Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
Jon Paul: I'm all Italian… American born. I have two brothers, one older and my other brother is my identical twin brother. We are all very close. I am basically a shy person, to a degree. Especially when I meet someone for the first time, whether it is business or social, though once you get to know me I love to talk. I love, of course, talking about art and history. I am very passionate about my art and I would have to say it is my true passion in life. I live and breath my art ... talk to me about Michelangelo, Rembrandt, etc.. you will be my friend for life (lol)
Q. How did you get your start in the world of art?
Jon Paul: I had a small one man show at a local gallery. I was 22 years old at the time. At the show, the gallery owner said, there is this Italian man with a very strong accent that would like to meet with me, for he was an admirer of my work. When I met this gentleman, he asked me if I would like to do book covers of Romance Novels. At first, being young and naive, I said, no, ... for I thought of myself as this quote "Fine Artist." Well he said, " before you make a judgment, let me take you over my friend's house, for he was an illustrator". Of all people, he takes me over his friend's house who happens to be one of the greatest Romance Illustrators of all time, Pino Daeni.
I remember walking into the Pino's house and my breath was literally taken away looking at all these beautiful Romantic paintings that were covers of the most recent novels of the time. All I could say it was like falling in love for the first time... After that, I knew for sure this is what I wanted to do, be an Illustrator of Romance Novels. I felt after seeing Pino's work, that some of the best art in the country was not only in galleries, they were on book covers as well.
I was always a Romantic, whether in real life or through my work and after seeing Pino's work I was hooked and this was the avenue I wanted to pursue and I never looked back since. 1200 covers later, I still love what I do and every piece is just like my first piece.
Q. Have you always wanted to be an artist?
Jon Paul: Without question, I always wanted to be an artist. I am a very visual person and I like to express myself through pictures, whether it be drawing, painting, or photography. As long as I can remember, I was always involved in one of the three.
Q. Is there anyone who has influenced your work?
Jon Paul: It's hard to pick one person in particular that influence my work, for there are so many great artist out there from past to present that had some kind of influence on me. I have to say that I do love the Renaissance Masters and the later Flemish Masters, though I fell in love with the late 19th century painters like John Singer Sargent, Joaquin Sorolla. Anders Zorn etc. I love their brushwork.
Q. When did your career first take flight?
Jon Paul: My career took off at a pretty young age. It was after I met the admirer of my work at the gallery of the one man show I had. I was just turning 23 years old at the time and then he introduced me to the world of book covers. I wouldn't say it was a turning point, for I was still learning and I would sporadically get commissions here and there, it was not steady work in the beginning, even though I had work published. It was years later, after developing my own style and becoming more consistent that it became steady work.
Q. What publishers have you worked with?
Jon Paul: I really have worked for every major publisher in this country and abroad. Just to name a few, Harlequin, Harper Collins, Warner, Berkley, Bantam, Dell, Kensington, Dorchester, etc... and the list goes on.
Q. I see that you have studied at the National Academy of Design under Nelson Shank, the official portrait painter for the late, Princess Diana. What was it like to have that experience?
Jon Paul: When I studied with Nelson Shanks at the National Academy of Design, I was still very young. I believe I just had turned 20 years old. He was great teacher and I loved that he was a realist, for back then realism was not in favor as it is today. Most art schools, especially colleges taught abstract expressionism or conceptual art.
Q. You have painted so many different time periods and settings. Do you have a favorite, either as a personal interest or as a period you simply favor to paint?
Jon Paul: I would have to say I love the Victorian Period. For some reason I am just drawn to that period. If I could time travel, I would want to go back to 1880's up until just before the first World War. They call this period "La Belle Epoque" French meaning for "The Beautiful Era." To me the period was so elegant, the dresses the women wore ... gentlemen were gentlemen and ladies were ladies... until they got behind close doors (lol)
Q. What was the hardest project you have ever been commissioned to paint?
Jon Paul: I can't really recall any job that I would considered the hardest one I ever did. For to me every job presents its own set of problems and it really becomes problem solving and I am an artist that always likes a challenge. I have to even admit, I like working under pressure, for I feel my best work comes out of me in situations where the deadline might be tighter than usual … reason being for I don't have time to fuss or over think things.
