Painting Covers

Painting covers for books or other media may involve the artist at the design stage. “Project Scarecrow” began with the oil painting of the crow and everything was built around it. The crow was painted slightly larger (longer body, longer beak) to allow for reducing the outline of the crow after it was placed into the design. The crow was painted first, which meant that the art was driving the design, but the intention was to modify it as necessary, which means that in the next stage the design was in the driver’s seat.

The video above shows the making of the “Project Scarecrow” book cover, beginning with the oil painting of the crow. The crow was painted on a white canvas, which made it easy to outline the image and place it into the book cover design. The rest of the video shows the book trailer, which was made with stock art and digitally modified images. While all of that is striking and effective, there is nothing like original handcrafted art to bring something truly original to a project.

Notice how the traditionally painted art (the crow) stands out from the digital design. There’s something about the slightly imperfect way that humans create that engages us more powerfully than perfectly crafted AI art. Perhaps it’s because humanity seeks humanity.

“Ruby Red” featured a snake. Because this was part of the same series, there was no need to design the cover. The goal here was to create new art for an existing design template. Then, as you can see below, the snake was dropped into the design in the same manner that the crow had been.

Sometimes the design is already conceived at an earlier stage and the artist is meant to copy the sketched plans or photographed mock-up. “Covert Coffee” was planned and arranged in a photo shoot. The green mug was a real mug and the hair was modeled by a real person (minus the blood). She sat on the floor out of view and rested her head on the table. Later, the photo was printed off and used as a painting reference.

If you watched the above video, you may have noticed that the oil painting was used in full (“as is” with no modifications, not dropped into a larger design template). But over the years, the book cover was modified and eventually all that remained of the original oil painting was the core of the piece, the coffee mug and slightly beyond it. Changing book covers is common practice; often the original art and design are modified or scrapped altogether.

The coffee mug in the book cover wasn’t altered. It is from my real painting, “as is”. The only changes that I can recall would be minor tweaks in color as the images were saved in different formats (such as CMYK for printing). I’m pleased that the mug has remained, as this was the first book cover I painted. What I thought was an experimental one-time project, was the beginning of routinely merging fine art oil paintings with modern technology.

Every new adventure has the potential to launch many more opportunities than we can imagine at the start. Almost a decade after painting “Covert Coffee”, I learned how to format images of my oil paintings for art books. I painted the illustrations for four children’s books and then focused my efforts on art books for adults.

Now there is no limit to what I can do. I can paint, and paint, and paint, knowing that I have a clear path forward. My lifetime goal is 1k oil paintings!

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