Tommy Lee Edward's work has been featured in many roleplaying games and books. Mara fans know him from the cover of the Revised Core Rulebook and from his picture of Mara and family in the New Jedi Order Sourcebook. This interview was conducted in August 2003 via email.
Which of the five Star Wars films is your favorite, and why?
My favorite is definitely The Empire Strikes Back. The main reason I love that Star Wars chapter so much is because I feel that it's the best directed and is so well written. It also has the best photography with the use of such aggressive lighting, color, and composition. I love the melodrama of Leone's westerns and Kurasawa's samurai films. Empire is closest to that genre for me.
Who is your favorite Star Wars character?
Luke. You can't not love and identify Luke when he's starring off into the Tatooine sunset (with John Williams' score).
What do you think of Mara Jade?
Man- I was just sounding like an authentic Star Wars nerd, and now I must admit that I don't know much about the expanded universe.
You've illustrated Mara Jade twice. Once in the New Jedi Order Sourcebook and another on the cover of the Revised Core Rulebook. Can you tell us about the Solo/Skywalker clan image from the New Jedi Order Sourcebook? Tell us about some of the models you used for the different characters.
The New Jedi Order piece I did was a faster and simpler illustration than most. I still had to maintain the same sense of realism that most of my other SW pieces have, so I tried to base all the characters on real people. For example, I used a photo of Shannon from Jade Crusades.com. I usually go on-line looking for reference, and by coincidence- your shot really helped a lot.
What is your artistic process when creating a cover like the Revised Core Rulebook?
Half of the process is artistic, and the other seems to be in sales. What I mean is- I go through a lot of thought on how to make a good composition that applies to my own will to please myself along with pleasing the client by fitting in what Lucasfilm wants, nailing the actors' likenesses, and helping the book sell. There are several sketches to get to the point where I can 'move on' to the finish. I typically use acrylics, gouache, watercolor, prismacolor pencil, and inks for the Star Wars paintings.
Who did you model Mara Jade after for the cover of the Revised Core Rulebook?
I think it was a cross between some shots I had of Shannon, and stuff I made up. Her head is from some other scrap I had.
Was it your choice to include her on the cover of the book?
That choice was Lucasfilm. They wanted an aspect of the Expanded Universe on there somewhere.
Her outfit looks a little different that we've previously seen. Why the change?
All of the characters on the cover are so established. I took some liberties with Mara because I could. She's the only thing on that packed painting that I could inject my own design into.
What other projects are you working on?
Right now I'm doing four Star Wars paintings for packaging on a new line of Star Wars mini-statues. I've also got a couple more RPG covers coming up. Hasbro brought me on the illustrate boxes for the new Axis and Allies games, and my new the Question series for DC Comics comes out next spring.
Rumor has it you have a book out. That's pretty exciting! Can you tell us about it?
The book is called Art of Tommy Lee Edwards, and it comes out the first week of September. It's published by IDW, and has 96 pages of full-color reproductions of all facets of my work. There's a ton of Star Wars art from the RPG stuff, children's books, magazines, etc. On top of that, the book is organized like my website. We have advertising stuff, book work, comics, and film and concept designs. There's a lot of stuff in there that I've done for licensed projects like MIB II, Dinotopia, He-Man, Hot Wheels, Star Trek, etc.
What kind of advice do you have for aspiring artists who wish to do what you do?
If one wants to do what I do, I guess the main advice would be to get as much good-old-fashioned drawing and painting experience as possible. People should really try to maintain classical skills, while trying to adopt new tools and digital technologies into their pallet.
Thank you for your time!
Any time! See you next Comic-Con!
Be sure to visit Tommy's website at www.tommyleeedwards.com!