Penny Dreadful has four main characters based on three Gothic literature: Frankenstein, Dracula and The Picture of Dorian Gray. At San Diego Comic Con 2014, Showtime released three hardcover Special Editions of these books. The books contain original illustrations that were commissioned and oversaw by Penny Dreadful Creator John Logan. Here, we talk to Frankenstein illustrator Louie De Martinis about his craft, working on the book with John Logan and who is his favorite character on the show.
First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a freelance illustrator and comic book artist living in Montreal, Canada. I’ve also worked in the animation industry on background design, storyboards and development art.
How did you get started in art and illustration?
As a kid I always loved to draw, and I especially loved reading comic books and watching Saturday morning cartoons. I knew early on that I wanted to pursue a career in art. I began working as a layout artist on the animated feature “Heavy Metal”. I started attending comic book conventions with portfolio in hand and eventually got my first gig as a comic artist and illustrator. I never looked back as they say.
Who are some of your favorite artists and/or illustrators and why? Who or what are some of your influences right now?
I really love art, all forms of art. I can go on forever about this but I’ll try to keep it short…IF I can!
Here’s a quick list of artists that inspired me and are still inspiring to this day. Frank Frazetta, Gene Colan, Alex Toth, Neal Adams, Bill Sienkiewicz, Sergio Toppi, Alberto Breccia, Jorge Zaffino, Jean Giraud (aka Moebius) … I could go on and on…..
Tell us about the physical process of developing imagery. Do you begin with sketches and then scan them into your computer to be rendered digitally or do you work another way?
Once I get a brief from the client I read it over several times and write out a list of people, places or things that I would need to gather for reference. I always do a lot of research in the way of books, film and art. Usually, I start off with some quick thumbnails and rough sketches then I scan it in and work digitally until I’m satisfied with the layout. I then tighten the drawing or painting to a final Illustrative piece. At the same time I keep my client aware of each stage of the process so if a modification needs to be addressed, it can be handled easily.
Do you prefer working digitally, traditionally, or both, and how has this influenced your work?
Actually I prefer working both digitally and traditionally. I’m able to modify an art piece a lot quicker. It’s made my work flow a lot easier.
Harry Treadaway as Dr. Victor Frankenstein in Penny Dreadful
Could you describe your creative process to us? What helps you be more creative?
Depends on the type of project I’m working on, so music, film and art really helps me get inspired.
How were you approached by John Logan & Co. to do the gorgeous artwork for Penny Dreadful’s Frankenstein?
Thank you, for the kind words. It was a while back when I received an email from my editor at Titan Books informing me that they were working on a project concerning reissuing some classic Victorian novels, to be released with a new TV series and if I’d be interested. Of course I had to say yes! We had a couple of follow up conversations and before you know it I was working on the Frankenstein Illustrations!
Do you have a favorite part or illustration in the book or a sketch inside the book that you could say is the centerpiece of your work in it?
It’s a tough call. Each piece represents a different theme in the Frankenstein Novel but if I had to choose I would say the illustration entitled “Creation”. It’s the major theme of the novel and the moment when everything that Frankenstein had obsessed about actually came to life. This life/creation was in turn his eventual destruction. I find the whole concept fascinating.
How did you find the inspiration for illustrating Frankenstein? Did you do any kind of research? Did you know exactly what you wanted?
I’ve always been a fan of the story, I immediately had a lot of ideas that I wanted to sketch out. I was given a lot of creative freedom when it came to the producing of the illustrations. John Logan’s direction to me as an artist was that he wanted the illustrations to be interpretations on the themes in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel and think outside of the box. It’s kind of like the opening credits for Penny Dreadful, where there’s a lot of thematic imagery.
How do you feel about Frankenstein’s monster? Do you see him as a sympathetic character?
Neglect, abandonment, fear are heavy issues. So, I do see him as a sympathetic character to a point. How can one’s own father abandon his creation? Everyone, including a monster wants to feel loved and accepted. The turn to hatred and vengeance, is when I can’t sympathize with the character anymore.
Would you say you relate in any way to the character that you were assigned to sketch?
Like I mentioned, the themes in the novel deal with basic human emotions. So I think in a sense everyone can relate on some basic level.
A scene still between Frankenstein and Proteus (played by Alex Price) in Penny Dreadful
What’s your favorite Gothic novel? And, more generally speaking, what’s your favorite book, comic book, or graphic novel?
Favorite Gothic novel? Hmmm I guess I’m a little biased. Graphic novel would have to be “The Watchmen” by Allan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
We just have to ask: DC or Marvel?
I know you have to ask but I don’t have to tell!!
Have you ever worked on any other Victorian era and/or Gothic projects before?
No, this was the first time.
Do you have any personal projects you’re working on at the moment?
Yes, I’m working on a personal graphic novel and a series of prints.
Have you been watching Penny Dreadful? What do you like the most about it? Who’s your favorite character (so far) and why?
Yes, and I can’t wait for season 2!!!
I love the way all of these classic characters are interconnected and Vanessa Ives is just amazing! The “Possession” episode was an award winning performance by Eva Green. But really the entire cast is outstanding not to mention, the sets, décor and overall production values are excellent!
A scene still between Frankenstein and The Creature (played by Rory Kinnear) in Penny Dreadful
Is there an online site where people can look into or buy some of your art?
My online site is www.louiedemartinisart.com I update regularly and I will be posting things up for sale soon.
Any last words for Penny Dreadful fans who enjoy your work and who bought the book that you illustrated?
First of all, thank you to all the Penny Dreadful fans out there who support the books. I really hope that they enjoyed the illustrations. I also want to say that I was very fortunate to be part of this project. It’s definitely been one of the most rewarding creative experiences I’ve had in a long while. Of course a big thank you goes out to everyone at Titan Books involved and Penny Dreadful’s creator John Logan. It was a dream project for me and I hope that came across through my art.
And finally… Do you have anything motivational to say to artists and/or illustrators or students first starting out?
Yes, don’t give up! Keep working on your craft. Attend comic book conventions, ask a lot questions and show your portfolio to as many professionals as possible. Take their advice and get to work. Hard work and perseverance. It will pay off.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. We wish you the very best!
It’s been my pleasure!
Follow Louie De Martinis on Twitter.