the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘cover art’ Category

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00012]Ok blog tour participants and anyone else who has a  copy of The Book of Apex Vol 4, raise your hand if you have a print copy.  it looks wet, doesn’t it? I left the book on the kitchen table a few times, and even my husband wondered why I’d let water get on a book. The magical cover of this book, my friends, is the work of the unbelievably talented Julie Dillon.

(in fact, all of the artwork you see in this post is by Julie Dillon)

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00012]

That names rings a bell, doesn’t it? Oh yeah, she also did the cover art of the very first Subterranean Press special edition I bought for myself, Silently And Very Fast, by Catherynne M. Valente.

silenty and fast

So it goes without saying that I was over the moon when Julie agreed to do an interview for this blog tour.  When you’re just browsing through the bookstore, not looking for anything in particular, what do you gravitate towards? Interesting cover art, of course. Julie Dillon makes that cover art. She’s the reason you touch a book.  She’s the reason I expected my finger to come away wet every time I picked up The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine.

So let’s get to the interview!

LRR: You’ve won the Chelsea award twice, been nominated for the World Fantasy award and you were nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist in 2013. What was it like to learn you had made the Hugo ballot? And speaking of, we’re right in the middle of nomination season. Are you eligible again this year?

J.D.: It was very validating to make the Hugo ballot. I didn’t think I’d be ready for that kind of recognition for another 5 years or so, and I was blown away that I was nominated. I was very honored and flattered that people saw anything of value in what I do. That said, I try not to let awards or nominations affect me too much, and I try to keep learning and working hard regardless of whether or not I am recognized. The recognition definitely helps, though, and goes a long way for helping me to reaffirm my decision to purse art fulltime. Getting awards and nominations encourages me to keep trying even harder.

I do have several pieces that are eligible for the Hugos this year. Andrea Höst was kind enough to put together a tumblr of various artists’ eligible work. My posts are available here and here.

Cover for Long Hidden Anthology

Cover for Long Hidden Anthology

LRR: Did you always want to be an artist? Can you tell us a little about your journey to becoming a professional artist?

J.D.: That’s a tricky question. I was always interested in drawing and creating, but it never really occurred to me that I could pursue art as my profession until my mid twenties. From all I had heard from other people, art was just something you do as a hobby in between your real work and real jobs. I spent much of my college life prepping for other careers, but I was always drawing and painting whenever I had free time. Eventually, thanks to the internet, I started noticing that there were such things as art schools, and professional artists, and people making a living doing a variety of types of art. I started wondering if maybe that was something I could do, too, and slowly I began taking actual art classes and investigating local art schools, and eventually started seeking out more freelance jobs. It took many long years before I got my portfolio up to a level where I was able to have fulltime freelance work, and I probably would have progressed faster if I had believed in myself more earlier on, but all things considered I think I’m doing an okay job of it.

"Breaking Through"

“Breaking Through”

LRR:  What are your thoughts on traditional media (oil, acrylic, etc) vs digital?

J.D.: I think traditional media is vitally important, I think there are a lot of benefits to working in traditional media, and I enjoy doing working with real paint when I get the chance. But I think digital media is a valid tool, one that has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. So often I see people dismissing digital art as somehow cheating or not as valid or important as traditional art, but the computer is just another tool. It doesn’t do the work for you, you still need to have foundational drawing and painting skills to make a good digital piece. I personally prefer working digitally because it allows me to work quickly and cleanly. I don’t have to buy paint or brushes or canvases, I don’t have to wait for paintings to dry before sending them to clients, I don’t have to photograph or scan my final work, and I can make edits immediately and easily. But, I also do not have a physical original painting that I can hang up or sell, and I do miss out on the fun and satisfaction of working with real paint.

"Launch Point"

“Launch Point”

LRR: How long, on average, does it take you to complete a piece of art?

J.D.: It’s hard to tell, since I’m usually working on multiple illustrations that I rotate through, but I’ll usually spend at lease several days or weeks working on something. The actual time spent on any given piece are probably something like 8-20 hours, depending on the complexity.

LRR:  Do you do commissioned pieces as well? How does that creative process differ from when you are creating a piece out of your mind?

J.D.: Most of my work is commissioned, although I don’t post all of it online. The main difference between commissioned work and work I do for myself is that if I’m doing for myself, I don’t have to worry about sticking to an art description or working for a specific audience or project. On the one hand, with commissioned work it’s sometimes nice having an art director to bounce ideas off of, because sometimes it’s difficult narrowing down concepts or compositions. But it’s also nice to be answerable only to myself and to work on projects where I have full control over how the piece progresses.

"Ancient Discovery"

“Ancient Discovery”

LRR: I really enjoyed the Digital Illustration Tutorial you have on your website, it really opened my eyes to all of the behind the scenes work that goes into art creation. do you think you’d do more tutorials like this?

J.D.: Thank you! I’m glad it made at least a little sense; I worry if I’m being coherent or helpful at all when I make those things. I might do more tutorials in the future, although I’m not sure what my focus would be. For the most part, my actual method of painting has remained the same. Any improvements I’ve been making have been because I’ve been going back and trying to work on my art foundation skills more with figure drawing and anatomy studies.

"Nautili"

“Nautili”

Want more of Julie’s artwork? Of course you do! Check out her website, and her deviant art site.

Judge a book by it’s cover?  don’t mind if I do.  We’re all guilty of buying a book because it has gorgeous cover art, or shying away from a book because the cover art is boring or off-putting.  While I’m out of town this weekend, enjoy this gallery of Frank Frazetta cover art!  It’s sure to be alluring to some of you, and off-putting to others.  I have high expectations for discussions in the comments!

