Category Archives: Cover Artist Series

Cover Artist Series: J Caleb Design

Invested_Ivana 50Welcome to One Book Two’s monthly series on cover artists! This month we’re talking
with Jake Clark of J Caleb Design. Welcome, Jake!

JakeClark502016-standout-award-badge-smallThanks! Let me just say how humbled I am to have been asked to do this interview. You guys have interviewed some cover designers who I get inspiration from and aspire to be as good as one day. To do this interview is definitely a highlight!

Invested_Ivana 50Aw, thanks! You came to my attention as a cover artist when we reviewed The Devil’s Mouth by Matt Kincade. I love that cover! Can you tell us a little bit about the thought process you and Matt went through to design it?

JakeClark50I met Matt via reedsy.com and we immediately hit it off. I could tell, just from our initial messages, that he thought along the same lines I did, so I knew a good cover was in the works! Sometimes authors give me a specific direction. Other times I get just a general sense of where to go. Either way works, and this time it was the latter of the two. He mentioned Kill Bill, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and a couple of my illustrated covers (Death Mill Mansion/Taste of Cashews) that caught his eye as works to look at and reference. From there he let me go on my own with the initial concept.

Death Mill Mansion Taste of Cashews

I brainstormed ideas over a couple days and landed on two elements I really wanted to incorporate: a mouth and the main character, Alex. From there it was just execution. I originally planned on the mouth being more of a stylistic mouth made from textures or out of the mountains in the background or something; but as I worked on the concept, I really liked the idea of the point of view being from the inside of an attacking vampire’s mouth. So, I just went with it.

Sometimes, a first proof is just in the ballpark of where a cover needs to go. Other times it’s just a few tweaks away from being completed. That’s where this cover ended up. What you see here (below) as the final version isn’t far off what the original proof looked like. There were a couple rounds of minor tweaks but that’s it.

It’s easily one of my favorite covers.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00021] Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00021]

Invested_Ivana 50Boy, those tweaks made all the difference, though! I like the final, with Alex facing forward, much better. I love the idea of the POV being from the vampire’s mouth, but I didn’t even see the mouth until I had looked at the cover a few times. That was a fun discovery to make! So, how did you get started designing book covers?

JakeClark50I’ve always loved reading and I’ve always loved design. I saw a Raymond Swanland cover (below) when I was in college and thought, “This is what I want to do.” I even emailed Mr. Swanland, who replied, encouraging me to go after it!

Raymond Swanland

I finished college with a design degree and went to work at a small print shop. I got into book covers about 5 years ago through some crowdsourcing sites. I bounced around those types of sites for a couple years until I realized how abusive they can be to designers who don’t know any better. So I left.

Fortunately, I had already built up a small, growing clientele which kept me busy. I think my first year I did three or four covers. This year I’ll have done around fifty, give or take a few.

Invested_Ivana 50Your book cover portfolio includes a WIDE range of artistic styles—from photography to illustration—appropriate for a wide range of genres, including non-fiction. I particularly love the vintage pulp fiction style of some of your covers, like The Coffeeist Manifesto and Induction. You have great gothic covers, like Romeo & Juliet and great fantasy covers, like One Last Moment of Silence. How did you get to be so versatile, stylistically?

Coffeeist Induction

Romeo and Juliet One Last Moment of Silence

JakeClark50First, thanks for the compliment! Pulp covers are easily my favorite covers to work on. I love looking at pulp book covers, anything from noir to cheesy romance, so getting a chance to work in that style is always fun.

I would attribute my versatility to never really focusing on one style. I’ve always been open to the author’s direction. Early on in my book cover career, I took almost any job that came my way. I still do for the most part! If the author wanted to use photos, I’d do my best to use photos. If they said illustration, I’d do my best to do illustration. Or if the author was open to any styles I’d come up with an idea and go with it no matter the style. I’d give it a shot and it just worked out!

Invested_Ivana 50Well, I think it’s paid off. So many book covers in a particular genre, though lovely, start looking the same. Your covers are so different that it catches the eye. Speaking of genres, your portfolio displays a definite leaning toward sci-fi and fantasy. Do you have a favorite genre to work in? To read?

JakeClark50Most assuredly, I am a sci-fi and fantasy buff through and through. That’s easily my favorite genre to work in and to read!

Invested_Ivana 50What is your favorite part about working with authors to design book covers?

JakeClark50The most exciting part of the design process for me is reading an author’s initial reaction about a proof. I think this is the case for two reasons. One, I want them to be happy and excited about what they are getting from me. I never want an author to just settle for something I’ve done. So naturally I get pumped about an idea and want them to get pumped as well!

The second reason is because usually the wait for that initial reaction to a first proof is filled with a range of thoughts and emotions for me. My mind is constantly racing wondering if they’ll like it, what they are thinking, maybe they hate it, maybe they love it! So it creates a climatic moment for me. I’ve gotten better about this over time, knowing not all proofs will be stellar out of the gate but still the emotions are hard to shrug off.

