An Interview with Artist Matt Stawicki
by Miranda Horner
Matt Stawicki, whose art graces many Dragonlance covers, including Dragons of a Fallen Sun and the new art for the Chronicles and Legends series, has become one of the hottest new artists for the Dragonlance setting. He graduated from the Pennsylvania School of Art and Design in 1991, and he has been working as an artist professionally for around ten years. When he isn’t working on new cover illustrations, he likes to play the guitar and collect action figures, but he admits that these both have gotten dusty recently! We took him away from both his projects and his dusty guitar recently to ask him a few questions.
Legends of the Lance: First of all, when did you decide to become an artist?
Matt Stawicki: I always drew as a child, and my interest for art only grew as I got older. The choice to make it a career seemed like a good one since I seemed to spend most of my spare time drawing anyway.
Legends: What projects have you worked on in your professional career?
Matt: I’ve illustrated book covers for Tor, Avon, Penguin, HarperCollins, Doubleday, and Bantam, to name a few. I also have done work with the Franklin Mint, which includes collector’s plates and the soon to be released “Lord of the Rings” fantasy pocketknife. I have also done video game covers for Valu-Soft and GT Interactive.
Legends: When you received your first assignment for the Dragonlance setting, what did you do to prepare yourself?
Matt: The deadlines for the first three [Chronicles] covers were pretty tight, so I had to rely more on my art directors for story content. I was able to read the stories for the next three covers.
Legends: In general, what do you have to keep in mind when working on Dragonlance art? How does it differ from other work you’ve done?
Matt: I have to see how the characters have been depicted in other art. The art itself tends to be more epic scenes and larger landscapes.
Legends: Of the other art for the setting, which piece or artist is your favorite?
Matt: There are so many artists to choose from, but if I had to pick out a few I would choose Keith Parkinson’s depiction of the draconians in “What do you mean we’re lost?”. The rendering and composition are beautiful. It also has great value control shown in the landscape. I also really enjoy Todd Lockwood’s painting “The Dragonlance.” I like the subtle color and soft feel in the background .The dragon is–what can I say? It rocks! I like the way he focuses the detail on the head and upper body and leaves the wings more painterly.
Legends: Now that you’ve worked on several projects, can you tell us what you think is the most challenging thing about working in the Dragonlance setting?
Matt: As with all covers, the trick is to tell the story and establish character relationships and mood through color, lighting, and composition. I wouldn’t say this is as much a challenge as it is a plus with Dragonlance. There are many environments and interesting characters from which to choose.
Legends: Since you’ve brought up environments and characters, what environment or character would you find most interesting to portray?
Matt: I would like to do a draconian subject. Except for their brief appearance on the cover of Dragons of a Lost Star [the second book in the War of Souls trilogy], I haven’t had a chance to really showcase one of these guys.
Legends: Of the pieces you’ve done for the setting, which is your favorite and why?
Matt: Of the work I’ve done for the Dragonlance setting, my favorite is the new illustration for Time of the Twins. I like this piece for its more natural quality. The color is inspired by N.C. Wyeth. It takes advantage of a more natural late day sunlight. The ‘romantic’ light also helps convey the relationship between the two main characters, Raistlin and Crysania. I also like Dragons of a Fallen Sun. In contrast, this piece has a very dark and gritty feeling. It uses the lava as a light source from below, which helps to create a dramatic presence for both the city, Sanction, and the main character, Mina.
Legends: What are you currently working on?
Matt: I am currently working on an ulcer. Just kidding. I am working on my website, which includes prints and older originals for sale. I am also working on a few Magic ads and a horror cover for Avon Books. I am also starting work on [a new Dragonlance book]. I am reading the manuscript now . . . see, I do read them!
Legends: Before we let you go, what advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
Matt: Work with subjects you like. . . make sure you love it. Art can be a lot of work. Also: Promotion! Promotion! Promotion!