Artist Dave Seeley drew the covers of Blood Oath, Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, Outbound Flight, New Jedi Order: Rebel Dream and Rebel Stand, as well as the MedStar books.
For the cover of Blood Oath, did you base any of the characters off real people? Any inspiration there?
DS: Yes….but not in the sense you may mean. They are not based on actors… It was all about Zekk, so I checked out every prior depiction I could find… Typically, when I start a book jacket job, I dive in to my royalty free photography collection and find shots that I might like for the character I’m doing based on whatever description I am given…. filtered through my OWN aesthetic sense. I will also have some idea how I want to light the picture, so that plays a part. With Lucasfilm, they give me access to their photo library as well. For new characters, I often mix and match faces, and Zekk was a morph of two faces…so yes, he is based on two “real” models, and then pushed around a lot in photoshop. The Zels are also from stock…
Who is your favorite obscure Star Wars character?
What is your favorite work that you have created?
DS: That’s a tough one. I find that my opinion of my particular images changes a lot with time. When I finish a piece, there is a honeymoon period where I can’t see it clearly through the love… That’s why its always best to put a piece down for a day or two, and come back to it before you turn it in….though that is often a luxury I don’t have. My most recent image, Virga 1.2, is still pretty dear after 6 weeks or so, and that’s a good sign. Its also interesting to me which images remain favorites over several years. Here’s a list of my current top ten faves
Marque and Reprisal
Star Wars: Healer
Engaging the Enemy
What piece of artwork has inspired you the most?
DS: Another tough one…. I love John Singer Sargent’s Daugters of Edward Darley Bolt….at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. It’s 90″ square.
How difficult was it for you to become a professional illustrator (or whatever term is most accurate)?
DS: I was an architect for ten years while I was a collector and fan boy… I made the switch to illustration by doing architectural illustrations to finance the move… That made the otherwise impossible income deficiency of starting out…possible. If I had started my illustration career fresh out of school without a mortgage, or a child to support, I could have done it…but you typically have VERY lean years at the outset, and even after 13 years, there are very lean ones from time to time. Not a profession for the faint of heart. Many of the illustrators that I think are the best in the biz…are often on the brink of bankruptcy.
Everybody has their “first Star Wars” story. What’s yours?
DS: I first saw the Imperial Star Destroyer fly across the theater screen in <em>A New Hope</em> as a teenager. I was absolutely blown away at this new thing. I was doing theater set design and building at the time, and considered going to work in Hollywood. I think if there had been a clear path for a high school kid from Massachusetts, I might well have gone that way. That first memory fuels an enthusiasm for any new Star Wars project that lands on my plate.
Do you read the Star Wars Expanded Universe?
DS: NO…. In fact I am a painfully slow reader…. an spend too much time reading manuscripts that are in need of book jackets. I do love audiobooks when I paint. For <em>Star Wars</em>, only once have I gotten a manuscript. Mostly Del Rey knows what scene they want for any given Star Wars book jacket… so from there, its a Q and A courtship to make sure the info is right. I will often do my own research on the web, because answers are most quickly found there.
What was your interest in art during your high school/earlier years?
DS: I’ve been making pictures, and objects, for as long as I can remember. I loved art, and did very well in it, but I was from an upper-middle class family and a strong student, so it didn’t occur to me to take up art as a career…. Only in hindsight is it clear that that would have been a very worthwhile pursuit. In college, I double majored in architecture and fine art, but never thought that I wouldn’t be an architect.
What’s the process of drawing your illustrations consist of?
DS: At the outset, I used a very traditional method of making pencil sketches and developing them in mixed media, markers and pencils. I really started illustration in about ’95, and I got a serious mac right away. I began by scanning in traditional media drawings, and coloring them in photoshop…then began using photographs as backgrounds in those…. then began cobbling together photographic pieces into objects with no traditional source, and digital painting over that. Nowadays, I will begin by sifting my photography collection and dragging image icons into a project specific file… I then begin assembling them and pushing stuff all over the place until I like the compositions… When I have time and inclination, I will print out the piece at about 85% of completion, and finish it in oil paint. That’s my preference for most of my publishing work. All my Star Wars work has been painted.
How long does an average picture take to draw and be finished with?
DS: I so varies… I’d say two weeks to a month. Typically if I print and paint, that alone will take a week.
How did you get involved with the Star Wars universe?
DS: I’ve always thought my work had a very cinematic quality, so it seemed that movie properties would be a natural venue. I was doing a lot science fiction book jackets, and I had met Dave Stevenson at Del Rey at one point while trying to break in to the publishing biz… He was managing the SWs books, and when I called him specifically to pitch myself to do Star Wars, he said, come on it, I have a job for you… It was the Rebel Dream jacket.
Are there any artists who have inspired you and your career?
DS: Absolutely, they have and they do! I tracked down Rick Berry to buy some original art, back when I was practicing architecture and collecting… We hit it off, and began to get together to paint collaboratively. He’s always been inspirational, and being about 10 years older, has been of model for “what’s next” down the line. Phil Hale stepped in to several of those sessions, and he is probably my favorite painter in the biz. I was a big comics nut too, so Kent Williams, George Pratt, Jon Van Fleet, Milo Manara, Liberatore, Bilal, Muth… Fine artists Od Nerdrum and Mark Tansey.
I am also very lucky to share a virtual studio with about a dozen artists via daily email exchanges…and that is inspirational in a daily way, and down right hands-on helpful in a concrete way. We paint on each others stuff to get our criticism across. I think we have all improved as a result. That crew is Donato, Jon Foster, Greg Manchess, Todd Lockwood, Rebecca Guay, Scott Fischer, Lars Grant West, Stephan Martiniere, Shelly Wan, Dan Dos Santos, Bruce Jensen, and Cyril Van Der Haegen….along with Den mother Irene Gallo.
What is your daily schedule like?
DS: I’ve been on an advertising project for the past month that has been 15 hours a day grueling…. but nice to be able to subsidize the publishing work. When that is not happening, (and that is not sustainable over the long haul) I walk my son to the metro on school mornings with my wife, we go get coffee at Starbucks (better than marriage counseling), and I am back home in the studio by about 8:30. I work till diner time, then often back to work, or at least back to jack in at the computer for non-work social exchanges. Before this crazy month, I was actually carving out time to go to the guyn for the first time in 13 years…. When I was an architect…. I had hobbies…
Are there any characters, eras, etc. in Star Wars with which you would like the draw?
DS: Actually, I find that the commissions have pushed me to learn about the EU, and other aspects covered only by the novels. My son is now 13, and I rediscovered the movies with him. He now knows far more about the universe than I do. We various visual dictionaries and guides that I have picked up for reference on the projects, and he has absorbed them… now I ask HIM questions. My own Star Wars guru in-house.
I’ve always wanted to do Asajj Ventress. She’s been so cartoony to date, and she could be so AWESOME….. I came very close to doing an Asajj / Duku piece for Celebration 4. but I went for Luke in the end… and if I hadn’t, then he wouldn’t be on Mindor… Generally, I feel like I’m just starting…. so I hope that Del Rey and Lucasfilm keep em coming.