Invested_Ivana 50Sounds like it’s emotionally gratifying, which is important to have in your work. In addition to book covers, your portfolio contains logos and posters for concerts, movies, plays, and video games. Some of them are hilarious, like the “Cooking Hates Me” logo. What can you tell us about other design services you offer?

Cooking Hates Me

JakeClark50Movie posters, concert posters, logos, social media collateral—all kinds of stuff. As my website says, I work at a small print shop, so if it’s printed on paper, chances are I’ve done it before: forms, envelopes, logos, business cards, you name it. Book covers are my bread and butter when it comes to my freelance career, but I’m open to anything.

Invested_Ivana 50Well, I have to say, I’m completely impressed by your art. I have a list of new books to check out just from looking through your portfolio! So, how would an author contact you about commissioning art for their books?

JakeClark50Easy peasy, just contact me at my email jcalebdesign@gmail.com. I usually reply pretty quickly.

Invested_Ivana 50Thanks, Jake!  I hope we get to post more of your work on One Book Two really soon!

Cover Artist Series: Clarissa Yeo of Yocla Book Cover Design

Welcome to this month’s series on cover artists! Clarissa Yeo of Yocla Designs is a cover illustrator and designer. You’ve seen her covers on books by Bella Forrest, Rebecca Chastain, J. R. Rain, Kate Danley, Celia Kyle, Garrett Robinson, S.L. Saboviec, and more.

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Website | Facebook 


Invested_Ivana 50Welcome, Clarissa. Thanks for talking with us.

yocla-icon50Thanks for allowing me this opportunity!

Invested_Ivana 50How did you get your start as a book cover illustrator and designer?

yocla-icon50My aunt owns a graphic design firm and I always looked up to her as a child. I went online and found a book cover design community in the fanfiction forums of Wattpad. We formed little groups and opened ‘shops’ in those forums. Eventually I thought, “I need to start charging people for this.” My ego got inflated with how many covers I was doing, but my earlier covers really weren’t all that good. I cringe when I look back. But hey, fake it till you make it, right? Some days I still feel like I’m faking it. It’s that artist self-doubt thing.

After some encouragement from family, I decided to do book covers part-time before entering university. It became a full-time thing because I simply couldn’t give it up. I ended up quitting college twice (first law school then design school) to do this full-time instead. I haven’t regretted doing so, yet.

proofoflies500x1500 veiledthreat

Invested_Ivana 50According to your website, your expertise is in “creative photomanipulation.” Do you use all stock photography or do you use any custom photography?

yocla-icon50It’s all stock, unfortunately. Eventually I want to start taking my own photos, but I live in Asia, so models are hard to find (unless people eventually start writing Asians as main characters). Taking photos is kind of cost-prohibitive. Models, equipment, costumes, venues—they all cost pretty pennies. And I know that most authors don’t make that much of a profit on books, especially if they are just starting out. It’s tough to swallow the cost of a $1000 book cover on top of the cost of editing, so stock images are a nice option since it keeps costs down.

I have a DIY lightbox which I use to take objects sometimes, though. I’ve made some cameos in hand-form on some book covers, haha. The right hand poses are so difficult to find!

junkyarddruid-2 magicofthegargoyles

Invested_Ivana 50What is the biggest challenge of using stock photography? Limited number of good images? Reuse of popular images (see our Pinterest board for the Hoodie Hottie)? Maintaining consistency of a character across series covers?

yocla-icon50Admittedly, I’ve used the Hoodie Hottie before, haha. These days I try to avoid those images I easily recognize though, even if they are the easy way out. If I use them, I change their posture or faces to make them harder to recognize and give them a more unique feel. I used to have problems with character consistency. After mastering the art of the face swap, there’s little problem. Once you mix-and-match faces and bodies, the options start to become limitless.

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The main problem I have, though, is that stock photography tends to look more stiff. Artists borrow from real life, which has so much amazing gesture in the poses. So, for me, mimicking that while trying to mix-and-match body parts is rather tricky. Much easier if I have a model and ask her to just jump around more, rather than wonder if that hand looks natural with that torso.

Invested_Ivana 50I can’t even imagine how much work it takes just to find the images that will fit together like your illustration above, let alone the skill it takes to then make them match!

What kinds of thoughts go into creating the cover of a book? What kinds of discussions do you have with authors about the art you create for books?

yocla-icon50I have a form which I’m comfortable with. It lists out all the important parts required for the books and helps pluck out the visual information required for a cool/accurate book cover. I’ll research the market first to see what trends are popular, and I’ll also look at some other art forms to see if I can get any ideas from there. I draw a lot of inspiration from concept art, movies, and games.

thevaticanknights taulan

I’ll usually ask the author to also give me some examples of covers they think suit their book/genre, to see what their expectations are and what styles they’re aiming for. It’s quite difficult to design what the author wants without knowing what they’re expecting, so I think this is essential.

