In Interview: New Empress Cover Artist Dan Havardi

By Helen Cox

Cover artist Dan Havardi

One of the first things people comment on when the first clap eyes on a copy of New Empress Magazine is the artwork on the front cover. It’s one of the key things that differentiates our publications from other publications already on the shelf. As editor of the magazine I am always toying with concepts for the front cover; New Empress covers are always a little bit playful as per the tone of the magazine but I’m really just the ideas person. The striking quality and beauty of the cover work is created by our very own ‘man behind the curtain’: cover artist Dan Havardi.

To celebrate the release of issue 2 which ships to subscribers today I grabbed a few minutes of Dan’s time, quizzing him on his thoughts about New Empress, art and the importance of film geekery.

Helen: When did you first realise you had a talent for artistry?

Dan: When I was 12 I drew a picture of the ‘Monsters of Greek Mythology’ for a school art competition. I spend ages on it and was really pleased with the finished piece – so I was a bit gutted when I didn’t win!

Helen: Who are your artistic influences and why do you admire them?

Dan: Gustav Dore, undoubtedly. One of my most treasured childhood books

Illustration by Dan Havardi

was Dore’s illustrated Bible Stories – the wealth of detail in his engravings is simply breathtaking  and he was incredibly prolific to boot. Salvadore Dali is another major influence. From an early age I was utterly captivated by his stunningly unique vision and the sheer brilliance of his illustrative technique. I’m also a massive fan of MC Escher. His ‘impossible’ architecture has always held a huge fascination for me and the cover of New Empress Issue 2 is a very humble homage to his unique style.

Helen: What made you say ‘yes’ to working on New Empress Magazine?

Dan: I’m a lifelong cinema lover and film buff so the opportunity of combining that with my passion for illustration was just too seductive to resist.

Helen: When you were given the brief for issue 2 how did you go about starting it?

Dan:Initially with a fair amount of panic! It is an incredibly intricate piece of work. Once that subsided I went hunting for images of labyrinths, Willy Wonka and Germanic female androids.

Dan's first and final attempts at Mr Wonka.

Helen: Hah. Sorry about that. Didn’t
mean to panic you…what was the greatest challenge in completing this piece?

Dan: The greatest challenge was getting the characters to be easily identifiable given their relatively small size in the artwork. Being singularly unimpressed with my first version of Mr Wonka I decided to do them as separate illustrations to afford a greater level of detail and just throw everything together in the computer at the end. Thankfully this worked well.

Helen: What advice would you give to illustrators completing a complicated piece of work like this one?

Dan:Don’t skimp on researching your subject matter, amass plenty of reference

Illustration by Dan Havardi

material and allow extra time for things going horribly wrong! Oh, and try not to ask for too many deadline extensions…

Helen: What do you like best about the briefs you get from New Empress Magazine?

Dan: I really enjoy the quirkiness of them and the reverence for the material at hand. The concepts are always really inventive and a very generous helping of ‘movie geek love’ doesn’t hurt either!

Helen: What would you most like to see on New Empress Magazine front covers of the future?

Dan: In no particular order more horror, fantasy and sci-fi!

Issue two is being sent out to subscribers today and is available at the BFI Southbank and our other stockists tomorrow!

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