My guest today is Ravven. Originally from the US, she now lives in the UK and loves it. She’s always enjoyed drawing and painting but she only got into digital art while working as a web designer for Musician’s Friend. For the past four years, after a successful career as a web developer, she has been a freelance artist.
Thank you, Ravven, for coming to my blog. How do you feel about being a full time freelance artist?
I must say that if you get the chance to work for yourself, do it at least once in your life. I’m a lot poorer than I was before but I’m a lot happier. You learn a lot about discipline when you are your own boss.
What subgenre of fantasy attracts you most?
I love reading and painting urban fantasy and dark fantasy and am a huge sci-fi and steampunk fan. I’m not a vampire/shifter fan as I think they’ve been overdone. I love YA and MG books and am not embarrassed at all to buy and read kids’ books. You’ll find some of the best fantasy around in MG books.
Do you like drawing faces/figures? Or landscape and mood are more important to you?
I love people’s faces and the shapes their bodies make. I really admire some conceptual or non-figurative art but I personally seem to be drawn to people. Mood is very important too, which is why I tend not to like close-up images (for example, the ‘bare abs’ covers prevalent in paranormal fantasy). They leave no room for theme, mood, or emotion.
Do you work with a theme in mind? Do you make book covers? Games?
I haven’t done any artwork for games yet, mainly book cover art and some CD covers. Theme is where I start, as I think it is the most important thing. You have to know what the target audience is, a synopsis of the book, and what the author considers to be the main theme: hope, loss, love, loneliness…
Do you work exclusively on computer? On paper? A combination of both? Which method do you like best?
Everything I do is digital. I work in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet. I use a mix of commercial stock and images I have shot myself. After the image has been composited, it is overpainted using the tablet.
When you work on a book cover, what do you need to know about the book? Do you read the book first?
I don’t have time to read the books, unfortunately, as I have such a heavy workload. I have a list of questions I ask prior to accepting a cover commission. One of the most important things is to know what covers the author likes personally. That gives a better feeling for what they want than a description.
I think that work done on commission is usually better than work done from the artist’s imagination alone. Do you agree? Why or why not?
It depends. If the author and artist click and a level of trust is achieved, then it can be the best thing in the world. You get amazing art from a partnership like that! On the other hand, sometimes authors want to use artists as a kind of organic software to design a cover, and that scenario is usually so constrained that it adversely affects the final image. In that case, you’ll get better work when imagination is allowed to run freely, but it all depends.
What is your process from an idea to a book cover? What tools do you use? Do you use stock images or create everything from scratch?
I always use commercial stock. After I get the initial creative brief I will start looking at stock and putting backgrounds together for mockups. The initial rough mockups are unpainted and usually use watermarked stock. The author will need to use their imagination a bit, as piecing together and painting costumes is very time consuming, and I prefer to do that on the final version. After we’ve chosen a model and the overall concept, I’ll work on a final version and at some point will provide proofs with various fonts, text treatments and so on. I wrote more about the process here.
How important is font for a book cover?
I think it is very important. Types of fonts vary from genre to genre and they also go in and out of style. Readability at a small size is the most important thing for all cover text.
What do you think about pre-made covers?
I like premade covers and plan to do more of them. It’s like anything else – you can find them quite cheaply, but generally you get what you pay for. As long as the artist has put some real work into the cover they’re great.
What social media you like best? Use most?
I mostly use Twitter. I do have a FB page for my art, but I mostly use FB to keep in touch with family and friends back home. Pinterest is great for inspiration boards and collecting things such as covers that I love. G+ hasn’t been that useful for me personally. I do have a blog that I’ve kept for over a decade, but recently I’ve been terrible at keeping up with posting.
Do people use your art without permission? For example, on Pinterest? Or on their websites? What do you think of that? Would you offer some for free?
It always happens. I don’t care about Pinterest, as long as they aren’t trying to claim ownership of the image. Same with websites – as long as they’re attributing the original artist, I don’t think it harms anyone. I’ve only found one person who was trying to claim my work as their own, and they immediately took the images down. I do offer cover work for free when I can, and in recent years ran a contest with other industry professionals (writers, editors, etc.) to give a first-time author a complete cover and editing package.