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Robin Hobb's Infrequent and Off Topic Blog

Interview with Magali Villeneuve

Magali Villeneuve, Freelance Illustrator and Artist for The Illustrated Farseer Trilogy
Magali Villeneuve, Freelance Illustrator and Artist for The Illustrated Farseer Trilogy

If you visit this website at all, you are well aware of how delighted I was when Del Rey agreed to contract with Magali Villeneuve to illustrate their hardback editions of The Farseer Trilogy.  I had been introduced to Magali years before at Imaginales in Epinal, France and been very impressed with her art.  She is, of course, very well known for her art on Magic The Gathering cards.  

 

Over the course of illustrating the books, we've exchanged emails and discussed the appearnaces of the characters and the settings.  I'm pleased to say that our friendship has deepened, and I look forward to days when travel, and meeting distant friends face to face is possible again.

 

But in the meanwhile, I asked Magali if she would do an interview for this website, and he graciously agreed.  And here it is!

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Magali Villeneuve, Freelance Illustrator and Cover Artist

 

 

 

When did you first become interested in illustration? 

Did you begin drawing as a child?

 

Before I was 12, I wasn't really into drawing. I would doodle just like any kid, every now and then, but it wasn't my main interest. Everything changed in my 12th year, when I went to the movies and saw Disney's Beauty and the Beast. It's still a very vivid memory. I was immediately hooked, like something suddenly clicked. When I got back home, I immediately took a sheet of paper and started drawing the Beast (even back then, I wasn't really into « princesses » already!). To my whole family's surprise, the result was immediately beyond what a 12 years old was supposed to do, especially without practice. From this day, I never stopped drawing. 

 

 

Is there any illustrator who particularly inspired you?

 

Based on what I told previously, my first « idol » was Glen Keane, aka the Beast's (and so many more) Lead Animator. For many years my goal was to become a Disney animator myself, so my first role models really were the artists working in this industry. Glen Keane and Kathy Zielinski (Lead Animator for Claude Frollo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame for example), had the biggest influences on me at that time. I learned so much just by trying to copy their works. 

 

And then, growing up, I became interested in more classical things. To this day Pre-Raphaelites and the Caravaggisti are still my first inspiration sources. Of course, I love many illustrators past and present, but my inspirations really come from eclectic sources : fashion, sculpture, movies, music… I tend to think it's « safer » for an illustrator not to look too much at what's going on in the same field. This is what creates generations of artworks all looking more or less the same and lacking a little bit of soul. My main goal has always been to hopefully do something « personal » rather than trendy, no matter what. And even if I may not have the same impressive technical skills as some of my other fellow artists, at least I know my illustrations are recognizable, and I care about that. 

 

Did you receive formal training in art or are you self taught?

 

I am self-taught. For the longest time I thought it was a boulder I had to carry, with the feeling of never « being enough ». Not enough skill, not enough art culture, not enough potential, not enough theoretical knowledge… But after 15 years of ever-growing career as an illustrator, the least you can do for yourself is try to admit there may be a reason for people to keep hiring you (and not just because I'm a polite girl, you know!)

So today, despite the hardships being self-taught created on my way, I'm also aware it's one of my main strengths. As I didn't have the training, I worked even harder to at least have the « feeling ». THE one thing I hear or read the most about my illustrations is their emotional dimension. 

 

You've done a great deal of work in the fantasy field.  Have you worked in other areas that your followers may not know about?

 

I've done some pieces for kids/pre-teens literature in my country, but it didn't last long as it's really not my cup of tea. As a fun fact, one of my husband and I's first clients (my husband also is an illustrator), was a food wholesaler who needed monthly imagery for their special offers. And we still work for them, once a month, only out of pure loyalty's sake. So each month, I help create price sheets in the middle of my Magic the Gathering or Star Wars or whatever stuff. Loyalty is not easy to hold on to when opportunities keep growing, but it's still important to never forget who helped you make a living first. 

 

 

What was your first professional work? 

 

It was for a tiny publishing house that doesn't exist anymore. I was hired for cover illustration and layout work. They were the first to respond to the application emails I had sent toFrench publishing houses when I started as a pro.


This is a picture of probably the earliest work in my professional journey!  

 

 

Is there a particular piece of art that you are exceptionally proud of?

 

Asking for one is way too cruel given the hundreds of artworks I painted through the years… So I'd rather talk about more general sources of pride. First, I'm proud to contribute to helping women representations in Fantasy move forward : after decades of what I'd call « pointlessly sexy » and pretty-but-bland ladies, I'm more than happy to be part of the illustrators who try to change that.


