Can you believe that A Home for Wizards officially releases in a week??? I can’t and I’m sitting here looking at the mountain of boxes filled with books in front of me. Part of me thinks I might just open them to find no books at all, but a box full of ferrets instead. Come to think of it, I did hear scratching from inside earlier…
Today we have an interview with the phenomenal artist behind the stunningly beautiful cover to A Home for Wizards, Dexter Allagahrei. Let’s get started.
The fantastic cover artist, Dexter Allagahrei.
Jaysen: Tell me a little bit about yourself. What are the cliffnotes to you?
Dexter: If you stopped to ask those who know me, they would tell you that I am Dexter Allagahrei, the Foxalope from Denver, Colorado. I am a happy Colorado native, and have spent my last two years with my mate, slowly edging towards the busy city life with each move I make.
I was raised here by my parents, who happen to be the aunt and uncle of Jaysen, and who have supported my art ever since Simba the lion consisted of two yellow circles with lines protruding from his chest (legs) and butt (tail).
My life’s passion lies within the world of furries, a fandom that brings connection to all with a love for anthropomorphic creatures. My art is one of my biggest identifiers outside of my obnoxiously neon blue fursona (furry persona), as I take art commissions by other furs of their characters.
In 2014, I graduated college with an Associate of Arts degree. While I plan to return to school for a Bachelors in Mathematics, I know my heart will always live on every blank page destined to become a work of art.
Dex holding up his copy of A Love Story for Wtches!
J: Wow, beautifully said. I absolutely love how unique and wonderful you are! How did you get involved in this project?
D: My art is well known within my family, so it was no surprise when my cousin, Jaysen, asked me to create a poster piece to accompany the release of his first book, A Love Story for Witches. Up until that point, I had never imagined my art would be good enough to end up on the cover of a book, so when Jaysen asked me to create the cover art for his second book, A Home for Wizards, I eagerly and excitedly accepted.
J: And am I glad you did! For your part in the project, did you need to do any research?
D: Lucky for me, very little research had to be done as Jaysen already had quite a vivid idea of how he wanted the cover piece to look. I did, however, embark on an image search to figure out what in the heck a Nue is. Turns out, in short, it is a tiger with a white mane, ape face, and snake tail. You can not imagine my expression as I tried to figure out how in the world I would be drawing this odd creature to make it appear anatomically correct, and I was relieved to be informed that Jaysen wanted a more cat-like face… I have never had to draw an ape before. Hehe.
J: What is your artistic process?
D: This project created a challenge for me as it altered my typical art process. About 80% of my work is traditional by use of marker and colored pencils, and my commissions often don’t require a background, so it comes as no surprise that digital art with a background is not my expertise. Still, I was not about to say no to such an amazing project.
I started as I normally would, sketching on paper anything that is not background, this case being the dragon on the front side, and the Nue on the back. Next, I scanned them into my computer, and inked them using Gimp (open source editing software similar to Photoshop). From there, it is a coloring book, adding texture and shading to make it more realistic.
My challenge came next as I struggled to make a convincing front porch and back yard. I lucked out a bit here however, as the design required a lot of straight lines. The side of the house, the door, porch, railing fence… All just straight lines. A bit of color, texture and shading, and voila!
“This project created a challenge for me as it altered my typical art process…Still, I was not about to say no to such and amazing project.”
J: In the Spellcaster world, Wizards are able to turn into a single magical beast. Dragons, unicorns, jackalopes, they’re all wizards in their beast form. What magical creature would you become?
D: As mentioned before, in the furry world, I identify as a fox-deer hybrid, and while I would love to say the case would be the same in the wizarding world, I believe my inner beast would be that of a wolf; a dark, feral, snarly, night beast, protector of my pack of loved ones and the innocent creatures that wander when the sun goes down. I would spend my evenings roaming the busy city streets, guarding the souls of those who walk alone, vulnerable to the dangers that lurk in the night.
A sampling of Dex’s work.
J: Every witch gets a weapon that she channels her magic through. Some get wands and staves, others get spray paint cans and Ipads. What would yours be?
D: An odd obsession of mine has always been ambient lighting. You see it in the movie Avatar at night in the jungle where the Na’vi live, and you see it in Maleficent, again at night, when she shows Aurora the Moors. My room is strung with a series of lights to create a similar effect, and since has become my safe place in times of stress.