If the cover is in a more open-ended genre, or if the author wants to stray from the tropes of the genre (although I wouldn’t recommend it because people like to buy what is familiar to them), I will do some quick, albeit slightly difficult to understand, thumbnail sketches and see if the author likes the ideas. 🙂

Invested_Ivana 50It is so interesting that you recommend NOT straying from the tropes of the genre.  It’s not hard to notice that book covers in a genre all start to look similar, and sometimes I find that sad.  BUT, those are the very covers that attract my attention.  I had a list of books to buy just from browsing your portfolio!

Your gallery includes art for a wide number of genres and styles, and they all look so amazingly professional! How did you build such a wide repertoire of styles?

yocla-icon50I don’t think I have a style. I think it’s just understanding the art fundamentals and the tools. Once you have color theory, anatomy, composition, perspective, typography, etc . etc., down, and have a good grasp on photoshop/illustrator it’s easier to use them to achieve whatever look you want. I’m still working on it, though, haha. Book covers take up so much time that I don’t have enough spare time to sharpen my fundamentals.

Of course, because I don’t work on any one style I’m not super amazing at anyone of them. But I get versatility in return.

grilledandseasonedwithmurder keeper

For example, some artists are very adept at environments, but are bad with characters. Or some can give you the most detailed hand-lettered type ever, but if you ask them to work with images, they’re blegh. I can work with everything but if I compare myself to these artists in their respective fields, I’ll lose out.

Invested_Ivana 50Do you have a favorite genre to work in as an artist? Or to read for pleasure?

yocla-icon50It honestly just depends on my mood. It used to be urban fantasy, but now I’m starting to miss doing some apocalyptic stuff because I haven’t gotten a lot of those ever since urban got popular. And if I start doing more apocalyptic stuff, I know I’ll miss urban fantasy after a while. Some days I prefer to do more type/editorial stuff rather than a lot of photomanipulation. A recent one I did required me to make a bunch of concept-artish environments. That was quite challenging but I’d also say refreshing.

darknessforged themistsofniflheim

theshoresofvanaheim2 theradianceofelfheim

I’d say I’m the most comfortable with stuffs requiring more photo edits, etc, rather than those very simple advertorial layouts (I’m pretty bad with advertorial stuffs, in comparison to those people in the graphic design firm I share space with).

Reading for pleasure? Fantasy for sure. Brandon Sanderson is king, though I’ve ran out of his books to read. I can’t say that fantasy is my favorite genre to work in because images are so hard to find for them. Then again, creating cool environments with images, or problem-solving how to make the characters look fantasy can be fun, too.

Invested_Ivana 50Those Matt Larkin covers are amazing! Do you also do the treatments (title/author text, series name, back cover text) of your book covers? How do you decide on fonts and other graphic elements to use?

yocla-icon50Yep! I do. It’s very important for a successful book cover.

What fonts and graphic elements to use… well that’s a loaded question. I don’t think I can properly explain that in an interview. It’s an entire university module! But basic tips are: keep it simple, not using more than 3 fonts (unless you know what you’re doing); variation is key, and try to use small plus big texts together to make the cover more interesting to the eye; look at what other people in the same genre are using and try to fit the market; and try to think of fonts as an image rather than words, that’ll allow you to become more daring with how you treat it.

writeeditkill-hand nightofthehunter

Invested_Ivana 50You offer premade covers on your website. Can you tell us about those? How would an author use those?

yocla-icon50I don’t work on my pre-mades a lot these days, haha. I sometimes update it with rejected mock ups that look nice, but didn’t fit the spec. It used to be a way for me to fill up my spare time when orders were low, but these days I don’t get much no-order time if any at all, which I’m very thankful for. They’re straightforward so I’m not sure what to say. Just send me an email with the pre-made of choice, title, author name and subtitle (which I highly recommend solely because big and small text makes the typography interesting), and I’ll send a preview + invoice. And once the invoice is paid, I’ll send in the hi-res.

Invested_Ivana 50Do you work only with independent authors or do you work with publishers as well? What services do you offer and how would an author go about contacting you?

yocla-icon50I’ve worked with small publishers. I’m still waiting for some big publishing house in New York to contact me. It’s about time. Ha! Just kidding. Don’t think I’m good enough yet, but someday I will be.

I offer the usual services. Book covers, eBook and paperback. If you want a hardcover copy you’ll have to give me the right specs/template. Facebook banners and the like. Audiobook covers, and anything related to books whatsoever.

resurrection swandeception-1800x2700px

Some of my clients come to me and ask me if I can design their company logos. Haha, please don’t. I’m okay with logos for books, but I’m not so fluent in the design language for corporate stuffs. You’re probably better off finding someone who specializes in logos for that.

