Stephen Youll was born in England, He began creating SF covers in 1987. He moved to New York City in 1989 and has been a cover artist ever since. He has illustrated covers for every major publisher and has produced hundreds of covers for the most important SF & Fantasy authors of our time. He now lives in New Jersey with his wife and 2 cats.
I studied art in England where I was born. On the advise of my elementary school teacher I enrolled into an art school that was close to home, so I could afford the bus fair to get there. My first art school was New College Durham. I spent 2 years there and received a diploma in art and design and then went on to Sunderland University for 2 more years to further my education in a more advanced course in technical illustration.
However, You could actually say I fell in love with science fiction before I did with art and that led me to peruse art as a career. As an artist I had always created things with my hands and seamed to always be drawing or painting or making models. It was just something I always did. From being very young I had always been interested in the strange and unusual. I was very much Influenced by various media at a young age. Movies, television and paperback books were a large part of my early artistic awareness. Science Fiction movies like 2001 a Space Odyssey, The Day the Earth stood Still, Forbidden Planet for what ever reason held a magical sense of wonder that became a huge driving force for me. Also anything remotely science fiction or horror based on television was highly influential. But as far as my biggest influence, that really motivated me into pursuing a career in art that led to me doing what I do today, has to be Science Fiction and Fantasy novels. Loving the covers to books in the 70's by the leading SF artists for authors like Isaac Asimov, Robert. E. Heinlein, Brian Aldiss, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock, Leigh Brackett, John Norman, to name but a tiny few, was without question why I wanted to illustrate books.
Most cover art assignments start by getting a call from an art director, who either has a manuscript for you to read or an idea in mind from either the Editor or them selves. Or they ask the artist to develop ideas for the cover. Sometimes the Author is involved and has suggestions to what they would like on the cover also.
Once I have been hired the only time I involve an editor or author during the process of creating the cover is if I need more information to do the cover than has been supplied. On many occasion there is no manuscript and there fore in order to get descriptions of characters you have to go to the author for first hand advise and descriptions.
The delivery on a project can vary greatly from cover to cover. Depending on the complexity of the cover art a cover can be done in as little as one day to a couple of weeks. The number of hours though put in to the art during that time is usually as many as you can squeeze in there within your deadline. Experience also plays into this and the only reason I can sometimes pull of a cover in a day is because I've doing them for a long time now.
On an artistic level the one thing I try to do with the cover art is to capture the authors universe in which the book takes place and conveys something magical that makes the reader want to loose themselves in.
I feel the most important aspect of the cover art is to convey the sense of wonder that you will only get by reading the book.
When working on a series the art can have a theme running through the different covers that link them, or the type and design can be used to create the look of the series. If the cover has been designed with a large panel in mind with type above and below the panel to create a series look, this leaves the artist a little freedom to create a unique piece of art on each book of the series to keep the look fresh.
Many of the media related books like Star Wars or Alien's and Predator novels have an already existing universe that was created for the movie. My job as cover artist doing a book within these universes is to keep the designs of these related media consistent But offer a new perspective to how they are viewed.
What I love about the illustration process is recreating the magic of a world written with words into a 2 Dimensional form that brings those words to life.
The most important thing I would like authors to know about my work is I really try to capture their writing and various universes they create. Each book I illustrate is given careful consideration and love. When a publisher entrusts me to illustrate a novel I always try to create the authors worlds, writing and vision. Making them happy is a big responsibility. It's their baby and I treat it with kid gloves.
Thanks to Dara Girard for inviting Stephen to blog for us and to Elaine Isaak for putting together a list of questions.