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Volume 4996

Meet Dave Seeley

The Artist who drew covers for
Worlds of ERB
By Ken Manson
Boston artist Dave Seeley is the latest artist to illustrate a book related to Edgar Rice Burroughs.
He drew the front and back covers for  Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs  published in October 2012
by Baen Books and edited by Mike Resnick and Bob Garcia.
He currently is doing two book jackets for Baen Books for what he described as, "big space-opera ship-scapes."

    I bought prints of the artwork and was able to contact Dave Seeley, who graciously approved of an interview.  First a little bit about him, from his website –

     He was born out in Boston and lived for 18 years in Andover, Mass.  Seeley attended Rice University in Houston where he earned a dual degree in fine art and architecture. He became an avid comics and fantasy art collector.  He was an architect for 12 years and his desire to be an artist was changed into collecting art.

    Seeley found artists Rick Berry and Phil Hale and bought two of their paintings that are on the cover of “Double Memory.” He began collaborative paintings with Berry and gave up his architect job to become an artist. His work has appeared in Workbook, The Directory of Illustration; Spectrum and other book collections. He is an annual exhibitor at the San Diego Comicon and often displays his work at the Boskone science fiction convention in Boston.

     He lives in Boston with his wife and son and has a studio there. He also shares a virtual studio, through email, with 14 other artists, including Julie Bell, wife of artist Boris Vallejo.

    Seeley says he is far more influenced by modern day sci-fi film noir than by vintage genre illustrations. “Aliens,” ”Bladerunner," The Matrix,” “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “ Edward Scissorhands” and the “Star Wars: films, have all been incredibly influential, he said.

    He says he almost always kicks off a new piece from the ground up with photo-collage in the computer using Adobe Photo shop. He collects images and shoots photos of anything he might use in a work, Seeley uses Model Mayhem to find models and he also owns about 110,000 royalty free stock images kept in a searchable Extensis Portfolio catalogue.

     He will start an image with a strong photo or two chosen for the assignment brief. Images are composed by montaging 2 to 100 photos (usually small parts of photos) into a single image. He will add parts and pieces, and distort, relight, repaint and overlay photos. He will rework figures and do sketches inside and outside the computer to reconcile anatomy and composition.

Once his  collage begins to gel on screen, he will shoot or search specific elements, and splice them in over roughly sketched areas, or he will sometimes add traditional media imported digitally. He also has been building 3D images in Google Sketchup, and exporting jpegs to incorporate into images. He can take this process all the way to a finish, or bring this up to an "underpainting" level of 85 or 90 percent complete, print it on archival media, and finish it in oil paint.

The questions:

1) How did the job originate for the cover? Do you do regular work for Baen?
Yes, I'm a regular for Baen.  Toni Weisskopf (publisher) threw me a bone to be sure.

2) Did the editors, Bob and Mike, contact you or was most of it through Baen?
via Baen (directly)

3) Do the covers illustrate a scene from particular stories?
No, though for the Tarzan pic, Pterodactyls were stipulated, because of their appearance in a story.

4) Did you read the book to pick out what you would illustrate or did you use your knowledge of the characters?
The book was not yet available, as per very often.  I did my own research, and consulted with Baen's very knowledgeable keeper of histories, Hank Davis (senior editor).

5)  What Burroughs books/stories have you read, or movies seen? Any favorite?
I read tons of the Tarzan books in high school.  I saw the Disney (John) Carter movie after the assignment came my way.  I went in with low expectations because of bad press, but was pleasantly surprised.  I did hear a story at Comic Con International that the bad press was the result of personnel shifts at Disney, not the particulars of the filming.

6)  Is the original oil on canvas or another method?
They are oil over digital underpaintings done by collaging photos...  and digital paint -- as is most of my publishing work

7) How do you select models from the website?
I assume you mean Model Mayhem....   I try to go through new models each month, and save them as friends and or favorites...  then "cast" pictures as they are assigned to me. (He also said the model for Dejah Thoris was selected from the Model Mayhem website but she had been substantially buffed up from the model reference.)

8) How long did it take to plan and draw both pieces?
Woah...  a long time.  Baen is very patient with me, and these were a labor of love.  If I counted all the miscellaneous time to make them start to finish, I'd say they took more than a month of working time = 200 hours.

9) Did you like or were you influenced by any artists who did covers for Tarzan/Burroughs books - J. Allen St. John, Frank Frazetta, Roy Krenkel, Richard Powers, Boris, Michael Whelan, etc, or even comics, like Hal Foster, Thomas Yeates, etc.
I was certainly influenced by (Frank) Frazetta and Boris as a teen... (just spent last week with him and Julie Bell) ...  Loved the Tarzan paperback covers.

 Seeley said he was not aware there are Burroughs conventions, but hopefully he can attend one.

The originals of these two cover pieces are available for $14,000, but prints range from $5 for a 4-by-6-inch to $100 for a 24-by-36 inch size. I bought the 20-by-30 inch size.

Art ©  Dave Seeley and used with permission
ERB Art by Dave Seeley
Dave posing by his twin artworks of John Carter and Tarzan for the Baen Books ERB Anthology

Prints of Dave Seeley art for the covers of Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs book.
Previous ERBzine Promos
Cover Art Promo in ERBzine Eclectica: August 2013
Review in ERBzine Eclectica: February 2014
Promo in October 2013
Worlds of ERB PDF Press Kit


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