Tuesday, June 07, 2011

INCOGNITO

It's been a while since I posted anything and I'm sorry about that. I'm in the midst of a move and a house sale. Some people can do this stuff as easily as walking a dog, but for me it's a nightmare. However, Art must go on!  Here's a cover for a book called Incognito, by Gregory Murphy, published by Berkley Books.  I don't know whether this cover is being used for the book or not. It is the second complete piece of art I did for this title, the first one was more of a romantic look, then the concept changed on me. This happens sometimes when a publisher is trying to place the book in the prefect niche and isn't sure how to appeal to that group of readers. I know very little about the story, except that it is a mystery that takes place in 1912 in New York City. I did tons of research for this image and learned, among other things, that the famous NY Public Library Lions were put there in 1912, the building was finished a year earlier. I love this era, and enjoyed looking at the familiar 5th Avenue in early photographs. It was just as busy as now, but with a different mix of traffic; carriages, double-decker open buses and all kinds of fancy motorcars. And the costumes! Men dressed in suits, whether they were laborers or bankers, but you can easily see in the photographs which is which, particularly from the hats. The rich had shiny beaver top hats or bowlers and the rest of the men showed their social status by how beat up their hats were, as well as the baggy knees of their pants. The women favored long, tight skirts that must have been very hard to walk in, jackets with fur, if they could afford it and then the hats. This was the era of some of the most outrageous hats ever created. Some were like good sized lampshades, with chiffon and flowers piled on top. That was the shillouette, Skinny body all the way up with a gigantic headpiece.
My wonderful costume person, Sharon Spiak came to the shoot with a genuine period skirt and jacket. The hat was her own creation, but fits the style perfectly. This was my first time working with Linda Holm a beautiful actress from Denmark. She very quickly caught the feeling I was after, in the body language and facial expression. I wanted her to look like she was up to something, sneaking somewhere, but also nervous and excited. The most difficult part of this image was getting the right look and feeling for the Library. I wanted to show more of period NYC, but it was impossible to get that across, without distracting from her. I worked from pictures I took in November last year. The pictures were daylight and it wasn't raining, but that's what artists are for. One little bit of trivia: The trees in front of the library were planted around the same time the lions were placed there and the were pretty small trees. But I needed the atmosphere that the bare branches would give to the scene, so I cheated and used large trees. All my efforts may be in vain, however, if the cover isn't used!
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Sunday, April 03, 2011

THE BED & THE BACHELOR

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 These images are the front and stepback covers to Tracy Anne Warren's, The Bed & The Bachelor, Avon Books. I'm quite happy about the way they came out and it was a fortuitous combination of ideas and people at the right time, that made it possible.  For a long time I've been playing with the idea of these romance illustrations being about something more than just a blatantly sexual way of selling books. Instead, I've been thinking about the deeper feeling we have in love and romance, feelings that can suddenly become the most important things in the world. That moment, where everything disappears but the object of your passion, is what I'm trying to get across.
I helps so much when you have an art director, like Tom Egner at Avon, who understands art and design and just as importantly, knows when to leave an image alone. That willingness to stand up to the forces of committee blandness is partly responsible for the existence of this image. And so are the models, Suzanne Fogarty and Anthony ...., Who put real emotion into their acting. Shirley Green, my friend and photographer and her assistant, Philippa Clayton, all were part of creating these covers. 
As I was working on these, I began to have strange flashes of the famous painting by Delacroix of the Storming of the Bastile, during the French Revolution, in which a bare-breasted woman carrying the tri-color banner over the top of the melee, amidst smoke and mayhem. So I guess there's a feeling of heroism in the face of danger, or maybe it's more like the couple is saying, " This is all that matters!"...
here's a picture of that painting:
Is heroism sexy? Well, in her case it is.  Can sexiness be heroic?  It's interesting how, after the fact, revolutions seem heroic, but at the time, they are nasty, vicious and brutal. There are heroes, people who did the right thing in an important way, or who went all-out for the common good, disregarding their own safety. But only the winning side gets to celebrate them.  This painting, done years after the revolution, looks a lot like pictures that came out of Cairo recently. On their faces is power, excitement and something that says, "This is all that matters!"

