Hell is Murky is a collection of supernatural stories by John Alfred Taylor, published early 2008 by Ash-Tree Press. As usual, the design utilizes two Pantone colors, with screens and tints and "reverses" (paper-white) to extend the color pallette. The richness of these ink colors almost makes me forget that the original artwork was black (ink) on white (illustration board).
Friday, December 28, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Clark Ashton Smith was also an artist. For the first in a five-volume series I wanted to create a Smith/Van Hollander "collaboration." I was prepared to re-draw some Smith creatures and arrange them in a dramatic tableau. The publisher rejected my concept, but couldn't clearly identify what he preferred. Just before the deadline I improvised a solution. Alas, the cover designer drastically darkened and muted the vibrant colors. Massive graphical elements . . . brown stripes . . . were added. The cover includes the biggest bar code I've ever seen. (For this blog I removed the bar code, and attempted to restore the original color balance.) A weak illustration can be camouflaged with graphical embellishments. But a healthy illustration doesn't need to be subdued. A healthy illustration can take weeks and even months to prepare; most book designs can be knocked out in a few hours.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
The colorful illustration for Clark Ashton Smith's Red World of Polaris is at least as "science fictional" as the narrative. Actually, I share Smith's real orientations. The commonality is a yearning for beauty that can only be experienced in terms of the Grotesque. The Grotesque is a spiritual grimace, an expression of tension like the distorted features of someone who is expressing anger or fear or passion. The Grotesque is the crystalized poetry of anguish. . . . the distillation when Beauty and Anxiety are mingled.
Certain books have "charm". Matt Cardin's Divinations of the Deep is one of those books. Charm, in this context refers to a combination of values: 1) literary value; 2) author's prestige; 3) production value; 4) publisher's prestige. Book assignments with these characteristics tend to reflect happily on me. Ultimately, I'm a bricoleur. Every image that I create relies on a convergence of serendipities.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The venerable magazine Space and Time relies on Diane and Lee Weinstein for art direction. My artwork is also venerable, from a time when I painted on textured (cold press) watercolor paper. Hours of Photoshop were required to minimize this texture . . . the original watercolor was completed more quickly.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Matthew Hughes, the author of Gist Hunter, is a truly original author. He's a creative contrarian who knows how to outmaneuver a reader's expectation. "Working against expectation" is what I had in mind when I accepted this commision from Night Shade Books a few years ago. I wanted to present an exotic cityscape . . . but in a style different than Tom Kidd's, whose artwork is more firmly associated with Matt's books. So my cityscape is a single color--an oxidized green, because Tom generally works in full color. Tom's futuramas are somewhat photographic, so my imagery referred to delirium. When my artwork was shown to Matt Hughes I told him that I was the "anti-Kidd."
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Book illustration is collaborative. Images are suggested by the narrative. The narrative has primacy; the illustrator is merely a visual amanuensis. This collaborative interplay suffers when publishers, editors (and authors) interfere. In Frederic S. Durbin's novel Dragonfly, published by Arkham House, the narrative dwells lovingly on Fred's visually-rich, deeply imagined underworld. This irreal place is the true "star" of this novel, hence the large dreamscape depicted on the dust jacket. This book launched Fred's career, and helped me win my first World Fantasy Award.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
This was the second in an ongoing series of award-winning supernatural anthologies published by Ash-Tree Press. The image was lovingly re-purposed by: 1) splitting a single illustration--an old cover for Weird Tales--into two panels; 2) removing a monster; 3) adding skeletal figures. Photoshop made this possible. But purist illustrators dislike Photoshop. Purists believe that hand-crafted images are more worthy than digitally-enhanced images (which shouldn't be confused with computer-generated images). In this instance the source image was a hand-painted watercolor. Ultimately, the virtual tools in Photoshop require delicate flexions of wrists and fingers . . . the same physical actions that a watercolorist experiences when painting with brushes manufactured by Winsor-Newton.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Cold Harbour, a supernatural thriller by Francis Brett Young, was published in September 2007 by Ash-Tree Press. Generally, dustjackets for this fine publisher are printed with two Pantone ink colors. This constraint tends to enhance line-artwork--usually achieved with pen-and ink/rapidograph. Details of line, cross-hatch and stipple remain as articulated and sharply defined as the original artwork. The right kind of line-artwork tends to be more dynamic than images that require a halftone.