Last week, I had the privilege of hiring artist Jake Murray to design the cover to my book, The Dead Don’t Cry. With a keen eye for subtlety and a love for science fiction, he is bringing to life characters that have until now existed only in my imagination. But that trick isn’t unique to him. What is, however, is the level of thought he brings to his work. Regarding the angle he chose for my cover and the tilt reflected therein, he writes:
The “worm’s-eye” viewpoint gives us a sense that these two characters are strong (at least stronger than us because we have to look up to them), while the tilted angle suggests unbalance. They are strong, but their world is not stable.
Jake has not read TDDC, yet he understands perfectly the theme I was aiming for. In today’s “In the Biz,” he shares some more of his wisdom with us all!
What drew you to fantasy and science fiction?
Wow. That’s a tough one, and then again I guess not that tough. Thinking as far back as I can remember, I’d have to say that Star Wars was what initially got me hooked on sci-fi and fantasy. It really is both genres all packed into one. My mother actually had to make me watch the first one because I was a really skeptical five-year old. But after that, I’ve been a fan ever since.
What sets cover design apart from other commissions?
I’d say cover design can sometimes be a bit more intimidating because your work has a much more direct impact on whether or not a client’s product is going to grab someone’s interest and potentially sell. The stakes are a little higher than doing interior illustration work.
A book cover can make or break a book. What endears you to commit to a project?
It definitely helps if you can get behind the material and really take interest in it. But even if you can’t, each project presents its own challenges from an artistic perspective – and I do enjoy challenges.
Writers are notoriously opinionated. How do you approach dealing with their vision without compromising your own?
As an illustrator, I think it’s important to understand that it really isn’t so much about your artistic vision as it is about helping your client to actualize theirs in the best possible way. Sometimes that means telling a client that very specific and wonderful idea they have doesn’t work artistically. Sometimes it means accepting that my wonderfully creative idea doesn’t really work for a given project. Illustration is a service industry and that’s really how I try to approach it.
What advice – if any – can you share with writers looking to partner with an illustrator?
I would say, first off, be willing to offer some sort of compensation as a client. I’ve not encountered this with an author before, but there are some businesses and individuals out there that love to justify an unpaid project as “great work for your portfolio.” While it can definitely have that benefit, I think sometimes there’s a misconception that because artists enjoy the work they do, it’s not really work. Of course, it’s ultimately up to the illustrator to accept the job for pay or not, but it’s nice to know that your work and time is really being valued.
Lastly I would say that if you’re new to working with an illustrator, communication is key. Give as much information about what you’re looking for as you can. Share your vision so that the artist can really serve you and make it the best it can be!
Jake Murray started his career back in 2005 with “Mr. Topaz Takes a Walk” and its sequel “Mr. Topaz is Left in Charge,” print-on-demand children’s books that can be found on amazon.com. Since then, he has maintained a small list of clients such as SBC Advertising and some smaller local businesses. He is currently working with Fantasy Flight Games as a freelancer producing artwork for collectible cards, has a project in the works with another board game company, and is doing some concept design for screenwriter’s film pitch. Ultimately, he’d like focus on doing cover art for the major sci-fi/fantasy publishers, as well as continue working for film and games.
Jake, when TDDC takes off, you can count on at least three more covers!