Author Taran Matharu and artist Malgorzata Gruszka discuss the visual evolution of The Summoner Trilogy.
The Artist Evolution of The Summoner Trilogy by Taran Matharu and Malgorzata Gruszka
Taran Matharu: Malgorzata Gruszka (AKA Meg) and I first met in 2013. I was writing another book back then, a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel about an alien invasion, and wanted to see an artist’s interpretation of my world.
Since I didn’t know any artists, I advertised online in search of one to commission some concept art from. I had dozens of responses, but Meg’s work really stood out to me. So, we began to work together. Here are a few of the early pieces we worked on, inspired by my first book idea:
Malgorzata Gruszka: Before our collaboration began I had never worked on illustrations for books but when I saw Taran’s advertisement, I knew that it would be an interesting experience. I was a huge fan of his written work, right from the start.
These environmental pieces depict the slums and markets of a post-apocalyptic city. What was great about working with Taran was that he knew exactly what he wanted to see — I was sent very precise descriptions and reference photos, which helped a great deal. He also has a grand and rich imagination, so he was able to find areas where I could improve that I had missed myself. These early proposals were challenging, but I appreciated the opportunity to improve my skills.
Matharu: Meg was fantastic to work with, with an eye for detail and a unique style. Although I worked with a few other artists at the same time, Meg ended up being my favourite. We clicked as artist and writer; she was just so easy to work with.
As time went on, I began sharing another book I was writing, The Novice, on Wattpad. So Meg and I designed a cover together. Below are the stages we went through to get it right.
Gruszka: It was important to do a sketch, so that everything was clear before we began to add detail. We also worked on different concepts for the Salamander before we agreed upon a design. Here we agreed on the color-scheme:
Here I began work on textures.
Finally I added details, light, quality and background. At the end it turned out that the tattoos on Fletcher’s hands were not visible, so we had to change the hand positioning.
Matharu: Of course, I was ecstatic with how it turned out. When I uploaded the new cover, more people began to discover my book. Soon the reads were numbering in the hundreds of thousands! So, I began to commission more illustrations from Meg, to share with my readers. Here are just a few of them:
Gruszka: This is Fletcher with Ignatius at Vocans Academy. It was a very colorful piece with several light sources. Particles of dust and sparks from the fireplace were added to create a magical atmosphere.
This is Captain Lovett in the alien world of the ether. She’s saving a wounded beetle from the clutches of a Shrike. The red coloring adds a feeling of foreboding.
Matharu: A few months later, The Novice had been read over three million times and was eventually published in 11 languages, with Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group picking it up in the USA. Interestingly, when I first met with some of my publishers, they had put Meg’s pieces all over the walls to welcome me. Everyone loved her work, and Macmillan wanted to use my original Wattpad cover for the published book. They only added a new background… and this was the end result:
I loved it to bits, and clearly the other publishers did too. Every single publisher decided to use Meg’s artwork. Of course, having worked on the cover for the first book, I was very pleased to hear that Meg would also be working on my cover for the second book in the series: The Inquisition. This time, the publishers were in charge of the design, but I needn’t have worried. Meg had outdone herself:
Matharu: I was absolutely blown away. But that wasn’t all. Meg and I began a secret project, one that we worked on together for over a year. Finally, here is the book trailer for the Summoner Series:
Gruszka: When we began the trailer project, I was worried I couldn’t handle all the animations. Before we started working on it, I made several practice pieces to learn how to do it. It turned out to not be as difficult as I thought and a lot of fun! It took more time to paint the illustrations themselves. All of them were very detailed. Each one also had to be prepared differently so that they could be animated. Taran organised the wonderful music and voice-overs, and I added them in with the correct timings.
Matharu: So what’s in store for Meg and I in the future? We’ve discussed working on a comic together, and of course I regularly commission illustrations from her to keep me inspired.
But perhaps most exciting of all is the cover for Book 3 in The Summoner Trilogy!Artstation, and connect with Taran on Twitter.