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Friday, January 26, 2007


Cover art

Have you ever seen a cover illustration and thought, 'Hang on, that character face looks familiar. It looks like ... like ... why, it looks just like Jeremy Irons!'

Well, if you did, you were right. This is something you learn from working in a publishing company with tight budgets. The way it happens is this: a cover artist has to paint a picture that fits the description the editor has given him. He won't have read the book; he'll just know what the editor says about it. This will go as follows:

Character description: John - dark hair, dark eyes, genteel type, serious-looking, smartly-dressed, scar on left cheek, tall.

Now, the artist will find it easier to paint a convincing face if he has something to work from, but if he's on a limited budget, he can't use a real person. Hiring models is expensive. So what does he do? He'll pick up a magazine. Sometimes he'll vary the face a bit, but otherwise, you get Brad Pitt stepping down from a Victorian carriage, Cameron Diaz watching the Roundheads go past her window, David Boreanaz emerging from the trenches... It can be a bit surprising, but once you get into it, there's something fun about it. After all, 'who would you cast to play so-and-so' is a common game that gets played when it comes to fiction; in this case, the cover artist gets their bid in first.

Lol, no, I hadn't noticed. Although I did recognise the gargoyles on a friend's e-books as coming from Notre Dame.

I'm always amazed when I look at the cover art for Garth Nix's Lirael, as I'm convinced the artist must have read the book, even tho' that's contrary to the small amount of publishing wisdom I've acquired.
I'd always wondered about that! How those artists managed to make these characters ever-so-slightly like someone you're sure you've seen somewhere before... I thought it was some kind of subliminal marketing ploy though. I wonder what other tricks of the trade Kit knows but has yet to let on? :-)
Hmm, many I'm sure. But if we're patient enough, maybe she'll let a few more slip :D.

(Went into Waterstones #3 and Bareback paperbacks were face-out on the shelf. Unfortunately, it was the bottom shelf.)
Hehehe, I was just reading the post on Miss Snark about cover art and popped over to your site from your comment on her blog :)

It's interesting to hear your thoughts and experiences with cover art. Thanks for sharing.
It's all disturbingly reminiscent of those terrible paintings you get on the side of fairground rides.
An example...

Image pinching is also a common problem amongst a certain number of comic-book artists. Greg Land is perhaps the most blatantly lazy...
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