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Larry Elmore: Ask Me Anything

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Disgruntled Peony
(@disgruntledpeony)
Gold Star Member
Posts: 1113

Thank you for being here! Any tips for doing layouts and/or art for book covers?

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells
R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, SHM, 1st Place (Q2 V38)
Ticknor Tales

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Posted : July 24, 2021 4:29 pm
Larry Elmore
(@larryelmore)
Active Member
Posts: 21
Posted by: @aweyken

Sorry I can't be at the forum live (I'm overseas) - two questions come to mind -

(1) is it okay to copy a small bit of a published picture to incorporate into your own work? (by small, I mean something like a hand from a full figure), or a portion of clothing from a much larger work? Or should this never be done?

(2) what do you look for in creating the most compelling book cover? What the author wants, what the publisher wants, or what you want based on your reading of the work?

Thanks -Arthur M. Doweyko

to answer your first question--I don't do that, but I do not know if other artist do, but I bet if you ask them that, they would say NO even if they did. I try my best to not copy anything by another artist...unless you were trying to learn more about painting and trying to copy a painting. Like an old master or something, I did that once. 

second question, I always read the book and try to paint something that reflects the book. I try to make the cover interesting and visually pleasing to get the viewer interested and pick up the book. 

Some publishers will tell you what they want, some will want a certain scene....so you read the scenes or better, the whole book and get the feel and flavor of the scene.

AND SOME publishers don't tell you much, but let you turn several drawings and then they have you to do more--gak--and then kind of take pieces from all the drawings to make the cover. I always hated that. 

 

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Topic starter Posted : July 24, 2021 4:36 pm
ashpyne, André Mata, John Goodwin and 1 people liked
Joshua Dyer
(@phantomhill)
Active Member
Posts: 9

What's your creative process from concept to finished work like? 

2021: Q2 HM.

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Posted : July 24, 2021 4:37 pm
Larry Elmore
(@larryelmore)
Active Member
Posts: 21
Posted by: @alexes

What did you model your dragons on? Just imagination, or did you look at dinosaur bones and the like? The proportions in your sketches look so good. Any animals that were your inspiration? 

I painted my first dragon when I went to work at TSR...I was painting fantasy since 1967 or 68 but never painted a dragon. So my second assignment at TSR was to paint a dragon and I did just what you ask me...I went home that night, got out the old encyclopedias and looked up reptiles and dinosaurs....the next day, I went to work and painted a dragon!

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Topic starter Posted : July 24, 2021 4:40 pm
storysinger, ashpyne, André Mata and 3 people liked
Larry Elmore
(@larryelmore)
Active Member
Posts: 21
Posted by: @imgib

Hi Larry, 

Thanks so much for doing this! I had two questions that I was curious about your thoughts on Smile

1) How do you feel that the fantasy art market has changed since the start of your career? Are there any trends that have risen/fallen?

2) To you, what makes or breaks an illustration?

Isabel

Yes, it has changed...not so much about sexy big boobs fantasy women anymore. Some artists seem to specialize it that. But in general, it seems that every thing is getting bigger and crazier...swords that only superman could carry, dragons as big as a skyscraper, everything is over the top! There is not as much reality attached in many pieces, and sometimes the mood or feelings or subtleties are forgotten about. But Fantasy Art is still young...it will go thru changes and fads but It will get better and better. It is the only "school" of art that the artist can be freeeeee!!!! That is why I love it. 

What makes it for me, is, at the first glance, something about the art makes me stop, pick up the book or game or whatever and stare at the art. If all my paintings would do that for people, it would be wonderful. Sometimes you do a piece like that, but not every time! What makes or breaks an illo--a damn good painting makes a damn good cover! A weak painting, perhaps a painting with too much going on or bad color contrasts that is confusing is not a good cover....I could talk about all this for a loooonnng time!!

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Topic starter Posted : July 24, 2021 4:52 pm
ashpyne, André Mata, Isabel Gibney and 4 people liked
Larry Elmore
(@larryelmore)
Active Member
Posts: 21
Posted by: @tremani

Hi Larry! 😀 

When you were starting out, what was your favorite piece from your portfolio? Why was it your favorite? 

When I was first starting out, I had been doing fantasy drawings, inks and paintings--all unpublished. So, I sent good copies of them to publishers. I picked out the best ones and did a cross sample from drawings, ink drawings and oil paintings, trying to show that I was versatile...I was probably sending tooo much. I learned later to send around ten or twelve, at least I was told that by someone!!! Anyway, I got work, and that is all I wanted. Then I would send samples of the work that was just published...kept building my portfolio, weeding out the weaker pieces. My samples were almost ALL fantasy. So I got work form Heavy Metal, and National Lampoon...that was about ALL there was that published fantasy .

