Well, it is a pleasure to be a fellow party-thrower here for Natalie’s Launch Party–an honor, really. I always find it kind of funny to read a book written by someone who I like so much as Natalie. As I read it, I could swear that I heard it in her voice sometimes. Anyway, it only added to the experience. 🙂
FLYING THE DRAGON is a wonderfully layered story. I learned so much about the Japanese culture in reading it. I also feel like I learned about these two characters that felt so real to me. It is a story that has many themes that the mind lingers upon once the book is closed–things that many of us are thinking about these days such as the many children who are learning English as a second language (And their dedicated teachers!) and the integration of multiculturalism into our great melting pot here. However, at its heart it is a story about family, love, and honor. It is a story about two very different kids (and cousins) whose worlds crash who ultimately come to realize that they have a few very important things in common–such as a deep love for their grandfather. It was a pleasure to be on that journey with Skye and Hiroshi. Also, it is the first book that I’ve ever read that made me want to build and fly my own kite.
Another honor for me! I had the opportunity to interview Kelly Murphy, the very talented illustrator who painted the lovely cover of FLYING THE DRAGON. Let’s hear from her, shall we?
I am so glad that you can see the richness of the sunlight in the painting. It was exactly what I was trying to capture. If I had to say that one particular thing is the inspiration for my artwork, I would have to answer light. Light can convey so much depth and emotion. I paint in a number of layers, alternating from oils to acrylics, one layer developing the tonal structure and the other layer bringing in the subtly of hue shift. I think the richness or glow is directly related to this type of glazing.
Ø Do you read a book before deciding to accept a project? Are there factors that you take into account besides just the story?
Typically, I always have enough time to read the whole manuscript. I personally think it is really important to read the whole manuscript. Sometimes, the author is still going through revisions, but it is at a healthy point where I can start to create the visual imagery. One important thing that I always try to take into account is uniqueness, or shelf-pop of the book cover. With so many books being displayed in libraries and bookstores, I always want to create a cover that provides that extra something that brings a read in.
Ø Would you please give us a bit of information about the mediums you used here and what other mediums you may have considered? Did you have other cover ideas that you didn’t use?
Most of the work that I do for publishing is traditional mixed media. I combine acrylics and oils in thin layers to allow light to reflect the translucency of the pigments. I used to have difficulty painting value (lights and darks) with color. I developed a technique of separating the two necessary qualities into separate layers. The yellow that you mentioned earlier is actually my oil layer that I used to establish value within the image. Typically, I like to provide the publisher with a few different ideas for each story. If I am lucky, the editors and art directors like one of them more than the other, and with a few compositional tweaks, I can go to a finish. I really enjoyed the shape of the rokkaku kite, and tried to work it in as a motif in some of the sketches, but those sketches seemed to get away from the more important mood that the book was wonderfully written in. I can see why the editors and art directors chose their preferred image. Below are the other ideas I presented.
Ø As an artist, can you please share a bit about your process of choosing from the many facets of a book when deciding what to depict on a cover? Is it your decision or does the publisher weigh in?
Sometimes publishers have a set idea they want to use. More often, they trust the creative process and conceptual strength that an illustrator brings to a table. I can imagine how difficult it might be to have a piece of writing and have someone else enter with their own visuals of that writing. I really respect authors for their bravery. Typically, I will read through the whole manuscript and highlight all of the necessary pieces of information: age of character, description of character, location, names, likes, dislikes… all of the facts that need to be met. Then, at the end of each chapter I select two different images that spoke to me the strongest, or which moment was key to understanding more about the characters. By the books end, I can then see all of those notes and deduce what brings them all together. What was the overall message the author was trying to convey? I’d like to think that illustrators are problem solvers… and we discover how to communicate the best idea visually.
Ø -Your cover art has a lot of movement- how do you work out the composition so that it stays alive?
Phew! I am glad you think so! Compositional focus is very important when trying to present these visual ideas I keep talking about. Do we focus on Skye in the bottom right hand corner first because she is the darkest object on the cover first? Or do we follow the bright red kite into the undulating dragon, down the string to Hiroshi, then follow the path to Skye? Much like understanding the course of events in a movie or animation, illustrators need to sequence and pace which information their viewer concentrates on in one image. I simply create a hierarchy of objects, or what are the most important things to notice first. The best way to do this…? Thumbnail sketch every possible idea.
Thanks so much again for the opportunity to be a part of Natalie’s book launch!
No, thank YOU, Kelly. It was so great to hear about your process! ALso thanks for your generosity in sharing these other versions of covers for FLYING THE DRAGON. Any one of them would have been great! But I really do love the final one.
Thank you, again. 🙂
AND ~ my heartfelt **congratulations** to Natalie on her launch! YEAH!
<Lynda is told to go fly a kite. Having been told *many times* to go do this, this is the first time she is happy to oblige.>