A VERY SPECIAL GUEST...
A few weeks ago, when THE SECRET LIFE OF LADY GABRIELLA was shortlisted for the RNA "Romance Prize", I received a lovely email from Larry Roibal in the States, the artist who produced the gorgeous cover for my book. I subsequently discovered that Larry's covers have adorned at least two of my award winning books -- my favourite, THE MARRIAGE MIRACLE, which won a Rita in 2006 and A FAMILY OF OF HIS OWN, which won the Romance Prize back in 2005. You can bet I'm putting in a special request to have him work on all my covers!
Larry trained as a traditional artist, studying at the prestigious Parsons School of Design, New York, and Parsons in Paris, France, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in 1982. He has been a working illustrator ever since, creating over five hundred book covers for publishers, including Avon, Berkeley, Harlequin, Pocket, and Silhouette Books.
His work has been recognized by the Romance Writers of America for Best Cover Art featured on a Long Contemporary Novel, and he was awarded an ARTemis Award in 2002.
He's here today to tell us about the process of producing cover artwork. Feel free to ask questions!
I was honored to be asked by Liz Fielding to be a guest on her blog and give some insight into the making of the cover art for her romance novels. First of all, kudos to Liz on her 50th book published title what a remarkable milestone.
I feel privileged to have created covers for at least five of her books...and from what Liz tells me a few of those have been nominated and won awards so I was doubly blessed that my work happened to be teamed with her award winning writing.
The process of creating the covers starts long before it gets to me. A group of very talented designers and art directors develop a look for their line of books. The look has to do with the design, branding and style of type, to the style of painting, color pallet used, and the level of sensuality. This helps to set their line apart visually from other books. Also, since a line of books may have many titles per month, and they don't want six images of a couple on a balcony for instance, it's important (and a major undertaking) to come up with different concepts for each cover. It's only then (if I'm lucky) that an art director might think that I would be a good illustrator to call.
MT, the Art Director for Harlequin Romance is very talented and great to work with. She has a wonderful sense of style and knows the line of books better than anyone. She will provide me art facts, like the characters physical descriptions and a visual reference on which we have something to discuss, i.e., "We love the feeling of this visual reference, but we want to change A, B and C."
I then need to book models that fit the character discriptions, research backgrounds, secure wardrobe, and do a sketch before I go to the shooting. I have an extensive collection of props and clothes for photo shoots, but I'm not above rifling through my wife's closet to get just the right prop, and looking at the examples below I recognize a dress my wife bought to wear to her brothers wedding. I also put some time into developing a game plan for the one hour photo shoot depending on how complex the assignment and weather or not there are children or pets, it's not always so easy to get what I need to complete the cover in the one hour shooting. All of the examples I sent are from assignments for Liz's Books. It's a good way to highlight how
each book looks like they belong together while being different. Each has a man and a woman, and each conforms to the art directives of the line of books, but each has a very different concept, while the characters maintain a connection between them in each, they are A. flirting with the camera B. reacting to a situation or C. engrossed in each other.
After the shooting, I will do a post-shooting sketch and send it to the Art Director along with some alternative poses. After all the time put in, I start to have an attachment to the piece and the decisions I've made, so having a fresh pair of eyes review the project is a very valuable asset. As a freelancer I have first and foremost please the client but also not let my ego get in the way of making the work better and I've learned to welcome the Art Director's feedback. Especially one as good as MT.
From there I go to finish. I've been trained as a traditional artist or oil painter, and have completed the majority of my book covers as oil paintings. In recent years however, I have learned the new technologies in order to keep relevant and serve the market place, and today, all of my commercial work is done digitally. Which basically means I draw and paint with a stylist on a large Wacom tablet and in real time paint on computer monitor.
Larry, thank you for giving us an insight into how a cover is produced. It was absolutely fascinating -- and I greatly admire your wife's taste in clothes!
In honour of Larry, the prize this week is a bit special -- a collection of books with Larry Roibal covers: The Marriage Miracle, A Family of His Own, The Secret Life of Lady Gabriella, Reunited: Marriage in a Million and The Valentine Bride. That five chances to win, so get busy with the comments and the questions!
For a chance to win, the burning question is -- What, on a cover, will make you reach for the book?