Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dear Artist - Getting Started and Training for being a cover artist

Dear Artist,
How did you become interested in doing cover art? How did you get started?
Curious To Know
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Dear Curious,
I originally started out doing cover art with my own books. I actually designed the cover for my first e-book, a short erotic story collection. I wanted to work with the publisher, but I shuddered at some of the covers. Knowing from being on lists that a lot of the time authors have little to know say in their covers, and with that particular publisher – no say, so when I was contacted with an acceptance of my work I told the publisher flat out that I wanted to design my own covers. I would provide the images and everything. Thankfully, they agreed.
After that, I went on to write longer stories, and moved to other publishers that already had cover art teams, and I basically had to take what was given to me. After a while, I felt confident enough in my sales to approach the primary publisher and say hey, I wouldn’t mind doing cover art for you – including doing my own covers. Luckily, I was able to provide a ‘sample’ cover, which was approved. From there, I took over doing my own covers for almost all of my releases. (Some however, are still with publishers that are not looking for new cover artists, have a set feel that they want to their covers, or so on.)
I also started working on covers for other authors at my primary publishing house, and from there, one of the cover artists became a good friend and asked me to start working on covers for another publisher (one that I am not with). I jumped at the chance.
I came to Books We Love because Jamie asked me if I would be interested in joining the team as a cover artist, since she knew I had the skills she was looking for in a cover artist.
I think what motivated me more than wanting to control everything (because that is apart of the appeal), is that my career field is very serious and intellectual. So cover art, and writing, gives me a creative outlet. I am a very tense person by nature, and I relax by working on graphics and either writing, or reading.
Hope that wasn't too long-winded of an answer for you!
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Dear Artist,
What training do you need to become a cover artist?
Curious To Know
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Dear Curious
Hello again!
There actually isn't any set required training. Rather it is just knowledge of graphics programs. Some publishers like artists to know how to work a program called Poser. What poser does is create 3D computer graphic images – people, places and things. When you see an image that looks like the one below, that is a poser image.

(This image is from a site called Pixel Delights that I found back in 2002 or 2003.
Not sure if the artist is still around any more or not.)
The Poser program has gained in popularity, and in graphic ability, over time. I lost my mind once and got the program and tried to use it, but I just couldn't get things to work out the way I wanted them to, so I stopped trying. But many artists do still use it, because they can create pretty much any images they can dream of.
Now, other publishers focus more on stock images, since they want their covers to have that realistic look. So for them, knowledge of a program like Adobe Photoshop or Jasc software’s Paint Shop Pro is a plus.
For myself, I use Photoshop, although I have dabbled a little bit in Paint Shop Pro from time to time. I know a cover artist who uses Paint Shop Pro almost exclusively and finds Photoshop to be difficult. It just depends on comfort level.
As for training – I haven’t had any. I just started playing around with graphics, working on things for my website and for my short story collections, and gradually got more and more confident with the program. I read a lot of tutorials, asked a lot of questions of friends in the field, and did a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for me. And I am still learning. Jude has often gotten emails from me saying flat out that what she is asking for is outside of my skill-set. So we modify things, or I just sit down with a good chunk of time and start playing with things until I learn that skill.
So really, anyone who is patient could theoretically teach themselves how to do cover art. It just depends on how motivated you are.
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If you have a question that you would like Dear Artist to answer, you can leave it in the comment section and it will be addressed soon.