On May 11th 2010 I was sent this short comic about Lewis and Clark in THE BOTTLE of THUNDER! This short comic became NATHAN HALE’S HAZARDOUS TALES.
LIVE OAK, WITH MOSS
By Walt WhitmanIllustrator Brian SelznickAfterword by Karen Karbiener
As he was turning forty, Walt Whitman wrote twelve poems in a small handmade book he entitled “Live Oak, With Moss.” The poems were intensely private reflections on his attraction to and affection for other men. They were also Whitman’s most adventurous explorations of the theme of same-sex love, composed decades before the word “homosexual” came into use. This revolutionary, extraordinarily beautiful and passionate cluster of poems was never published by Whitman and has remained unknown to the general public—until now. New York Times bestselling and Caldecott Award–winning illustrator Brian Selznick offers a provocative visual narrative of “Live Oak, With Moss,” and Whitman scholar Karen Karbiener reconstructs the story of the poetic cluster’s creation and destruction. Walt Whitman’s reassembled, reinterpreted Live Oak, With Moss serves as a source of inspiration and a cause for celebration.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Walt Whitman is one of the most beloved poets in American letters, best known for his Leaves of Grass. Brian Selznick is the New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, among many other beloved books for children. Live Oak, with Moss is his first book for adults. He lives in Brooklyn and San Diego. Karen Karbiener is a Whitman scholar at New York University. She lives in Manhattan.
Kevin Cornell's first character sketches for both Miles and Niles
First thing we need to work on is getting the characters just right. Can you tell who Miles and Niles are inspired by? Mac and Jory. At the bottom is the illustrator extraordinaire and grass eater Kevin Cornell. (sketches by Kevin Cornell)
Here Kevin tightens his sketches into more of a final form. Yep, he still loves grass!
Once the characters where worked out Kevin worked up a slew of different compostions. Above is one of the first that I received
After almost 2 years of exploration and concepts we revealed
to an audience of more than 1 million fans worldwide,
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOUBLE DOWN
is the title of the eleventh book in the blockbuster series, which will publish 11/1/16
I can't believe THE HATERS is now in the world for all of you to read. A little less than a year ago Maggie, Susan, Michael, Will and I were working on the cover design, fresh off the redesigned cover for Jesse Andrews bestselling Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
With Me and Earl we established a new author look for Jess: strong bold color, simple and evocative (and funny!) graphics, adult appeal for his crossover audience. But with any series I believe you really begin to understand how your series branding will work on the second book. What works, what doesn't and where you can push each book to be distinct from the last.
A NOTE FROM JESSE ANDREWS:
CWB: Jesse, before the book was delivered to ABRAMS did you have something in mind for the cover image?
JA: With Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, I learned that my instincts for book covers are pretty terrible. I wanted something kind of aggressively depressing, because in the abstract that seemed like a funny and interesting choice to me for a funny book. So I described a hypothetical cover to Maggie Lerhman and it turned out to be—in addition to wildly unappetizing to everyone at ABRAMS—the cover of a book that already existed. That book was about the Columbine shootings.
So this time around I pretty much didn't even let myself imagine what the cover would be because I knew you and Will would come up with some great ideas and I wanted to be open to them. And you did!
So . . . where do you begin?
The story, is a good place to start. I like to break down the story into simple concepts first. The Haters is about music, love, friendship, and freedom as three young musicians following a quest to escape the law long enough to play the amazing show they hope (but also doubt) they have in them.
Phew! alot of stuff to work with. So how do we focus? First, hire the best designer you know who is also most familiar with Jesse's work: Will Staehle. He designed Me and Earl and the Dying Girl The next step, talk to him about images that evoke music, band, love, friendship, road trip and freedom.
WHEN YOU CAN FIND SOMETHING TO HATE ABOUT EVERY BAND,
HOW DO YOU MAKE A SOUND YOU LOVE?
