Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Braxton Woods Mystique Cover Development: Part 2

This is the second of several posts about the creation of the cover art for my upcoming upper middle grade novel, Braxton Woods Mystique. Read the first post in this series here

final cover by Robyn Diaz
Every time I've written a novel I've approached it with the attitude that it would be published. I am, of course, not immune to crazy doubts and worries just like anyone else, but I still feel it's important to remain positive and have some measure of faith in what I am writing. I feel that if I do not believe strongly in my work, no one else will either. With this in mind, creating mock covers has always been a fun way for me to pass the downtime when I'm percolating ideas between writing sessions. Dreaming ahead to what a cover might look like is great fun for me, and because I have art and design skills, it helps me to visualize the finished novel in my head. 

By the time everything fell into place for Braxton Woods Mystique, I had already collected so many ideas for my cover that I decided to take on the design myself, rather than use my publisher. I'm grateful to have had that option, because the process has been a remarkable journey. And the creative process took on a whole new meaning once I knew the book would actually be published. 
An early photo manipulation of mine that started to morph into a possible cover.

As time went on, I created more and more designs to solidify the ideas floating around in my head. When working on graphic design projects, I love creating many variations of similar ideas—I learned this from a Andy Warhol documentary—and then trying as best I can to forget them. Once a work of art is created and partially or completely forgotten, then I can see it fresh again, as if it was not my own. That allows me to be more critical of it. I find this is much easier with writing than it is with art, but if I produce a lot of designs quickly I can then come back a few days later and pour over them with a more critical eye. 
Below are many of the cover designs I had originally created for Braxton Woods Mystique, some even before I knew the book would be published. I used mostly photographic material for these designs and sometimes manipulated images in various apps or programs to give them a certain quality or create a mood. 

After coming back to these various designs I pressed on, but I was beginning to have doubts that I should be doing my own cover. To my most critical self, most if not all of the designs I was creating felt flat. The designs lacked the whimsical, child-like quality that I felt a middle grade book should have. So I decided that an illustration would help solve that problem. However, another problem quickly took its place. I have a background in illustration. I could certainly sketch, draw, and create my own cover if need be. But I wasn't sure I was the right artist for the job. My "style" of art is very specific and often on the oddball end of the spectrum. It's also very recognizable to those who are familiar with my work. 
One of my own pieces of art from 2013.
After some back and forth in my head, I concluded that I needed a fresh perspective to bring my cover ideas to life. This conclusion felt right to me and had me thinking of the "Art of..." film books that first got me excited about art as a kid. The work of many artists were usually included in the concept sketches of my favorite stories. The ideas were big enough for more then one point of view. After having written the entire book, I wanted an artist's style and thought process other than my own to help bring my cover idea to life. 

Luckily I know a lot of very talented artists, but my friend Robyn Diaz had the style that seemed most suitable for this project and could communicate with this young audience. When I finally contacted her, I knew I had done the right thing.

In my next post, I will conclude with Robyn's many concept sketches, the back and forth process we went through, and the wonderful cover that resulted. 
My initial cover sketch I provided
to my friend Robyn Diaz. 
Thanks for reading.