Today I finished something exciting—I completed the jacket art for Leo Gray and the Lunar Eclipse. I'm enormously relieved (and enormously nerve-racked from all of my mental attempts to push myself over some unknown cliff!). This was my first attempt at trying to draw something on the computer (along with the chapter art). I practiced with a handful of character sketches for the Leo Gray website (LeoGrayBooks.com), but that was it. So how did I even think I could pull off the jacket art?!
Well, to be honest, I didn't. I wasn't planning to have anything to do with the book's cover or illustrations, whatsoever. Of course, with a background in the Arts, (I studied traditional drawing and oil painting), I had a pretty good vision of how I wanted things to look. I had a hundred half-fast sketches and doodles depicting characters and scenery from Leo's futuristic world...But I had abandoned my drawing pen almost immediately after college (... you know, because I was starving!), and I hadn't painted more than a single self-depressed-portrait in the decade after that.
Back to how I ended up hiring myself for the position... I had sent out over a dozen friendly messages to every notable book illustrator I thought would be good for the job. Weeks went by, and slowly but surely, replies came back that Not-a-one was able (or willing) to assist. My publisher was able to offer a flashy, modern NY Times bestseller sort of graphic design for the book, but something told me that the book had to have real illustrations: that, since the book's purpose was to inspire children, that a generic graphic design wouldn't likely give them such a thought-provoking effect! (Not that graphic design can't bring a good serving of awe and magic, but you have to admit that a lot of NY Times Bestsellers are monozygotic. (And there's just something about a hand-drawn illustration that a photograph or fancy-type can't emulate!)
So what was I going to do about my dilemma? Paint some Rinascimento-style jacket for a middle-grade sci-fi adventure novel? I didn't think so. And yet, as I looked around, there was no one else. So I purchased a pen tablet and paid for a monthly subscription to a canvas with a lot of terrifying buttons. I stared at that blinding white screen for a long time without a clue as to what to do with it. Then I simply started to "paint," on the computer. (I'm still not fully comfortable with it, but at least I've started!) Initially, I drew some concepts for the cover that were rejected by my Design Team, since my suggested imagery didn't highlight the book's main character. So I went back to the computer and continued to stare at the screen like an upset kitty.
With each stroke, I found my confidence in my ability to draw diminish. (The Can't-do-um's were really getting the best of me, especially as I wound up stuck inside of a hotel at the very end!) But I simply had to figure it out, so I pressed on, much like Leo did at the rocket competition without Miss Witz. And, finally, my random poking around turned into something the Design Team was happy with.
Am I happy with how the jacket and chapter art turned out? Yes and no... I'm happy it's done—that's for sure! Do I feel like I did a good job? I think I would have needed at least three more years of practice for that; but at least I did it. I know I was able to project the characters' personalities perfectly, even if they're not perfectly rendered; and, at the end of the day, that's what really matters. Art is not about perfection—it's about getting in-tune with yourself and the world around you, no matter how dark or happy or chaotic or mundane things may be. Sometimes art comes out as a blissful ski ride down a wonderful wintery slope, and other times, your trekking up Doom's Mountain (complete with fire and dragons and a hundred-and-three degrees!).
The creation of this book's art was certainly more of a climb up Doom's Mountain for me, but after finishing the book's art, I'm just now starting to see a beautiful wintery slope over the horizon. I'm looking forward to skiing down it!
To the moon,