Invested_Ivana 50Do you read the books for which you create the cover?

yocla-icon50Oh, no. I design about 3 covers a day, not including weekends. If I must read the books before creating the covers, I wouldn’t be able to keep up. And honestly, sometimes when I’m shopping for books to read, I avoid the ones which I’ve done the covers for, ha. It kind of destroys the magic, you know? Plus, my clients give me spoilers in the form I send over.

whenanalphapurrs scarlet-wakefield-rose

Invested_Ivana 50Which projects have been your favorites? Which were easy to create? Hardest to create?

yocla-icon50I honestly can’t remember. I’ve done so many. But strangely enough, the covers which take little time and come out smoothly tend to be the best ones. Spending more time on a cover doesn’t necessarily result in the best cover. The most time-consuming ones usually end up uglier because I struggle with them, instead of spending all my time going ‘aw yas this is going to be awesome!’ So, these days, if a mock up starts to feel out of my comfort zone, and I spend too much time trying to fix whatever is already broken, I discard it and try a new one that works better.

amiraclemountainchristmas charmedanddangerous

Invested_Ivana 50I think your work is great, and I’ve certainly bought books because of your covers.  Thanks so much for taking time to talk with us, Clarissa!

yocla-icon50Once again, thanks for giving me the opportunity for this interview! I really appreciate it.

Contact Clarissa and view her portfolio via her webpage: http://yocladesigns.com/.

 

Cover Artist Series: Rebecca Frank

Welcome to this month’s series on cover artists! Rebecca Frank (formerly Rebecca Weaver) is a cover illustrator and designer. You’ve seen her covers on books by Rebecca Hamilton, Pippa DaCosta, Al K. Line, D.K. Holmberg, and more.

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Website | Facebook | Twitter | DeviantArt | Pinterest | Etsy


Invested_Ivana 50Welcome, Rebecca. Thanks for talking with us.

rebecca-frank-50Thanks so much for having me! Hopefully you don’t regret it by the time I’m done rambling!

theforevergirl hiddenblade

Invested_Ivana 50Nah, we like ramblers. 🙂 How did you get your start as a book cover illustrator and designer?

rebecca-frank-50The same way I do everything in life, really – I stumbled into it blindly and hoped for the best.

Going to art school wasn’t really an option for me, so I’m completely self-taught. I’ve always known some sort of art career was what I wanted to do with my life, and I’ve always been working toward that goal. For years I was working part time while trying to pick up any freelance commission work I could online, and not doing very well at it. I did a few book covers here and there when I applied on art job boards, but nothing consistent. I decided I liked doing book covers more than I liked doing random art jobs (it was cool seeing something I made on Amazon and being able to show my family that I was a Real Artist!) so I started to apply for cover design jobs more often.

blackspark-1 shadowcursed

That lead to revamping my website to cater to book cover design and finding places to connect directly with authors. I wasn’t very good when I started out. I’ve learned a lot. I spent a lot of time early on doing a lot of research on genre expectations and techniques, and over time I’ve developed my own style. I think my digital painting background really contributed to the way my style has developed.

Invested_Ivana 50Your urban fantasy covers have been catching my eye on Amazon and Goodreads because of the beautiful colors and appearance of light in the images. How do you achieve that effect?

rebecca-frank-50Thank you! The majority of the coloring/lighting I do is digitally painted on, but I have a bunch of tricks I do. I could play with color all day, honestly. I usually start by desaturating the different elements so they all start from a similar point, then I add tons of coloring and lighting effects on top. At risk of sounding too technical to people who aren’t familiar with design programs, it’s a ton of Overlay.

faerierift grimrites

Invested_Ivana 50

According to your website, you do digital manipulation of stock photography. What is the biggest challenge of using stock photography? Limited number of good images? Reuse of popular images (see our Pinterest board for the Hoodie Hottie)? Maintaining consistency of a character across series covers?

rebecca-frank-50I’m… pretty sure I’ve used Hoodie Hottie in a romance cover before, ha!

One of the hardest things for me is when I have this super clear image in my mind of what I’d like to do (or the client has a super clear image of what they want). Sometimes I’ll spend forever looking for the perfect thing and never find it. In those instances I make do with what I can find – either piecing together different images or trying something different entirely.

As far as maintaining consistency goes, I usually solve that problem by piecing together different models (this also helps a lot with the problem of overly popular images). When I know I’m working on a series, I’ll usually find a portrait model who has different angles and one or more body models. Sometimes it can get a little crazy if I want to get something just right.

infernalmagic-model

Invested_Ivana 50Oh, my goodness. That’s amazing! A head from here, a hand from there, a waistline from somewhere else. It’s like you’re building Frankenstein’s monster. Or maybe the Bride, since your creations are gorgeous!  

