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April 25, 2012

Basewood Cover Design: Part 6

Last week we saw the four designs that were chosen by my publisher and the tallied votes of my students.  Happily, the two opinions lined up almost exactly.  In the end, the final choice was mine, and even though the "Silhouette" design was the most popular, I decided to go with the "Fire" design instead.

I like the idea of seeing The Great Cliff as well as Basewood right on the cover.  It might not be as action packed, but I feel like it instantly conveys more about the story, and Ben's place in it.

Max encouraged me to do one more revision of the sketch however, to move some of the elements around, and, if possible, to include the dog.  He told me not to worry too much about it not being a "real" moment from the story.  He said, "It's nice to have a dog on the cover!"

I was so burned out at this point, it was really hard to make another sketch.  I kept moving elements around, but everything felt arbitrary.  I kept starting new sketches until eventually I had four going at once!

That one in the bottom right finally developed into the final sketch.  I taped it to my drawing board and sat with it for a few days, making little adjustments here and there.  Then, finally I penciled it.

Honestly, it was such a crazy process getting to this point, I can't even tell if I like this cover.  Going through so many steps really took a lot of wind out of my sail.  I can only hope that it is a stronger cover than my first early attempts, because those would have been the ones I went with as a self-publisher.  Anyway, it is what it is!  No turning back!  Next week I'll show you the inked version.

This weekend is the MoCCA Arts Fest in New York City!  I'll be at table M11 (along the back wall) with my good buddy Jon Chad. Claire and my sister Galen will also be there, so it should be a lot of fun.  If you are in the area, swing on by!  I'll have all five chapters of Basewood for sale, and a new Drop Target zine to boot!

April 18, 2012

Basewood Cover Design: Part 5

Thanks to everyone who voted on the various Basewood cover designs!  As I mentioned last week, I also had all of my students vote on the designs.  They each listed their top three picks, so I awarded three points for their first pick, two points for their second pick and one point for their third pick.  Here were the results:

  • First Years: #1 - Silhouette (40 pts)  #2 - Fire (20 pts)  #3 - Skullz (16 pts)
  • Seniors: #1 - Silhouette (34 pts)  #2 - TIE! Fire/Skullz (15 pts ea.)  #3 - Snow (10 pts)

It was pretty cool seeing how both classes had pretty much the same opinions.  Each voting session was also accompanied by a lively debate about the various merits of each design.  Again, as a self-publisher I have only ever been concerned with creating what I think is the best image for a book, so it was interesting to discuss things like marketing concerns.  For instance, some of my female students pointed out that if I put Caren on the cover, more women would be likely to buy the book.

It was great getting all of this detailed feedback, but at the end of the day, the opinion that mattered most was that of my publisher, L'employ√© du Moi.  I sent them the same voting sheet and they selected the four covers they liked the most:

  • Cliff, Silhouette, Fire, Snow

Again, it felt great that their picks were in line with the student choices.  This gave me confidence that no matter which design I picked from these four, it would make a successful cover image.  I was asked to make a few tweaks to the compositions, so I did one last round of sketches based on the four selections:

Next week I'll finally reveal the "chosen" design and then I'll start showing my process for making the finished art.

April 11, 2012

Basewood Cover Design: Part 4

So far we have seen my first cover idea and then the subsequent first and second rounds of colored sketches.  I've got to admit, as a self-publisher I do not usually go through this many rounds of edits for anything, and at this point in the process I was feeling a little burned out.  After pages and pages of thumbnails and ten sketches, I was finding it hard to come up with new ideas.

So that's when I called Aaron Renier.  I have learned so many things from Aaron over the years, it's not even funny.  He is without a doubt one of the most talented creative people I have ever met and I feel so lucky that he is one of my friends.  He also has very dynamic compositions in his illustration work and I thought he might be able to help me out of this particular rut.  I sent him the sketches I had so far and he gave me two excellent pieces of advice:

1) Stop doing your sketches in color!  Color makes the ideas seem too finished and when editors/publishers are looking at them, it's easier for them to dismiss the idea altogether instead of seeing it as a group of components which can be edited, moved around or combined with other ideas.

2) Only design the front cover!  The front cover is what will be seen online, or on a book shelf (if you are lucky!), so it should be designed as an independent unit.  I was letting the back cover designs influence my front cover decisions, which were leading things astray.

This advice seems so obvious!  In fact, I have even given this same advice to others before!  Oh well, I couldn't see it until Aaron pointed it out to me, and I was glad that he did!  We also talked a lot about Basewood and he encouraged me to somehow get the dragon on the cover, because "dragons are cool."  Truer words have never been spoken!

So!  I took all the sketches I had made so far and 1) eliminated the color and 2) cropped out the back covers.  I then created four new dragon-themed sketches and made a handout with all of the sketches (click to view bigger):
I showed this group of sketches to my design students at CCS as well as the seniors and had them vote on their favorites.  The final cover design has already been selected, but if you would like, dear reader, you may also vote for your top three favorite designs in the comment section below.  Next week we'll see which were the most popular designs!

April 4, 2012

Basewood Cover Design: Part 3

So far we've seen my very first idea for the Basewood cover and a second round of ideas, which were still trying to show as little of the story as possible.  At this point in the cover design process, I gave up on trying to hide all of the story surprises; anything was fair game!

Up until now, I was composing ideas off the top of my head, but those ideas were running out.  So before I dove into the next round of thumbnails and sketches, I took a trip to the Schulz Library to look at a bunch of book covers.  Whenever I saw one that I thought was interesting, I snapped a photo with my cell phone.  I also took a lap around to grab some book covers from the same genre as Basewood (Adventure/Fantasy).  I compiled the best of these images into a contact sheet which I printed out and taped to my drawing board:

Inspired by these compositions, I dove into another round of sketches, which I tried to make more dynamic and exciting.  Once again, I colored the sketches, mostly because I was having a hard time imagining how these images from Basewood (which is in black and white) would work in color.


I really liked the idea of the inset frame in the first drawing, but the guys at L'employ√© du Moi thought it was too complicated.  As for the rest of these drawings, they thought they were heading in the right direction, but that I could push them a bit farther.  So it was back to the drawing board yet again!

So next week we'll see how far I can push these designs.  Also, with a little help from my friends, I will correct some serious mistakes that I have been making so far!