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A Cover Story: Insights of the Illustrator’s Process


A Cover Story: Insights of the Illustrator’s Process

Published January 29, 2015 | By Shawna


Note - The pictures for this article are no longer available due to the server site that no longer exists. SORRY!


Today’s guest blog post is by Laura Young, the illustrator of the Raven’s Wing book cover. Continue reading to learn more about the process of developing a cover and the collaboration between author and artist.

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The old saying goes, “Never judge a book by its cover” and yet, we tend to do just that. First impressions count, and a cover tries to convey, in the space of under a second, what sort of experience the book aspires to provide. Is it adventurous? Humorous? Intellectual?


As an illustrator, it’s my job to make an image that not only draws in the potential reader’s eye, but serves as a sort of visual shorthand; a singular hieroglyph that represents the story as a whole.


When Shawna approached me via email, she had a fairly good idea of what she wanted in a cover. She needed it to match the tone of the previous book in the series she was working on, and provided a brief description of how she envisioned it: “A wing sweeping down, with a vague silhouette of the Portland skyline below.”


We wrote back and forth a few times, and then I sent over a page of small “thumbnails” or initial sketches. This is the first stage of the process, when I’m just trying to get a feel for what she wanted using a wide variety of ideas within the stated perimeters.


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Even though it was a bit different from her initial idea, once she saw it laid out visually Shawna decided to go with the last image that I’d drawn, stating that she’d perhaps like the raven to be even more prominent. Now having a more concrete theme to go on, I began creating variations of it:


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After seeing these, Shawna noted she wanted a little more of Portland, and have a descending, rather than ascending, raven. She explained that things were not very hopeful for her protagonist, and the ascending motif looked, “just a little too hopeful.” She also mentioned that while she preferred a dramatic, dark tone, she didn’t want it to look like a horror cover, either.


In the next round, I worked to address some questions about the raven’s anatomy. It’s sometimes difficult to do this with simple sketches that are only an inch wide, so I “zoomed in” on an area that we were discussing for clarification.


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Shawna narrowed down her final choice and gave me the official go-ahead. I began to work on penciling the overall design. Because the pencil drawing was rather light, I darkened the digital scan considerably before sending it over.


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Once we ironed out a couple of minor revisions to the drawing, I got out the India ink and (rather appropriately) a crow quill nib for the dip pen. No turning back now!


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After inking for a couple of days, I spent several hours adding atmosphere to the background digitally on my MacBook using various layered textures and brushes, using the latest edition of GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). After some searching, I found the exact font from her previous cover, downloaded it, and tried to match it as closely as possible in size and color.


A few more tweaks, a few more emails, and we finally had a cover that pleased us both. Hopefully, it will serve as an appropriate passageway into Shawna’s finely-crafted world.

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Laura is available for commissions. Check out her work or contact her at her website, Laura G. Young.

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