I suppose the best place to start a blog about how I create book covers is to start with the first one I did, “Going to California” by Janice Grove. This particular cover is special to me, not just because it’s the first I had that came out in print but because it was done for a friend.
When this opportunity came to me I had already been doing graphics and web design for several years which while challenging isn’t something I would call stimulating by any means for me so I guess you could say this was a great opportunity for me to put my wild imagination to use.
I enjoy creating artwork and have in the past done many things by hand but working on a computer allows me the freedom to do something I normally struggle with when doing artwork by hand…color. This may sound really odd to some but when I do artwork by hand I tend to see strictly in black and white, it’s very difficult to integrate color into the vision in my head because what I see is shades of grey when drawing by hand. I can’t explain why but when I work digitally a whole new world of color opens up and that I find truly refreshing. I’m weird, I know….I’m good with that.
The author of Going to California and I have been “framily” for years! Her previous publisher had created the initial cover for this book and sent it to her for her to approve. She showed it to me to get my opinion of it and I knew two things immediately. One, the artist didn’t read the story and two, if I were a potential reader I wouldn’t pick that book up to see what it was about. The cover was totally wrong for her story and it didn’t connect at all with the previous book in the series which is necessary for branding and marketing purposes.
Janice and I talked about the cover and I expressed my vision of what I saw as the cover. I was in no way surprised when she said “yes, that’s it!”, or something to that effect. So I agreed to sit down and see if I could get the vision in my head translated on the screen. What follows is how my creative process works.
To refresh my memory the first thing I did was read the story “Going to California” again and jot down a few notes as something would come to me. I had also read the previous book in this series and knew at the end of that book the two boys hopped a train on their own and were headed to California. To tie the two books together a train simply had to be on the cover, it was a must! I also had this vision of the sun setting so you could see the boys sitting together in the box car through the door opening, this was something I just couldn’t shake. This meant I needed the train and the boys to be in silhouette. It’s dramatic and it’s very easy to see.
As I continued to read the influences of good vs evil really jumped out at me and I realized that throughout this book this family was continually watched by good/evil forces in one way or another which is where the eyes on the cover come in. It may be difficult to see at first but each eye represents either good or evil. There are flames in one eye and angel wings in the other. This good and evil element is something I have kept in subsequent covers in this series of books. If you look you will notice that there are always angel wings and either flames or a demon tail(s) on each cover.
The trees that I incorporated are merely for balance. Yep, it’s just that simple, they are not symbolic of anything other than they remind me of the trees around where I live and around Oswego, KS where this particular story is set.
Surprisingly the hardest part of this entire cover is one of the smallest components in it, the angel wings. These had to be digitally drawn before I could incorporate them and took me three times as long to create as it did to put the whole cover together once they were created but they are an element that will appear in every cover from here on out, so the time was well invested in creating them. Once this cover was completed I was really happy with it, lucky for me…the author was too!
Take a look at it, tell me what you think. Would you have done something different? Would you change anything? No worries here, I have thick skin…be honest.