Fantasy Artist Interviews

image by Veronica V. Jones

Six Answers from Doug Kovacs

Doug Kovacs
A rare photo of Doug Kovacs.

It’s only fitting that Doug Kovacs kick off our new interview format. Our multifaceted, deeply-considered conversations were the inspiration for this feature. His six answers here are, as thought-provoking as ever.

What was one of your earliest fantasy experiences?

“My mother read “The Chronicles of Narnia” to me when I was young, and …..there was the Bible. I could say quite a bit more about the distinction between fantasy and reality (or truth and falsehood for that matter) here, but I think the first sentence pretty much lays out where I stand on the matter.”

How did you become a professional artist?

“Professional? Artist? I guess, that is when a person does nothing else but art for money. Let’s take it apart.

“Artist. I’ve called myself an artist since I was a teenager so that made me one. Additionally, I’ve never got a very good argument out of anyone that I’m not an artist. If you don’t buy any of that, I also happen to spend the majority of my time producing art each day. How did that happen? Nobody managed to stop me.

“Professional. As opposed to a laborer? Maybe its just because I was born middle class, kept my hands and eyes intact through my childhood and have developed the ability to write notes to myself, show up at conventions and respond to email.”

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

“Ah. This question. I’m not entirely sure. Inspiration seems like a necessary component to the daily work of an artist. I’ve got all kinds of art books and music to get me going in the right direction, plus I’m literate. It’s hard to say if the individual little tricks I use to rally my morale are actually inspiration in the true sense. I could say “coffee” too. Overall though, I think I have generally never been comfortable going any period of time without doing something creative, so in that sense, I’m not sure what it’s really like not to be inspired.”

Is there a single message that you find yourself most drawn to?

“No. There are a few, but I’m not sure about the hierarchy. Culture coexisting with nature is one for sure. Then there is the “ideal versus the real”. Mythology is ever present. I’m working on a third piece in a “red door” series,and they seem be about unknown roads, or possibly paths less taken.

“If we talk purely about my illustration work, the themes tend to come from those that commission the work, and frequently contain little desire for subtext in the art in and of itself. Rather, the art is seen more as a necessary appendage of a larger work. For instance, with a game illustration the theme or idea is often “the game”, and less a focus on the artists ideas as an individual. The message in a picture of a dwarf can really just be: this is what a dwarf looks like.

“Ideally there is room for both an aesthetic image and an idea in art beyond the most obvious. Unfortunately ideals are generally a place where you aim, and rarely the actual target hit. The pursuit of money often is driven by the fear of ideas. When it’s business versus art, somebody with a little power is going to have to champion the art …at least in the world in which I have lived. There are far too many unreflective sycophants, and gawking numbskulls flocking to oppose such champions, that good art prevails less often than I would like. Good art to me usually involves both craft and concept.”

What has been your most challenging project?

“Finding a place to exist in a culture that doesn’t necessarily seem to share my values. So far, I guess I’m doing okay with it, but I expect it will be a chore until die. It is like swimming through waters sometimes more, sometimes less viscous. Sometimes it’s downstream, and sometimes there is a ball and chain with manacles involved.”

What are you working on now?

“I’ve been working on many things at once for a while now. I’m always trying for a balance between accommodating deadlines for clients and producing creations that are an end in themselves. That is,images that would never be made unless I choose to make them. With a quick glance behind myself at the selves which hold works in progress, I can see: a couple of incomplete landscapes started during camping trips from my time in California, a ‘faerie’ piece involving a nest and a weird bird, the third in my red door series, a pin-up style erotic clown, and Green Man plate #16.

“As I write this I’m just taking a break from working on my 6th full set of interiors for Goodman Games, 4th edition Dungeon Crawl Classics. A couple of other things I’m developing are a type of card game, and a comic book, which I’ve been writing and Illustrating for a couple of years now. The later two are couple of many long term projects. Several crossover greenman / faerie vegetable women images are also in the works.”

Learn more about Doug’s inspirations and his process from his blog.

Written by in September of 2008. Last edited September 2015.

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