Sunday, February 9, 2014

Interview with Artist Paul Richmond

While author interviews are fairly common, there are so many others supporting GLBT fiction: readers, publishers, artists, editors, reviewers, and more. Without them, where would our genre be?

I first became aware of Paul Richmond when I saw a cover I really liked on a review site, and found out he created it. Curious, I followed the link to his website… and promptly fell in love. At the time he was working on an exquisite piece called “Sanctuary” and I kept coming back to see each new part revealed. Now I can admire that lovely image any time I want to: a framed print hangs in my office. The lady who did the framing confessed that she’d hoped I’d forget to come back, so she could keep it. So y'all, please welcome Paul to the site.

Sanctuary, oil on panel

Paul, thanks for agreeing to answer some questions.

From visiting your site, I know that your interest in art began at an early age. When did you start painting? Was that your first choice for creating your work, or did you dabble in other art forms? 

As soon as I was old enough to crawl up onto the dining room chair, my butt was glued to it from morning to night as I worked diligently creating about two hundred drawings a day on old computer paper my mom brought home from her office. Just before my fourth birthday, my parents made a connection with a local artist named Linda Regula who began teaching me private lessons in her studio once a week. Even though I was her youngest student and she was skeptical at first, it was a match made in heaven. She introduced me to oil paints right away, and though I have dabbled in everything from colored pencil to digital art techniques, oil paint is still one of my favorite mediums to this day.

Paul at age 4 with early paintings

Who was your biggest artistic influence? 

Linda will always have that honor, because she’s the one who first opened my eyes to what it means to be an artist.  I don’t remember much about being three years old, but I can clearly remember the day I walked into her studio for the first time. I’d never seen anything like it. Everything was so vibrant, and the walls were covered floor to ceiling with her dramatically enchanting paintings. It was like we had driven down the street in our small, Midwestern town and somehow stumbled into Oz. Linda always told stories through her art and encouraged me to do the same. I knew right then I wanted to grow up and be like her.

Paul and art teacher Linda Regula in 1984

Did you always dream of being an artist, or did you originally have other life plans? 

Well, my first career aspiration was to be a Disney princess, but I couldn’t find any good colleges offering that major. There was also a brief period during my childhood, after I saw the movie “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” that I wanted to grow up and be a whore. Granted, I didn’t know what that meant. I thought it involved wearing pretty outfits, singing, dancing with cowboys, and hanging out with Dolly Parton. Sign me up! Other than those two things, I’ve really never had a backup plan, so thank goodness everything worked out.

Then and Now – Pauly Princess

I love how on your site you tell the story of your works. Do you have a favorite? If so, what makes it so special for you? 

I have quite a few sentimental favorites because so many of my paintings are reflective of what was happening in my life at the time, and viewing them is kind of like going back in time. They trigger memories that photos don’t capture. For that reason, I’ll pick “The Clearing.” I painted it early in my relationship with Dennis. We were both focused on making a life together, but we had to create an open space first where we were free to set the clutter and baggage from our pasts aside in order to look ahead. It’s the only painting of mine that I will never sell. It hangs in our house where I can see it every day and think back to the time when we were just starting to form a blueprint for the life we wanted to create for ourselves. And now we’re living it!

The Clearing, oil on canvas

You’re now associate art director at Dreamspinner Press. As an author, I complete an art request form for a book, send it in, then get back a lovely cover. I’m sure it’s not that simple. What happens behind the scenes, and what duties does your position entail? 

I absolutely love working for Dreamspinner! It’s a dream job. I get to spend my days doing any number of creative endeavors to help promote the work of talented authors like you! Aside from coordinating all of our covers, I also do graphic design work including ads and promotional pieces for the company, which is a lot of fun. Dreamspinner is always trying something new and I love the limitless creative opportunities this job offers me. As for cover design, once we get your cover spec, we determine what style of cover would be the best fit and then which artist it should be assigned to. I work with the artists to review their drafts, share them with the authors for feedback throughout the process, and then help finalize the files to hand them off for production. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into making the cover art happen, and I am deeply inspired by the number of talented artists and designers I get to interact with on a daily basis.

A few of Paul’s book cover designs

I know sometimes I don’t have a clear idea of what I want, artwise, for a book. What advice would give to help an author get the cover of their dreams? 

If you’re not sure what you want for the cover – or even if you think you are – my advice would be to stay open-minded and give the artist some creative flexibility because they might just come up with something new and exciting you wouldn’t have considered. Definitely share all of your thoughts and ideas, and if there’s an image in your mind, describe it to the best of your ability. But don’t be surprised or closed off to the possibility of some extra options being thrown in that approach the theme from a totally different direction. With so many novels in this genre now, it’s important to find ways to make your cover stand out, and every artist that is working with us is committed to doing just that. Try to view your cover as though you have no idea what your story is about. Does it draw you in and make you intrigued? Or does it overload you with confusing imagery? I find that the strongest covers use a “less is more” approach. It’s not the job of the cover to tell the whole story. That’s your job! We just want the cover to grab a potential reader’s attention long enough to pick it up and discover the wonderful story that lies within.