And yes I always sent my favorite piece or pieces...always send what you think is your best. My favorite pieces was an army of Nordic warriors marching thru the snow with a heavy sky and a castle on a hill in the background. I actually did a second type version of that when I was working at TSR.

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Topic starter Posted : July 24, 2021 5:04 pm
André Mata, Sinocelt, John Goodwin and 1 people liked
Larry Elmore
(@larryelmore)
Active Member
Posts: 21
Posted by: @jabecker

Hey Larry, love your work. Is there a story of how you got the cover of Basic Dungeons and dragons?

Yes, The boss came to me and said we are going to do new covers for the basic d&d game and AD&D covers, you are going to do the Basic games and Jeff Easly was going to do the AD&D---so the answer was simple, no choice. They said my art was more acceptable for mass market stores, the general public so it would be selling in Toys R Us type stores and the AD&D would be more for hard core gamers, sold mainly in hobby storys...I didn't like it, I wanted to do AD&D---but it worked out fine---a zillion people saw my cover. It is by far the most popular painting I have ever done!

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Topic starter Posted : July 24, 2021 5:10 pm
Alexes Lester, rjklee, André Mata and 4 people liked
JAbecker
(@jabecker)
Active Member
Posts: 5

@larryelmore It is a beautiful picture. First time I ever saw your work.

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Posted : July 24, 2021 5:12 pm
Larry Elmore
(@larryelmore)
Active Member
Posts: 21
Posted by: @jabecker

Hey Larry, I'm curious about the choice of imagery for the Dragon Lance covers. 3 people from the story + a dragon. Was that by author direction? Or was that a stylistic choice of your own.

By the way, I love them

I knew what Dragonlance was about before it was published Tracy Hickman and Harold Johnson (Tracy's boss) had told me the whole story a couple years before it was published. I was the artist that knew more about the story. So I got the job of doing the covers. I had NO art direction. TSR didn't really art direct, they let the artist just simply PAINT. That was great! They did say that they wanted some of the characters painted in each book and a dragon, plus they wanted to represent seasons with the colors of Red Blue and GReen....that was it. I painted the covers! I did talk to Margaret and Tracy about the characters, how they imagined them and what their personalities were like!

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Topic starter Posted : July 24, 2021 5:16 pm
storysinger, ashpyne, Sinocelt and 4 people liked
Larry Elmore
(@larryelmore)
Active Member
Posts: 21
Posted by: @toddric

Thanks for your answer, Larry!

Another question, if I may:

What is the best resource for getting good art contracts (licensing and so on)? Is there an organization that helps artists keep their finger on the pulse of the commercial side?  Something that keeps them from selling their art too cheap or selling too much of their rights?

If there is such an organization like that for artists, and the organization would ACTUALLY HELP artist, then I do not know of any!

There needs to be one! Especially on pricing! And collectors--as far as I know, there is nothing! Every artist for himself! sucks.

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Topic starter Posted : July 24, 2021 5:20 pm
ashpyne, Todd McCaffrey, André Mata and 1 people liked
Larry Elmore
(@larryelmore)
Active Member
Posts: 21
Posted by: @disgruntledpeony

Thank you for being here! Any tips for doing layouts and/or art for book covers?

To get a job doing art for covers, you send in your portfolio--that I what I use to do...but to be HONEST, I havent sent in a portfolio since the early 90s!! And I have been lucky, I have stayed busy! So I would not be a good one to answer that, I am sure now with the internet there are many ways online to get your art shown. Just one rule, that is still good today, show your BEST work. Don't show pieces that you have to explain or tell people "well, that is not my BEST painting"--if you are showing it to a publisher, show them your best!

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Topic starter Posted : July 24, 2021 5:26 pm
Larry Elmore
(@larryelmore)
Active Member
Posts: 21
Posted by: @phantomhill

What's your creative process from concept to finished work like? 

Well, if it is a book, I read it, if it is a game, I have them to tell me all about it and the mood or feeling of the game....I always ask questions about the product, Iwant to know as much about it and the people that plays, or reads it...I must know who the audience is or the buyers of the product that I am doing art for. Then I start doing sketches, I usually develop three concept drawings, pretty solid drawings. Once a drawing is approved--sometimes there are some changes--which sucks but ya change it anyway! Once you have the greenlight to go, then I start painting. As an oil painter, many times by the time all the approvals were done, I had to do a complete finished and dry? oil painting in a week!