You also have some beautiful fantasy art illustrations (not displayed here for copyright reasons, but click the link to check them out!). Do you sell those as book covers as well? Or are they art made for your own pleasure?

rebecca-frank-50When I started doing book covers, I focused almost exclusively on illustrated covers. That was my goal – what I wanted to do. But honestly, I found that I am really, really unhappy with doing illustrated work for hire. It’s very stressful for me and takes so much longer than the photo manipulated covers. There was also this aspect of taking my passion and turning it into work. There was a stretch of nearly two years where I drew almost nothing for myself, and in all honesty it was affecting my mental health. That’s when I decided it was time to stop offering illustration work.

The photo manipulated covers are artsy enough that I still feel really passionate and excited about what I do, but still different enough from the illustrated work that I’ve started to love drawing as a hobby again. I’m back to drawing regularly for myself, and I sell my work at comic conventions.

awakening escapefromeden

Invested_Ivana 50What kinds of thoughts go into creating the cover of a book? What kinds of discussions do you have with authors about the art you create for books?

rebecca-frank-50I have a standard questionnaire that I send out that helps me get a feel for the book, and I’m also willing to read an excerpt. One thing I think it’s important to keep in mind that I think gets overlooked sometimes is that your cover doesn’t need to show every single thing your book is about. Your cover’s primary job is to show your potential audience that your book is what they’re looking for, that it’s the type of thing they want to read. It’s a marketing tool, your first chance to catch a reader’s attention. The first step is browsing your genre and taking a look at the bestsellers in your categories. If your idea seems wildly out of place, you may want to rethink it.

I ask for the obvious things like descriptions of the characters, important themes or events – things like that. I also ask for samples of covers the client likes, both in and out of their genre. That really helps me get a feel for a client’s tastes.

Invested_Ivana 50Your gallery seems to include art for a number of genres. Do you have a favorite genre to work in as an artist? To read? To write?

rebecca-frank-50Looking at my portfolio, it’s probably no surprise that the answer to all three is the same: urban fantasy. I’m most comfortable with UF and PNR covers because they’re the most familiar to me. I love working in other genres as well, but urban fantasy just “clicks” for me.

I’m almost always listening to audiobooks while I work because between my full work schedule and two kids, that’s the only reading time I really get. Right now I’m working my way through Kim Harrison’s Hollows series.

lostsoul hellsgates

I’m hesitant to admit that I do write urban fantasy as well. I don’t think I’ll ever reach a point where I’ll like something I’ve written enough to publish. It’s more for myself than anything. I have too much on my plate right now to make a serious go at it. I am about two chapters off from finishing my first ever first draft (or I will be if I don’t decide to scrap it all and start over for the hundredth time… which I’m not ruling out). Maybe when the kids are older.

Invested_Ivana 50Hey, don’t be afraid to admit something like that. We LOVE Urban Fantasy at One Book Two! Send your stuff our way when you’re ready for a review. 😉

Do you also do the treatments (title/author text, series name, back cover text) of your book covers? How do you decide on fonts and other graphic elements to use?

rebecca-frank-50I do – I’m kind of a font addict. I spend way too much money on them. A lot of it is keeping an eye out for what sorts of things are generally popular for different genres, but really every cover takes some trial and error to find the right fit (even before sending different options for client approval). I try to add the text early on to make sure it feels like a cohesive part of the design and not something thrown on at the end. It helps to know how everything fits together as I’m working.

Invested_Ivana 50You offer premade covers on your website. Can you tell us about those? How would an author use those?

rebecca-frank-50The premade covers are something I do in my spare time. Sometimes they’re unused concepts (but only if they’re very different from the final approved product, and even then I heavily edit them before posting to make sure they’re more generic). There have been quite a few clients who didn’t care for concepts I loved, and sometimes those find new life as premades.

0040-deathofalegacy 0043-kissofdeath

They’re essentially mockups that need some tweaking. If you see a concept you like, I change the text for your book and maybe make some small tweaks (or large tweaks for an extra fee). Probably about half of the premades I’ve ever sold were to authors who told me the cover inspired them, and they wanted to hold onto it until they could write a book to fit it.

Invested_Ivana 50Do you work only with independent authors or do you work with publishers as well? What services do you offer and how would an author go about contacting you?

rebecca-frank-50So far I’ve only worked with indie authors and indie publishing companies – none of the big publishing houses. Right now I’m working exclusively with design services – ebook, paperback, and marketing images. Over the next year or so the goal is to expand into formatting and web design as well with the help of my husband.

Right now, I’m booked straight through until May of 2017, so I’m not accepting new clients at the moment. The best place to keep in touch is my Facebook page – it’s the first place I’ll announce when I have openings in my schedule.

https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaWeaverArt/

bloodless snowslament

Invested_Ivana 50Do you read the books for which you create the cover?

rebecca-frank-50I would LOVE to be able to read every book I work on, but I just don’t have the time. The only exception is audiobooks – I’ve actually started offering audio versions of covers for free in exchange for a copy. I also buy quite a few of the paperback covers I make – and I let friends and family raid my library in exchange for giving the authors reviews.

