Saturday, 24 April 2010

Cover Art: A Different Perspective

Hello! I’m coming at this cover art theme from a slightly different place than those authors before me. I’ve enjoyed reading their thoughts on the subject as both writers and readers because I think about the topic a lot. I’m an author, as well, but I’m also a cover artist, at least for my own. The two I’ve done for other writers are not yet out so unfortunately I can’t show them. I’ll have to make do with my own.

When planning a cover, I have three big thoughts in mind: 1) what do I want it to say?  2) how do I pull a reader in with it? & 3) how do I do what I want to do?

I study covers in bookstores. When one pulls me in I pay attention to why it did. Most often it’s a combination of color and subject. Nature will pull me. Blues/greens/purples will pull me. Travel scenes will definitely grab me, particularly when it’s of Italy, Scotland, Ireland, or a beach somewhere. On the opposite hand, too much black, red, or nudity turn me away. So do covers that look like elements were pulled from here and there and just smashed together. It has to flow. A cover that doesn’t flow implies a book that doesn’t flow, fair or not.

My first cover was for my own first novel and I created it during a graphic design class.

Finishing Touches by LK Hunsaker The story of Finishing Touches is about a young widow of a somewhat famous painter with a new baby trying to find her own direction. She’s also an artist but hides from it for several reasons. She lives in a loft overlooking the Illinois River and spends much of her thoughtful time staring out at the trees she loves. For this cover, I wanted a somber but not dark feel, therefore the muted trees and deep greens and browns, plus the touch of yellow to lighten it. The girl is actually a conte crayon sketch I did back in my late teen years. I scanned it, took the yellowed paper background out, and colorized it to fit the cover. The paintbrush was a quick computer drawing added for theme and for the rule of 3. All artists know the rule of 3 when it comes to design. I use it here several times: paintbrush/title/girl, upper trees/yellow text block/lower trees, & upper border/middle/lower. Three looks much more artistically balanced than any other number of elements.Finishing Touches 2nd ed by LK Hunsaker

I’ve recently finished an update of this book to put out as second edition ebook format and so decided I needed an updated cover for it. This is what I have so far. It could very well change. This background is an actual photo taken of the Illinois River by a family member who was kind enough to run around Peoria and grab photos of some of the places in my books so I could put them on my website. (Helpful people are always a true blessing for authors!)  I wanted it brighter this time but with enough of the same elements to look like the same story. The background (and back cover if I decide to put it in print, also) looks like canvas. The photo was manipulated with a watercolor filter to look like a painting.

For my Rehearsal series, which features a dancer who helps support her best friend and his up and coming rock band, I wanted of course a musical theme, but also a 70s look since it begins in 1974. The problem with this one was … where do I get the picture of the musicians and dancer without breaking copyright? I solved it the hard way: I drew Rehearsal A Different Drummer by LK Hunsakerthem. The good thing about that was I could make them just the way the are in the book so they are perfectly represented in a way that can be hard to do with stock photos. It also cost nothing ;-) … that is, nothing but a heck of a lot of time!  A Different Drummer (book 1) also uses a photo I took at a concert some years ago, faded Rehearsal The Highest Aim by LK Hunsakerout and small enough not to see who the band is but enough to get an actual concert audience, as well. Again, the rule of 3 comes in more than once.

The Highest Aim (book 2) has the band more on the move and the characters changing roles, growing up, moving along.  Part of the book is set in Edinburgh where one of the main characters is from, and so the photo of Scotland’s National Monument on Calton Hill. The road photo is mine, as well. The band is modeled after some rather big musical names which I won’t reveal, but changed to fit each character as I see them.

I have to admit, though, the next cover is my favorite so far:

Off The Moon by LK Hunsaker Off The Moon is set half in NYC and half in the little lake town of Bennington, VT. Boats and water play a large part in the story, as does the sky and moon, along with the struggling relationship between Ryan and Kaitlyn. This one is a combination of three photos: two of my own and one a photographer friend provided [] in exchange for return promo. ;-)

As I’ve yet to be able to visit Bennington, I had no photos of the lake there, so I ‘cheated’ and used a lake down the road instead. Sometimes a photographer/artist gets very lucky, as I did with this one. The picnic table and two people in the picture were there waiting for me to capture them when I went to get photos, as was the little pontoon in the background. The perfect shot. Amazing luck. (Yes, I do have their knowledge of and okay to be featured, but not to announce who they are.)

The window ledge was harder to get, but with some assistance to get into a public building that actually has a cement ledge, I had all of the elements I needed for what I wanted to say. This is a thoughtful novel, an exploration of an evolving relationship with plenty of complications, and highly nature symbolic. I would like to have added a dog to it, but putting too many elements on a cover only creates confusion and looks messy.

