In a new blog series titled How Did They Create That Cover? the NMAF chats with the creative directors of the Magazine Covers finalists about how their covers were made. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at things we may or may not think about when we pick up a magazine and devour its pages.
Today we chat with illustrator Marlena Zuber, creator of this nominated cover from subTerrain:
NMAF: Can you tell us a bit about your style of illustration, and how you came to be an illustrator?
Marlena: I was privileged to attend Etobicoke School of the Arts for my High School years. My major was Visual Arts and my minor was dance. Then I was off to OCAD. I had to decide if I wanted take the Fine Art or the Commercial route. I had been working at a children’s book and toy store and fell in love with the storybook section. Often when I got my pay cheque I would buy a favourite book based on the illustrations. I still have those books and have a little one that I can share them with now. That’s been pretty nice.
Those illustrators inspired me and I thought, I want to do something like that. I will also admit that I was typically afraid of being that mythical or perhaps not-so mythical “starving artist” if I went into the drawing and painting programs (the common sheepish story of the illustrator). Illustration was a viable choice. And so I studied illustration and I actually liked it. I liked the challenge of editorial work, coming up with a concept and working with text. I graduated, had offers from agents and dove straight into the world of mainly editorial illustration.
My style is something that’s evolved over the years and continues to evolve. One thing that seems to be a constant is my use of ink or fine pens. My work is also more drawing than painting. I’ve always loved playing with texture and pattern. My sketchbook of hidden art sometimes also inspires my illustration style. I like when things look immediate, slightly messy, and slightly unfinished. If a concept allows, I will draw people in group formations. I am interested in what we do in groups: dancing, sports, entertaining, recreation, etc. Oh yeah, and I have been influenced by artists and illustrators like Edward Gorey, Henrik Drescher, Frida Kahlo, Leanne Shapton and David Shrigley.
NMAF: There are a lot of small scenes happening on the cover. What are some of these groups of people meant to depict?
Marlena: Every group is sitting round a fire, like a campfire. One group is roasting marshmallows, another group is dancing, another one is in group therapy, another are telling Mexican ghost stories, and another group is making out or about to make out. All of them seem to be in the desert, which seemed like a perfect weird hot place. The theme for this issue was Heat. I was influenced by two main things: my love for campfires and photos of Burning Man Festival that I found on the Internet. The groups are like the stories inside the issue. The theme of heat is explored in a range of sexy, philosophical, scientific and magical ways.
NMAF: How were the colours chosen and why?
Marlena: I went heavy on all shades of red due to the theme of Heat. I used blue as a compliment. I also generally like using this palette.
NMAF: What were some of your challenges and concerns during the making of this cover?
Marlena: Brian Kaufman, the editor-in-chief, asked me to incorporate titles of some of the stories in the issue with the campfire groups. It was a fantastic idea and he suggested that I try incorporating the text in the smoke of the fires rising above each group. It simply didn’t look good. It took me awhile to problem solve. In the end I placed them almost like little playful 3D characters near or around the fires. That seemed to work.
NMAF: What did you use to create this cover? Can you explain the process?
Marlena: I work in a traditional way: pen and ink on sometimes fancy, sometimes not-too-fancy paper. That’s exactly what happened on the cover. I did use Photoshop to clean it up and piece a few things together.
This interview was edited for content. Special thanks to Nadya Domingo for conducting the interview.
The Gold and Silver winners will be revealed on June 6 at the National Magazine Awards gala. [TICKETS]