Making the Cover: Summer of the Gypsy Moths

Monday, June 4, 2012


 "The earth spins at a thousand miles an hour. Sometimes when I remember this, it's all I can do to stay upright – the urge to flatten myself to the ground and clutch hold is that strong."

I'd like to describe Summer of the Gypsy Moths as haunting and moth's-wing delicate...Sarah Pennypacker deftly weaves an impossible balance between the macabre, innocence, and balmy summer vacation. Stella and Angel are two abandoned girls who summon incredible courage during one fateful summer, and learn how to survive together.  I am so afraid to give anything more away! I read it in one sitting...page one cast its spell and I didn't look up again until it was time to make dinner:


Many thanks to Amy Ryan and Donna Bray for their keen eyes, design and careful direction. And congratulations on a stunning piece, Sarah Pennypacker! Published by Balzer+ Bray.


Why I Love Making Book Covers!

I presented to Lesley University this weekend (mother university of my alma mater, The Art Institute of Boston) and spoke on the creation of a book cover. I admitted to the audience that book covers were possibly my favorite format because of the challenge they pose: the challenge of funneling the entire written work, and characters you've become attached to yourself, into that one gripping moment at 5x7. This cover was the stage for Stella's moment.

There are many elements that need to be working together for that goal I'm working toward... I think first about choosing style: it needs to aid the moment while also translating the author's voice appropriately. Then, working closely with the art director, we work on design of the limited space, trying to make every millimeter counter and mean something. Color palette needs to be activated as a second voice and used with intent. I save character rendering for last, because that's where the spirit of the work lies. It's my most favorite and personal part, and once all the mechanics are worked out, the expression of that person is free to "be". 

During all of these steps though, I'm always watching "the moment" in the back of my mind...the personal moment, the first impression that the viewer, bookstore customer, library peruser of any age might have when they see it on the shelf. Hopefully, they pick it up and it makes a bridge from that person straight into the pages. I'm always wondering: did I do it? It's a thrilling challenge to make a book cover, one that I hope to tackle again and again!

First pass:

I dove into airy pan pastels for this cover. I wanted the sea and sand to feel dry and textural, and they provided the atmosphere I was hoping for. I ended up lightening the entire piece under Amy and Donna's direction to achieve a little more "hopefulness" and wonder...though it is a dark story, there is undeniable youth and life surging through.

Final approved sketch:
We talked a lot about Stella's character and her fashion choices, Angel's resistant spirit too.
Some prelim sketches :





14 comments:

atlanticmo said...

Nice job!
Before even opening the book I am two feet into the story. Well done.

Jana said...

All of the options are wonderful! I love your work.

Jennifer said...

Beautiful work!

posse said...

She reminds me of a bird, a character I'd love to read more about.

Debbie Barr said...

I read an ARC of this a few months ago and loved it. I also spotted your artwork a mile away, and was so excited to see something new from you! Glad this one is going out into the world (and into our bookstore) soon!

Courtney said...

Summer of the Gypsy Moths arrived at the Curious George store with a larger book order about a week or so ago, and a number of my co-workers were oohing and awing while the books sat patiently waiting to be received and shelved. Your work always has such a way of intriguing the viewer and setting the right kind of atmosphere, which is so perfect for book cover illustration. I hope you make many more for the rest of us to admire! (:

Jackie said...

so lovely, I'm going to read the book with Sophia this summer...
jackie
bliss farm antiques

martinealison said...

Chacun de vos dessins est merveilleux...
Gros bisous à vous.

Annie said...

swoooon.....:)

Mai Kemble said...

these are lovely!!! and I really like your new blog as well!
:)

Jessica said...

It is beautiful and wonderful cover!!

www.juliadenos.com said...

Big hugs to all of you!! Thanks so much for the encouraging comments, XOXO <3

elizabeth said...

Wow, this is fascinating. Book covers are my dream, and it's so cool to see the process and hear about the thought that goes into it. What a beautiful final product you've made-- and yet I love some of the other prelim sketches, too. And the ultimate success: I now want to read this book.

Thanks for sharing!

www.juliadenos.com said...

I'm so glad, it's a phenomenal story! Thanks, Elizabeth!