Thursday, December 02, 2010


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, 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


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


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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Wednesday, July 14, 2010


This image was done for the cover of Move Heaven & Earth, by Christina Dodd. My model was the truly beautiful and talented actress,  Ewa Da Cruz. I wanted to get across the stormy determination hinted at by the title and I think the portrait here captures that kind of personality. I liked giving this a true Regency look, but with a twist from the historical portraits of the period, in that she is looking away. That is a distinctly modern approach and creates a feeling of being there as an observer. When I create a book cover, there is only one chance to get across the story. One image. Many different approaches to that problem have been tried over the ages, including incidental clues that help imply a context, having multiple scenes from the story meld together like movie stills fading into each other. But my favorite way is to let the eyes tell the story. The eyes and the body language. The stormy background helps support what we are seeing in her lovely and quite powerful expression
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Friday, July 09, 2010


Seven Nights To Forever, by Evangeline Collins, Berkley Books. I created this cover fairly recently, but wanted to wait for the book to be published before it was posted. I have always enjoyed using pattern in my work, both for galleries and for illustrations. I don't always get the chance, so whenever possible I go for it. My interest in working with pattern goes way back my early days as an artist, experimenting with ways of reconciling realism and abstraction. I wanted them to coexist.  Often pattern gets incorporated into my work as an intentionally flat passage, that forces the eye to look at the whole composition in a different way than if it were a simple rendering of the "real" scene.  My use of pattern has been evolving though, and often finds itself worked into the real space of the image as if it were something actually in the picture, like in this case.  Here, the pattern looks as if it is some kind of fabric on the bed, as opposed to floating above the picture, as in many of my pictures. In another post, I'll show an example of that kind of image.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Ok, I was wrong, there were six illustrations, not five!  This is the last of the Reader's Digest paintings I did for Rosalind Laker's Venetian Mask. I don't remember exactly how it occurred, but the heroine's husband was taken to prison on some charge, no doubt the work of the evil villain. Our lady bails him out and basically saves him, too. Talk about heroic! I had him in his cell, writing a letter ( to his wife, no doubt), when she arrives and the door is flung open. I tried to make it look like he jumped up so fast that he knocked over his chair and spilled the ink. Being one of the upper class, he would have had a chair and table, perhaps, and writing instruments, unless he was really in trouble. I based this cell on a jail cell I remembered seeing in the Doge's palace, near the Bridge of Sighs. For those who aren't familiar with Venetian history,  there was a slot in the wall of the palace through which accusations could be slipped anonymously. To be accused, was to be found guilty. It was up to you and your family to prove otherwise. A system that was all too easy to abuse and a great way to get rid of an enemy or a rival. The accused entered the palace for a hearing and sentence over the bridge of sighs, so called because it would be, for so many prisoners, the last view they would ever see of their beloved city.
I'm quite proud of this series and others I did for the Digest. I hope you enjoyed seeing these images that haven't had a viewing in many years.
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Here's our girl being really heroic! Her friend, seen earlier in the bridal gondola, has fallen out of favor with the evil husband . He has been keeping her in a kind of dungeon, without food. Somehow she manages to bluff her way into the palazzo and finds her friend in a terribly weakened state. Then the husband comes home. Smart thinking, to bring a pistol along!
 This is one illustration where I built a miniature cardboard and wood set, to help me envision the space the actors would be in. I had to know what angle to place the guy so that he would appear to be coming down the high stairs. In the studio we had him up on a ladder and the camera was almost on the ground. You really have to plan ahead to shoot this many scenes in 2 hours. I think this is one of my favorites of the series, because of the strong angles in the composition and because of the powerful body language of the heroine.
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Monday, June 14, 2010


Honestly, I forget who is dueling whom in this scene. I think one is the mean husband and the other, the nice guy our heroine ends up marrying. The duelers are both wearing Bauta masks, but have removed the outer clothing and hats, to have more freedom to move. I placed them in one of those small squares that you find throughout Venice. Little alleys lead off in all directions and you can get very lost quickly. A crowd of party goers stand around watching the entertainment. Dueling was illegal, but with everyone masked,  they could get away with it.
On my wanderings in Venice I had the feeling of ghosts around me in those quieter areas, especially at night. History isn't dead there but lives on and there is a sinister undertone to the city and its history. Rivalries, hidden intrigues, plots and murders abounded amongst the debauchery of Venetian society. Ms. Laker really caught that feeling in her story. Of note is the black Bauta at the left, with the lower part fringed with black lace. It's a very disconcerting look, at the least! It's always disturbing to talk with a person wearing a mask. The seem to take on a strange power that an ordinary face wouldn't have. Perhaps because it defeats our ability to read that face.
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Sunday, June 13, 2010


