Sunday, October 14, 2012


I have come to the conclusion that I must create. It's in my blood, and maybe that's why over the years I've acquired a number of hobbies. One of these hobbies is creating digital art. I actually have more images than you can imagine on my computer which I've created. However, I'm trying to develop some of that focus towards my books.

It's not to say on the rare occasion I haven't posted something outside of that, but stock art isn't cheap and I'd rather not waste it toiling on images that won't be put to use. I'm not selling my other stuff, so that's another reason I'm not putting it out there. I've been approached by authors to do covers, and even recommended to companies to do their campaign art. No lie.

But that would be stretching myself very thin. Having completed all of my edits for "Impulse" and "Closer", I found myself with nothing to do.

Crickets chirping.

So this was a great time to start reading - which I did! I read two books this week. But yesterday, I ended up spending the entire day writing Book Yellow and reached Chapter 5 (see my WIP page for more info). I forced myself to put it away last night and the next thing I knew, I was on GIMP working with stock images to create the piece above. I had fun with it, and that's all that counts. But there's a constant creative itch going on, and aside from writing, digital art is my other passion.

If I didn't have writing in my life, I might be developing that into a viable career. The only problem with creating cover designs for authors is that I'm the sort of person who has to read the book and get a sense of how to interpret that book to an image. Most (if not all) cover artists do not work that way. They're given the storyline and the author's ideas for imagery and run with it.

This is one example I can give of an image I did for someone. I thought it would be fun to take their pretty kickass image and make it even more kickass. So if you compare the two, you can see what type of work goes into the before and after shots. All of the careful touchups, creating tattoo's and ensuring they not only look real (I hate spotting fake-looking ones on covers), but that it wraps around and follows the contour of the skin. The background was inserted, the blood was added to the knife and I created a pool on the ground which was actually more difficult than I'd expected. I added a shine to the bracelet, darkened and colored the shoes and skirt and of course, had to remove all of the original background. The end result was something I could totally see on a book cover.

Deviantart stock.
Then there is the side of me that likes doing fantasy stuff.I love it, I have a TON of art on my computer, but the really exciting thing is being able to use that to my advantage. I love that I can create my own covers, and my own designs revolving around my books.

Of course I appreciate and enjoy fanart and I'd welcome anyone who wanted to do their own interpretation of the series. It's an expressive form of creativity. Sometimes I see the most amazing artists render spectacular images, and I wonder why they can't make some real bucks on it. They might sell print copies of it on the net, or get approached by authors to do cover art, but sometimes they simply do it because it is their passion. Wouldn't it be great if we could all make a living from our passions?

I've never had any issues sharing the publication process with readers. Creating cover art is part of that, and if you look back at previous posts I've done, you'll see just how much work was put into the Mageri Series covers. Layers upon layers of images, backgrounds, and effects.

The cover for "Closer" is pretty close to the original stock. However, if you download the image below and look at it at 100%, you'll see what's different. Subtle differences that maybe no one else will pick up, but *I* know. I do what I can to make the models look as close to how I see the characters as possible. Plus I love profile shots and so forth because the reader can use their imagination. I didn't do that with "Impulse" because damn, that girl just IS Silver.

STOCK                                                             ACTUAL COVER

1. Darkened his tan slightly, especially on face
2. Removed his earring
3. Extended his arms and back
4. Adding more hair to the woman. Altering her hair color.
5. Altering his hair color.
6. Removing the texture from her blouse. Coloring her blouse. Removing the strap from her blouse. Lifting her blouse higher, lightening her blouse so you could see it (lol) I spent more time on that woman's clothes than anything.
7. Changing his eye color
8. Adding a mark to her cheek and freckles to her shoulders.
9. Adding subtle light to the background immediately behind models
10. Altering the coloring of the bedding.
11. Removing weird dimples or marks.
12. Removing dandruff. Don't ask, but I zoomed in at 100% and found myself removing flecks of dander. Seriously? LOL

The thing is, here I am, in the midst of publishing Impulse, and along comes an unexpected novella! I didn't have time to spend a month toiling over a cover (which is the usual length of time it takes for me to render multiple images together and make it unique) because I still have to publish Impulse and work on edits for Closer. Too much was going on. In the end, I think the cover is a perfect interpretation, and once you read the story I think you'll appreciate it more. Will it turn up on someone else's book? God, I really hope not, but yeah, it happens. When you purchase stock art, that's the risk. Believe it or not, I've seen many traditional publishers use common stock art based on who they go to for a covert artist, and NY bestselling authors have images I've seen elsewhere. Which came as a surprise, because I always thought they secured rights through a photographer with unique photo sessions for that specific book. Many probably do, but not all.

That is the one reason I didn't publish an alternate model for "Impulse". I was down to three images, and one of them I started seeing on a bunch of book covers, including erotica. Because they were already out there, I didn't want my book associated with porn. Erotica. I could have, because they're not popular titles I'd seen before. What you don't want to do is use an image that's sitting on a book on the Amazon top 100, a book that EVERYONE and their momma has seen. People will be immediately turned off by that, thinking you're copying that book. I actually try to hunt down stock images that are not popular on those websites, and have very few to zero downloads. I can work with that.

There are some authors who will simply slap cover art on their books "as is". Not for me. It's actually more common now that a lot of titles are using objects instead of models (and I think you all know to which book covers I'm referring to).

So, maybe now when you see something as simple as the image to the left that is on the "Sterling" book cover, you'll have a better understanding of the process involved. The photo to the left has 15 layers of images. All modified, enhanced, with different filters.

I could have probably gone somewhere and found some smokey fog effect, but it wouldn't have been unique and original.

It wouldn't have been Sterling.

1 comment:

  1. I love what you do, Dannika. I too enjoy creating my own art in this way, but my skills are far from what you've accomplished. Someday, perhaps I'll have the knowledge and vision you do, but until then, I'm satisfied with what I can create. Cheers to you!