Below are Will's first round designs. Below each are Will's notes describing what we are seeing. These are the exact notes that he sent me to explain what he was going for. I have also included my immediate take on the comps and the book concept captured.
I have also include my immediate take on the comps in addition to the subject that the comps fell under.
WILL STAEHLE: Roadtrip under a "black-cloud" made of cassette tape guts.
CWB: ROAD TRIP : FREEDOM : I love the Wes Anderson vibe in these road trip comps
WILL STAEHLE: Rock star as pin-cushion / glutton for punishment.
CWB: FRIENDSHIP: Weird and graphic. let's take another look and see if we can make the figure more recognizable as a voodoo doll.
WILL STAEHLE: Bass guitar with three heads of our main characters as the "tuning keys" Could be gold ink or gold foil.
CWB: BAND: Not that exciting.
WILL STAEHLE: Amps bursting into flames felt comical, yet appropriate for the tough luck of our first time touring band.
CWB: BAND: Super interesting and GRAPHIC! but I think we want to cover to be funny like EARL
WILL STAEHLE: All-type solution. Neon-inspired like some of the venues they approach. Central icon is a "NO" sign with added x'd out eyes to create a crooked / smug sort of
CWB: UH? : Too red light disctrict.
WILL STAEHLE: List of band names they go through before settling on The Haters.
CWB: BAND: Interesting but might make a better title page design.
WILL STAEHLE: Being in a band is hard. Like a microphone with brass knuckles adhered to it.
CWB: BAND : I think I am just impressed by Will's rendering of the most bad ass microphone you will see. Henry Rollins would love this! But might be too aggressive for the market.
WILL STAEHLE: Abstract angry face made of amp knobs and a pair of headphones. Kind of a weird cover, but I included it anyways.
CWB: BAND : MUSIC : FRIENDSHIP: Funny! But what's with the big red dot. Reminds me of Mr. Yuck.
WILL STAEHLE: X'd out famous musicians/ May have to check on legality of this.
CWB: BAND: I fell in love with this idea immediately! I thought it was fresh, edgy and obviously graphic which was in line with the EARL approach. But could we do this legally? Time to ask some questions! In the meantime, we looked at more comps . . .
WILL STAEHLE: A "No" sign made up of musical iconography.
CWB: BAND: Meh! Not sure about this one.
WILL STAEHLE: Spoof of Velvet Underground cover. But it's an "unripe" banana since the haters are so "green" and young.
WILL STAEHLE: Spoof of Pink Floyd. But with goofy little musical triangle in the center and Spoof of Elvis cover and Clash cover.
CWB: BAND : I love these spoofs! So well executed but not really the vibe of the book in keeping with the series design for Jesse.
WILL STAEHLE: Teen made of headphone cord, with grumpy icon on headset
CWB: BAND : MUSIC : FRIENDSHIP: Well done, but kind a boring though but I dig teh headphones design.
WILL STAEHLE: Old beat-up tape with "hand-written" text.
CWB: BAND : Cool but just too retro
ABOVE: Here we have the 1st round concepts that we felt should be explored more.
ROUND 2 :
We tweak them!
In round 2 we spend time exploring a few compsfrom above to see .
ABOVE: We narrow down further
ROUND 3: Refinement
Until one direction comes forward from the others.
But more changes are needed. We cut some faces for more impact and immediate recognition.
But we felt we'd gotten too far away from, simple graphic on the EARL cover. And maybe this direction was too angry. Not funny and warm as the interior of the book.
So back to the drawing board.
BELOW: Are concepts that directly play off of the Me and Earl and the Dying Girl cover
But, these approaches were maybe too warm, not edgy, funny, "cool" enough.
Now is where Will and I started spit-balling completely new approaches. Our deadline was approaching fast . . . no pressure!
BELOW: The red dot Mr. Yuck face was funny, edgy and cool. But I passed over in the first round because the red dot face was off-putting and it didn't make any sense at the time. In the begin we were so focused on being edgy we forgot it was okay to be funny.