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Invested_Ivana 50Which projects have been your favorites? Which were easy to create? Hardest to create?

rebecca-frank-50My favorite projects are always the ones that offer the most freedom. Some of my oldest clients can give me a sentence or two about their book and send me on my way, and still end up with something they love.

A big One Book Two thanks to Rebecca for talking with us and sharing her amazing art!

Cover Artist Series – Chris Roberts, Dead Clown Art

Welcome to this month’s series on cover artists! This month we’re talking with Chris Roberts of Dead Clown Art.

Invested_Ivana 50Welcome, Chris!

dead_clown_square_0250Hi! Thanks for having me over! Love what you’ve done with the place! Is that lava lamp vintage?

Invested_Ivana 50Your style of art is radically different than anything we’ve looked at in this series so far. It’s has a cool collage style that I really like! Tell us a little bit about your artistic style.

Awww shucks thanks! (blushes) Glad you dig it! Hmmm. My style. Guess I always think of it as a lack thereof. People have told me they can detect a certain style in my work, especially when viewing a bunch of pieces in an art show or via my online portfolio. Having a style must be unavoidable.

blind_front dca_blindvoices_backcover

I’m a process junkie, so maybe I’m not able to observe my work the same way as others. When you’re attached to a piece from start to finish, it’s probably pretty impossible to see it the same way as a viewer who is looking only at the finished product.

Sorry. Back to the question. I tend to stray.

Collage. Assemblage. I’m a hobo squirrel. A hoarding crow. I pick up bits of wonderful trash on sidewalks or in parking lots. Bottle caps. Buttons. All manner of future-useful detritus. I spend hours in antique stores; strolling, scanning, rummaging, sniffing and snortling about. Looking for that perfect whatsit that I may or may not ever even use.

Yeah. Sounds mental. I know.

Invested_Ivana 50Not until you show up on the Hoarders TV show. 🙂 What is your background and how did you get started in this style of art? Why do you think this style speaks to you so strongly?

dead_clown_square_0250My background is in graphic design, which is why I design my covers [put together the whole cover, including print elements] whenever I’m able. One problem I have with a number of book covers that I see is a disconnect between the artwork and the typography. Not all cover artists have graphic design backgrounds. I get that. Most mainstream publishers wouldn’t let a cover artist near the cover design. Which is why I absolutely adore smaller, specialty presses. These presses also tend to be more open to giving weird/niche artists like me the opportunity to make covers for them.

Potawatamie

But I digress. Again. What was the question? Origin story…

The graphic design jobs I worked after college always felt way too formal. I was always trying to dirty my projects up. Scratch them. Gouge them. Roll them around in the mud a bit. I was always trying to incorporate handmade elements into those projects. My employers and clients were always trying to steer me back to center along a tidy, straight line. And did that shit get old? You bet your ass it did!

To counter my antiseptic day-job tasks, I’d cut loose and make personal pieces after hours. Found objects and paper on found wood. Spray paint. Rub-off letters. Literally etcetera. Balance points achieved! CHA-CHING!

Long story short(er): I stumbled upon a couple of presses that dug my crazy collage style. One stumble led to another. Lucky I’m clumsy. Fast forward to today… 15 covers; 8 presses; a veritable gaggle of inside black and white artwork; and a 2013 World Fantasy Award nomination. Not too shabby.

dca_santaparade  dca_billykid

Invested_Ivana 50Tell me about the name Dead Clown Art. What does it signify?

dead_clown_square_0250This one’s easy: I hate clowns. Loathe them. Don’t see any real reason they should still exist in these modern time. Except to give us nightmares. Except to steal our children. Then eat them. With clown sauce.

Therefore and hitherto… all clowns shall be exterminated and otherwise eradicated. Death to all clowns! Yes, the sick and pathetic humans hiding underneath them as well. The only GOOD clown is a DEAD clown.

I’m not encouraging people to seek out clowns and destroy them. But if you happen to see one doing something particularly dastardly, feel free to bop them on the noggin with a crow bar a couple (hundred) times.

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Invested_Ivana 50Note to self: Don’t invite Chris to the remake of Stephen King’s “It.”  Got it. You created a cover for a Ray Bradbury short story collection. What was that like? Can you tell us about that process?

My Bradbury cover. Wow! I got a phone call from Pete Crowther, publisher, PS Publishing. I’ve worked with Pete and Nicky at PS before. Actually just finished working with them on Blind Voices by Tom Reamy (June 2016). But never via phone. Always email. What the fiery hellbeast?!?

Basically: Have a cover for you. Need it quick. Ray Bradbury. Are you up for it? No pause. HELL YES! That cover could’ve been due in 4 days and I still would have snatched it right up. Are you kidding? Ray Effing Bradbury! Pretty sure that’s his real middle name. No need to fact check me on that one.

