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Journey to Find the Right Illustrator

Gallion Queen

The only thing more frustrating than not being able to draw the “Mystical Aria” characters I saw in my mind was the challenge to find an illustrator who could. I went through three book cover designers who sketched my beautiful alien queen as a hideous monster. Desperate and behind schedule, I contacted a friend, Prescott Hill, who worked as a children’s illustrator. He listened to my plight and put me in touch with three other illustrators, one of whom was Michele Phillips. Her first draft of Queen Supreme Nashata’s face showed me that she was the right creative force to bring my main characters to life for “Mystical Aria: Seeking the Gallion Queen.”

Although we’ve been told, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” the journey to find Michele has taught me the importance of presenting a strong, majestic image of the alien queen so readers would see the beautiful creature as I’ve envisioned her.

Because many people raved about the art work when they saw my novel,  I wanted to introduce the lady behind the paint brush.


Interview with Michele Phillips

As a busy, talented illustrator in the Atlanta area, you probably have your choice of assignments. Why agree to draw science fiction characters for “Mystical Aria” series?

Mystical Aria Unicorn In Sky

Michele: This story excited me, peaked my interest, and practically made me drool as an artist. Now, I’ve had many opportunities over my long career in the arts to draw some pretty fantastical things for people (and that is something I really love to do). But this one involved a beautiful and mysterious alien queen, space, iconography I adore, and—the best thing ever—a unicorn!

What Jean did not know about me yet was that I’d spent quite literally years of my youth drawing almost exclusively my most beloved things: horses and unicorns. I didn’t tell her this fact yet, and just did my best to hone in on her wonderfully rich characters. Since my “equine period,” I have drawn and painted many additional things – but my love of making horses and unicorns has stayed.

Why did you choose a career as an illustrator?

Michele: I have always known I wanted to be an artist – ever since I was old enough to grasp a crayon, I’ve been drawing and creating art. I especially love telling a story through my work, which no doubt helped guide me specifically toward my career as an illustrator. Whether it’s a single piece, or a series, or a picture book—my art is about giving a “visual voice” to that story.

Meticulous details enrich your illustrations. What special techniques do you use for your drawings?

 Michele: I work in several mediums, which is usually chosen based on the desired effect or look of what I’m working on. I favor a combination of what I call “analog and digital” when it comes to illustrating for books; meaning, some parts are done “old school” by hand and scanned in, and then other parts are added with digital painting techniques.


How was your inner child impacted by working on a cover design for a young adult fantasy novel?

Michele: During the process of creating the cover art for “Mystical Aria,” I wished I could travel back in time, to visit little-girl-aspiring-artist-Michele and whisper to her, “Yes, keep drawing—and draw what you love… trust me… one day, it will pay off.”To be trusted by a gifted creator like Jean to bring her story a visual voice is a tremendous honor to me. And that little girl artist who’s still deep within me—she’s full of joy about it!

Finally, Michele, how can people learn more about your other illustrations?

Michele: Visit my web site,, or like me on my Facebook fan page

 Mystical Aria - Sword of Purity

Jean Neff Guthrie is the author of Mystical Aria: Seeking the Gallion Queen, which hit Amazon #1 Best Seller in February, 2016. Visit for novel highlights and purchase. Click here for VIP Access to Aria, which includes two free chapters, character map, promotions, news, fun facts, and more.

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