Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Creating a Cover: Amateur Illustration as a Brand

While I was taking a break from the blog, I had some Kismet on artwork. The events transpired thusly:

1.) Cover illustration was on my mind partly because of my report on my slow progress with the eBook Experiment. A part of what I said there was that I wasn't sure a slick cover would help some of my books, because the books are kind of my own quirky thing.

2.) I've been thinking about "branding" for the oddball indie writer a lot lately too. In some ways it's like making a genre out of yourself. And, of course, cover art is a major part of genre and identity.

Thurber's illo from The Male Animal
3.) I've been on a Thurber kick, because Olbermann has continued reading Thurber short stories on his website every Friday. Thurber, of course, was a New Yorker cartoonist who illustrated many of his own stories in his own pudgey style. His drawings are so closely associated with his work, that when something Thurber-esque happens in my life, I don't remember it as it happened, but rather as a series of Thurber drawings. (Now that's branding!)

So with these on my mind, and my own desire to do more doodling, I had the final bit of kismet:

4.) I went to write at Taco Bell -- where I often go to get out of the house -- and found the place full of students. I mean full. The line wound back into the parking lot and all around. Like fifty people outside and who knows how many inside. I don't know what was going on at MSU, but clearly I wasn't going to get any writing done at Taco Bell, so I turned around and headed for MacDonald's... which took me past Staples.

And that was when it all kind of came together. I wanted to sketch. No, I had this urgent need to sketch. I HAD to sketch NOW. It was like a part of my brain was signaling to me: this is a part of what you do. I had nothing to sketch on, so I stopped in and bought some packs of 5 x 8 unlined cards.

I will never be the kind of illustrator who can paint such brilliant work as Samuel Nelson Abbott, or N. C. Wyeth. But I think it might be worth my while to see about putting my stamp on things visually.

A few weeks ago I blogged out the beat-by-beat process of writing the opening for a novelette, The Misplaced Hero. I will probably continue that series as I work through that story (though I may hold back on posting it until I can have spoilers under control).

Now, it happens that the art I worked on that day was a cover for... The Misplaced Hero. Another bit of Kismet? It seems like a good example to continue the "process" posts.

So for the next few weeks I will be blogging every Tuesday about creating that cover -- starting next week with with Part 2 - finding a concept and style to emulate.


stu said...

Well, Tom Holt got on all right with some stick figure scribbles on his covers.

The Daring Novelist said...

Very sophisticated design, though. But yes, that's a great part of what I'm talking about.

Kathydid47 said...

Un-asked for advertising, but wanted to make sure you knew that Keith Olbermann is going to have a new "countdown" on Current TV beginning June 20. Current TV's website has mini videos of him on right now, including but not limited to Thurber readings!
I'm very excited that he's returning to tv, it will be interesting to see if Comcast tosses Ed out permanently like they did with Olbermann, I guess if they do, then it will be Current TV as the next MSNBC. Just thought you might like to know....if you didn't already!

The Daring Novelist said...


Yeah, the link in the post goes to one of the readings on Current. Before they had that up and running, the "Friends of Kieth" page had even more Thurber videos. (They only have a few now.)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Nice sketches! I'll be interested to hear how your cover creation goes. :)

The Daring Novelist said...

Well, the first one is Thurber (an illustration from "The Male Animal"). I suppose I should have put in a caption.

The second was a gesture drawing I'll be talking about in two weeks or so.