Interview With Jill Bauman
Jill Bauman is renowned for her exceptional work in the realms of horror, mystery, fantasy, and science fiction. With numerous award nominations, her talent has been recognized on both the World Fantasy and Chesley Award stages. Bauman's art has graced prestigious venues such as the Delaware Art Museum and the Science Fiction Museum of Seattle, while her book covers have adorned bestsellers and iconic works, including Lilian Jackson Braun's "Cat Who..." series.
Where were you born? What is your background?
I was born in Brooklyn, NY. My parents then moved to Long Island and
later on I moved to Queens, NY. New York is in my blood. Three years ago I moved to Tucson, Arizona and love it here.
Were you creative as a child?
I was very creative as a child. When I discovered the “Magic Stick” and could make marks on paper, I was hooked. I had to figure out how to control this tool. You could always find me drawing or reading. Who knew that years later I would combine my two passions. So, illustrating books became my love & vocation.
Who influenced you to be an artist?
My mother created some art until my sister and I came along, but it all stopped there.
I loved art history, museums and reading biographies of artists.
How did you go from being a child to later become an artist?
While in Brooklyn, there was a class trip to the Brooklyn Museum on a school trip. Here I opened my eyes to another world. Later on it was the Metropolitan Museum, The Museum of Modern Art and Frick Museum in New York City that gave me a place that felt like my home away from home. Each year I would purchase a membership in whichever museum featured an artist I really admired. I have very eclectic taste in art from Franz Marc to Rembrandt to Magritte and of course Picasso and Dali. I love Flemish art, Renaissance to Surrealism.
How did you break into commercial art?
For as long as I can remember, I was always creating art. I graduated college with an art education major. I became a teacher. I was still drawing and painting through it all. Years later, I met Walter Velez and at some point I became his agent and he became my mentor. He had clients such as Scholastic, RCA, Essence Magazine and more. I jumped right into it and got him assignments while still learning the business of art. Walter told me he needed an agent and in exchange he would help me prepare my work for illustration. There was a catch to this, he said I must work with him, but cannot show my work for two years. At the time, it seemed like an eternity, but I agreed.
Finally, one day, he said, “OK you can show your work now.” I went out and got my first assignment.
Were you ever bothered by the stories you had to do covers for or are you a horror fan?
There were stories that were disturbing, but when it comes to creating a cover for a book, I choose to disturb, not disgust. I’m a fan of good storytelling and good writing no matter the genre.
Is it true you refused to paint dead bodies or anything gruesome for the covers?
My assignment is to create a cover that will help sell the book. The cover should catch the essence of the book. In horror novels & mystery novels there are dead bodies, but there will be those who are turned off by that imagery. I use other symbols rather than a dead body. Dolls, a trail of blood, or sometimes a skull says it all.
Who were some of your favorite writers you did covers for?
I have been fortunate to get assignments by great writers such as Charles L. Grant, Ramsey Campbell, Alan Ryan, Harlan Ellison, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Richard Laymon and many more.
Were art editors difficult to deal with?
Most art directors are great to work with. They work in conjunction with the editors to make sure the art works with the story. No one person makes the final decision. It’s a joint decision as to the look of the art for a book.
Did you have problems with censorship?
I’ve never had a problem with censorship.
Those covers you did were creepy as hell. What was your technique for creating them?
Creepy is good. I usually say that I want to disturb, not disgust. I’m very careful to create a cover that catches the essence of the story. I want it intriguing and bold. I try to create a look for the cover that people will notice, pick up the book, buy the book and hopefully read the book. Then I’ve done my job.
What projects are you working on now?
I recently created a cover for the current Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine. Currently, I’m working on a submission for a local gallery. The gallery sends out a “call for entries with a particular them. I will send out the art when I’m finished and hopefully my art will be accepted for the show.