Sunday, 11 December 2011

Midnight Echo 6 Interviews: Paul Drummond

With Midnight Echo 6: The Science Fiction Horror Issue now in circulation, we’ve decided to interview Paul Drummond, who provided the very exciting cover for the issue. Paul is a rising talent in the speculative fiction field of future illustrations, and we’re sure we’ll be seeing more of his work on book covers in the future.

David Conyers: You work as a web designer, e-book design, commercial illustrator and graphic designer, but you are probably best known as a science fiction illustrator. Where does your interest in this genre stem from, and what appeals to you about the SF in the illustrated form?

Paul Drummond: Most of my illustration work involves product visuals and non sci-fi, but I can understand why people prefer the spaceships and robots. I've always been a big reader and developed the sci-fi habit as a teenager. I remember Larry Niven's 'Known Space' series making a strong impression on me because of the interstellar-scale settings, memorable characters and big dumb objects. It's satisfying to read stories set in a consistent, tightly plotted universe, and while you can get that from all genres, sci-fi seems to scratch the itch for me. I'm also fond of 70s sci-fi book covers because they're so evocative of that time, even though they often have nothing to do with the story inside!

It was only when I got to know other artists that I considered sci-fi illustration commercially, but I'm glad I made the jump. I enjoy translating authors' ideas into images and creating worlds that contain odd or surprising elements. If I can produce something that clearly doesn't exist in the real world but looks as if it could I've done my job properly. A good tagline would be 'making the unreal believable', although that sounds like something from a marketing agency. At the same time I have to fight my tendency to make things low key. I'm happy to read about fantastic events but not so good at portraying them. Perhaps I should just throw in a few exploding planets and half-naked women to liven things up.

David: Your illustration for the cover of Midnight Echo 6, "Strange Behaviour" has proved to be immensely popular. It depicts a robot holding a severed human eye. Can you tell us about this image and where you got your idea for this piece?
Paul: This image was created several years ago as an entry for a competition run by the CG Society. At that time I was unsure how to get started as a commercial illustrator, so a high profile competition seemed like a good idea. I didn't win because the other entries were so much better, but it was good practice for working to a deadline. The theme of the competition was 'strange behaviour', hence the title, and my aim was to create an image where the odd or horrifying element isn't immediately apparent. I also liked the idea of a disturbingly blank face, in this case with the features reduced to a single eye.
David: Which artists influenced you and what do you like about their works?
Paul: Is this where I list obscure Baroque painters to make myself look clever? Starting with commercial illustration I admire concept & FX artists such as Scott Spencer, Neville Page, Ryan Church and Dylan Cole. They combine artistic talent and technical mastery to produce incredibly detailed, large scale illustrations of fantastic subjects. Digital design is difficult because the tools are so complex they can interrupt the flow of ideas. It's very hard to create expressive art while trying to get your head around the intricacies of ZBrush or Cinema4D. I'm still fumbling through this process so look up to artists who've managed it.

Considering art in general I tend to go for landscapes and portraits. Artists who come to mind include Caspar David Friedrich, who was not a cheery chap but created wonderfully dramatic paintings such as "The Sea of Ice / The Wreck of Hope". I wasn't joking about the Barogue painters because I'm influenced by chiaroscuro, or the technique of using strong contrast between light and dark to suggest volume and shape. Look at paintings by Velázquez and Caravaggio for examples of this. I also admire American landscape artists of the 19th century such as Thomas Cole, but should probably stop now before I end up in Pseuds Corner!

David:  What are some of your favourite pieces of your own work?

Paul: I'm very critical of my own work, but 'Flicker', the 'Bot' series, the 'Dreadnaught' concepts and architectural images such as 'Helix' seemed to work out.

David: Where can we next expect to see Paul Drummond's illustrations in print?

Paul: Other than advertisement and concept work, very little is in print. Most of my illustration work is now for ebook covers.
Biography - Paul Drummond

Paul Drummond is a stray from north of the border who was taken in by the good folk of Lancashire, England. He now lives there and divides his time between commercial illustration, design and working through a long list of things to do. His clients include TTA Press, publishers of Interzone for which he has provided many images, including covers. You can see more of his work at

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