As I sit at my table, talking to people looking at my books, people often ask about the artists. “Who did that cover?” In this and a few other interviews, I’m hoping to answer that question.
Autumn~Angel is two people, sort of relatives of mine (sisters of my son-in-law) and I when I met them I hoped that I could get them to do some artwork for me. Extreme Makeover was the first chance, where they did the cover for me. Bearing Northeast was the next opportunity. I had teens sending messages back and forth, and I really wanted avatars for their messaging app. I’ve been pleased with their work.
Introduce yourselves. What kind of work is your specialty? How long have you been at it?
Kathryn Angel: Hello. We’re Autumn Angel Art: sisters and a team of artists and writers. That’s exactly what our specialty is, art and writing. We’ve been doing both ever since we were little, although as children I focused on writing and Lacy focused more on art. Once we grew up and both finished high school, our parents encouraged us to focus on our passion professionally, so we did, and here we are now.
Lacy Autumn: If you do any research on Autumn Angel Art, you may notice that our current project is a card game. Not only is our specialty art and writing, but it’s piecing them together to use both visual and text. As teenagers, we always argued over which was better, so finally we discovered to do both as a team. Now you can find us helping each other out, building on each others’ works, as any good team is found doing.
How did you meet up with Henry Melton and why did you decide to help him with his art needs?
L.A.: It started as a family connection. Henry Melton being the father of my sister-in-law, naturally, we met each other on occasion. When he was in need of an artist for Extreme Makeover, our art business had just begun, and my sister-in-law recommended me. Henry e-mailed me an inquiry asking if I was interested in the work he needed done. In reply, eager me, I sent him my portfolio and the rest is history.
K.A.: At the time we’d never done any commission work, but we strove to run our own business as freelance artists and writers, so we were happy to take on a job like the one Henry offered. Even though we had our own projects we were working on, we took this as our first real freelance job.
Many artists collaborate with others to produce the final image. How did Autumn Angel Art work together to create the cover art for Extreme Makeover?
K.A.: Typically our first step is to brainstorm the idea that we want for the picture, but in this case Henry had his own ideas for the cover of his book, so there wasn’t much that we needed to brainstorm. He sent reference photos and explained what he wanted, so Lacy got right to work on the sketches.
L.A.: I’m the sketch artist and Kathryn is my colorist. Sometimes I sketch pictures on paper first, and then I transfer them to my computer to fit them onto the digital requirements, then I continue my pencil and shading techniques with my art pad. With Extreme Makeover, however, I was very new, and hadn’t learned my “style” so I did everything digitally. I sent the black and white cover to Kathryn and she picked the right colors to use, and painted what I started. It’s incredible to have her with me.
Were there any notable difficulties or high points in creating the image?
L.A.: Autumn Angel Art was young and inexperienced at the time. I started with a sketch of Deena, but at this point, I didn’t quite understand her character, her personality. So here you’ve got this picture of a meek, humble looking teenage girl, with her shoulders slightly slouched and her face full of naivete. Not the same girl as the one we see on the Extreme Makeover cover today.
So Kathryn colored my sketch and we set Deena into a background of redwood trees, the way Henry requested. Imagine this picture as a slender, brunette Deena that looks more like a high school photo than the front of a book. This I sent to Henry, expecting him to respond like “Great job! Thanks!”
Do you see where I’m going with this? Business is brutal. Money doesn’t fall from trees. Henry considered it a nice try, but explained to me how he wanted it to improve. I was like… “Really?” I thought it was close to finished! But I wanted to please my client, so I sort of wadded it up and threw it into the trash bin, and tried again. Two more times.
The second sketch had five Deenas on it. It looked about like a group of pop stars. After I tossed that one out, I tried a series of portraits, but it still fell short. I began to feel nervous I wasn’t good enough, and finally, I asked Henry, “Can I read the book myself, to find out who Deena is as a person?” I couldn’t put a face to someone I didn’t know.
Afraid of losing my first job, afraid of disappointing the author, all my anxieties came at me head on. It was at this climax of emotion where I told Henry I couldn’t draw him the cover he asked for. We exchanged our final emails, expecting it to be the end, but my spirit wasn’t ready for it to be over.
I think it was a week that went by: I dropped my art pen and stopped to breathe, taking a break from drawing. My subconscious mind started clocking away, forming a picture of Deena, the confident, brave young woman from the novel, the one full of life and action. Even when she was overweight, she was this active, outgoing character. I felt like her as a biker chick was the most fitting picture of her. And that’s when I e-mailed Henry saying I hadn’t given up and I was ready to draw him his perfect cover. Hopefully, I sold him and everyone else, because I was inspired by the novel. In fact, I hope my cover inspires Henry to write a sequel with biker chick Deena! Who wants that? Is it just me? I doubt it.
