Monday, October 12, 2009

An Interview With Illustrator Brandon Dorman - You All Have Seen His Work....Read On!

Many of you have seen his amazing work before.  Having done covers and artwork for book such as "Fablehaven",  "The Wizard", "Farworld", and "Pingo" to name a few, Brandon Dorman has amazed us with his talent.  We were lucky enough for Brandon to agree to let us interview him. Enjoy!

TLG:  As with an author, do you have an agent or work for specific publishers/authors?

BD: I do have an illustration rep.  His name is Peter Lott.  I first met him five years ago when I was still in school and we’ve been working together ever since.  I do work for many different publishers and Peter represents me with nearly all.

TLG: What is the actual process as far as you getting a book to read and then you just start to draw, or do you work with the authors together and brainstorm?

BD: Rarely do I work with the authors of a book.  In fact, most I’ve never met or talked to -- sad huh?  I am contracted by the publisher to do the job.  I will usually get a call from my rep that an Art Director has an up-coming book job.  Most of the time it’s to illustrate the cover art, but many times I will do illustrations for the inside of the book as well.  Usually I will then talk with the Art Director and he/she will give me a summary or concept that they think will work.  Sometimes they will send me the manuscript for the book, but not always.  I still have yet to read any of the Goosebumps books I’ve done work for (shhh...don’t tell anyone).  Many times when I can’t read the manuscript my wife or one of her sister’s has read the story to me while I work on other projects.  I’ve found that I can draw/paint and listen quite well; a skill I practiced a lot in school.

After I have an idea of what we’re are trying to “say” on the cover I will draw up some sketches.  Sometimes it’s just 1 and other times I send in 10, it just depends on the job.  After the Art Director takes the sketches and shows them to the editor and others there on the publishing team, he/she will condense all the comments (which I appreciate immensely) and I will adjust the sketches accordingly. Sometimes I’ll be given the green light to paint he finished artwork and others I will redraw and redraw and redraw until I get that green light.  From there, it’s all about painting.  Since I paint digitally I can usually finish a little quicker than if I were doing it traditionally.

TLG: The million dollar question...How on Earth do you turn a story into a drawing that tells it's own story?  It's obvious that you do it extremely well, so share a bit of your process for when the time comes that you actually put the rubber to the road, or in your case, the pencil to the paper and start drawing.

BD: Bottom line, I love to create images.  I think all images tell stories, or at least make viewers ask questions.  It definitely is never a sit down and just casually create something awesome.  I am constantly sketching and re-sketching, adjusting and re-adjusting until something clicks inside my twisted head.  So you might just call it trial and error.  I don’t think I would ever be a good teacher because I would give an answer like “because it just feels right” to the question “why did you do that?”  One of my teachers in college used to say that all great images have magic, so I just kinda play with a piece of art until I find that magic and then I nail it to the ground so it can’t go anywhere.

TLG: Have you always been this naturally talented or has schooling played a part in your success?

BD: Oh heavens no.  School, especially college played a HUGE part in my career.  In High School I did the art on the homecoming t-shirts and banners and yearbook and drew on my homework, and it was ok.  But I really started to improve in my fourth semester at BYU-Idaho.  The summer before my wife and I got married and it hit me like fifty elephants smashing me into the pavement, that I needed to get my act together and come up with some way to take care of a family.  So, I focused. And focused and focused some more.  I came to class early, I stayed late.  I carried a sketchbook constantly and drew things from my head as well as my surroundings.  I forgot about the grade and just tried to make the best images I could with each assignment. Sometimes they turnrd out were “all-right” and sometimes they were a flop, but I just kept makin’ more.  My last year I made a goal to create one illustration a week outside of class.  It was chance for me to work on something with not pressure of deadline and gave me the opportunity to apply the techniques I was learning.

I was very fortunate to have a supportive wife and great teachers. All of them bent over backwards to help all of us art students.  I will be forever grateful to them and consider them all good friends.

TLG: What, if any, current projects are you working on that you can tell us about so we can be on the lookout?

BD: Current projects? Hummm. . . I just finished painting the cover for Brandon Mull’s  fifth and final Fablehaven book, which I think turned out really really sweet!  I’ve been working on a new series called Falcon Quinn by Jennifer Bolyan.  I’ve got two picture books in the works, one will be authored by Elizabeth Bird about a girl who teaches crotchety giants to dance, the other I’m writing about a pirate captain named Jack Batbone.  I’m painting away on four more Goosebumps covers and tying my hand at some “cosy mystery” books for cute grandmas who like to knit.

TLG: I know this is a tough question, but out of all the authors you've worked with, any favorites?  Also, are there any books you've worked on that you really enjoyed illustrating more than any others?

BD: That’s more of a loaded question and a tough one.  All the authors I’ve had contact with have been great, no seriously, I have yet to meet/talk to an author that after the conversation I went “dang he/ she was a puts!”  I do have a favorite comment from and author however.  After The Wizard hit the bestseller list, I met with Jack Prelutsky (who is awesome) in Seattle for a small book signing and presentation.  When I walked in my wife, son and mother were with me.  I stuck out my hand to Jack to which I got as a reply, “I have zits that are older than you.”  It was hilarious!

TLG: What would you, Brandon Dorman, do for a Klondike bar?

BD: Ooo. . . if it was a Heath Klondike bar I could probably be talked into running around my block in a dress yelling something like “I’m a crazy monkey and like to each nachos,”  mostly because it’s true.  I really like nachos. :o)

Thank you Brandon for the interview.  We look forward to seeing much more of your work in the future!  To see more of Brandon's art work and to check out his site, click HERE.

We guarantee you will look through his cover art and say "Oh wow, that's so cool, I didn't know he did that book!" just as we did.  We hope you enjoyed our interview.  Lastly we leave you with one more piece of Brandon's work that we thought was super cool.  Be sure to go check out the rest!

The Lateiner Gang


  1. Awesome questions. Now I know some of what goes through an illustrator's head. I really do like the guy's work.

    The Klondike question is always my favorite. ^,^ hee hee.

  2. Great Interview. Y'all ask the best questions. I'm glad Brandon had some spotlight time- he deserves it for all his hard work.