Celebrated Sci Fi & Fantasy Artist Todd Lockwood – Exclusive Interview

Todd Lockwood is best known for his work on the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, and for his covers for the books of R.A. Salvatore.

Todd reveals his motive of “political angst” that led him to choose this career path, along with his current project, a novel of his own, The Summer Dragon.

JMW: Hello, this is Jean Marie Ward for BuzzyMag.com. With me today is award winning fantasy artist and soon to be debut novelist, Todd Lockwood. Welcome, Todd.

Todd Lockwood: Thank you.

JMW: You’re one of the most celebrated and beloved fantasy artists around. What madness drove you to start writing?

Todd Lockwood: I don’t know. Actually that’s the short answer. The longer answer is I had political angst that needed an outlet and it began as a plan to sort of a big coffee table picture book. I hope this doesn’t disappoint any art fans, but when I started writing the captions I realized that I had a bigger story to tell and more to say than pictures alone could tell. And pretty soon I realized I was going to have to learn the craft of writing, exorcise my bad habits, enhance my strengths, and learn how how to tell a story because I had things to say and little by little through networking and work shopping and reading up on texts, I got a manuscript together that I was ready to shop around.

JMW: Well, you didn’t just work on one manuscript though. You did a couple short stories.

Todd Lockwood: Yeah, well when I had my manuscript pretty well in hand and was feeling confident in my writing and felt like I had found my voice a couple of different people who had read my manuscript were putting together anthologies. The first was Scott Taylor with Art of the Genre Press and he was working on a shared world anthology and he actually published my first published fiction, a short story in his “Tales of the Emerald Serpent” anthology. Along the lines of “Thieves’ World”, a shared world anthology that takes place in a sort of mezzo American city of his creation. It’s a lot of fun and I really enjoyed doing it and I really liked that character. I got to write her again in the sequel. Her name’s Torrent and we’re working on a third anthology now and I hope that that continues through to its fruition too because it’s a fun world and fun character. I really like her, but at the same time a friend of mine named Shawn Speakman who runs Grim Oak Press and he’s a blogger for suvudu.com and he’s Terry Brooks content editor, he runs websites for a number of authors. He contracted cancer for the second time and had no insurance and survived, but emerged with a great deal of debt. To make a long story short, he and Terry Brooks contrived an anthology of short stories donated by various authors, the proceeds of which would go to pay off his cancer debt. He self-published, that’s how he created Grim Oak Press, so that he would control the profit and he got Terry Brooks and Patrick Rothfuss, Naomi Novik, Robert Salvatore, more names than I can possibly remember, Peter Orullian. All heavy hitters to contribute stories and in a kind of a presumptuous moment I was at his house. He was asking me about doing the cover for it and I said, “I’ll write you a story too.” And he said, “Okay.”

So, I wrote him a story and it’s a prequel actually to my book world, and it turned out really well. I’m very happy with it, but he published that book with all those heavy hitters. I kept saying, “I’ll dress up as a tree to stand up on that stage with all those players.” Because that’s how it felt, but that story’s gotten some good remarks and a lot of attention and I’m proud of that too. So, I have those three short stories out and then I started shopping my book.

JMW: Yeah. I believe the title of your novel is “The Summer Dragon?”

Todd Lockwood: “The Summer Dragon.” First book of “The Ever Tide,” that was the series title I came up with. Kind of coalesce everything about what I’m trying to convey about this world. This book was an opportunity for me to say a lot of things that just needed saying, for me to say, that I needed to say. Not that somebody needed to say them but I needed to say them for my own benefit. It was a story I wanted to tell, a book I wanted to read. So, it’s the first book oj “The Ever Tides,” “The Summer Dragon.”

JMW: Okay, and will there dragons?

Todd Lockwood: There will be lots of dragons, yes. The short pitch would be something along the lines of Maya and her family breed dragons for the corporate war machine. There’s two kinds of dragons in my universe. There’s the animal dragons that are beasts, very intelligent beasts like dolphin level or higher that are bred as war machines and then there’s the high dragons, which are kind of mystical creatures that are not well understood but revered and celebrated in the temple of religion of the culture. And the Summer Dragon is one of those and when it appears at the height of summer in Maya’s village, political and religious factions begin to vie over the meaning of that appearance and what to take from it and how to control it. And Maya is forced to go outside all those boundaries in order to prove herself and save her world.

JMW: Cool. Speaking of dragons, a lot of folks associate you with Marie Brennan’s, “Lady Trent” books. Will you be…

Todd Lockwood: Dungeons and Dragons.

JMW: Yeah, Dungeons and Dragons. Will you be continuing to illustrate those series?

Todd Lockwood: Yes. Marie Brennan has at least one more book in her series. I think the next one is the last. I think it’s a five book series, so I’ve done four. The fourth cover was revealed here at Dragon Con and on my website not too long before. That book should be out next summer or next spring probably. I don’t know the exact date but those are great fun to do. It’s a real departure from the kind of epic scene driven stuff that I was doing for book covers.

JMW: Yeah, so anatomical.