This obsession has brought on a similar one to lanterns. As a creature of the night, I often carry with me a source of light as I adventure from the safety of my home into the night, just as I would in any world. In the world of magic, I believe that my powers would be harnessed in the small, purple flame of a bronze lantern, carried on the hook of a staff or secured to my waist. Strangers passing by would have no knowledge to the powers the lantern holds, but those who know me would fear crossing me in a much undesired path.
“How amazing would it be to be able to hold so much power in the palm of your hand? How amazing would it be to be able to change in a blink?”
J: Wow, that is so cool. Don’t be surprised if that finds its way into the next book! Sure, witches are ladies and wizards are guys, but which one would you be if you could choose?
D: A tough question indeed. I mean, how cool would it be to be able to hold so much power in the palm of your hand? Alternatively, how amazing would it be to be able to change form in a blink? I think I would have to chose being a wizard. The idea of being able to free roam as visually two beings intrigues me. On one hand, I am just an average being, but mess with me and I am instantly your worst nightmare.
J: You haven’t actually had a chance to fully read A Home for Wizards yet, but do you have a favorite character in this series so far? Who are they and why should people love them as much as you do.
D: I think I have to admit a tie with this one.
To start, I love Adam. He is so simple in the world he lives in. His friends, his girl, his enemies… They all hold powers he never even knew existed before he began pouring his heart out for an online face, and then suddenly love, a feeling so very hard to avoid, pulls him into the most dangerous scenario imaginable. And yet he doesn’t give up like most people would when things get crazy. We have people in this world who will take off if their date doesn’t look exactly like their online profile picture, and then there is Adam, in love with someone who could take over a city if she wanted to, and he has more commitment to making things work in his relationship with her than I have ever had with anything in my entire life.
The tie comes with Zot, because who doesn’t love a derpy little, flat-faced dog who is actually a powerful demon?
Dex’s work on A Love Story for Witches that landed the cover job for A Home for Wizards.
J: Which character in A Love Story for Witches or A Home for Wizards are you most like and why?
D: I think I would have to say I am a lot like Adam in a way. I accept the strange, believe in love no matter how strange or difficult it can be at times, and am determined to get through even the most difficult of times if I know that in the end, things will be worth it.
J: What is your favorite genre of books to read?
D: I often chose books based on the story-line, and not so much on the genre, however, I typically enjoy fictional adventures the most, particularly ones with a lot of sarcastic humor.
J: And your favorite book?
D: I regret to say that reading has not been as large a part of my life as it once was. I have a fondness for many books, but none I could really say are my favorite. I think if I had to chose though, it would be “Everything is Illuminated” by Jonathan Safran Foer. The story follows Jewish character Jonathan, a self proclaimed “collector” of memories, on his journey through Ukraine to uncover memories of his family during times of war. He is accompanied by Alex (his translator and the book’s narrator), Alex’s grandfather (ananti-Jewish driver and tour guide), and Alex’s grandfather’s “seeing eye dog”. This book is one of humor, sadness, and happiness, and is a joy to read.
J: If you had a demon partner in crime, like Eva and her pet Zot, what animal would that demon turn into to disguise itself?
D: To me, the best demons are the cute and cuddly, the ones nobody would suspect, and the ones who could get around without anyone questioning their appearance. As an owner of five little terrors, I would have to say that my demon would be a rat. My smallest boy, a stub tailed patchwork of black and white, would be the perfect one. He is way too cute to be suspected, way to normal of a creature to be acknowledged if he were to embark on a mission on his own, and perfect size for traveling.
“[A Love Story for Witches] took me on a vivid adventure accompanied by a roller coaster of emotions. An adventure that made me comment to myself how awesome of a movie it would make.”
J: A Home for Wizards comes out January 23, 2016. In your own words, why should people check it out?
D: A Love Story for Witches was the first book I read in its entirety in years. There haven’t been many books recently that inclined me to finish them, however, Love Story kept me going. In two late night reading sessions and one at work, I finished the book, sad that it was over. The book took me on a vivid adventure accompanied by a roller coaster of emotions. An adventure that made me comment to myself how awesome of a movie it would make.
If A Home for Wizards is as amazing as its part one, as I am sure it will be, I can’t give a reason not to read it!
J: Everybody is dying to know, where in the wide world of internets can they learn more about you and how fantastic you are?
Thanks for coming by again! A Home for Wizards launches in ONE WEEK!!! I can hardly believe it. Next week we’ll have an interview with our other Senior Editor as well as lots of coverage on the launch.