A few very quick tweaks to the design started to bring a simpler idea foward.
Finally, we had it! A cover that looked amazing next to EARL and was funny, edgy, bright, warm and cool. And it conveyed music, bands, and the emotions of complicated relationships, ie any meaningful friendship. We LOVED IT!
A NOTE FROM JESSE ANDREWS:
CWB: Now that we have a cover what do you think of the end results?
JA: It's terrific. Very simple, eye-catching, funny but kind of elegant at the same time. I loved the Xed out faces and was a little sad when we pivoted away from them, but the final idea is even better. The SPINAL TAP reference (the amp dials go to 11) is sly and not overdone. And the bass on the case design! Oh my God, that thing is beautiful. It makes me want to retire a little bit. Just in the name of going out on top.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Next to The Haters.
FLAPS and ENDPAPERS
Drawing is Magic was awarded the silver medal for art direction and illustration at this year's annual Illustrators 58 exhibition from the Society of Illustrators. The award was announced at the opening reception for the exhibition on Friday night, with author, illustrator and creative genius John Hendrix and myself on hand to accept the award.
The Illustrators 58 exhibition features works by leading contemporary illustrators worldwide, selected by a prestigious jury of professionals. The exhibit will be on display February 3 through February 27 throughout the entire Society of Illustrators building (128 E. 63rd St, NYC).
Drawing is Magic has also been selected as a winner in Communication Arts Magazine's Illustration Annual competition, and will be featured in a dedicated spread in the May/June 2016 issue of Communication Arts (circ. 36,000), a professional journal for designers, art directors, design firms, corporate design departments, agencies, illustrators, photographers and everyone involved in visual communications. Drawing is Magic was selected from 3,973 entries. More info in the attached press release.
BRYAN COLLIER TAKES HOME A CALDECOTT HONOR AND THE CORETTA SCOTT KING AWARD FOR TROMBONE SHORTY!!!
TROMBONE SHORTY by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Brian Collier wins ABRAMS first Caldecott award ever, the silver medal, as well as the Coretta Scott King gold illustration award.
Tamar Brazis ( Editor ), Bryan Collier ( Illustrator ), Troy " Trombone Shorty" Andrews ( Author ), Chad W. Beckerman ( Creative Director/ Designer )
An incredibly cool moment... Mnsgr. Gallagher, who translated Wimpy Kid into Latin, hands the first copy to the Pope!
I have no idea how to write this post….
This is the story of Me and Will and the Revised Cover.
Every book whether you are the reader or, in my case, the art director, becomes part of your life. Jesse Andrews’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl left a big impression on me. The experience of working on the original cover was a deeply personal one, though just how personal I didn’t realize until I was asked to redo the cover for a new edition.
When we heard the news that Earl had become a film that was taking Sundance by storm, I was so proud. I loved the book and felt we had given it a really great cover. But success means change and the change that was coming was coming fast . . . From on high came the idea to update the cover to broaden the audience for the book. I was resistant. We had just three weeks to get a new cover to press and I had no clue what it should look like. I knew “broaden the audience” was code for making it look more adult, but that’s all I knew. But the impossible schedule and the lack of specific direction weren’t the real reasons I was resistant. I was personally attached to the old cover (below) in ways I was just realizing.
There are days that stick out in your memory. A particular day in the summer of 2011 sticks out in mine. My father was visiting me in Brooklyn, something he rarely had the chance to do.
He and my brothers were driving around, checking out colleges, and had stopped over in Brooklyn for a quick visit. I made the most of the time and walked my family around my neighborhood. This was hard for my father since his diabetes made it difficult for him to walk for long periods of time. Most of the conversation that day centered around colleges, baseball, and pizza, until I got an email from Ben Wiseman.
