I am happy to share the process for creating the cover illustration of my upcoming book A CASTLE FULL OF CATS, due to be released in early 2015. Yes, it takes almost a year for a publisher to produce a book after the artwork is delivered. I’ll be doing lots of sneak previews during the year.
As you can see from my initial storyboard sketch, I envisioned the cover as a view looking out a window with cats watching the outdoor activities from the inside of the castle.
At the next stage, I created a more detailed cover sketch to focus on the queen’s “favorite” cat. I also depicted the cats and kittens in a much more active and playful role, indicating the queen and the king outside in the garden. And, I played with how the title of the book might fit on the cover illustration.
In the final cover sketch, I brought the queen’s cat closer to the center and looking directly at the reader while still allowing the queen and king to be seen through the window.
In creating the finished illustration for the cover, I wanted the window to really stand out, so I created a maroon wall in the background, actually painting it in acrylic over the watercolor painting to get a really solid effect, and because a dark, even color is so hard to create in watercolor! When I submitted the illustration, the editor and art director felt that it was too dark…
and suggested I make the wall pink…On the left is the revised cover, with the pink wall painted in acrylic on top of the maroon color. Yes, it was very time-consuming to paint around all those details. But we are not done yet! After giving the art to the designer, problems arose..
A note—The marketing folks asked that the title be changed. I coined the word “Castleful,” to indicate there were a ton of cats in the castle, and am very proud of it, but apparently anyone searching for a book with “castle” in the title would not find my book, so we had to split my word to “Castle Full.” Inside the book it is still “castleful,” read as one word, like “spoonful.”
The designer was having a very hard time making the type stand out against the background. The art directer even photoshopped the curtains to make it simpler, but is just looked too busy. When she and the editor approached me about making yet more changes, and major ones, to the artwork, I agreed that they were right. The cover was simply too busy, as you can see. I had to fix it!
I started with the full size digital image of the cover, because changing to a blue wall would not be easy. I really did not want to put a third coat of acrylic paint on that wall! SO, I started in Photoshop with my pink cover image. I duplicated the image as another layer and changed the whole picture to blue, and then painstakingly worked to combine the two layers into one. I painted a new window with a single sheer curtain in watercolor, below, no king and queen, and Photoshopped it in, so the type will hopefully read nicely on top of it.
Above is the final image with the blue wall. This final (I hope!) cover image is back with the designer. I am a bit sad that the king and queen can’t be seen outside, but feel the title reading well was the most important concern. And the cats are the stars of the book.
A week later….here is the (almost) final cover design. I love the new typeface the art director chose. Note the kitten kicking the word “of” in the title! The type color is still under discussion, but this is VERY close!
Below is a color option the art director and editor prefer:
I am pleased to announce that I just signed a contract with Eerdmans publishing for my proposed book project, THE GOLDEN KEY by George MacDonald. I will spend the next year (at least) working on 40-45 more scratchboard illustrations, and the book will hopefully be published in 2016. Here are a few examples of the scratchboard technique I am using to illustrate the story. This is a method I am thoroughly enjoying as this project advances.
Below is another scratchboard illustration for the book entitled Descent, which was also featured in the latest issue of SPECTRUM, a published book featuring the latest in fantasy art juried by professionals. It also recently won a SILVER AWARD from Infected By Art online art competition.