I recently put up a non-exhaustive collection of some of the women/female characters I painted for Magic the Gathering. It may sound boring or like old news, but even today it actually is not : all genders can look beautiful AND strong AND believable without the systematic necessity to be half naked or over-sexualized. Let's leave that to the 80s Heroic fantasy artworks and let's move on to an era where everyone can relate to imaginary characters. I want my images to arouse more sophisticated reactions than « wow, she's a hottie warrior girl ».


By extension, in general I'm proud of the images where I had all the space I wanted to put a lot of feelings. 

 

I'm not mentioning them because I'm writing this for Robin's page, but some of my Farseer Trilogy pieces do stand amongst my biggest prides to date. And most especially 3 of them : Shrewd giving the pin to Fitz, and Chade holding Fitz in Book1, and then Burrich and Fitz at the end of Book2.

 

It's even hard to express how much of yourself you can pour into your art when you're particularly inspired, when your subject particularly speaks to you for deep, intimate reasons.


All those years, I've been so busy there was no room at all for personal work. These Farseer pieces were the closest thing to personal work I experienced in a long time. And given the reactions they provoked, I think it did shine through. So yes, I'm very proud of them. 

 

 

Do you have any advice for those with ambition to be illustrators?

 

Absolutely! 

 

First, very hard work is bound to take you somewhere, so be resilient and hold on.

Success doesn't really exist in the illustration field, there's never a moment you can say "I did it". At best, it's only milestones. The moment you start thinking you're a boss and influential in your area, you stop progressing and you become a very unpleasant and ugly-inside person. I've known many like that, it never ended well. 

 

Don't overestimate social networks, the number of likes, followers and so on. At the end of the day, the only thing that'll help you build a real career is how much you're going to work, all alone in your studio/bedroom/whatever, and how reliable you'll be for your clients, period. All the rest is only about trying to flatter your ego, in my opinion. 

 

And last, don't try to be anyone else, no matter how incredible the artists you admire are at what they do : take a close look within yourself, and find THE thing that really vibrates when you're taking your pencil. This is the thing you'll want to be hired for, this is the thing you'll be really good at and that will catch art directors' eye. Don't try to pretend you're an absolute chameleon, it will only cause frustration and pain. Being a professional illustrator is a never-ending race against the others and yourself. If you carry a weight that's not yours, you won't go far. 

 

 

 

 

And back to Robin again!  If you'd like to own the Illustrated Editions of The Farseer Trilogy, The first two volumes, Assassin's Apprentice and Royal Assassin  are already availble from Penguin Random House in the US and from Harper Voyager in the UK.  Assassin's Quest, the final volume, will soon follow from both publishing houses.

 

If you'd like your book signed and dedicated, copies can be ordered from The University Book Store in Seattle, Washington.  In the 'comments' section of your order, please state very clearly exactly what you'd like the dedication to say.

 

An important note.  If you are ordering from outside the US, please pre-order Assassin's Quest separately from the first two volumes as it is not published yet. 

 


 

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Robin Hobb Signings

It's hard to get a signed book these days.

But The Signed Page, managed by Shawn Speakman, is making it a bit easier.

 

If you would like an autographed copy of the Illustrated Editions of Assassins Apprentice and/or Royal Assassin and/or Assassin's Quest, you can order them from The Signed Page. Illustrated by Magali Villeneuve 

 

Also available, Wizard of the Pigeons, to be published in December by Grim Oak Press.  It is illustrated by Tommy Arnold and signed to you by Megan Lindholm.

 

And in a very special offer, The Folio Boxed Set of the Farseer Trilogy.  This is a massive edition of all three books in a very sturdy box, with illustrations by David Palumbo.  The signed editions of this set sold out within hours of being offered by Folio.  But The Signed Page has obtained some, and I will happily dedicate or simply autograph them as you wish.  

 

 

Follow this link to The Signed Page for these signed books.  And many others!

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Fantastic Folio Boxed Set of The Farseer Trilogy

My effort at photography can't really do this edition justice.  The Farseer Trilogy Boxed set, illustrated by David Palumbo, from The Folio Society.

If you are a reader who thinks of your books as your 'library' rather than as your stack of books, you are probably already aware of The Folio Society.  For many years, they have been crafting heritage editions of beloved books.  Often they reissue replicas of classic, long out of print, beloved editions.  For example, their forthcoming offering of Grimms' Fairy Tales with the Arthur Rackham illustrations. Or a lavish edition of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes.  

