The blog has had the opportunity to interview Michael Gillette. Michael is the artist behind the 2008 Ian Fleming James Bond book series covers. The books are really hard to find these days but the magnificent covers can be bought as art prints on Michaels website.
Let the interview begin shall we!
1. Tell us about your career prior to your work on the Ian Fleming novels.
I’d been working for about 15 years at that point, time goes quickly! I started out doing work for the music industry in London.
I did videos and sleeve work for Elastica and Saint Etienne, and made illustrations for music magazines. I painted a lot in acrylic.
In 2001 I moved to San Francisco, and worked more digitally. I carried on working for all manner of clients, the Beastie Boys, Levi’s…
I have a retrospective book “Drawn in Stereo” the story unfolds there!
|"Original painting for Diamonds are Forever: As I went
through the set, I realized I had too many facing left, so flipped her. Then
the painting was tinted digitally, and the type added". (C) Michael Gilette|
2. How did you land the Ian Fleming job, How were you contacted?
I was contacted by a friend I’d known in London who was a book designer for Penguin. Jon Gray. He uses the name Gray318
for his work.
He said he had a project that was “Bond like” and would I like to do a test? I said yes, and pretty soon after, he told me it was actually for Bond!
Then I went on holiday for a couple of weeks and came home to find the test had been approved and I got the job.
3. Was there a long discussion on how they should look like before you actually made them. Did the Ian Fleming estate have many suggestions?
Not really, the idea of the titles on the backs of Bond Girls was floated from the beginning. Jon asked if I could do the type.
I suggested that all the girls should be different colours. The Fleming estate would occasionally make contact if one of the girls was not matching the description in the book.
They were pretty easy to work with. I was told that the nudity should be tasteful, no nipples! I agreed with all the directions I was given.
|Original thumbnail for Goldfinger, preparatory sketch, finished art. (C) Michael Gillette. |
4. What materials have you used to create your drawings.
I drew them in watercolour pencil, and watercolour paint. I then tinted them digitally in Photoshop. I had to make sure that I balanced the whole rainbow spectrum, so I needed the flexibility to change the colours as I went along.
I did them over the course of a couple of months, I was doing 2 or 3 a week, so they were coming thick and fast!
5. Is there any of the drawings you like the most?
I really like Moonraker, but I’m happy with them as a set, I think they came out well and flowed pretty easily.
6. Is the Fleming covers your biggest success to date?
They certainly have held up. At the time I thought it was just another job, albeit a good one, which I was very happy to do.
When they came out, in 2008, I started getting a lot of attention. Initially some negative, from diehard Bond fans who have very strong ideas how things 007 should be.
Then I got a flood of positive feedback from the design world. Over time I got to understand the Bond world, and that I’d been incredibly lucky to have become involved with a very powerful franchise.
James Bond is an amazing folk hero, an archetype of British goodness in the face of evil. I’m very blessed, in my own small way, to have been part of his world.
Obviously this world is much bigger than anything else I’ve been involved with! I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to be associated with it. I’ve found the community really wonderful.
When I started making the prints, my relationship with the Fleming estate grew. They have been very supportive and I value them greatly. I am 1000% grateful.
7. There seems to be two different covers for On her majesty’s secret service, why is that?
I felt that the first one lacked a little sexiness! As the woman who marries Bond, I thought she should be more special. Overtime I’ve come to appreciate the first version, and I like it more.I also redid Thunderball. The first version printed a sickly grey/ green. The second version was much better I think.
On her Majesty’s Secret Service Original cover. German cover version 1&2: "I repainted her because I thought the original was a bit reserved. I painted her with dark hair and eyes, but the estate pointed out that she had blonde hair and blue eyes in the books, I’d forgotten, so I retouched her". (C) Michael Gillette
8. In Germany you also did the covers for the John Gardner novels. Did you land that job the same way?
The publisher contacted my agent, I redid the type of the Fleming covers in German, then did the Gardener covers.
9. Do you have a favourite among those cover as well?
I like the ICEBREAKER
cover. As a set they are more pulpy.
I wanted to do something different, but as they are girls too, they are not far enough away from originals.
For a long time I‘ve been thinking of how to approach making another set of Fleming covers. I get asked all the time when I’m going to make more.
It is quite a difficult challenge, as one has to bring something new to the table, whilst honouring the incredible history of Bond.
Recently the covers have all been type based. A couple of months ago I had an idea for a style that might work, and pretty soon I’d made covers for all of the set.
They are very different from the girls. They are punchy and graphic and I made them all digitally. They look really iconic and I think they work very well....
|Original German drawings of Icebreaker (left) and Brokenclaw (right) (C)Michael Gillette |
10. Can any of your original drawings be bought?
I sold a couple of the Gardner paintings earlier this year, The Fleming paintings- not at the moment, but I’ll let you know! I have a full set of the hardback books which I think I ‘m going to sign and sell on eBay soon.
11. I have seen your dogs compilation what more do you have in your pipeline.
Ah the dogs! I have some other exhibition work in the pipeline, there’s always something going on, and I’m excited to see what arises next.
|Michael Gillette working on his secret James Bond drawings hoped to be reviled soon. |