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Interview with ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY SUBMARINE’S award-winning cover artist Ricky Gunawan

People really DO judge books by their covers. They must find something in the artwork that speaks to them as readers, that evokes emotions and hints at a story they’d want to read. Ricky Gunawan, the cover artist for ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY SUBMARINE, recently won Cover Wars from and kindly took the time to answer some questions about his work as an artist.

1.  What challenges do you face as a cover artist?*

The challenge so far is to maintain the quality of my illustrations and to create distinct covers for each client that help to evoke their unique stories.

2.  Where do you get ideas from?

Mostly I get the ideas from a lot of media: films, comics, photographs, movie posters or other artists’ illustrations. But  some of the   great  ideas come from the writers themselves.

3.  What is your working process?  Do you work at cafes or need to work in a quiet environment?*

My working process is very simple. I do some sketching based on the ideas we’re brainstorming then show it to clients. And once they approve the sketch, I begin to paint. I do the entire process in my home. I’d rather work in my own place than at the  cafe, so yeah, it needs to be a quiet environment. 

4. How long does it usually take to complete a book cover?

Usually less than a month. Two weeks on the fastest.

5. Who are some of your favorite artists?

I don’t want to sound like an apathetic person, but I really don’t have a favorite artist. There is artwork I adore, but I don’t know the artists’ names, though I really love my wife’s father’s photographic works. I regret that he passed away several years ago, but I learned a lot from him.

6.  What book covers currently are some of your favorites?

My favorite covers from my portfolio? I have several (see attachment). As for other artists, I really like Mario Puzo’s The  Godfather cover art and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, both the book cover and the movie poster. It’s very iconic and with only minimalist  design, they pierced the message in to my brain.

7.  What role do you feel artists have in society?

Artists are the foundation of human culture whether they are visual or audio artists, they are shaping how the world is running.  You will see works of art in every part of our surroundings. Book cover art is not only for entertainment, it pulls a reader into a story. It’s very important.

8.  How did you get started in drawing?

I drew as a hobbyist since my childhood. And started drawing professionally ten years ago when I realized I needed to make money from my hobby. I made the covers for a children’s book series as starter.

9.  What advice do you have for people who would like to become cover artists? 

There are a lot of amazing book cover artists out there and there are a lot who have even better skills than I do, but somehow I can survive. I’m still in the process of doing it. I’d recommend the following: try to be different, stay focused, be yourself and learn from other artists but stop idolizing them. When you idolize someone, you will try to be like them and maybe in several years you can copy their styles, but then you realize that you’re not alone. There are others like you doing exactly the same things as you. So it’s better to just find your own style and be persistent.

The link to Ricky Gunawan’s artwork:

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