An author of Speculative Fiction, speculates about fiction.

Guest Post: Ravven

My name is Ravven, and I had the honour of being asked to do the cover for Greaveburn by Craig Hallam. This was a really involved project for a very interesting book and although we had some hiccups along the way, I think we both had fun.

First, though, some personal information. Such as…what’s with the name? I’ve been Ravven since the dawn of the internet (almost literally, which I suppose ages me terribly) due to the simple fact that that when I created my very first account Raven was taken, and so I became Ravven. I’ve used it ever since for both gaming, my artwork, and writing – in a sense, Ravven is more “me” than my original name. I began creating websites and digital art around the time that I started the goth zine Spiraldance (and if you remember that, you’re dating yourself!). These early baby steps led to a proper job in web design and web development, first for the great Musicians Friend in the US and then for a number of large ecommerce and social networking sites in the UK. It was great, it was well-paid, but a couple of years ago I decided to go freelance with my artwork. Hey, a recession is a good time to make these decisions, right? Right?

In any event, we didn’t starve and I can now change my LinkedIn profile to read “Book Cover Artist” rather than “unemployed.” I do covers in all genres, although fantasy and steampunk are my first and current loves. Information about my work can be seen here: http://www.ravven.com/blog/portfolio/book-cover-art/.

The process for creating the Greaveburn cover followed the usual process that a book cover goes through: a series of emails, mock-ups, changes both small and large, communication, miscommunication and the eventual coming to an agreement as to the image which best captures the feel of the book.

Note: the word “feel” is used intentionally, as very representational covers aren’t in style anymore. A cover should intrigue and it should try to capture the themes in the book rather than the plot. It should convey emotion, and finally it should make a promise that the book makes good on. If the cover says romance, the reader is going to be unhappy if the book is horror, and vice versa. Quite rightly the promise made by that cover should involve what happens on top of a bed, rather than what might be lurking beneath it. 🙂

The initial brief came from Craig with the following description:

Basically, my idea is to have the main character, Abrasia, looking out over a gothic cityscape (perhaps from behind like your cover for Mrs Havisham’s Mirror). She’s a blonde girl of about 16 to 17 years old, probably wearing a simple silk dress. Since it’s a proper cover we’ll need a wraparound so there are images on the back. I wasn’t sure if we could continue the gothic scene over onto the back, or have a separate scene, perhaps with the steampunk elements i.e. The Womb machine in a sewer/dark laboratory. 

This was one of the first mock-ups:

 

In subsequent mails we determined that we would go with the anti-hero as a main figure, and Abrasia as a secondary figure. The city was to play a large part in the image as a character in its own right.

The next mock-up is below, and this one is a good example of how rough mock-ups actually are. There isn’t a lot of point in doing hours of painting on an image that may be totally wrong, so mock-ups are very rough composites made from watermarked stock, roughly cut out. Authors always seem to be taken aback by mock-ups at this stage and I have to keep reminding them to use their imagination.

 

I know. Rough as a bear.

The considerations involved in the Greaveburn cover were as follows:

  • Create a living city from bits of stock – harder than it sounds without painting it from scratch, and yes there are some landmarks recognisable from your holiday snaps. Part of the challenge in doing photo manipulation!
  • The feeling had to be fantasy, a bit ominous, and a bit steampunk. The Womb was portrayed on the back, where the steampunk influence is heavier. The city is looming and dark, and there is a hint of an undercity.
  • When I am working on composition for a cover, I am looking at blocks of dark and light. The city is designed to frame the back, swoop up the centre to divide the two, and then frame the front. Both front and back have to work on their own as individual images.

And the result? Below. I want to give Craig thanks for the opportunity to work on this cover, as it was quite an experience. And ya know, if you are ever in the market for a cover artist…as they say, call me. 🙂

 

Ravven’s portfolio can be found here: http://www.ravven.com/blog/portfolio/

She can be followed on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/Ravven

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2 responses

  1. Great guest post. A nice insight into how the process works and I have to say you’ve done a fabulous job.

    September 2, 2012 at 5:58 pm

  2. Thank you! This was a very fun cover to do, for an awesome book. Saving up for a copy of my own for my collection… 🙂

    September 4, 2012 at 12:47 pm

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