Friday, February 18, 2011

WINTER

What a Winter we've been having here in the Northeast. I have gotten unused to Winter since my move to Florida several years ago, where temperatures in the 50s send people scurrying for their down jackets. But this Winter I've been in New York State, in the Hudson Valley, where we've had record amounts of snow. This image was created for my series, Forces Of Nature, about 2 years ago while in in Florida, but I called upon my many years of living in cold environments to help me imagine the dance of the Winter goddess. I guess that's what she is, reveling in her frosty medium. I originally conceived of the piece as a view looking over her shoulder as she hovered and brought frigid Winter conditions to a little town below. It never seemed to work. Then I played with the idea of her as a dancing figure, maybe even joyful. I used Heidi Bailey as my model, with Shirley Green as the photographer, Sharon Spiak for costume. My home team!
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

MY WICKED MARQUESS

This is the front and inside cover for the book, My Wicked Marquess, by Gaelen Foley, published by Avon Books. From the beginning, I wanted this image to have a look of "dark passion", a kind of desperate intensity that sex can have. But how to get that across? The art director had requested they be in an interior, so I started playing with different interiors in my sketches. I decided an empty mansion or chateau would be better that a furnished room, hinting that they are there illicitly, but also that for them, only they exist. I liked the curving stair and it gave me the idea to have the models form a similar twist, at least on the front cover. The models, Harmon and Suzanne Fogarty, caught the concept perfectly during the shoot. By happy accident , on some of the shots, Harmons face was slightly shadowed and I decided to go with that and really make his face in shadow, bringing out the girl in light. I think there is something in the finished image, the spooky stair, the desperate intensity of their bodies, that successfully expresses my original concept.
For the inside cover, I had to invent a bed for them, not a real bed, but more a pile of blankets and stuff the threw together in the empty mansion. Again, I played with shadows, bringing darkness over their legs, to emphasize their faces and upper bodies. Suzanne and Harmon made this one sexy and graceful at the same time. Thanks to them and to Shirley Green, photographer and Sharon Spiak, costumer.
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Thursday, December 02, 2010

SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY

I am often called upon to do Christmas covers throughout the year. This one was done in  sunny Florida, but I have a large reservoir of snow knowledge to call on from living in the North! This cover for the book, Somewhere Along The Way by Jodi Thomas, started with a photograph by Jim Begley, www.wowphotoshdr.com. He's a talented photographer from Kentucky, who allowed me to use the picture he took of the local Mayor's house in Corbin KY.  I changed a lot about the setting and of course, translated it in my own way. I may use it as a Christmas card, if I ever get around to writing any! Many thanks to Jim for his lovely house picture.
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Thursday, October 07, 2010

BOOKS VS KINDLE

There's been a lot of discussion going on lately amongst my colleagues and with art directors about the future of books and specifically, book covers. Most of us were raised in households filled with books and we grew up loving them. Nothing nicer on a rainy afternoon than curling up with a good book, that kind of thing... So we don't quite know what the younger generations are thinking about books. Do they have the same attachment to the traditional medium? And what about the covers? Will Kindle books not need them? At the moment Kindle is still in black and white, but other devices now come with color, so our covers can be displayed.  But you have to decide to look at the cover, instead of it being there throughout the reading experience. I enjoy having a beautiful cover, asking to be picked up and read. Another question is how are the books going to be sold, if the cover is only digital? Will there be full color displays in the bookstores? Will there even be bookstores? So many people have told me they respond to beautiful covers by picking up the book, greatly increasing the chances they'll buy it. I do the same thing.
One of my favorite things to do in Sarasota on a Sunday was to go into the Sarasota News and Books on Main Street. You got great coffee or cappuccino and croissants, all while perusing the latest books chosen by a very knowledgeable buyer. Sadly, like so many bookstores around the country, this place closed early this year.
Which brings me to the question, how do you pick out books? Do you read reviews? Are you a browser, who likes to pick up the books and read a bit?  Do you latch onto one author and read everything he or she writes? How  does the cover influence you? What do you think about ebooks?
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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

WHEN BEAUTY TAMED THE BEAST (A KISS AT MIDNIGHT)


This is a two part cover for the book, When Beauty Tamed The Beast, by Eloisa James, previously known by its working title, A Kiss At Midnight,  Published by Avon Books. The theme is vaguely reminiscent of The Beauty And The Beast, but my illustrations imply that the beast is a statue of a lion, which perhaps contains the handsome prince. Ms. James has been doing a series of Fairy Tale inspired romances, a previous one was Cinderella and they are continuing. I think it's rather cool, and it gives me a chance to play with the fantasy side of romance.  From the start, I was heavily influenced by the 1960s film, La Belle et Le Bette, by Jean Cocteau, a masterpiece of film making that is infused with an incredible atmosphere of magic. Unlike the dumbed-down version of the story that Disney offered up, Cocteau dives into the psychology of the story, exploring the deeper meanings in the myth, with profound results. In my image I tried to stick with the feeling of longing in the girl, alone embracing her stone lion. Why is she there at midnight? who is she waiting for, or is she dreaming it all? The second scene doesn't answer much, she could still be dreaming. But the dream has it's happy ending.
Models were Steven Muzzenegro and Bonnie. Photography was by Shirley Green and costumes by Sharon Spiak. Thanks again, team!
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