Jade Crusades was fortunate enough to correspond with Star Wars artist Storn Cook via email. Cook has worked on several Star Wars roleplaying projects, including The Jedi Academy Sourcebook and Cracken's Threat Dossier.
Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions.
When did you become a Star Wars fan?
I saw the first Star Wars in 1977 only twice. I loved it. But I wouldn't call myself a fan. I'm too internal for that. When I first started working on the WEG Star Wars books, I was a student at Columbus College of Art and Design. There were some very jealous students who were much bigger 'fans' than myself. I thought it ironic at the time that I was the one getting the chance to work in this vast universe.
Of the current four Star Wars movies, which is your favorite and why?
Empire Strikes Back. It is the most technically, story solid. I feel the direction was better, the story was dark... and I can't stand the Ewoks or Jar Jar. I'm not much for funny, cutesy stuff. I do feel that Phantom Menace and Return of the Jedi are visually stunning at times.
Are you a Mara Jade fan?
Yes. I think she is a wonderful character that has grown out of the license Star Wars fiction.
How familiar are you with Mara's character?
Pretty familiar. When I was a broke student, I perused the library a lot for books. I'm a voracious reader, I can read a paperback in a couple of hours. So I got into the Star Wars line of fiction, there were a lot of them at the library. I actually had read all the books to be expanded upon in Cracken's Threat Dossier before I got the project.
Your illustration of Mara Jade for Cracken's Threat Dossier is among one of the first depictions of our favorite redheaded smuggler. What preparations did you go through before creating the image?
Well, I always thought it was more interesting that she was Palpatine's assassin than smuggler. But she had this sorta "light" side. She was funny & sad. Bitter sometimes, but funny. I remember going back and looking at some text on the description of Mara. I winged it from there. I don't remember modeling her on anyone particular.
You have produced the only illustration of Mara's ship, the Jade's Fire to date. How did you come up with its appearance?
Heh. Gundam's War in the Pocket? I have an old cell book from that anime movie with prelim starship designs. I borrowed some design elements off some of the starships in there. And combined it with the pleasure barge thingee in Return of the Jedi. I'm not sure what I read in the text to combine those elements. But I'm pretty happy with Jade's Fire.
What was it like creating so many illustrations from different Star Wars books - The Courtship of Princess Leia, "The Black Fleet Crisis Trilogy," and "The Corellian Trilogy."
A blur. I just met my girlfriend, I was working on these illustrations 12 hours a day. Since she was an interior design student and had passing knowledge with art, I pressed her into service (thanks Susanne) doing black backgrounds for space and dotting it with stars. But I remember feeling that it was a turning point in my career. That my work was kicked up a notch. For so many illustrations in three weeks, I look back on it and I'm fairly happy with the "fairly" consistent quality. I was less happy with the printing, which came out a bit dark.
What other assignments are you currently working on?
Right now I'm working on artwork (cover and interiors) for a re-release of Ultimate Martial Artist by DOJ (formerly Hero Games). And I'm working on two projects for AEG. One is Mercs, a d20 game about fantasy genre mercenaries - interiors for that. Then I have 4 paintings to do for AEG's Warlords CCG, I must admit that I don't have the expansion title memorized. I just finished interiors for Hero Games 5th Edition Rules (also for DOJ).
What would you recommend to other aspiring artists hoping to do what you do?
Seriously consider a good art school. I got a book of every single art program in the USA, I looked at 7, applied to 5, picked one. CCAD was an amazing experience. Boot camp for artists. It isn't the only route, but what I was learning in the classroom, I was using as a freelancer that week.
Work on anatomy, perspective and telling a whole story in one picture. Many artists can do a single pose. Not so many can tell a story with multiple figures, all with a background, middle ground and foreground. Learn design, type design, color theory and the ins and outs of printing.
No knowledge is bad knowledge. My career was helped by moving furniture. Why? Because when the boss learned I can type, I was put into the office.... I WAS the office. I was on the phone the entire day, giving directions, scaring up new jobs, handling customers...along with complaints. Why did this help me? I have a comfort level on the phone that I have had many art directors comment on how easy it is to talk to me on the phone. Having relationships with people you have never met, which is common in this industry, is a wonderful, fulfilling thing and will get you more work.
Read about other artists. Learn about the History of Art, it will show you SO much. Get excited.
Lastly, my sensei asked me this in the middle of some difficult maneuver....
"Storn, are you frustrated?" he asked.
"Yes!" was my grunted reply.
"Good! You are learning now!"
Learn to look forward to the frustration of being an artist. When you are at the table or canvas and things are NOT going smoothly, learn to recognize THAT as the time you will make the greatest strides forward. I've done this long enough to recognize that feeling... and I don't give up when I'm frustrated.... I keep pushing through and when that break through comes...damn, it feels good.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for Jade Crusades.
You can check out Storn's website at http://www.stornart.com/.