Anatomy of a Cover Art

This current cover art progress has been interesting. I thought it might make a good blog post.

I work with a professional fine artist, Karen Ball and she has been kind and gracious enough to do my book covers. Each time we start this journey, I tell her an idea of what I want, and I say that whatever she does will be fine. Then I turn into a raging diva, trying to hammer and hammer on the project to get it right.  Some publishers will allow a writer to submit their own cover art for consideration. Some publishers will not. But, I want to have this available and ready, in case they do allow me to submit. The artist assured me that, even if we do all this work, and we are not allowed to submit our own cover, she is fine with that outcome. (I don’t want her to feel she is wasting her time.)

So, the current book project I’m shopping is a mystery series featuring a female detective named A.J. Chaney.

The first book is called _Suspicions_. So, without giving too many details away, what would make a good cover? There is a Quonset hut near the lead character’s home, along a walking path she uses. Why not have the cover be a Quonset hut?

I know just what I want: When I lived in Stillwater, there was a white, concrete Quonset hut that housed one of the art studios. But, I go and do research and a white concrete Quonset hut is…unheard of. So, I go find a silver round top (as they are called in this part of the country) and take a photo for a study. (Photo sent to KB 11/22/14)

Quonset hut photo for study

Quonset hut photo for study

I sent instructions about what I want:

Quonset hut notes by me, with placement instructions.

Quonset hut notes by me, with placement instructions.

She builds draft 1. (Sent to me 12/23/14)

Quonest draft 1

Quonest draft 1

We go back and forth with several types of instructions. I dislike the placement on the page. She informs me that her support (the paper she is creating the art on) is bigger than the piece of art we need. So, we don’t have to start over for placement, she can paint into her white spaces on the edges and we can adjust the position that way.

I’m not fond of the watercolor base. It seems to washed out. She is using mixed media on this project, with a watercolor base and colored pencil for the painting.

But, this is too bland. I could ~ probably, live with it, but she would like something better–something more. She says that if I can describe what I wanted, we can build something else.

I say that I have a photograph I took, that is _more_.

Before the storm. Original photograph by me.

Before the storm. Original photograph by me.

(This was one of those “Grab your camera – quick” shots. This is at the other end of my street, looking back to the north towards my house. The storm was evolving and changing so much. But it was a dramatic shot, and I loved the light play there.)

I cut out the Quonset from the first draft painting, and make a mock up with my idea of placement, etc. (I sent to KB 1/31/15)

susp cover draft 3

Cool, huh? By now, we both get excited. This could be _something_. Dramatic. Extraordinary. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but if we had something like this (and not something green and light colored and washed out looking) that’d draw attention, right?

Cover draft 2, mockup with text.

Cover draft 2, mockup with text.

Okay, so if we go this route: then that’s gonna mean a dark background with white text. I am not a fan of inverse. Am I okay with this?

We both like it, so we proceed with this plan.

Quonset draft 2. Blocked in.

Quonset draft 2. Blocked in.

She sent this to me on 3/4/15.

I like the cloud. I am *picky* about the curvature lines on the Quonset. I mean, super-picky. These are not exact enough yet. She had a bunch of questions for me. I had a bunch of instructions and thoughts. She was considering d/cing this and starting again. But that cloud is super good.

I ask to proceed with this draft, if she’s okay with it.

Draft two, next phase.

Draft two, next phase.

She sent this to me 3/9/15.

I HATED the white around the base of the Quonset. I gave specific instructions not to paint the lamppost until we could agree on placement. I asked her to cut one out of paper, and tape it on the painting, so we could both judge placement.

I create a mockup with my idea of lamppost and placement.

Draft 2 - next phase.

Draft 2 – next phase.

I HATE the white-ish holes in the foreground. I ask her to fill in. I colored in the white around the base of the Quonset, and ask that that be done. By now, the curvature lines on the Quonest are spot on. I love the cloud. (somewere in this, I asked her to fill in a tiny bit of white into the blue, at the top of the cloud, so I’d have room for my subtitle. She did that.)


Foreground blacked in.

Foreground blacked in.

She sent this to me 3/11/15.

But – note the shadow on the left side, next to the tree. She says this shadow is not visible by the naked eye. But it shows up every time we photograph this painting. I had asked her to fill in the tree more back to the right. But, she worked and worked on that shadow.

Cover art with lamp 3-15-15

Cover art with lamp 3-15-15

She wants to darken part of the right side of the Quonset, so that the light appears to come thru from the left. I veto that.

I want the white-ish ground spaces put back in, between the lamp post and Quonest – to give a vertical offset, and make some differentiation, since the painting is so dark. During all the back and forth (and believe me there has been a TON of back and forth), I mention that the painting probably photographs darker than it is. She came back and said the painting photographs lighter than it is.

I get what I wanted! I am done!

It’s what I wanted! I am done!

I ask her if she’s done. She is done! (3/16/15)

Now we need to get me a high res scan of this, so I can have it available.

But, just for fun:

Let’s take a look-see, shall we?

Suspicions - the cover art

Suspicions – the cover art

I cannot imagine ANYONE who would be willing to spend this much time and effort, working this hard on a project. When we do these, I turn into an absolute DIVA. But, for some miracle, beyond my understanding, she still puts up with me. (And she acts like she enjoyed the process!)

You may have noticed we share the same last name. When we’re not working together – she’s my mother!


PS: I asked her if I could do a blog post about this. (She might not want those ‘in progress’ works seen out in the world. )

She replied:

<<Sure, but how are you going to know the steps?  Like…the sky is a turquoise that I didn’t like…then a light covering of indigo blue…and the violet blue.  Each one was melted with turpenoid.  The only reason you have as light a photograph as you do is that the turquoise shines through.  The original is really dark.  Every time I worked on the left side after I took it back down to the support, I did the same steps over again, except everything was gone over with a watercolor wash to take out the shine.  That’s how I brought down the black foreground to a mat finish. >>

That, my friends, is a true artist! It’s a language completely over my head. But, somehow, she translates what I want, into this magic!

Gracias! Mi madre.



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