Todd Lockwood: Yeah, I had done an anatomical drawing of a dragon for my own entertainment and my own benefit, just because I want to know what’s going on under the skin of a dragon when I’m illustrating it. So I got my anatomy books out and drew this musculature. The art editor at Gallow knew of that piece and when Marie Brennan’s book came across she thought that be a perfect fit. And so it’s really more of the sort of drawing that a biologist or an anatomist or some sort of animal naturalist would have drawn for their own edification. So each of the covers has been that sort of thing. The whole conceit of my art, cover and interiors, in her books has been that the title character drew them so they’re studies. They’re like pencil and wash drawings and so they’ve been a real fun departure from what I normally do.

JMW: Now speaking of books coming out, I don’t think we mentioned the date “The Summer Dragon” is coming out. We want to do that.

Todd Lockwood: In May of 2016 is the scheduled date.

JMW: Very cool.

Todd Lockwood: I cannot wait. I’m in final edits right now or the first round of final edits at least, and I have to finalize the cover and do some interior.

JMW: Which you’ve done yourself?

Todd Lockwood: Yeah, I get to illustrate my own book.

JMW: Amazing how that happened. You were one of the first major science fiction and fantasy artists to embrace digital techniques. What determines which media you use for a given work?

Todd Lockwood: Expediency and how badly I want to own the painting. Also to a degree whether I think there’s a shot at selling the finished painting. So if it’s something I really want, I’ll paint it in oils. If it’s something I think somebody would buy I might paint it in oil, but most of the time I’m going to paint it digitally because it just saves so much frustration and time, and in this day and age I can get back with print sales on almost anything I paint as much as I might have gotten for the sale of an original which I’d have spent three or four times as long to paint.

JMW: Yeah, I can understand that and also if you’re not…if you don’t need the tactile feel of a painting, if you’ve got something let’s say a line drawing or a wash drawing, it would work just as well for a book cover because you don’t see the textures much on a book cover.

Todd Lockwood: Right, right. I don’t know, I always say, “I don’t miss painting but I miss paintings.” I miss having the thing, that finished product with the texture and the depth of surface that the light goes through and comes back out through. There’s nothing like a painting, but I don’t miss cleaning brushes or waiting for things to dry, or discovering that I have blue all over my face. Or there was a time I was doing a push to get a painting done for Comic Con, I got my palette all set up and I got it all ready to go and here’s my palette beside me and I got a brush in my hand and then up comes the cat and she steps in the Cadmium red.

JMW: Oh no!

Todd Lockwood: And that was the end of that because I spent the next 20 minutes cleaning paint out of her paw.

JMW: So she wouldn’t lick it? Yeah.

Todd Lockwood: Yeah, yeah. I didn’t want her licking it or tracking it all over the house.

JMW: Well there’s that too. She’s tracked worse things through the house. I have a cat.

Todd Lockwood: Yes, she has.

JMW: And she’s brought some of it in herself I’m sure.

Todd Lockwood: Yes, she has, yeah. I’ve taken a picture of a little chalk outline of a dead rat and at the same time, yeah, I need to get carpet that coordinates better with the cat vomit.

JMW: Yeah, there’s that too. What are you working on now as a writer and as an artist?

Todd Lockwood: As I mentioned, I am finishing up edits on “The Summer Dragon.” Hope to have that done in the next month and a half or so. I got to finish the cover, finish the interior, I’ve got interiors to finish for Marie Brennan’s next book. I have approval on 10 sketches, I just need to get them rendered out. Doing a cover for Shawn Speakman for his “Unbound Anthology,” which is sort of a companion sequel to “Unfettered.” Shawn’s also doing an Unfettered 2, the profits of which will also go to help authors and possibly artists with financial debt. So, he’s giving back in kind for the grace that was shown to him. I have some work to do for Lou Anders and for Collin Suleiman for a Kickstarter startup project that he’s working on, and the usual, some Magic cards and private functions.

JMW: Cool, cool. We’re at the end of the interview. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Todd Lockwood: Go to my website toddlockwood.com, sign up for notifications, and you’ll get news when prints on my cover are available and when the book will actually release, we may consider releasing some excerpts or some…

JMW: Teasers.

Todd Lockwood: Some teasers.

JMW: Cool.

Todd Lockwood: I’m thinking about some other things. A Kickstarter for an art book. I need to figure out the schedule of that. I had planned to do it right after DragonCon. Up to my ears in things to do. I’m going to try but if it looks like it’s going to stretch into Christmas I’m going to wait until after the New Year, but there’s that going on and there was that one other thing I was going to say and it slipped out of my mind while I was waxing on.

JMW: Buy the book when it comes out?

Todd Lockwood: Yeah, I might be setting up a Patreon account. I have to look into that. It sounds like something worth looking into anyway.

JMW: Wow, that’s a lot on your plate.

Todd Lockwood: Yeah, yeah. It’s a lot, a lot.

JMW: Thank you for joining us. And thank you for BuzzyMag.com.

Interviewed by Jean Marie Ward


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Jean Marie Ward
Buzzy Mag Reporter & Reviewer

Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.
Jean Marie Ward
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