Interview with Brad Teare, woodcut artist:
“Women Who Run with the Wolves”
We conducted this interview with woodcut artist, Brad Teare, in December 2020. He talked to us in his Providence, Utah studio. Brad is the artist who created the original 1992 artwork. He owns the intellectual property rights. In this interview, Brad shares the backstory about how the Women Who Run with the Wolves cover art came to be.
Divine Wolf: We’re hoping you will set the scene a bit. Where were you? And what were you doing at the time? How were you approached or how did you get the cover art?
Brad: I was working in New York City. And I was living in New York in Rhinebeck, New York. I can’t remember how long I’d been with my agent. But, Peter Schlegel was working super hard for me. He was working really well. He, unfortunately, passed away a few years after I left New York.
Sometimes we get people on our team, you know, and they click. He believed in what I was doing. He got me some cool gigs. Right around that same time, I did work for Random House. I did some covers for James Michener, and Tyler. Super big names at the time. So it put me on the map.
When this job came around, the publisher knew the book was going to be big. They treated her well. Anyway, he reeled in the job for me, he landed that.
Divine Wolf: So, you were doing book covers among other art at the time, or was book covers your main thing?
Brad: I was transitioning away from editorial at the time. The first job I got in New York was with the New York Times. And I worked for them for about six months. It was via the New York Times that I came across a few other illustrators and they had agents. I felt like that might be a good move for me. So, I went with Mendola Agency, and my agent worked with that guy They were when I was freelancing on my own. I was doing some kids’ work out of Boston, and I was doing some kid stuff in New York City with Scholastic. But, mostly, it was editorial stuff with the New York Times the first six months.
Divine Wolf: And then you started doing book covers.
Brad: You know, the book covers came on when I went with Artworks, the guy who I was talking about that was his agency.
Divine Wolf: Oh, you change agents.
Brad: Right. Mendola, they got me a bunch of customary stuff. I never was super happy with Mendola. They had too many artists. And so when my friend broke off from Mendola, he kind of cherry-picked out the people he thought were gonna be good. So, it was flattering when he chose me.
Scratchboard was super popular at the time. At the beginning of the 90s and all through the 90s scratchboard was extremely popular.
Scratchboard looks like a woodcut. I did woodcuts as illustrations. I didn’t do woodcuts for the Times. Their deadlines are way too short. So, Scratchboard was a way to get a woodcut-look without doing a woodcut.
Divine Wolf: What’s the black coating on scratchboard?
Brad: It’s ink. The white part is the clay coating. So you can scratch back into the white. You can either buy a white coat board with the chalk there and then you ink it on. Or you can have it pre-inked and you scratch into it, either way.
Divine Wolf: So, did a creative brief show up from your agent – or the publisher?
Brad: You know, usually the way it happens is that they’ll call. We didn’t have texting or anything back in that day. So, they’d call you and say, “Hey, There’s this thing on the horizon happening. Is your schedule looking like you could hit this deadline?” And, you know, starving artist that I was, I’d always say, “Yes.” They then say, “Well, we’ll be in touch. We’ll feed you the timeline later.” You gradually get what the deadline is and how many roughs they’re interested in seeing. And if they want to see a color study, that sort of thing. If the client was super big, they did three to six roughs.
Divine Wolf: So, on Women Who Run with the Wolves, how did it go? What do you remember?
Brad: I could tell the publisher thought this was gonna be a big deal. Interestingly enough, they also send you a manuscript. So, one of the things about this one, I got the edited manuscript. All the editing was in the margins. It was fascinating to see how they marked this thing out. It was heavily edited. That means they’re invested in it. They’re gonna see this project through.
Divine Wolf: That’s interesting. It’s too bad you don’t still have that. That’d be worth money. A collectible.
Brad: Right, it would. It absolutely would. Yeah, no, I’m sure the author would not want me to be selling it, though.
Divine Wolf: Yeah, sounds like they massaged it quite a bit.
Brad: I’d have to say it was the most heavily edited manuscript I’d ever gotten. Now, it’s possible the Clarissa Pinkola Estés, the author, did some of the editing. I can’t remember. I wish I had the manuscript still.
Divine Wolf: So how did you land it? And what did they want you to do?
Brad: They wanted to see a lot of roughs. They wanted to see my thinking on it.
Divine Wolf: So, you read it?
Brad: Yeah, I read the whole manuscript. I can’t remember much of it. For me, it left no residue in my brain at all.
Divine Wolf: When I hear about the stories I say, “Oh, yeah, that story was in women Who Run with the Wolves.” There were fairy tales and lore. I remember those.