Ben was the designer I had hired to work on the Me and Earl cover above. He had several comps he had worked up that I needed to respond to right away. This gave me the opportunity to take my dad through the book-cover-making process in real time. I went over the problems Ben and I were trying to solve. To show three characters. To keep it graphic. To show a setting. To keep it light though the book is about a girl dying…. I talked to my dad about what was working in Ben’s comps and what wasn't. Coming from a sales background, my father had lots of questions about who the book was for and how to get someone to pick it up if they didn't usually buy books. (I am still working on the answer to that latter question—we all are!) My dad wasn't much of a reader himself but said that if a book looked "entertaining" he would pick up. I try to keep that in mind on every project I work on to this day!
Here is an old post on the lengthy evolution of the original ME and EARL cover, which I worked on with editor Maggie Lehrman:
But it was on this particular day with my dad that all the pieces Maggie, Ben, and I had been juggling came together to form the original cover. It was also the last day I would see my father alive. Six months later he died from a heart attack.
So I wanted to save that old cover. There was thought that the characters on the cover made the book look younger.
OH, that's all? Okay, I can do that . . .
EH!? Not so much.
The memories of that day and my dad’s advice about making it “entertaining” had stayed with me. The cover stripped of characters wasn’t entertaining! But now how was I going to separate my very personal attachment to the old cover from the need to direct a new one. GUH!
So I am battling my own reluctance, a project with no clear direction, and a crazy deadline. How was I going to make this happen? There was only one thing to do . . . don't do it alone . . . it was time to call . . .
Will and I had worked together on three previous books. He’d given them a ton of great, creative approaches. I sent Will a summary of the story, reviews, Sundance reviews, and the movie trailer.
Art Director: Chad Beckerman : So let's recap, what is ME and EARL and the DYING GIRL about?
Here’s the summary, written by editor Maggie Lehrman:
"Up until senior year, Greg has maintained total social invisibility. He only has one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time—when not playing video games and avoiding Earl’s terrifying brothers— making movies, their own versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics. Greg would be the first one to tell you his movies are f*@$ing terrible, but he and Earl don’t make them for other people. Until Rachel.
Rachel has leukemia, and Greg’s mom gets the genius idea that Greg should befriend her. Against his better judgment and despite his extreme awkwardness, he does. When Rachel decides to stop treatment, Greg and Earl must abandon invisibility and make a stand. It’s a hilarious, outrageous, and truthful look at death and high school.
Publisher Susan Van Metre: Here is what the cover needs to convey: that this is the funniest book you'll ever read about someone dying, but that it's really not about someone dying. It's about someone being forced to come alive. It's a kind of exquisitely funny and painful high school rebirth story
I’ll let Will describe his response:
Designer: Will Staehle: When Chad reached out to me about designing Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, I had just recently read about the new film (and it's impressive debut at Sundance). So I was more than happy to take the project on. That said, the cover schedule was a bit accelerated due to that very same Sundance buzz! I read through the book in one sitting, and really enjoyed the characters, the mood, and tone of it all. It's such an accessible book. It makes you think, cringe, and laugh all the way through. The book is also full of great visuals and scenes, so there was plenty of fun imagery to pull from.
This cover was certainly a balancing act. Chad had asked me to try and walk the fine-line between funny and sad. Now that's difficult enough…. Add to that a request to also balance the jacket between YA and adult and you have one very challenging assignment
Art Director Chad Beckerman: We ran through a bevy of options. I quite liked the sock puppet comps, some of the various pillow comps, and the not-quite-right-for-the-book but visually fun double face/vase optical illusion.
1: I liked the idea of the two faces ( Me, Earl ) and the flowers for the dying girl Perhaps too serious / severe, but I liked the look of it.
2: I thought the idea of the movie award-like laurel frames was a nice ode to the movie, and the movie making in the book, and the dying ones added a nice second glance sort of design wink to the cover, and reference to the story.
3-4: Pencil / eraser alludes to the school element / main characters ages and the loss.
5-6: Straight type treatment through a camcorder framework.