Not familiar with Frank Frazetta? Ultra-Famous fantasy artist who got started in comics and then went to painting. Many of his paintings were purchased for fantasy and adventure novel cover art during the 1960s and 1970s. His style involves lots of skin. lots of skin.  probably NSFW.

Big pics and slow loading times ahead!

warlord of mars frazetta

conan frazetta Read the rest of this entry »

Today’s guest post is from Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. When I first started visiting his blog about two years ago, I was immediately struck by his well considered and lovingly written reviews and all the beautiful artwork that graced his website. Beyond the artwork and enlightening content, every post generates warm and friendly conversation.  Please welcome Carl!

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(Image Credit)

The book cover—at its very best it draws you in, singling itself out amidst the noise of other books vying for your attention, and your book buying dollars. At its worst it provokes a visceral reaction, discouraging you from giving any consideration at all to what the book in question may be about and it may even turn you off from the genre in question completely. That is a lot of responsibility for an illustration to bear and the interesting dilemma facing art directors the world over is that the same book cover illustration will elicit both reactions at the same time. We are all different and we all respond to different visual cues, especially those of us who are fans of science fiction and fantasy, a genre in which the community is not afraid to vocalize their opinions. But this guest post is not about good or bad genre cover art, it is about the importance, or lack thereof, of the art itself in the wake of the rapid rise of electronic books, or ebooks.

Laying aside the pro and con arguments of reading paper books vs. electronic ones, let us agree with the premise that ebooks offer publishers a way to cut production costs significantly over their traditional paper offerings. That cost savings presumably translates into a cost savings for the consumer. That  being the case I have often wondered over the last year if there will be an increased move by publishing companies to eliminate or significantly reduce the costs associated with cover art by moving away from commissioning artwork from established artists and up and coming talent. This question was brought back to my mind when a reader asked this question on my Favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy Covers of 2012 post:

“Given so many people are using ereaders nowadays, does that make cover art more or less important? Ebooks don’t have covers, and they’ll soon make up most of the market (if they don’t already). Does that mean it’s not worth bothering, or mean the looks of dead-tree copies matter more as people attach more worth to them as actual physical things?”

My first reaction, which I stated in my reply, is that ebooks do have covers. As I thought about it, however, I understand that both answers are correct. Many ebooks currently have covers in the sense that they have an image advertising the book and for those books that also have print copies available the image used is often the same as that created for the book cover of the physical copy. On the other hand they do not have covers in that the word does not apply. The image attached with the ebook does not “cover” anything. Will publishers begin to think this way as well and if so will that translate into fewer actual pieces of art being commissioned for the use of science fiction and fantasy novels, short story collections and anthologies.

And perhaps more to the point, do you care?

Read the rest of this entry »

Last night I went to the Jim C. Hines booksigning at a local bookstore. To help him not think about the upcoming Hugo awards ceremony at Worldcon, where he’s nominated for best Fanwriter, Jim read from the short story that inspired Libriomancer (same Smudge, different Isaac), teased us about what we can look forward to in the second book in the series, and answered questions about what it was like place his book in rural (and urban) Michigan, what a person can, can’t, and really shouldn’t do with Libriomancy.   And if you haven’t heard of Libriomancer, go read my review, then go read Justin Landon’s review, then go read some more about it, and then seriously, go get a copy. If you love books, if you are a geek at heart, this is the book for you. Libriomancer is just an all around wonderful read.

Recently famous for being this guy, there was some talk about cover art. One of the characters in Libriomancer is Lena Greenwood. She’s a dryad, and she ain’t a skinny lady. She’s perfectly rounded and curvy and unbelievable sexy. At the moment, she has a dark complexion.  Jim Hines is poking at the expectations of the love triangle so often found in urban fantasy, and Lena is his sharp stick.

So he was telling us about a recent conversation he had with his publisher, where they were asking for a plot summary of the second book so they could start working on the cover art.  Part of Jim’s response to them was that Lena needed to be on the cover, and a few days later he received in his e-mail some headshots of models they were thinking of using to portray Lena.  When he complained that all the models were far too slender to be a realistic Lena, the response was “How about this one, she’s a size 6?”.   Jim had already been through this conversation four times with his Princess books, begging for one of the characters complexions to be darkened to match what she actually looks like.

I’ve already had this discussion with Sarah Zettel about cover art not matching what the character looks like because publishers have the final word on cover art. Cover art white washing and “sexy-izing” isn’t anything new.  The fact that it has become not unexpected means we are not talking about it enough.

Yes, I understand that “sex sells”, and the publishers know that people make a quick judgement based on their first look at a book.  But if they could put a fat old guy on the cover of Throne of the Crescent Moon, what’s so terrible about putting a beautiful, pleasantly plump dark skinned woman on the cover of an urban fantasy?

I imagine publishers are asking themselves which book people are more likely to spend their money on – a book with cover art showing  young-ish super skinny sexy woman wearing really tight pants and showing plenty of skin, or a book with cover art showing a beautiful plump lady?

so, reader, I ask you: how likely are you to buy a book where the cover art shows a plus-size lady whose skin tone doesn’t match yours?

do we want our cover art to portray an unrealistic expectation of beauty and perfection, or do we want our cover art to portray what the characters actually look like, and what real people (and possibly even the reader!!) actually looks like?


2014 Hugo Awards

I reviewed some Hugo nominated stuff. Click here for the list.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.