Oh, Alice...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Have you spotted Alice McKinley in the wild yet? I was invited into her zany world by the good folks at Simon & Schuster to repackage  Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's classic series. They're out in bookstores now just in time for summer reading. Alice's voice is so blushingly honest and true through the entire ordeal of growing up, so I tried my best to zoom in on her open heart. She is the queen of quirk and awkwardness, the best mixture of courage, freckles, and innocence. She cracked me up. I loved meeting her. I hope you will too!

Big thank yous to the talented Jessica Handelman for her introduction to Alice and her fresh take on the design (don't you just love her san serif punchiness?) It was fun going bold, graphic, and candy-colored for this series. I painted these in watercolor, with a background in one layer of acrylic paint. These Alice covers made third place in the 2012 New York Book Show, for Trade Paperback Series! 

"The kiss went on so long, I wondered when I was allowed to swallow. What we the rules about this? Should the boy let you up for air every ten seconds or were you supposed to sort of keep your nostrils to one side?" –Alice's second kiss, Alice In Rapture, Sort Of

Click on the image to see them up close on my website...

Till next time!

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 :