Q. What was the oddest thing you have ever been asked to paint?
Jon Paul: One time I had to do a novel that the publisher wanted a typical clinch scene of the hero and the heroine in a passionate embrace, though they wanted a huge knife in the hero's back. I thought that was kind of strange (lol) I guess it was a Halloween special (lol).Though that is a true story :)
Q. Do you work out of your home?
Jon Paul: Yes, I work out of my house. I had a professional studio built in my house that serves as a professional photo studio and a paint studio... I love working out of my home. Outside my studios window, I have over two acres of forest and it is absolutely gorgeous. When it snows, my backyard literally looks like a winter wonderland off of a movie set. Wouldn't give it up for the world :) And on top of that, all the beautiful wildlife I see at my windows is breathtaking in my artistic opinion. I post images every now and then on my Facebook page of images taken from my studio windows.
Q. Is there anything you do to prepare for a project before making it come to life?
Jon Paul: It all starts with an art director sending me a fact sheet of a general description of the characters of the story and the time period the story takes place in. Some art directors will send along a small sketch with notes on what they specifically are looking for. Once I've read through the material I start my research. I search everywhere to collect reference and information pertaining to the project at hand. These days a lot of my research comes from the Internet. Once all my references are in place for the cover, I begin my search for models I feel that will fit the characters in the story. Then it is on to a photo-session and from there I pick the photos I feel are the best. It is usually a combination of several photos I use, though you would never know it. I take body parts from one photo and use them in another so I get the perfect motion and feeling that I am looking for. My backgrounds are ninety percent of the time from my imagination.
Q. About how long does it take you to paint a romance novel cover once you put brush to canvas?
Jon Paul: Whether it is traditional or digital, the artwork takes less then a week, it's the setup, getting models, costumes, etc., that really takes up most of the time. Most publishers will give you a 4-6 week time period to do a cover ... it varies according to the deadline, sometimes it can be longer and at other times it can be a lot shorter.
Q. When you paint a romance cover, do you work from memory, do you paint using actual models, or a combination of the two?
Jon Paul: We always hire real models for the covers... I could only recall, maybe several times where I didn't use any models... where I had to create a city street scene of people … it was easier for the people weren't close up and I used an impressionistic style, other then that, to get the detail that I have in my work, it would be impossible without real models. My backgrounds though are always from my imagination like it that way for it adds to the fantasy or it would just look like another photograph.
Q. What is the best thing about your job?
Jon Paul: Best thing about my job is that it doesn't even seem like work for me, for I love what I do. I always loved doing the romance novels and that is why I am still doing them to this day—especially doing the historical novels. I love doing them, for I love history. I always say, it's like being a time traveler for I get to visit so many different periods... Who wouldn't love a job like that, where you get to daydream all day and travel through time, through your own work?
Q. Now since this is a romance blog, I’d like to ask you some questions that romance readers would really love to know. Have you ever read any of the books that are adorned with your work?
Jon Paul: No, never from one of my own illustrations to be honest. Though years ago, when I was first entering the industry, I read one of the books the artist Pino did the cover to... I was so moved by his painting, that I had to read the story that was behind the artwork. It was a Historical novel that took place during the Spanish Inquisition where this young Spanish girl falls in love with a nobleman in the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. To be honest, I really enjoyed the book. The author’s history was so on target and authentic to the period, she brought these historical figures in history to life... Ninety-nine percent of these authors are like historians and that keeps me on my toes ... for they know if something doesn't belong in the artwork for the period that the story is being told.
Q. If you could narrow yourself down to one type of historic hero, which one would best represented the kind of man you are?
Jon Paul: I would like to think I have some of the characteristics, though I don't think anyone can live up to the historical figures we read about in history books, for their standards of what we have read were so high. So all I can do is hope and live my life in a loving and respectable order that people remember me as a nice person that gave his all to his passion in his life which is his art.
Q. Knowing that you are a romantic at heart, can you describe what you would consider the perfect romantic date?
Jon Paul: A perfect date to me is just being with the one you love... It really doesn't matter where you are, when you are with that special someone.
Q. And lastly, if you could paint the perfect heroine, what would she look like?
Jon Paul: I have painted many beautiful women and to me they are all beautiful in there own way. I wouldn't say I have any particular type, for true beauty comes from with in and beauty of course is in the eye of the beholder.
Renee Vincent: Jon Paul, you have no idea how honored I am to feature on Romance Books R Us blog and to have your work displayed in my home for all to see.
(FYI - Jon Paul had painted Gerard Butler in the Phantom of the Opera - a limited collector's edition - and I am lucky enough to have this one hanging in my very living room.)
Your talent is beyond compare, Jon Paul! Thank you for being with us and please keep those breathtaking covers coming.