Going UnderCOVER with Artist Tony Mauro: Featuring The Dark Tower Covers

Many of you are heading out to see the big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower this weekend. Many more of you have read the books the movie is based on. Today we get to chat with the man responsible for bringing new life to the book covers, and impacting the visual for the next wave of readers for this series.

Tony Mauro is an artist who has been working in the movie poster and book cover illustration world since the early 1990’s. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’d bet a quarter you’ve got one or more books with his designs on your bookshelf! (He’s done over 350 for authors including Nalini Singh, Yasmine Galenorn, Delilah S Dawson, Jennifer Estep, Keri Arthur, Jamie McGuire, Kelley Armstrong, Jack McDevitt, Wilbur Smith, James Wesley Rawles, John Connolly, James Rollins, and many more.)  You can check out a bit of his cover art gallery, here.

I’m a MASSIVE fantasy art fan, and am especially drawn to the artwork that supports the books I love. I have quite the collection of cover design prints, to which Tony has contributed heavily. I’m thrilled to get the chance to talk to him about his art, and in this case, the recent re-cover project for the Stephen King catalog.

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1) Your portfolio contains hundreds of illustrations, covering every genre and media format available. Do you still get “excited” about particular pieces? Not just happy to do them, but actually EXCITED about a particular job?

 

I learned a long time ago that every project is only what you make of it and its up to you as an artist to find something about every project to get excited about.  That being said…when I got the call to do the trade paperback edition of Under the Dome by Stephen King I was REALLY excited. That was the first King cover I got the call for and was largely the reason why so many others followed.
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2) Are there any kinds of projects you *haven’t* worked on, that you’d like to? Murals on public buildings? Paint the nose of an airplane? Anything?

 

I am absolutely obsessed with automobiles. New and old and I would really love to do some work for the automotive industry. I couldn’t think of a better job than being able to combine my two greatest passions. I keep thinking how sweet it would be to establish a working relationship with an exotic car manufacturer with some kind of barter situation or even just be able to get an employee discount LOL.

 

3) Do you create artwork for yourself? Just spend an afternoon goofing around and come up with something cool to hang in your hallway? If you do, who’s work would it be hanging *next* to? Who are some of YOUR favorite artists?

 

I do actually and it’s funny that you worded the question this way because the last thing I did for myself is literally hanging in the hallway outside of my office. As far as what’s next to it, I have a fine art piece by Craig Elliott hanging in the same hallway and Brom’s work hangs in my office. I did a lot more for myself when I was putting out my When Darkness Falls wall calendars for Tide-Mark press. Those ran for 10 years and always gave me an excuse to keep creating new images. Unfortunately 2016 was the last year of the calendar so i don’t really have a home for those personal projects anymore beside my website. I may sign up with another publisher in the future but my commercial work keeps me pretty busy so I can’t say I totally miss it. It was stressful having to create 12 images a year outside of my regular workload.

 

I draw inspiration from lots of different people but if I had to pick a favorite it would have to be Brom. In addition to being a phenomenal illustrator he’s also an excellent designer and surprisingly enough those two things don’t always go hand in hand. I often look to his work for inspiration and can always appreciate the way that he constructs an image. The other illustrator that was an exceptional designer and a master at leading your eye around an image was Norman Rockwell. I have a growing interest in doing some teaching and I know I could do at least a full day on Norman Rockwell and some of the design techniques he used.

 

4) Is there any book (aside from the Stephen King titles, and we’ll get to those in just a second) that you love, that you would like the chance to re-cover? Any favorite book that you wish someone would ask you to work on? (I asked Dan Dos Santos this, and his answer was Frank Herbert’s DUNE.)

 

My favorite author is James Patterson, I would absolutely LOVE the opportunity to work on his Alex Cross series of books. I’ve read every one of them and really think I could knock that out of the park. It is possible to be too close to something though so as much as I’d love to do it I know I’d be really stressed over it at the same time. lol

 

Re: The Stephen King re-covers

 

5) HOLY FANTASTIC JOB OPPORTUNITY, BATMAN! How in the world did this project come about, and did you make the *squee* sound out loud? (You can tell us, we’re all friends here.) Have you read any of the books? (Full disclosure, I have not… his stories are a bit too creepy for me. But I’m seriously impressed by his storytelling, based on friends’ reactions.)