7: This started as a a diagram, and morphed into the three main roles.
8-9: The obligatory "movie" concept and a take on the Movie rating screen before films. Turned vertically.
10-11: The three main characters as sock puppets
12: Pillow comps. I think this is a pretty interesting cover, the large "blank space" in the middle of the jacket makes it memorable.
13: A "sad clown" cover. Referencing our main character's role as the "anonymous" student early in the book, and the personal "clown" to the dying girl.
20: A semi-random comp referencing Me, and Earl's friendship originally based around video games. ( I liked the two heart and a bomb concept. )
Publisher Susan Van Metre: Hey, I think we are closer than you think. I think what we like about the pencil option is that the type in addition to that one small "prop," the pencil, tells a story. The type looks like pencil writing--great. That tells us that someone is being creative. The pencil has an eraser. The "Dying Girl" part of the type is being erased. That tells us that the creator is uncertain of his work, as well as telling us that someone is dying and that the book is cheeky about it. In fact, I might be talking myself into that version!
Publisher Susan Van Metre: I think a type-forward cover is absolutely right I just wouldn't rule out the "type" being made from an object or being accompanied by a small prop--like the pencil or a reel of film or a pillow--to help the type tell a story. This book isn't about Greg and Earl and Rachel being different sorts of people, which just using different fonts for each would convey. It is about Greg being too wimpy about himself and life to truly connect with others via friendship or his work. He's creative and funny but disconnected. The type definitely shouldn't be all connected!
I like the Nick Hornby's, below, because part of Fever Pitch is made from a soccer scarf and is kicking a soccer ball. High Fidelity is made from headphones. The A Long Way Down type looks like buildings. They are mostly type but communicate some aspect of the story via the form of the type or a prop.
So, let's ask Will to work more on the pencil option he gave us. Could he also do something with a reel of film where it is spliced or shredded as it winds it way through the words of the titles. Or could Me/Earl/Dying girl each appear on a cell of the film but with one in color, one in black/white, one in sepia? Could he try the title as dialogue in a script but their names are in color so they stand out? Let’s see more options!
Designer Will Staehle: This is what I came up with to address Susan's comments above
Art Director Chad Beckerman: Somewhere in between all of the above comps I was working on other approaches in case Will's comps didn't work out. I normally never take this approach but after talking with Will we decide in the interest of time it was best to cover all the bases. So I started working on type driven covers.
ABOVE: Ben Wiseman designed in 2011 for the hardcover edition. I thought it was worth resurrecting.
Art Director : Chad Beckerman: But in the end there was one clear Will winner that kept making every cut. A cover that was serious yet funny. A cover that would appeal to both the core young adult audience and adults. I give you this final revised Me and Earl and the Dying Girl cover
Oh wait! Its not as funny as I was hoping. What can we do to fix that?
Ah! That's much better.
Working on this project with Will and Susan has changed the way I work and what I thought I was capable of. I learned a lot from letting go, even of work that was very special to me. I am proud of the collaborative work that we did on this new cover, and in a very short period of time. I think my Dad would have been proud of what we came up with: I believe it’s a book he would’ve picked up.
Follow JOHN HENDRIX's Drawing is Magic adventures on Tumblr
ABOVE: A few quick doodles by me.
Illustrator Chris Sickles of Red Nose Studio and his son Otto “Build-A-Beast” on pages 114-115 of Drawing Is Magic. You know his work from his amazing kids books and editorial illustrations.
Every morning has its rituals. Scrolling through INSTRAGRAM is one of mine. On a spring morning a year or so ago I was scrolling through the daily photos with Rachel Poloski before starting the day. She was following Jared Chapman and came across the image below. I had known of his work previously but had not been following him on Instagram until the day I saw a broccoli awkwardly placing on his red underwear.
I mean come on! Amazing right? Psst . . . the answer is YES!