You’ll notice that I don’t have pictures of sexy men showing their wares on my covers. My apologies, as I know they’re a huge draw. However, I’m on the milder side of romance and although you’ll find plenty of sensuality, you won’t find detailed sex scenes. The relationship is the feature. The psychology behind the relationships, in particular, are the focus. I need to be sure that is reflected in my covers so readers don’t expect something they won’t get. My heroes are, however, quite sexy and charming, even when they don’t know they are. ;-)

So, this is the story of novel covers so far. As a thank you to Lindsay for hosting this blog and the cover art theme week, I thought I’d debut my newest. The next-to-come novel is due next month! Instead of saying anything about the story, I’d love to know what you think it will be about just from the cover art:

Protect The Heart by LK Hunsaker

LK Hunsaker
~Literary Romance with an Artsy Twist~


Kathleen O said...

All of the cover art is great LK.. but it think my fav two are "Off the Moon" and "Protect the Heart"..
But like I said they are all good.. Just that these two touch me in away...

Lindsay Townsend said...

Fascinating, LK! All the covers are wonderful, thoughtful, thought-provoking pieces. Like Kathleen, I love OFF THE MOON. I like the revised cover of 'Finishing Touches': it suggests winter thawing to spring to me, which echoes the heroine's emotional journey. Your latest, Protect the Heart, looks to be a novel of change, wilderness and adventure. I wish you all the best with it!

LK Hunsaker said...

Kathleen, thank you! I'm glad they touched you. :-)

LK Hunsaker said...

Lindsay, exactly right on both counts! :-)

Savanna Kougar said...

LK, thanks for sharing your fascinating artistic process. I really like the revised cover of FINISHING TOUCHES, as you've done it, so far.
Of course, all of your covers are beautiful representations of your stories.

PROTECT THE HEART is my next fave.
Since Lindsay was so successful in describing it, I would add it reminds of the 50's halcyon days of vacationing.

I would add, because it sticks in my craw, that even though my books are labeled erotic romance and are explicit, the focus of the story is the relationship of my heroines and their heroes. Always. Because that's where my own heart is.

LK Hunsaker said...

Savanna, thank you. I'm glad to know you like the new cover and that the 'old' feel is coming through. :-)

You know, after I posted this real quick today and then ran off to do other things, I thought back and realized it sounded like I meant my work focuses on relationships as opposed to steamy novels. Not at all what I was trying to say. I should write these things a day or two before and go back to read them. Ugh.

What I meant is that I've had "slow" comments from readers because I have less action in general than most romances of any heat level. ;-) A "buyer be aware" kind of message. I haven't read a romance yet, of any heat level, that didn't emphasize the relationship between the couple. That's what romance is!

Thanks for pointing that out.

Savanna Kougar said...

LK, communicating thoughts and ideas is often not that easy. I should have known what you meant. I'm just a bit hyper-sensitive about some things.
One reason I love romance is because of ALL the heat levels... it's like focusing a camera on the elements of the relationshape that tell the story of the characters in the best way, or the real nature of their love for each other.

Chelle Cordero said...

Love the covers - taking a stab at guessing the them of "Protect the Heart" (beautiful cover btw) - this makes me think of a military man far away from home...

LK Hunsaker said...

Savanna, I have plenty of those touchy subjects, too. ;-) But as a writer, I should know enough to go back and reread. Trying to condense my thoughts into a short blog throws me at times because I'm used to rambling room.

LK Hunsaker said...

Chelle, the hero is a military man far from home! Thank you :-)

Linda Banche said...

I'll add my vote to "Off The Moon", too. I prefer covers that contain a lot of scenery. I don't much care for people on covers.

Wow, you both write and create covers, too? Writing is hard work, but covers are hard, too. I don't know if I could ever make up a cover.

LK Hunsaker said...

Linda, it's funny. Some years ago I ran into a high school friend and told him about my writing. He nodded and said, "You're not doing anything with your art?" LOL! That's what I was known for. So now I can say, yep, doing that, too. ;-)

Thank you. I also love scenery on covers!

Cheryl said...

I love them all. Knowing how hard it is to be satisfied with the outcome of any cover, much less one you create yourself, would be something I probably wouldn't even attempt. LOL But you did a great job with all of them, and they all make me wonder about the books. Great titles, too, btw.


StephB said...

Forgive me for not popping in sooner. I love the folksy feel of your covers. They're perfect for the types of stories you write. And the new cover for "Protect The Heart" is beautiful.


LK Hunsaker said...

Cheryl and Steph, thank you. :-) I appreciate you dropping in!