As promised, I'm continuing to post illustrations I painted for Rosalind Laker's book, Venetian Mask, as published by Reader's Digest in 1993. This scene shows the heroine's best friend on her wedding day procession by gondola. She is visibly unhappy, because this is a forced marriage, due to economic circumstances and the guy she's marrying is known to be a real creep, but very wealthy and powerful. I wanted to give the viewpoint from gondola height, to direct the eye. The miserable bride is the focus of attention even though she is off to the right. In the printed book, this image was spread across the top of two pages with text below. Venice was still fresh in my mind from an earlier trip and I was excited to be able to place this scene in the Grand Canal. Did I take liberties with the architecture? Yes. And of course no bride would allow her wedding dress to drape into that water, which was even dirtier then, but it created such a nice flowing line and helped get across her defeated attitude, I did it anyway. I believe the model used for the bride is Sue Brown. Brigid Hobbie played the family member behind her in the gondola and I may have posed for the guy in front, but I'm not sure. This painting is four feet long, in oil on wood.
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Saturday, June 12, 2010


This is another of the paintings done for Rosalind Laker's Venetian Mask, published back in 1993 by Reader's Digest. It shows the heroine at work in the shop that creates and sells masks. She is being noticed through the window by her future husband. I imagined this shop to be in the arched arcade that surround Piazza San Marco. All the masks were all carefully researched. One particularly strange one is at the upper right, which is known as the Plague Doctor. I read somewhere that during the plagues that swept Europe in previous centuries, it was believed that breathing bad air was the cause of the disease, so doctors wore these peculiar masks to sort of filter the air before they breathed it in. Can you imagine being deathly ill and visited by a doctor wearing a mask like that? How horrific! The heroine was played by model Brigid Hobbie, I don't remember the guy's name. I was honored when Reader's digest used this image on their Christmas card for that year, the second time they used one of my illustrations for their card. The first one was for a book called Anya, set in Russia in the 19th century which I'll post at another time, if there's any interest. This is an oil painting approximately 32 inches high.  Please leave your comments!

Friday, June 11, 2010


I thought it would be fun and interesting to post a series I did for a story written by Rosalind Laker, called Venetian Mask, which was published in Readers Digest in 1993.These are all oil paintings and they hark back to an earlier era in illustration. The story features a gutsy heroine, a dramatic rescue and tons of wonderful period detail to help the reader feel immersed in the time. I had been in Venice eight years earlier and had taken the photograph of the great piazza at night. Of course the people in Comedia Del Arte costumes weren't there. One of the wonderful things about working on an historical project is to learn about things I didn't know about before, such as the characters of the Comedia del Arte, a very early form of street theater, which dates back I think to before the Rennaisance. I learned that people regularly went out at night wearing masks and this allowed them to behave in ways they couldn't normally act if people knew who they were. The lower classes could sometimes infiltrate the high society if they were good actors and vice versa.  The masks themselves were very specific and not just random disguises. The oldest and most common type, the Bauta, is shown here on the second from right figure. It was always worn with the lacy mantle, tri-corner hat  and long, concealing cloak. To me it looks very skull-like and creepy. In this scene, four of the main characters meet in Piazza San Marco at the beginning of Carnivale. They are all dressed as specific Comedia characters, I think the woman on the left is Harlequina, I don't recall what the man is and the other woman is Columbina. This story also takes place at the time of Vivaldi and is really the high point of Venetian culture. This, being the title page, was spread across two pages, with some type over it. I'm going to be posting all five of the illustrations from this story over the next few days. A note about the process of creating this series. As usual, I did sketches and then hired models and costumes. Because I was paying for all that, I wanted to keep the costs affordable, so I used only four models! I'm in some of the scenes, too. The other thing of interest is that I set up all the scenes and shot them in Black & white film in just two hours at Bob Osonitsch studio in New York. The prevailing thinking was, these are paintings and the photos are just reference help. Things are different now. I hope you enjoy a look back at these vintage images.
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Thursday, June 10, 2010