Step 1: Read the collection. Found a first edition of A Medicine for Melancholy at the library. Cover to cover. Rapidly. Take good notes. Rough sketches. VERY rough in my case. Send to publisher. Wait for APPROVAL, or “WHAT THE EVER-LOVING BLEEP IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?” The latter has yet to happen. Usually just minor tweaks and pokes.

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Pro Tip #1: Always read the entire manuscript. If time doesn’t allow for a full read, ask for more time.

Pro Tip #2: Get in touch with the author if that’s cool with the author. They wrote the book. Pick their brain. And be sure to ask them what they DON’T want on their cover. Huge timesaver!

Step 2: Gather. This is where my squirrel and crow skills come in handy. I comb the drawers and boxes and containers that I have filled over time with mounds and pounds of tasty found stuffs.

Step 3: MAKE THE FREAKING COVER ALREADY! Holy shit! Look at the calendar you flaming idiot! You wasted all of that time reading and noting and sketching and gathering! ART! ART! ART! You deranged seal!

See. Just 3 easy steps! Anybody can be a cover artist! HA!

But seriously, I had an absolute blast making that cover! A highly stressful blast, but easily one of the most challenging and rewarding cover projects I’ve ever worked on.

Invested_Ivana 50Do you also work with independent authors to create book covers?

It starts with the presses, but I usually get in touch with the authors in some capacity; it really depends on the project. I always prefer working directly with the authors if possible. My favorite thing in the world is working with authors on an ongoing basis…

For example, Helen Marshall. Amazing writer/person! I met her (and her equally amazing sister Laura) at World Horror Convention 2011 in Austin, TX. Something clicked. She had a poetry collection that she was looking to release into the world. I offered to make some art for it. That collection, Skeleton Leaves, is stunning! I immediately created a color cover and six black and white interior pieces. She loved them!

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I found a kindred spirit in Helen. We understand each other. We trust each other. We’re connected in some weird way. Her words. My art. Some odd series of tubes and wires.

I went on to make a metric ton of inside artwork for her second poetry collection, The Sex Lives of Monsters, and her two short story collections, Hair Side, Flesh Side and Gifts for the One Who Comes After. Gifts won the World Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award in 2015, and was short-listed for the British Fantasy Award, Bram Stoker Award and Aurora Award. I know, right?

Helen is such a wonderful GIFT (see what I did there?) to the world of words! I’ll follow her wherever she goes.

I’ve worked with so many amazing authors! Seb Doubinsky. Andy Duncan. Tobias Seamon. Kaaron Warren. Even if I never made another cover, I consider myself a super lucky cover artist/troll-like biped.

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Invested_Ivana 50Although I know your style of art can work for any book, what genres do you feel your art speaks to particularly?

Thanks for that! Every book is a problem that needs a visual solution in the form of its cover. I’m uniquely equipped to provide a solution to that problem. That solution probably won’t be a perfect fit for every press/book/author; but for a certain type of book it’ll fit like a glove. Those are the presses/books/authors I seek out.

Lucky for me, the genres that I feel my art speaks to are the same genres I enjoy reading. In a word, WEIRD. I read weird books. And every book that I’ve been lucky enough to cover, I would’ve been thrilled to read otherwise. That’s where my personal and professional worlds blur.

And bonus points for working with specialty presses that allow me the space and freedom to make those covers the way I need to make them. A book is not made by author alone. They have the bulk of the work to be sure, but it takes a village. Which probably makes me the village idiot, but so be it.

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Invested_Ivana 50So you are a reader of the “weird.”  What does weird mean for you?

Avid reader. Wish I had more time to get through my towering to-read pile. I’m gonna freaking drown in it. It’ll be an awesome death.

Weird. Horror. Zombie. Some sci-fi (near future stuff).

Favorite authors, besides the insanely gifted authors I’ve worked with: William Gibson; Lauren Beukes; Neil Gaiman; Sarah Langan; Joe Hill; Sarah Pinborough; Gary McMahon; Lou Morgan; Conrad Williams; Tom Piccirilli.

To name a few.

Invested_Ivana 50You said you consider yourself a fine artist rather than a graphic artist. Do you take commissions for other types of art as well as book covers? What other types of projects have you worked on?

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Did I say that? Shit. How am I going to dig myself out of that hole?

I’ll leave the FINE portion of that statement to the viewer. Goldfish memory, but FINE versus GRAPHIC really speaks to process and purpose. Handmade versus digital. Nearly every scrap of any given piece I make is handmade or found. When my hands are done with a piece, I break out my digital camera and scanner.

Fun Fact: I rarely clean my scanner. I delight in the tiny blips and blurps from prior scans showing up on current scans. Ghost dust and scratches, haunting my present work.