 

So I am honored to join the ranks of authors whose work has been recognized with a Folio edition.  In my case, it is The Farseer Trilogy that is now available as a Folio boxed set.  These ones are illustrated by noted artist David Palumbo.  The three books of the trilogy are protected by a sturdy red case that matches the covers of the books.  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that they have that wonderful 'new book smell' that we all cherish!

 

David and I had jointly signed 250 copies of this beautiful set.  Those instantly sold out on the first day they were offered.  But the unsigned edition is still available.  The Farseer Trilogy in this boxed set will last your lifetime and, like other Folio editions in our family library, will be something you can pass on to your children and grandchildren.  

 

I feel honored to see my work in this form.  I hope you will look at some of the other available titles on their website. 

 

Here is a link to the Arts and Collections review with an image of The Fool as conceived by David Palumbo.

 

 

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At The End of July

I feel like I side-slipped into a different reality this year.  Perhaps you all went with me?

 

I have returned to first grade.  That is, my 7 year old grandson and I began by trying to keep up with his online school work.  It was such a disorganized experience that I was relieved when the school year was over.  I think that someone in first grade should have a 'one click' experience to acquire and complete school work.  I won't go into details about my frustration with that.  Suffice it to say that we thought we were submitting his homework, but it wasn't going anywhere.  And I consider myself computer savvy.

 

Now, for the summer, we are reading together daily.  He reads out loud to me from a book on his reading level.  Then I read to him from something that I feel has beauty of language and excellent story telling.  My theory is that if he needs to hear a wide vocabulary, and the lovely rhythms of English (yes, poetry, too) in order to develop his ear and his own way of speaking.

 

In math, I am tired of bundling numbers into tens and ones, but I know this is the system he will be using if/when we have school again.  So on we go with that.  But it did lead to an interesting discussion of other systems beside base 10. He refused to believe that binary existed until we looked it up!

 

Outside the house, there are the correct names of plants, flowers and birds to be learned.  An explanation of why the wind switches direction in the evening.  He has cared for ducklings and chicks.  There have been a lot of board games, which are good for learning to take turns, and also learning how to lose as well as how to win.

 

I hope he will be ready for second grade, when and if it convenes.  I am many years away from my elementary school experiences and it's hard to guess what levels of expertise the school will expect.  

 

I have only sympathy for parents with multiple children in different grades.  Some school systems seem to be dealing much better than others. What do parents do when they have no wifi, no tablets or computers?  In my state, the Everett schools issue each student a computer.  No such luck in Tacoma.  Let alone in the little towns.  

 

I think this school year will be a turning point in education. Which direction it will turn in, I do not know.

 

So as far as the writing goes, my time has been vacuumed away. Megan Lindholm has been using the keyboard more than I have.  She just had a very short story published in the July-August issue of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine.  "Generations.'  

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Illustrated Assassin's Quest available for pre-order now

All three Illustrated Editions of the Farseer Trilogy.

Yesterday, at University Book Store in Seattle, I signed copies of both the Illustrated edition of Royal Assassin and the Illustrated edition of Assassin's Apprentice.  So, if you wish, you can order one or both of these.  While supplies last, you will receive a free set of four art prints of some of Magali Villeneuve's illustrations for Royal Assassin. Please note that the art prints are only available with orders at University Book store.  Click HERE if you wish to order them. 

 

On March 2, 2021, the Illustrated Edition of Assassin's Quest will be published,  It is available for pre-order now.  This link goes to the Penguin Random House site.  The Illustrated edition of Assassin's Quest will, of course, match Assassin's Apprentice and Royal Assassin in quality, binding and illustration by Magali.

 

Oh, for Jim Butcher Fans . . . while I was there yesterday, I got a signed copy of his new one, Peace Talks. It's autographed!  And they have lots of signed copies!  So you can order that from University Book Store, too. If you are a reader of his Dresden Files, you'll want this for your collection!  

 

Happy Book Hunting!

 

Robin

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Once More! If you want a signed copy of Royal Assassin . . .

This is yet another reminder that you can, despite quarrantine, get a signed copy of the Illustrated Edition of Royal Assassin. 

 

Full instructions are in my previous blogs.  Just scroll down!

 

For the UK, check with the mentioned bookstores to see if they still have copies with the signed bookplates in them.

 

For the US, go down one more blog.  There you will find instructions for ordering from The Signed Page or, if you wish the book to have a dedication as well, from the University Book Store in Seattle.

 

Thanks!

Pre Order Day in the UK for Royal Assassin! (And maybe a signed bookplate!)