I am always asked where do you find illustrators? I usually will say artist reps, society of Illustrators annuals, postcards and good old fashion research but now I can say Instagram. It's and amazing resource as an artist and art director. I love seeing artists process and finals. Not to mention the amazing access I have to see your work without having to do that much beside clicking follow.
I immediately started showing the image around the office and started working on a book concept. How to turn this one hilariously weird image into a book was the task in front of us. After several hilarious fully clothed conversations with Jared we had something. Below is Jared sketches and then final layouts for VEGETABLES in UNDERWEAR
ABOVE: First color character sketch.
As you can see Broccoli is much different that in the sketch. We all agreed he didn't look right.
CWB: Hi Jared!
CWB: This is the part of the blog where you tell us a little about what it was like to work on Vegetables in Underwear. Are you ready!?
JC: Yes, here is my big takeaway from working on this book (Which I've continued to use since):
My agent (Rebecca Sherman, Writers House) and I brainstormed ideas for the book and, once we had a general direction that we liked, I started putting pencil to paper. In the past I tended to work at a slower pace but in all of the excitement of the moment, I decided to try a different approach and work as fast as I possibly could. In hindsight, it paid off in two ways:
1. It kept the pacing and the energy of the story lively.
2. It didn't give me time to sit around and over complicate things.
We revised the dummy a couple of times and once we felt it was in good shape, we sent it over to Chad and Cecily. The quick pace carried over into production and the book- from manuscript edits to final art- was finished in a matter of weeks.
We finished the MS and interior art in a couple of months, right?
CWB: I think so. You where so fast and excited. Much like Pea.
JC: It seemed like it, but I couldn't remember exactly.
I'm usually very critical of my stuff, but this book is just silly and fun. From start to finish it was so much fun to work on. I think part of that was because of the silliness of the book but a larger part was because of you and Cecily. The two of you made the whole process exciting and enjoyable.
CWB: One last question, who is your favorite Veggie character? Mine is Pea. That kid is so much fun and perhaps should lay off the caffeine.
JC: Sheesh! Hard question. Probably broccoli just because I feel like I know him better since I've illustrated and animated him the most. But pea is a very, very, VERY close second because, how can you not love that guy, right?
ABOVE: The first color sketch of radish. We loved all the great color Jared worked up but I felt that there was too much color. I wanted to try and limit the color to only the Vegetables and the type. My hope was that we could use color to directly link the illustration and type.
Better! But now all the underwear is too boring. GUH!
More exciting for sure, but by having the underwear more detailed they started to look like pants and really lost what I loved about the simple underwear design that was in the first INSTAGRAM image I saw.
IT'S A POTTY TRAINING book with out a potty! Underwear EMPOWERMENT!
ABOVE: Rough layout sketch
So we simplified the underwear down to color. A line at the top is for girls and the flap line down the middle is for boys.
ABOVE: Final design
ABOVE: Front endpaper design. Wait! All our vegetable friends are sad? What will make them happy?
ABOVE: Back endpaper design. Phew! They love wearing just there underwear. Well except Potato and Pea. Oh Pea!
So what is Vegetables in Underwear about? Well, I’ll tell ya . . .a bunch of friendly vegetables wear colorful underwear of all varieties—big, small, clean, dirty, serious, and funny—demonstrating for young ones the silliness and necessity of this item of clothing. The unexpectedness of vegetables in their unmentionables is enough to draw giggles, but the pride with which the “big kid” attire is flaunted in front of the baby carrots in diapers will tickle readers of all ages. With rhyming text that begs to be chanted aloud and art that looks good enough to eat, this vibrant story will encourage preschoolers to celebrate having left those diapers behind!
LINK to Book Page: VEGETABLES in UNDERWEAR
Last summer Bryan Collier was working away on the art for Trombone Shorty. Here he stops by my office to go over his sketches with editor Tamar Brazis and I.