Here's a piece I did for a book called The Substitute Bride, by Elizabeth Lane. It is set in 1906, a period that hasn't been so popular among romance authors of late. I really like this period, because of the opulence and sophistication in the fashions, architecture and decoration. A very elegant era. The couple has parked for some heavy petting on the street in San Francisco's Beacon Hill area, ( before it was all destroyed by the earthquake! ) Realisticaly, they wouldn't dare do that in the street, under a bright light, but who cares? It makes for a nice picture, with the lighted buildings behind. I emphasized the play between warm and cool colors in the composition. The carriage was created in the 3D program, Cararra because I wanted to have the exact angle and lighting for the couple to look like they are seated in it. My models were Tracy Weller and Harmon ?? (the last name escapes me). Both excellent models. Costumes, as always by Sharon Spiak and photography by my friend, Shirley Green. A word about the use of 3D "props". In the old days, I used to make little models with lighting, in order to help me get the correct angle, light and shadow. I don't claim to be an expert 3D artist, but I do manage to create serviceable props and settings when I need to. It's actually a very interesting way to work. My inspiration for setting up miniature scenes originally came from Maxfield Parrish, who used to build very elaborate miniature scenes, using rocks, mirrors ( for the water), sand, plaster, etc. He apparently had a collection of favorite rocks for this purpose.  Mine were mostly wood and cardboard, sometimes painted. Sometimes I used toy cars or plastic models. Nowdays, 3D has dispensed with all that. Interesting to note, another artist/hero of mine Fortuni, was really into designing theater sets. He would make complete miniature stages, with working parts, lights curtains, everything so he could control the effects on the big stage. There must be something very exciting about working this way for many artists.
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

FALL from The Forces Of Nature series

This oil painting is part of that ongoing series I've been creating over the years. I thought of her as I worked on the painting, as the embodiment of fall and like my previous post, Winter, is commanding and playing with her element, the falling leaves. But there is an air of sadness to her amidst all the beauty. It's a feeling I often associate with fall, a kind of pleasant melancholy. There is still some leftover warmth from summer, but with an undertone of the approaching winter. Fall always seems too short, in my opinion, but so delicious, with ripened apples, a hint of wood smoke in the air, warm sweaters and fall foods. The light changes and days shorten. Perhaps our lady is playing with her leaves one more time before the real chill begins.
I went to New York and photographed a model for this, Ewa da Cruz. She acted the part so beautifully, we didn't want it to stop! Shirley Green was the photographer and Sharon Spiak created the costume.
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Thursday, February 25, 2010


This is an another in my series of Forces Of Nature, that I've been working on slowly for years. The idea is to embody the particular Force in a woman. It's an ancient tradition, but of course, I give it my own style. In this image, I was imagining the figure of Winter as dancing and delighting in her frigid powers. Earlier versions of this had her looming over a small, snowed in town, but I like it better with just her, playing with the flying snowstorm.
People in much of the world have been seeing plenty of her magic this year!
The model was Heidi Bailey, Shirley Green studio and Sharon Spiak, costume.
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Friday, January 29, 2010


The reason I haven't posted in a while is that i've been incredibly busy, creating more covers. This one is for a book by Eloisa James, titled A Duke Of her Own, ( Avon Books). Ms. James seems to be setting her stories in the late 18th century, the Marie Antoinette era, as some like to describe it.This is nice, because it allows me to play with the flow of huge amounts of fabric, that were used in dresses of the period. I doubt very much if we'll be seeing a lot of mens' clothing from this period, because it is so outlandish by today's standards. Men were peacocks in fashion then and it baffles the mind to figure out how they could have a decent sword fight in all that getup. A great movie for this period is Vatel, which tells the story of a party planner for a duke when Louis XIV was coming to visit with his hundreds of courtiers. Vatel, ( Gerard Depardieu ), the man in charge of making it all work from pies to fighting ships to fireworks displays has the job from hell. Watching the movie you get to see what went on behind the scenes in the Sun King's court. But I digress. This cover has been very popular, so I'm showing it here, with the whole art, not the cropped version you see on the book cover. The Duke is really going to town with his lover on the inside cover! The models were Christine Donlon and Paul Marron, the costumes by Sharon Spiak and Photography by Shirley Green. I made the scene on the inside cover in 3D to fit the figures.
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