Brad: Interestingly enough, reading that manuscript started an idea for me. Back then I got all the manuscripts from the books. I illustrated for Anne Tyler, she’s a huge author, Pulitzer Prize winner. One of the biggest movies from her book was The Accidental Tourist. But, I got her manuscripts edited. And whenever I’d get an edited manuscript I’d read how and what they were editing. The sentences and paragraphs. I started thinking, “I could do this.” My Cypher graphic novel emerged out of reading the edited manuscripts.
Divine Wolf: How’s that?
Brad: I just felt, “I can write as good as this. I’m a good editor. I can come up with good stories.”
Divine Wolf: That’s interesting. You did take that idea and you ran with it. It’s not like nothing happened from your idea. You moved forward.
Brad: Yeah. So, I started generating little sketches. We had fax machines in those days. So I’d fax them the sketches. I was really into petroglyphs. Primitive expressions. I was experimenting with a lot of women who were petroglyphs. Representations of a woman running with wolves. That’s where I started. But, the author was having a lot of input. And I thought it pretty decent input. Sometimes when a creator or writer will give creative input, it’s rubbish.
You’re always happy to get an author who is keyed in. She knew the symbolic weight of her work better than anybody. I was tapping into this proto-literate primitive look. And she wanted to have it look more literate. I thought, who’s to say, you know. Who’s an illustrator that’s super literate?
Rockwell Kent naturally emerged, in my mind. Rockwell Kent influenced this piece. It’s almost an homage to his work. If you read my biography, he’s a huge influence in me choosing to do woodcuts and scratchboard.
I wanted to blend his primitive style and what she wanted. She wanted a more literary feel to it.
Divine Wolf: What do you mean by when you say literary? You mean, like a classic?
Brad: Like classical but less primitive. Expression more in the Western tradition. I was doing preliterate, primitive symbolism. She wanted it more representative, in the tradition of Western literature. Now, I don’t know for sure. I’m supposing this is what she wanted.
Rockwell Kent his art looks very symbolic to me. When he does a human being it’s it looks like a symbol of a human being. Rather than doing a petroglyph of a human being.
A petroglyph is an art created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading.
Divine Wolf: Well, one of her keywords is archetypal.
Brad: There you go. You’re right. Rockwell Kent deals in archetypes. Exactly. The Wolf has a little bit of a vibe of the petroglyph wolves I did. So, I snuck in a bit of the petroglyph wolf. I couldn’t find any reference. It’s interesting. There’s not a lot of petroglyphs of dogs. They didn’t hunt that animal. So I made a crossbreed between what I thought a petroglyph wolf would look like – and what Rockwell Kent would have done.
Divine Wolf: So how many submissions did you make for preliminaries?
Brad: Including thumbnails. I probably did 12. That’s a lot for a book cover. And then I picked out one I really liked. It was the woman who was pretty representational. I wanted it to be archetypal. It was a naked woman running across an arc in the sky. And there wolves were going across into this rainbow of human figures. I cut it out in linotype or linocut linoleum. I printed it up and submitted it and they liked it. But they thought a long time about it. And then we switched directions. More of a woman, I don’t want to say static, because the scene does have rhythm in it, but less motion-based.
Divine Wolf: Less energy?
Brad: I wanted to keep the energy in there – like the radiating lines. But, it had to occupy less visual space. I didn’t know it, but behind the scenes, they were planning it to be smaller. I thought it would be across the whole book cover. They were planning on it occupying one single block. You’ve seen the cover. It’s pretty minimal coverage.
Divine Wolf: It’s like a thumbnail.
Brad: Yeah. It wasn’t how I envisioned placement. I never saw the envisioned layout for the book cover. That hampered me a little bit. I get why they wanted to compress everything into one woman, one wolf – one single image. One single radiant energy from emotion.
Divine Wolf: So, the final version was it one of the ones you submitted along the way, or was it the last one?
Brad: It was the last one I did.
Divine Wolf: And, it took a while to get to that point? Because you didn’t know they wanted a small format?
Brad: Right. You know, there’s always miscommunications. They were probably designing the book cover on the fly. They might have been waiting for the piece of art to firm up a discovery.
Divine Wolf: Well, the cover colors ended up having a sophisticated look. It’s black dominant and then it has a tan or metallic embossing. And it has your woodcut. I don’t know if that was their intent. But that’s the way it turned out.
Brad: Yeah. So once I got a thumbs up on it, I did the final as a woodcut. I printed off one version and sent it to them. And they loved it. The author approved it. At that point, it was straightforward.
Divine Wolf: So, on the submission, you did, was it one-to-one full-scale – or was it an enlarged version?
Brad: It’s enlarged. It’s the same size as the print I have today.
Divine Wolf: I’m curious. How much did you get paid for the job?
Brad: At the time, I got paid very well. I put a lot of brainpower into it. So, it was fair. It was $3,500. That was a lot in the early 1990s.
