Friday, July 27, 2012

A Conversation with Regency artist Shakoriel

I had the opportunity recently to sit down and have a good visit with my favourite artist Shakoriel AKA Kat Aubrey, who is a writer, cover designer and an experienced editor, as well as an artist. I thought you might be interested in our conversation.

 Q to Shakoriel: You've been making Regency drawings, including the Fashions of Regency England Colouring Book, for a while now. What appeals to you most about the Regency period?

A: I've always been interested in costume history, so it's definitely the style of the era that attracts me most. I actually love both 18th-century and 19th-century fashion and how the two contrast--the former so decoratively ornate and the latter so classically simple. I'm also interested in the history and literature of the period--my favourite poets are the Romantics. So envisioning that world and how its people looked is very appealing to me.

Q: I have always enjoyed the artwork you did for my book covers, particularly Carolina's Walking Tour and Lost in Almack's. Do you have a favourite?

A: I'm fond of them all, but the early ones drive me a bit crazy because I see so many things that could be improved! I was very pleased with Lost in Almack's cover as well as the Three Wise Monkeys cover. I also like the cameo portrait of Emilina for Emilina's Conquest.

Q: With my 2010 release, The Harmless Deception, my covers took a different turn. That cover was prepared by my publisher, Uncial Press, but for my recent release, The Earl's Peculiar Burden, you once again did the cover. How did you feel about this change in direction?

A: I actually prefer designing covers with stock photography (love it, actually) to illustrating them from scratch. It's very difficult to create artwork that matches the author's vision of her characters--not that you were difficult! ;) But in my illustration I prefer to have very free rein and this doesn't mesh so well with the demands of a book cover, where you must take into account the publisher's needs, the author's vision, and the practical things like typography. I also designed the cover for the anthology Love, Loss and Other Oddities (which of course features two of your stories and one of mine!) and I'd love to do more like this.

Q: Can you tell us a little about the process involved in making The Earl's Peculiar Burden cover?

A: First was talking with you to determine what kind of imagery and mood you wanted for the cover, and of course making sure that it will follow the publisher's guidelines. Next I mocked up several drafts using sample images from stock photo sites and other design resources. Once we'd decided, I purchased the necessary photo rights and then spent a lot of time in Photoshop! It's all about layers--and a little bit of magic, naturally. ;) And when designing a cover, it's not just about the image--the choice of font matters very much. I treat the title and author name as design elements in themselves and try to integrate them into the imagery. For TEPB, I wanted the intriguing title to be the focal point, with the mysterious tower looming up in the distance, so I probably spent more time on the fonts, placement, positioning, etc than I did on anything else.

Bat Goddess
Q: I know that your art site features a mix of fantasy art and costume illustration, and I understand that soon you'll be adding some fairytale illustrations. Do you have a favourite genre to work in?

A: Not really--they are all kind of the same genre in my mind… times and places that are other than where we are right now. There's always an element of imagination even when you're trying to be historically accurate, and there's always a lot of historical influences whenever you make something fantastical. My favourite genre would really just be "costume illustration", whether it takes the form of a 19th-century ballgown or a gothic fantasy ballgown.

Q: How did you develop your art skills?

A: I've taken art classes on and off since I was a kid, from ones held in the back of art supply stores to university-level courses. I don't have a degree in art, though (my BA is in History and I've also studied English at the master's level). My various art teachers over the years were wonderful and taught me lots of fundamentals, but in those classes I didn't really have the chance to do the kind of illustrative work I prefer. I've learned that through research and observation of my own. The late Victorian artists are really my best teachers--Arthur Rackham, Alphonse Mucha, John William Waterhouse. A long way to go to live up to their standard!

Thanks very much, Kat, it's been a pleasure talking with you. I'm looking forward to working with you on our new project. I'll just give my readers this hint: the title is "The Regency Storybook".

You can see Kat's art in her dA gallery, and purchase prints of her Regency fashion illustrations and more in her etsy shop. She's also on twitter ( She's available to commission for book cover design and for fiction/non-fiction editing.

'Til next time,


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