Handmade art, assembled with our phabulous phriend Photoshop. No originals. Digital ghosts. Again with the ghosts.

At my core I see myself as a painter. I also don’t see any difference between my personal and professional work. I approach every piece exactly the same way, whether the finished product is a painting on a wall, an illustration in a magazine, or the cover of a book.

Every piece is a personal piece. I’ve never had to stop and think about it. Never had to flip a single switch. This piece is for a magazine. This piece is for a book cover. Nope. This piece is exactly what it’s supposed to be. Does it quench your project’s thirst? Fantastic!

Invested_Ivana 50How would an author contact you about commissioning art for their books?

If you dig what I’m doing, and you’d like me to make some art for your project, let’s chat. Let’s do something completely freaking batshit!

Check out my online portfolio: http://deadclownart.com/

Covers behind the Covers link. Artwork behind the Artwork link.
Pretty nifty navigation, eh?

Like what you see? Email: deadclownart@yahoo.com

Invested_Ivana 50Chris, you’re hysterical! Thanks for stopping by to talk with us. I can’t wait to see what you’re going to create next.

Thanks so much for your time and hospitality, Invested Ivana! You’re a rockstar and we should totally hang out some time! I’ll bring the ferrets!

mural

 

Interview with Danielle Fine, Cover Artist

Welcome to this month’s Cover Artist Feature! Today we’re talking with cover designer and editor, Danielle Fine.

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Invested_Ivana 50Welcome, Danielle!

HeadshotThanks so much for having me, Ivana! I’m really glad to be here. ☺

Invested_Ivana 50We’ve featured your art on our site before in reviews for both Pippa Jay and Lincoln Farish. I particularly want to talk to you about animated book covers and promo images. They are so cool!! What can you tell us about them?

HeadshotThank you! I’m always keeping an eye on what other people are doing, and I saw a couple of animated covers on JA Konrath’s blog and thought, how cool! I love to challenge myself, so I decided to try my hand at it, and ended up making the animated cover for Lincoln Farish’s Soulless Monk, which he really liked. I’ve made a couple of others since, but most of the animation I do at the moment is for animated quote art for marketing purposes.

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Invested_Ivana 50So, how do you make them? Are you using a special software?  Are they animated .gifs?

HeadshotNo special software. 🙂 I make them using Photoshop. They’re frame-by-frame animations saved as gifs.

Invested_Ivana 50Do you think animated book covers are the new trend?

HeadshotThe last I heard, most ereaders don’t support animated covers—my authors use them for promotion on social media, mostly—but I imagine they will soon, and then yes, I think there’s a good chance covers will go this way. Anything that can grab a reader’s attention is a plus, and there’s a lot of room for beautiful, interesting art to be made.

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Invested_Ivana 50How did you get started designing book covers, Danielle?

HeadshotI’m self-taught, actually, and it’s all grown quite organically. ☺ I started off editing, and then an author I was working with needed a book trailer, so I decided to see if I could help her out. That went well, and I really enjoyed doing something more visually creative, so I pushed myself to learn about designing book covers.

Invested_Ivana 50What can you tell us about your artistic style?

HeadshotPersonally, I veer toward the dark and twisty side of art. I love striking, powerful imagery and enjoy creating more fantastical covers, which is why I’ve recently gone into doing premade covers as well. When I work with an author, I try to make their vision come to life and collaborate very closely with them to get the image they’re looking for (sometimes going up to around 30 versions of a cover :P), so when I do premades, I really get to play and push my skills and create whatever image comes to me.

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Invested_Ivana 50You also do editing for authors. What is your background in both art and language?

HeadshotI don’t have formal training in either area. What I do have is a passion for the written language, a lifetime of voracious reading (I still read around 4 books a week), and a dedication to making a work the best it can be (not to mention my anal, grammar-Nazi tendencies :P). I’ve been freelancing for about 5 years now, and I try to keep learning, and growing, and getting better.

Invested_Ivana 50What is your favorite part about working with indy authors, either in cover design or editing?

HeadshotI adore working with indy authors, both in design and editing. When doing a cover, it’s very fulfilling to make an author’s vision come to life, and to give them something they really love. In terms of editing, I generally have very close relationships with my authors, who know that I might push them to the brink to get their work shining, but that I’m in their corner, one hundred percent. My favorite thing is to be able to take an author through the whole process, from editing, to cover design, to formatting, to marketing. It’s a great experience. And authors, for the most part, are the most wonderful people to work with. ☺

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Invested_Ivana 50How would an author contact you about your services?

HeadshotThe best way to contact me is probably through my website www.daniellefine.com, which has a contact form, or via Twitter @DanielleFine1. I love hearing from new clients, and I’m always happy to do a free sample edit or answer questions.

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Daniel does editing and proofreading in addition to creating book trailer videos and both regular and animated book covers and promotional images. Our thanks to Danielle for talking with One Book Two about her work.