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Topic starter Posted : July 24, 2021 5:32 pm
André Mata
(@a-mata)
Active Member
Posts: 5

Hi Larry,

Regarding conventions, how important are they for the development of a career in illustration? Do you have any advice for illustrators to make the most of those events? I am based in Portugal and I have never attended a convention of science fiction and fantasy. Do recommend any convention over here in Europe?

Thank you!

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Posted : July 24, 2021 5:37 pm
John Goodwin
(@johngoodwin)
Active Member Moderator
Posts: 24

Hi Larry,

What do you see as the advantage of using paints for your art as compared to computer-generated art?

Thanks.

John

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Posted : July 24, 2021 5:38 pm
ashpyne, André Mata, Todd McCaffrey and 2 people liked
Sinocelt
(@sinocelt)
New Member
Posts: 3

Have you played any of the RPGs you illustrated?

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Posted : July 24, 2021 5:48 pm
JAbecker
(@jabecker)
Active Member
Posts: 5

Hey Larry, I was curious about your illustration process. Do you see the image of what you’re going to draw before you start? Or, are you filling in what you’re going to draw as you’re drawing? (hope that question makes sense)

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Posted : July 24, 2021 5:58 pm
André Mata
(@a-mata)
Active Member
Posts: 5

Could you talk a bit about your influences, the artists you admire and why?

Thanks!

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Posted : July 24, 2021 6:05 pm
Larry Elmore
(@larryelmore)
Active Member
Posts: 21
Posted by: @johngoodwin

Hi Larry,

What do you see as the advantage of using paints for your art as compared to computer-generated art?

Thanks.

John

Yes, an original painting, especially oils, can be wonderful to see in real life. It is an ORIGINAL piece of art, it can never be exactly duplicated, because that painting can look totally different at different times of the day, the way the light hits it, it is a living object. When you use glazes or  other techniques as you paint, you are giving more life to that piece. I have some paintings that almost seem to glow, have a living presence! A photo or a scan or any type "copy", will not show you the "life" in that painting. I love viewing ORIGINAL art. And that original is the ONLY ONE IN THE WORLD! The same artist could paint the same thing over and over and each one would be different! With oil painting or any thing that is done by hand, like drawing or inking a drawing, or watercolors or any type of paint, each one you do is the ONLY one that will ever be ---any copy or reproduction, is exactly that. There is value to ONE OF A Kind art, or anything actually. I do understand that most artists today are using computers to generate their art. I know, you have to make a living and the publishers love it because it is quick to print and color separate and all those things in publishing. But paint some paintings with real paint. Those will have a lasting value!

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Topic starter Posted : July 24, 2021 6:08 pm
Larry Elmore
(@larryelmore)
Active Member
Posts: 21
Posted by: @a-mata

Hi Larry,

Regarding conventions, how important are they for the development of a career in illustration? Do you have any advice for illustrators to make the most of those events? I am based in Portugal and I have never attended a convention of science fiction and fantasy. Do recommend any convention over here in Europe?

Thank you!

I have always attended conventions, starting in 1982, I have done as few as 5 a year up to 15 to 17 a year. And it helped me, especially in my early years. I am not 73 years old and last year I did not attend a single con....it was weird. But conventions will get your work SEEN...not only will you develop a fan following, but publishers and art directors and companies will see your work and you can start picking up some covers. That is what happened to me, in the early years, I did the covers of anything fantasy, and actually I did a few free ones! But it paid off, over the years, larger and larger publishers wanted my work!!! So get your work out there, meet people, they love to meet the person that created something they liked...Europe has a lot of conventions, try to be a guest, or anything that will get you to the con and help cover some of the costs. Lucca in Italy is a fantastic one to attend...a zillion people will see your art and that convention loves ART---I know the guys that run it and tell them that Larry Elmore told you to attend that con and help you out! I may see you later this year, then we could talk some more!!!

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Topic starter Posted : July 24, 2021 6:16 pm
ashpyne, John Goodwin, André Mata and 2 people liked
John Goodwin
(@johngoodwin)
Active Member Moderator
Posts: 24

THANK YOU VERY MUCH LARRY ELMORE!

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Posted : July 24, 2021 6:17 pm
Sinocelt
(@sinocelt)
New Member
Posts: 3

One last question: What are you currently working on?

(If you don't have time to answer, don't worry about it. Thank you for coming today!)

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Posted : July 24, 2021 6:30 pm
Disgruntled Peony
(@disgruntledpeony)
Gold Star Member
Posts: 1113

Thank you!

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells
R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, SHM, 1st Place (Q2 V38)
Ticknor Tales

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Posted : July 24, 2021 6:32 pm
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