Today is the day!  The Illustrated Edition of Royal Assassin is now available for preorder in the UK!  It has the same wonderful illustrations by Magali Villeneuve  but it has a slightly different binding than the US one.  And of course it has the British spellings!

 

Weeks ago, I signed a large batch of bookplates and sent them off to the UK.  So, if you act quickly and use one of these links, chances are that you may receive a book with an autographed bookplate.  No promises!  I couldn't sign an infinite number of them, but they are definitely out there.  We've placed them at these bookstores.

 

Here's the Link to order from Cole's Books

 

And this one is for Forbidden Planet

 

And many thanks to Cole's Books and Forbidden Planet for taking the extra trouble with the bookplates!

 

 

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How to Get a Signed Illustrated Royal Assassin AND UK Edition Launches June 25th

Covers for the Illustrated Editions of the Farseer Trilogy.  Assassin's Apprentice and Royal Assassin are currently available.

Ah, Covid 19, the terrible things you have done to us.  No live readings, no live signing sessions, no book tours, no conventions . . . 

 

I can offer a tiny opportunity in place of all those lost things.

 

You can still get a signed copy of the Illustrated Royal Assasin.  

 

There are two options for this:

 

Go to The Signed Page.  This site specializes in pristine copies of signed first edtiion hardbacks.  I signed over 700 copies for them, in Shawn's garage, as we masked and kept our distance from each other!  Most of those have already shipped, but there are some left.  (And, oh, yes, you can pre-order a Lindholm books called Wizard of the Pigeons at the same time!)

 

Go to University Book Store.  I have not yet gone to the store to sign books, so you can still request a dedication.  If you want me to sign your copy or  write something special in the book, like 'Happy Birthday Sally', please note that in the 'comments' box when you order the book. They ship FREE via media mail for orders over $16.  But that is US shipping addresses only.  And while supplies last, you will receive a set of four color prints of art from the book.  

 

A bright spot: They will also have copies of the Illustrated Edtion of Assassin's Apprentice.  So if you want that book also, to have the first two in matching editions, you can also order it, and I will sign it as well.

 

UK READERS Please note: As of June 25th, 2020, there will be a UK edition  from HarperCollins Voyager, and it will have the same wonderful illustrations from Magali Villeneuve.  Shipping for that book will be substantially less! So if you live in the UK or Europe, you might consider that volume.  Click on the link above to find many book stores that would be happy for your order!

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A Very Special Publishing Day Offer

Images of prints of Nighteyes and Kettricken, and two other 'mystery prints' to be revealed later.
All art by Magali Villeneuve

It's June 16th, 2020, and that is publication day for the Illustrated Edition of Royal Assassin, the second book in the Farseer Trilogy.  Today it will join the Illustrated Edition of Assassin's Apprentice on bookstore shelves!

 

 

To celebrate, and with thanks to Penguin Random House, we will be offering a bonus for each copyordered from University Book Store in Seattle Wshington: a set of four prints of artwork from Royal Assassin.  We have extended this offer to include the Illustrated Edition of Assassin's Apprentice also! So it's a wonderful time to acquire both hardbacks.

 

For each book you order, you will also receive a set of four prints. So, if you order both volumes, you will receive a set of prints with each.  We've selected four wonderful images from this book.  Each set will include Kettricken, Nighteyes, and two more prints yet to be revealed!

 

All artwork is by Magali Villeneuve

 

To order, please use this link: University Book Store, Seattle

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Signing Illustrated Royal Assassin

Cover Art for Royal Assassin, the Illustrated Edition

Several people have asked if they can still get a signed copy of Royal Assassin, the Illustrated Edition.  

 

The answer is yes.

 

Although we cannot do a public reading and signing as I've done so often at University Book Store, the store IS taking orders for Royal Assassin.  And if you wish, in the 'comments' section of your book order, write in that you'd like it signed.  If you want it signed a certain way, please be very specific, as in, "To Amanda, Happy Birthday."

 

(I must admit, it feels a bit awkward when someone asks me to write, "To Herman, my first and only love!"  And then I sign it Robin Hobb!  So maybe that could be, To Herman, beloved of Sally."  ) 

 

I will note that you can order ANY Robin Hobb book from University Book Store and they will do their best to get it for you.  Of course, they'll do that for any book you want by any author!

 

Here's a direct link to the Royal Assassin page on the UBS website.  

 

Many thanks to the people who asked about this.  Duane, my favorite book seller, and I will make this happen.  Somehow! I will probably go in masked and sit down with a stack of books and a pen.  But we will make it happen.

 

 

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