It's been awhile since my last Cover evolution post after reading this blog you might forgive me. Usually, I give a couple short phrase about how each stage progressed. This post is a little different. Senior Editor
will guide us through the cover evolution of
by Corinne Duyvis So let's get started.
First things first your need to know a little about the story.
Amara is never alone. Not when she’s protecting the cursed princess she unwillingly serves. Not when they’re fleeing across dunes and islands and seas to stay alive. Not when she’s punished, ordered around, or neglected.
She can’t be alone, because a boy from another world experiences all that alongside her, looking through her eyes.
Nolan longs for a life uninterrupted. Every time he blinks, he’s yanked from his Arizona town into Amara’s mind, a world away, which makes even simple things like hobbies and homework impossible. He’s spent years as a powerless observer of Amara’s life. Amara has no idea . . . until he learns to control her, and they communicate for the first time. Amara is terrified. Then, she’s furious.
All Amara and Nolan want is to be free of each other. But Nolan’s breakthrough has dangerous consequences. Now, they’ll have to work together to survive—and discover the truth about their connection.
So now let's hear from Maggie Lerhman, Senior Editor:
is an incredibly original book, unlike anything I’d read before. It has interweaving perspectives, male and female POVs, a “normal” Arizona world and a “fantasy” world of the Dunelands, and characters that cross back and forth between them. The incredibly original can be tough to conceptualize in a book cover, since they tend not to have easy comparisons—and Chad and I found to be true in this case. We wanted to get across the idea of seeing the world through someone else’s eyes, and the general concept that there would be two worlds. But pretty much the rest of the cover was up in the air.
The first few comps that Chad and our designer Sara Corbett came up with tried a photographic/typographic approach. We liked the idea of having one eye open/one eye closed, but these felt a little slick, and they didn’t get across the strangeness and the seriousness of the central concept.
Then Sara and Chad came up with these, which were definitely more mysterious and very striking. Eyes are a natural thing to focus on—Corinne’s original title for the book was
. But in the end we felt there was something cold about these.
Our publisher expressed the problem concisely: These feel like science fiction, and we wanted to get across more of a sense of the magic and the fantastical.
By this point, we realized we needed to start from scratch…
but we’d spent a lot of time on what we’d done already, and our Advance Reader Copies were due to the printer. This was a crucial deadline so that booksellers and reviewers could start reading and talking about Corinne’s amazing book in advance of publication. We hate to have to print an ARC with a non-final cover, but sometimes it happens, and in this case, it was unavoidable. But Chad and Sara made an effort to find a typeface that read more “fantasy.”
Some of these felt “fantasy,” but a much more medieval-style fantasy that what Corinne had written. The Dunelands are a gritty, rough-edged world. There’s magic, but it’s an earthy, painful strain of magic, not a gowns-and-potions magic. The gothic feel of that type didn’t fit in with how I had pictured that world. Plus it didn’t hint at Nolan’s real-world environment at all—which is half of the book. We eventually went with this blocky interconnected type, which felt to me as if it had been carved out of stone.
We liked that type for the ARC, but for the final cover, we wanted a more evocative image to go with it. Chad put together this sketch. The idea is from the book: it’s the magical tattoo that servants wear in the Dunelands, with some actual dunegrass below. Something about this didn’t feel right, though. Perhaps it was too mechanical-looking. After all, this is a book that’s very concerned with its protagonists’ bodies—who’s in control, who’s in pain, who gets a say.
( psst, its Chad, At this point in the process I felt a bit lost and tired but not defeated. I wasn't super happy with this direction but it felt right at the time. Mainly because I think it was different than what we had been doing. Which doesn't mean it was the right direction. )
So finally Chad suggested we approach an illustrator he’d worked with before (on the absolutely gorgeous Megan Whalen Turner Attolia covers), Vince Natale.
(CHAD: I had been waiting to work with Vince again and this was the perfect fit for him. It just took me awhile to figure that out. Thankfully the idea of using Vince was conceived.)