Divine Wolf: Yeah. That’s a lot for that era. Did you do it in 1991?
Brad: Yeah, that would make sense. They’d have a long publishing time on that. We working on the image for quite a while. It dragged on. It wasn’t one of those jobs you get one day and then it’s finished in a week.
To compare that fee, I’d get $3,500 for a science fiction book cover. I might spend three weeks on it – or even a whole month. I remember a few sci-fi book covers were less than $3500. The figure $1800 is popping in my head. That’s not a good price. It’s a good price today. But, back then, that wasn’t a good price for a book you worked a month on. So, this cover was top dollar. Over the next year, I got another $2,000 from residuals, like posters, French edition, and German edition, and so on.
Divine Wolf: So, there was some usage of the image. Did you own the rights?
Brad: I do.
Divine Wolf: So, were they paying you a licensing fee for usage?
Brad: Exactly. Yeah.
Divine Wolf: And you negotiated that as part of your contract?
Brad: My agent did.
Divine Wolf: Oh, your agent did. Don’t the publishers usually want to get ownership?
Brad: Nowadays they do. But, back then they were fair. There was a lot more money sloshing around in the publishing business. I think in 1997, the Germans came in and bought up all the publishing in New York City. And they forced the profit margin from 10 percent – up to 25 percent. If an imprint wasn’t making 25 percent, they shut it down. It was horrific.
Divine Wolf: You said you only did one woodcut and that was approved.
Brad: Yeah. The woodcut had a more authentic vibe.
Divine Wolf: It’s the way you remove the material somehow?
Brad: They can hardly tell the difference between a wood engraving and scratchboard. My scratchboard might have a more explosive feel, a little more exuberant stroke. There’s a little more control in a woodcut.
Divine Wolf: Refinement?
Divine Wolf: After submitted the woodcut. When did you finally see it in print?
Brad: I got immediate approval. They showed the author and everybody loved it. So that’s always a score.
Divine Wolf: How long before you saw it on bookshelves?
Brad: I’m gonna say six months. It was longer than usual, I remember. That’s way too long. But it felt longer than usual because I was excited.
Peter, my agent, said, “I think this is gonna go big.” And it came out and it was. It was over a year on the New York Times bestseller list.
Divine Wolf: Yeah, it was. And reprinted 14 times.
Brad: That’s unusual. So, I accept full credit for that. [laughter]
Divine Wolf: As you should.
Divine Wolf: So, in the next year you said you got about $2,000 in residuals. Did that go any further – or was that the end of it?
Brad: I got my last residual around 2016. I sold rights for the cover to the Chinese edition of the book. I got 1,600 dollars for it. And the Chinese government took half of it.
Divine Wolf: Oh, wow. Stiff tax.
Brad: How can you deal with the Chinese communists? It’s crazy.
Divine Wolf: Were you surprised when you saw how the original publisher used the art?
Brad: You know, I was a little smaller than I thought. I was hoping it would be huge, massive, and hardback. The art is quite big. And so, I thought it was on the small side. Back then the initial publishing registration was a bit off on the embossing. They had gold-leaf embossing. It distorted the image. You couldn’t see it as well. I wanted maximum visibility. Peter was really happy. He thought the embossing made it look classy. I recently bought a paperback of it. I’m still happy with it. It’s in black and white, not gold emboss. But they don’t have my name on there anymore which is a violation of my contract.
Oh, hey, I have a cover credit on the inside flap. It says, “Illustration by Brad Teare.”
Divine Wolf: What does it say inside the red circle at the top?
Brad: Bestseller. Two years on the New York Times bestseller list. This copy is embossed – but the embossing is much better. They’ve figured out how to do it right.
Divine Wolf: Registration is better now than it used to be.
Brad: Oh, yeah.
Divine Wolf: Some have the embossing and some don’t with the gold foil in the package, and some of them are white.
Brad: I’ve seen that edition. That looks okay. Doesn’t bother me.
Divine Wolf: How long was the process from when you started the illustrations until the final?
Brad: So, this was at least double the normal time. Maybe a little bit longer. They were meticulous about everything. They didn’t rush anything. They didn’t rush me. They wanted it done right. As I said, the editors, knew it was gonna be big.
Matt: Did you keep in touch with the author?
Brad: I never had contact direct contact with the author. The publisher keeps a barrier to their authors.
Divine Wolf: Would you be willing to contact her?
Brad: Maybe through the internet. I think she’s got a wall around her. She’ll be hard to contact. But, I’m gonna make a comment on her Facebook page and say, “Hi.” And I tell her what I did. Then she can reach out to me, which I doubt she’ll do.
Divine Wolf: So, I’m looking at the book reviews and it’s highly rated. You and I both read it.
