, not creative fields. Because of this, I have decided to develop my skills overseas where the creative works are much more appreciated. Right now, I am working with an excellent author from another country :)
Tai: Tell us a little about your beginnings and your journey as an artist.
Ricky: When I first started I created a children’s book called Petualangan Dombi (Adventure of Dombi). It is a story about a little sheep and his adventure. It's for the local market only, and I created the art and the story as well. I realized that I could have gone bigger than this, so I put some ads on the internet, and someone from Portugal contacted me to create a children comic book. I still wanted to do bigger jobs, so I put more ads to announce that I'm not only doing children arts but a wide range of illustrations. For me it's been a long, hard journey, but it’s worth my time.
Tai: Who inspires you?
Ricky: I'm a fan of Alex Ross and Jim Lee with their DC comics art.
Tai: What is your preferred medium to work in?
Ricky: At first, I used manual tools like pencils, ink, paper, a scanner and a computer for coloring. I only used a mouse and keyboard to do this. This process is very time consuming, so now I only use a computer and my pen tablet. It's more efficient for me.
Tai: How long have you been creating digital art?
Ricky: I’ve been doing this since 2010, so it's about seven years now.
Tai: That is a very long time. Besides book covers, what other types of art do you do?
Ricky: I'm doing comic book art of course, book cover art, character concept art, map art, promotional posters and many other things.
Tai: Would you mind sharing what programs you use and the process of creating your art?
Ricky: I'm doing the sketch, painting and coloring with Adobe Photoshop and a Wacom Intuos pen tablet. First, I create a rough sketch to show the layout of the cover or comic art. After that I add the details and paint, then add some shading to it.
Tai: How do you decide how a cover will look?
Ricky: I will ask the author to provide me some description, or maybe the key scene for the story just simply ask the author how they want the cover look. Overall, what I need is knowledge about the characters’ personalities to make them appear correctly on the cover and to appeal to the target audience. I don't want to make dark illustrations for children’s literature. When I have a rough sketch, I send it to the author to show them how the layout will look.
Tai: How long does it take you to complete a book cover?
Ricky: A month and half is the longest it’s taken to make a cover.
Tai: It is so wonderful to be able to turn your passion of art into a career. Do you have any advice for hopeful artists?
Ricky: I love to draw and want to make a living doing something I love. Just keep trying, don't give up on your passion, and sharpen your skills every chance you get because there are lots of artists out there who are ambitious and have the same passion as you. Practice makes perfect :)
Tai: Can you share a piece or two with us, maybe of a WIP or a recently published book?
Ricky: This is the fantasy map art I recently made for The Underground Menagerie, by authors Matthew S. Cox and J. R. Rain, is full of fantasy creatures from around the world.
Here is the book cover art for Rune Empire and Rune Destiny from author Sandell Wall.
My most recently published comic book is called The Supers : The Third Best Superheroes Team in The World from creator Chris Morris. My part is only in the art section :) The story is more like a sitcom. It’s a parody of superheroes and world issues that have developed in present years such as social media addiction and terrorist and racial diversities. This first issue took us years to finish, and right now we are preparing for issue number two.
Tai: Thank you for inspiring followers with your thoughtful responses. We wish you the best of success with your future projects.
You can find more examples of Ricky’s artwork on http://goweliang.deviantart.com or quite possibly in your own local bookstore! Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in commissioning art.