We had total confidence that Vince could bring the fantasy feel to this cover while also introducing compelling characters. He sent several sketches of composition options, all with that old gothic font we’d toyed with for the ARC. Chad took our favorite composition and combined it with the more blocky interconnected type we liked so much in the ARC and Vince went to final.
And now I’ll let Vince take over to discuss some of his process!
These sketches are my effort to work out details of how to handle the imagery at the bottom of the cover art to include in my tight sketch. I needed to show the separate and differing environments each of the protagonists of the book inhabited - one a typical suburban southwestern U.S. neighborhood, and the other a mysterious, magic filled seaside world.
I needed somehow to meld the two together visually, but keep them separate at the same time. I decided that the best way to do this was to draw them on the same plane at similar sizes and commingle some physical elements, and then make the point of them being separate worlds through the use of color.
In the top sketch I felt that there was too much detail in the 'neighborhood' scene, and that the size of the house was too "in your face", and the composition not fluid enough.
In the bottom sketch I felt that I got more of a 'feel' for the environment neighborhood scene -more houses and more obvious mountains in the background and not so much explicit detail.
The castle, though, I found had gotten a bit fidgety and detailed, and the silhouette didn't really scream 'castle' - it looks like ti could be some kind of medieval village. (which might have worked but that wasn't the plan.)
So, I combined the castle from the top sketch with the neighborhood from the bottom and that seemed to hit the mark.
In the completed tight sketch these elements were refined and modified slightly; In the final painting, even a little more -but those were really just details, such as grasses in the foreground to balance out the composition.
This is the underpainting - the first step in the painting process of the final artwork. It's a thin layer of paint applied on top of a very detailed line drawing on canvas or primed board.
This helps to loosely establish the basic color and value patterns as a guide for the top layer of paint.
Here you can see the breakdown of three distinct color sections - warm, orange-brown for the Southwestern feel, cool, silvery-grey for a mysterious mood, and both blending to violet towards the top representing the vast space between the two worlds.
This color scheme developed in my head as I was working through all the preliminary sketches so I had a good idea of where I wanted to go with color.Many times I"ll do color sketches for myself when I'm not sure what the best way to handle something is, if it hasn't just "come to me", or if a client requests one. It's hard doing color sketches for clients though, because most times my color sketches are what I call "failures" -a series of color messes that show me what I DON'T want to do. Also, many times they're simply color swatches that I find look good together, not always little mini versions of the final art. For this piece I gave the art director written notes of my intentions, and for this particular project it worked out well.
And so at least here’s the final over of
. For the finished book, we printed the type in spot UV so that it pops from the matte background. We’re very happy with the way it turned out and think it conveys everything we need it to—the points of view, fantasy, characters’ bodies, warmth, roughness, etc. It was a long road but good things are worth waiting for.
And I do hope you’ll read
“Original and compelling; a stunning debut.”
“Numerous plot twists drive the story along, and it’s grounded in worldbuilding that creates a believable, authentic setting. Duyvis makes ingenious use of a fascinating premise.”
, starred review
“Duyvis creates a humdinger of an adventure that contains the agony of loyalty, the allure of magic, and, most gratifyingly, the element of surprise.”
The Horn Book Magazine
The virus turns Brian’s classmates and teachers into bloodthirsty attackers who don’t die easily. The whole school goes on lockdown, but Brian and his best friend, Chad, are safe (and stuck) in the theater department—far from Brian’s sister, Kenzie, and his ex-girlfriend with a panic attack problem, Laura. Brian and Chad, along with some of the theater kids Brian had never given the time of day before, decide to find the girls and bring them to the safety of the theater. But it won’t be easy, and it will test everything they thought they knew about themselves and their classmates.
Praise for SICK
"The gore and action will leave enthralled readers thrilled and then sated with each kill on either side."
|1st color attempt|
|Fully rendered bottom character|
|Back to a silo character|
|Now with more arm movement!|
|One last thing. Adding white to the type for the final design.|