Brad: When I saw it was hitting as it did, I thought somebody paid to promote the heck out of this book. It felt like the establishment got behind and pushed it.
Divine Wolf: This one guy’s review says, “I felt like I was trying to read the Bible – if the Bible was written in the style of Alice in Wonderland.”
Brad: An interesting friend of mine, I told her, I was doing these artists proofs, and she says, “Oh, I love that book. I love the writing in that book. She’s such a good writer.”
Divine Wolf: Here’s another woman. She says, “All the insight was about motherhood. In my opinion, it’s not relevant for child-free women.” That’s very interesting. “It is a lot about women’s bodies and childbearing.”
They have the book released on audio now, too.
Brad: Oh, I got money on the audio, too. They used the image on the original audio. It was like a cottage industry for a couple of years. I’d be getting a check for something like a Portuguese edition.
Divine Wolf: Yeah, it’s gone to all sorts of languages.
Brad: We calculated with all the posters and residuals, we made about $15,000 over time.
Divine Wolf: The author reads on the audio.
Divine Wolf: She’s quite the storyteller.
Brad: That explains her success.
Divine Wolf: It resonated with women.
Brad: I know. It’s remarkable, you know, the bifurcation of her audience. I’ve never met a guy who said, “Oh, that’s a good book. I dig that.”
First edition, the paperback is only $7. She’s got a blurb from Alice Walker on the back. Oh, my gosh. She wrote The Color Purple. Incidentally, I illustrated the deluxe leather-bound edition of The Color Purple. I did the chapter heads on that. I got close to $5,000 for that.
Divine Wolf: Looking back, would you do anything differently?
Brad: It went pretty straightforward. And I was happy with the results. I still like the woodcut which is rare for me. A lot of times, you go, “Oh, that didn’t work out.”
It was a very nice collaboration. I felt the art director was working with me to get the best possible product. I realized right off working in New York City there were gifted art directors. They could get the best work out of you. Those guys were sacked fast. They were bringing down like a quarter million bucks a year. So, they got rid of those guys. They were a pleasure to work with. The woman I was working with on this cover, might have been an old-time editor or art director as well. They helped you produce your best work.
Divine Wolf: They understood the artist spirit?
Brad: It the last of the old-time illustration business – the end of an era. I didn’t know what was happening at the time. I got to experience it. And as I said, “It’s a good memory for me.”
Divine Wolf: In what ways would they bring out the best in you in the art?
Brad: It was this feeling of collaboration. Instead of dictating to you.
Divine Wolf: It wasn’t adversarial. It was like an ally. Like, they wanted to work with you?
Brad: It was like somebody came in and says, “Okay, we’ve got this problem to solve. We can help solve it together.” And they’d feed you ideas. With a good art director, you think you’re coming up with all the ideas. They don’t manipulate. They’re collaborating in a pure sense. They’re looking at your strengths. And they say, “He’s got this strong ability to make energetic woodcuts. What can I feed into this?” It was a nice synthesis.
With a new generation of art directors, it was, “You just do what I’m telling you to do.” Yes, master. Then you don’t get a good or superior product.
Divine Wolf: That makes sense. The quality of everything has gone way down. We’re in the age of clip-art.
Brad: Today on this piece I may get only $350 for it.
Divine Wolf: Yeah, wouldn’t surprise me.
Brad: And they’d buy it straight out. I’d never be able to make a woodcut and sell it or do anything. “You don’t want to sign a work for hire contract? We’ll get somebody else. Not a problem. Bye.”
It was a different time. It was a privilege for me to work in that era for a few years. It collapsed right around the dot-com crash in 2000. It’s kind of cool to be a part of history.
This image appeared in lampoons about pseudo-intellectuals and in women’s magazines. It became iconic in a short period.
Divine Wolf: In a positive or negative way?
Brad: In a positive way. We were getting into political-correctness about that time. No one could criticize a feminist publication. Elle Magazine had a woman doing a comic strip. The woman character was reading this book, Women Who Run with the Wolves. It was like a balloon or something sitting there. There was a woman that looked like my illustration. They swiped it and stuck it in there. So they’re making fun of it you know, in a good-natured way. Like everybody’s reading this. So it was positive. Lampooning is a negative connotation. But they were doing it. They were making it into a cartoon.
Divine Wolf: It was a caricature.
Brad: Yeah. They were taking the icon and running with it.
Divine Wolf: There’s been a resurgence of interest in the book lately, which is amazing.
Brad: Yeah. It doesn’t seem a style young women would be interested in.
Divine Wolf: Millennials are looking for direction.
Brad: Yeah. I’m surprised a millennial woman hasn’t stepped into the gap. That would be natural.
Divine Wolf: The author now owns the role of an archetypal wise old woman.