K.A.: The most notable difficulty I had was actually in learning how to work together with Lacy. This was our first freelance project, but we hadn’t really found our art style yet, which is important for any artist to recognize. Lacy wanted realistic art, which at the time my abilities as the colorist didn’t match up to her own artistic talent, and Lacy always noticed the little details that would change from her black and white picture to my colored one: the mouth crooked differently, the shading on the nose or cheeks didn’t match, or the eyes changed shape when I colored them in and added the lashes. She had high expectations that I couldn’t meet, and that made it difficult for us to produce a cover art that matched Henry’s expectations. Finally we just had to do what we could; it turned out as the cover art for Extreme Makeover.
At the time, it didn’t feel like there was a ‘high point’, but looking back now, I see that we learned a lot of important information that all digital artists should know, things that we wouldn’t have even known to look up on our own. Henry served as our art professor, and the job we were doing for him was our application lesson. (Does anyone know the importance of dpi? We didn’t!)
When Henry approached us to make the Twitter avatars for Bearing Northeast, we had learned a lot about ourselves as a team, and were more confident in how we worked together. By adding outlines to the picture, Lacy’s work could easily show through despite how it changed from her shading to my coloring. I found my place in our partnership, and didn’t have to struggle with the fear that my abilities weren’t good enough. The difficulties weren’t there anymore.
What is the hardest part of doing cover art for novels?
L.A:. Meeting the expectations and demands of the author whose characters and story aren’t your own is definitely the hardest part for me. Respectively, as the cover artist you need to obey the client’s (in this case, the author’s) instruction since he or she has spent all this time writing a manuscript about this story, these characters, and you are simply the artist, nothing else. There’s a conflict with being given too much instruction and too little; inspiration is a valuable part of the artist’s work, and with too much or too little feedback from the client, creativity is thwarted. So like, when an artist receives positive feedback, all these good vibes come forth from inspiration, but then when it’s negativity you receive, suddenly you have all these bad feelings wanting to be spilled out onto the canvas.
The hardest part about it is definitely seeing the book from the author’s perspective. That’s why you need to learn how to rise above your own, individual creativity and let it sort of merge with that of the author’s – being a cover artist demands a sense of altruism which other artists don’t find themselves faced with.
K.A.: Yes, I agree. Art is very much self-expression for artists, but drawing art for another person takes away the right that artists have to express themselves. Once an artist takes on commission work as a cover-artist, they have to express another person’s thoughts and imagination. Even with the altruistic spirit that Lacy mentioned though, we -Lacy and I- won’t give someone art that we aren’t first satisfied with; whatever art we make for publication will be a reflection of who we are. Despite the fact that we’re thinking of someone else’s story and characters, it’s still our art that’s being shown off. In my opinion, the challenge lies in the inability to match the artist’s level of talent, imagination, and self-confidence with the author’s (or publisher’s) desires for the book cover. If an artist can’t picture what’s expected, then it becomes hard to create a cover art to reach satisfaction.
Do you prefer to work from a single concept? Or would you rather read the text and create an appropriate image?
L.A.: I prefer freedom when I do my job, but I have to be trustworthy! The author has to trust me before I can expect freedom! I think that’s why I enjoy reading the author’s novel and then drawing the book cover from the text: the author says all he or she needs to say inside the book, so if I read it, I can feel inspired from it and do my job accordingly.
K.A.: We read the book so the cover can accurately depict the story. I know from personal experience how important cover art is in selling a book: I often pick up a book or game based on the art I see first. It always bothers me when I finish a book and realize the art on the front cover has absolutely nothing to do with the story, or it simply does not match the character that the author has described to me.
Where is your artwork leading you? Do you intend to do more cover art, or have you passed that by and are heading for other goals?
L.A.: My artwork has led me to follow my own dreams, which at the moment includes developing a card game, like I already mentioned, but I hope to someday make a living writing…
We are still very much in the business of cover art. We love to stay contemporary and we are always diving into the art of creative marketing, which is what cover artists must do in order to help the author sell books. So yes, we are headed onto other goals, like publishing our own stories – I see us being the cover artists for that – but no, providing services to other authors isn’t a thing of the past. I want to work with people. Variety is the spice of life. I want to be of service for others.
K.A.: Make us an offer. If you like our art, come to us and make us an offer. We may not be able to say yes, but we’ll definitely consider your proposal before saying no.
Where can the reader see more of your work? Do you have a website? Are there other notable works they can find?
K.A.: Yes, of course, our website! You can find our work at www.autumnangelart.com. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter, if anyone would like to connect with us there. We also like to share other people’s great art over on Pinterest for anyone who’s interested. Or if anyone wants to contact us, then our website has a form that they can fill out and send. We’d be happy to hear from them!
L.A.: Here’s my chance to advertise. We wrote two short stories for the successfully funded Kickstarter book “Worlds of Faith”, Christian in genre. Check it out on Amazon, on Kindle, and it’s available in print for those of you who are old-school. Also, coming soon is our card game, Escaping the Lair. This game is like a fantasy experience you’ve never had before. Seriously, it’s a lot of fun! Well, more like drama.
Our website keeps you updated. Follow us. The support of our followers and fans: priceless. I would be a nobody if it weren’t for them.
Thanks for the art you’ve provided, and for helping with this interview. I think it will be very interesting and encouraging for artists just starting out.