 

LOL, YES!!! It was a fantastic opportunity and although I may not have let out an audible squeal I was definitely excited about it! As I mentioned earlier I did the Under the Dome Trade paperback a couple years ago and that was my first Stephen King cover. By the time the rebrand came about I had already done 4 or 5 other King titles and they were going over well with the King camp so they called me to take on the rebrand. Although a did a large majority of the titles in the rebrand I should mention that there was at least one other artist working on the list at the same time. There were simply too many titles to be done in a relatively short amount of time.

 

I have read a bunch of the books as well as seen all of the movies. There are a few books in there that I haven’t read but there was enough information out there for me to go off of.

 

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6) Were you given some kind of direction from Simon & Schuster about what they expected, or did you come up with the concepts for each one on your own? Did you approach each as an individual, or try to create an overall feel to the catalog?

 

I received more direction on some titles over others. There were so many on the list that we tried to discuss where I was going to do with each one on the phone first to avoid too much back and forth. That approach worked out really well it certainly helps that I’ve been working with S&S long enough that they really know what to expect from me.

 

Each book was treated as an individual book because we knew they’d all get the same Stephen King header which would make it very clear that they were all part of the same rebrand.

 

7) With the Dark Towers movie being released, more people (if possible) are being introduced to Stephen’s stories, and that series in particular. Did you feel any added pressure, knowing that your artwork was going to be the first impression many would have of this story? Did you feel an obligation to keep parts of the original cover designs, as a nod to the existing fans of the series?

 

It’s always a little tricky when working on a project that is SOO well known. I certainly tried to retain elements from the previous artwork that’s out there and believe me…there’s a lot of artwork out there on this series. At the end of the day any re-brand’s purpose is always to introduce the story to new audiences, so luckily I didn’t have to worry too much about what had been done before. But it would be foolish to ignore it as well.

 

8) This project was a HUGE undertaking. Knowing that you generally work on multiple commissions at a time, were you able to work on other art during this, or was all of your time dedicated to the re-covers? 

 

I was able to make time for other projects and am really happy that I did because as an artist it’s always good to get away from what you’re working on and do something different just to keep things fresh. In the beginning of the process I had a list of around 10 King books that needed to be done in a relatively short period of time so during that time I was pretty exclusive to the rebrand. After that initial push the remaining covers came in at a slower pace and were spaced out over the next year or so. It’s very rare that I’m not working on multiple titles at a time and I learned to juggle a lot of projects when I was working in the movie business. That’s also where I learned that I do my best work under pressure. Too much time on any project can be a de-motivator. (is that a word? lol)

 

9) These covers are DEFINITELY works of art. If fans want to take a bit home, are you selling prints of the covers in your online store?

 

Funny you should ask…I actually just teamed up with Suntup Press to offer limited edition signed fine art prints of the Dark Tower murals. I’m very excited about that partnership, they are creating really beautiful prints over there. Here’s a link to their blog post from August 1st when they announced the prints being available for pre-order. The Dark Tower murals are only available through Suntup but if anyone was interested in any other prints they can always email me for pricing at tmauro@earthlink.net

 

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10) So, what’s next? What should we be on the look-out for?

 

What’s next?? That’s always a great question when speaking to a freelancer LOL. The exciting thing about my job is I never really know what’s coming next. I’m always looking forward to what the future will bring and what projects may cross my path. I’ve got several books on my plate right now as well as some pretty interesting private commissions that I’m excited about.

 

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I’d like to thank Tony for taking time away from his work to chat with us a bit. If you’d like to check out our first interview with him, click here.
So… what do you think of the new Stephen King covers? Are you planning to see The Dark Tower or It in the theatre? Are you a cover art fanatic like me? Do you have a favorite designer/artist?

One Comment

  1. Comment by Sharon Murphy:

    Absolutely brilliant!!

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