Some of Paul’s recent cover art

What can we expect to see from you in the near future?

You’ll definitely be seeing many more covers! I’ve already done over 250 and I’m still going strong. I’m also working on a new painting series for an exhibition this summer. The series is called War Paint, and it uses a more expressive approach to explore ideas of strength, masculinity, and courage. I’m inspired by the variety of ways in which people summon their inner strength to prepare for battle, and through this body of work, I hope to expand upon the notion of what “being tough” really means. War Paint will be featured in a two-person exhibit at the Lyman-Eyer Gallery in Provincetown along with works by one of my favorite watercolorists, Kevin Peterson. The show coincides with P-Town’s Carnival celebration, and the opening reception is Friday, August 22.

Brave Face, oil on canvas

Fresh Coat, oil on canvas

Blue Surrender, oil on canvas

You’re always so involved in projects to do good in the world and promote acceptance. Would you please share some of your favorite causes with us? 

I co-founded the You Will Rise Project with Linda, my childhood art teacher who I told you about earlier. Its mission is to encourage victims of bullying to speak out through the arts. I was bullied horribly as a kid for being gay, and looking back, I recognized that art was my salvation. So many young people who experience bullying have no outlet for the pain they are carrying around inside. You can learn more about the project and how to get involved by visiting our site here:

You recently married (congratulations!) Details! We want details!

It was the craziest, busiest, most exciting, wonderful whirlwind of a wedding I could ever have imagined. We participated in an initiative this past June sponsored by Marriage Evolved called C-Bus of Love. Along with 24 other LGBT couples, we rode a bus to Washington DC and exchanged vows in front of the Supreme Court building – just days before the historic DOMA decision. We were told that we wouldn’t be allowed on the steps because public demonstrations are not permitted there. So the ceremony was held on the sidewalk in front of the building. But some of the security guards who watched us said they were so moved by what they saw that they were going to bend the rules and allow each couple to walk up inside the Supreme Court building and emerge through the front doors so that we could walk down the steps together to introduce ourselves as spouse and spouse. It was a profound moment for us, and I’m so glad that we were able to be a part of making an important statement for marriage equality.

First kiss as husband and husband

Wedding day guests from Dreamspinner Press (l to r) Tessa Cardenas, Pearl Love, Dennis + Paul, Nessa Warin, Elizabeth North, Mara McKenna, Michael Murphy

What’s a normal day like for you?

Dennis leaves for work pretty early, so I get up with him, shower, and maybe put on pants if I’m feeling especially ambitious. Then I spend the first part of the day working on the administrative and design aspects of my role with Dreamspinner. Afterwards, it’s cover time! And then, like a good Suzie Homemaker, I make sure I have dinner on the stove when my man arrives home. I also fit in time to work on various You Will Rise initiatives and daily updates on the site, snuggling with the pups (we have two whippets), and working on my paintings. Having the kind of flexibility that working from home provides is such a great fit for me. I’ve done my time in a gray cubicle, and I pray that I never have to go back!

Paul with office-mate Una

Your covers have graced numerous novels. Have you ever considered writing your own stories? 

Yes! I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I’ve brainstormed some ideas. I love telling stories and I know I would enjoy writing them down. My problem is that I have to be picky about what tasks I undertake because I can’t do anything just a little bit. I’m an all or nothing kind of boy, and right now my schedule is pretty maxed out. But one day…

What is one thing about you that might surprise your fans? 

I can hold my own (or at least not fall over) while dancing on stage in my underwear and high heels! Here’s proof:

Performing at Axis Nightclub, photo by Eric Albrecht

What hobbies do you enjoy? 

I enjoy all the cozy homebody things that allow for chill time with Dennis – like reading, watching movies, cooking, bubble baths, etc. We bought our first house last year, so I’m all about decorating right now too. And then my adventurous side occasionally beckons for a dose of zaniness, so I’ll dream up some wild excursion we need to take or a crazy project to undertake. I’m still very much that little wide-eyed boy who discovered the whole world was at my fingertips 30 years ago the first time I picked up a paintbrush, and I want to experience everything I can from that perspective.

Photo by Marci B Photo

Where can people find you online?

Thank you, Paul, for joining us today at Magnolias and Men.

And now, may I proudly present the print that hangs in my office? 


  1. Ahhhhh, great post!!! I LOVE art and everything it conveys... those that create it hold a special place in my heart>>>Thank you for making the world a better place!

    Thank you for the advice on cover art (I'm a handful because I have such a specific image in my head).... but I want the visual orgasm and when its delivered... ahhhh well you know.

    Hugs, Z.

  2. Wonderful interview! Thank you, Eden!

  3. So fun to read! Thank you! Enjoyed learning more about Paul.

  4. As this talented young man's friend, teacher, and mentor, I credit being invited to share his life, not only one of my greatest achievements, but also one of my greatest joys.

  5. Thanks, Eden -- Paul is such a gifted artist. I love the piece you chose for your office!