On the blog today I have Ravven, who is a book cover artist (among other things), out of Staffordshire, England.
She was very gracious and agreed to answer some questions about her job and the cover designing process.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your background. What did you study in college?
Actually, I didn’t go to college. 🙂 I’m a great believer in doing and learning for the love of it (obviously this doesn’t apply to vocations such as the medical profession!). I was all set to start my first year as an English major, planning to write, when I decided to just go travelling. I haven’t regretted it since.
The only thing I do regret in terms of my art is that I didn’t take art classes and actually learn how to draw properly. I do think it’s true that you have to find your personal path of creativity, but it helps to have a solid foundation of skills in place to jump off from.
My personal path kind of meandered through web design and web development, and I was lucky enough to work with a few art directors who generously shared tips and technique with a code monkey. I learned so much about layout, positioning, balance, etc., that I never would have learned on my own.
Over two years ago I left a job where I had been managing the web and SEO teams at a digital media company and went freelance. I’m so much poorer now, but much happier.
Can you describe the designing process? What does that entail and how long does it take? How do you involve the client?
The process goes from initial brief through rough mockups to a final image. I can’t stress enough how important a good brief is to the eventual success of a cover. I ask for descriptions of characters and the world that they live in, as well as information about the genre of book, the target market, and try to get an idea of what covers the author admires (or hates, just as useful). You never copy another cover, of course, but description is pretty subjective even for writers and using images allows you to get a much better idea of what they mean by words like: dark, lush, suspenseful, hard-edged, etc.
How does the process differ for illustrated covers?
I don’t do many illustrated covers (see my statement above about my unfortunate lack of proper drawing skills!). The handful of illustrated covers that I have done have involved initial sketches, which are then fleshed out into a full image. It’s very similar to the process that I use for photomontage covers, where watermarked stock is roughly composited together to give the author an idea of what the final image would look like. The image is then put together much more carefully with the high-res stock and the whole thing is overpainted with the correct detail: dress, hair, shadows, highlights.
Do you offer branding services to your clients? What does that involve?
I’ve offered advice in the past, but I don’t offer it as a service. It’s too similar to the corporate work that I was so glad to get out of – that is the same reason why I don’t do SEO or web work for clients. Obviously I could, but I didn’t want to go from designing and developing large-scale ecommerce and social networking sites to doing small sites for very little money.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about your job? What frustrates you and what excites you about this job?
My least favourite thing is looking at stock. On really tricky covers with a very specific brief I can spend a full day looking through thousands of images and at the end of the day have nothing. You’d be surprised how soul-destroying spending hours looking at beautiful people can be. 🙂
My favourite thing is being able to be a part of wonderful books, and to support the indie author community. When the partnership between author and artist really clicks it feels amazing, and you tend to come up with images that are far beyond what you would have come up with without that input and shared creativity.
Also, I absolutely love holding the physical books in my hands. I really do love it!
Can you talk about some of the books you’ve worked in?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with a lot of extremely good authors who are also very lovely people. The level of generosity and support in the community is astonishing. I don’t want to mention anyone by name, of course, because I would be leaving so many people out.
I do have some descriptions of the process of working on specific covers, which can be seen here:
Thanks so much, Ravven, for doing the interview!