Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ross McDonald on illustrating Last Son of Tomorrow, wood type, and movie propmaking

Ross MacDonald is an illustrator, designer, letterpress artist, prop maker, and every art director’s dream to work with. Whenever we have worked together, Ross has attacked the assignment with excitement, often sending sketches along with all kinds of interesting and amusing backstories about the historical context of the type and images he is playing with.

When Greg van Eekhout’s Tor.com story “Last Son of Tomorrow” came in, it was a bit of a mixed blessing for me. I loved the story. It is easily among my favorites on the site. While every story is an opportunity to create a great image, I can’t help to feel doubly pressured to “get it right” when I feel close to the source material. After thinking about various artists, I kept going back to Ross. I’m glad I did. The image is simple and perfect. It works well before you’ve read the story and gains more depth afterward, as a good collaboration between pictures and words should.

Over on Tor.com, I asked Ross a few questions about his unusually varied career.

You had the potentially problematic task of illustrating one of my very favorite tor.com stories (so far). The image you came up with was so simple and perfect. Did you play around with other images or did you come to this pretty quickly?
It wasn't the first thing I thought of, actually. I started off convinced that the perfect way to illustrate this story was to do some kind of comic—5 or 6 wordless panels showing different scenes from his life. But something kept nagging at me—somehow it felt flat or pat. I learned the hard way that you have to listen to that feeling.
Read the rest of the interview on Tor.com. You'll be glad you did -- Ross is thoughtful and charming.

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