About cover art.

This, I hope, sums up--for better or worse--much of the way I approach book cover design.

http://black-cat-studios.com/book_cover_design.html

I had posted most of this quite some time ago as two separate web pages. Since they had originally been created for the edification of Lois McMaster Bujold's readers (largely to explain the philosophy behind some of her new covers), they had a lot of text specific to the covers that had appeared on her work, and comments her fans had made. So I combined the two, revised and expanded the text and added more examples.

Although I add a brief paragraph at the end regarding techniques, I thought I would mention it here as well, in greater length. My covers are all over the place, technique-wise. Some of the covers are illustrations I created in traditional media. This ranges from acrylics to pen and ink. Some are painted digitally. Others include---to a greater or lesser degree---photographic elements. Most are a combination of media, however. To take one example, I might paint something in acrylics and then go back into it with some digital brushwork or the addition of photographic imagery. Regarding the latter... I should probably point out that I am no special fan of stock images. I have rarely--if ever--used any in my cover designs. Probably the only exception has been when a book has dealt with an historical topic, in which case I have turned to the Library of Congress. Otherwise, I depend entirely on my own resources. This includes thousands of photos I have taken myself. Everywhere I go, if I see anything---a texture, a scene, an object---that even remotely looks potentially useful, I take a snapshot of it. (The cover for The Midwich Cuckoos, for example, is based on a photo of a doll I found in a parking lot.) This has resulted in a very large image file, which is subdivided by subject: animals, landscapes, costumes, vehicles, etc. And each of these is broken down into subtopics, such as people engaged in various activities, heads, hands and faces, etc. I will often take photos specifically for a cover. To this end I have depended a great deal on the generosity and patience of my friends and family. My wife and daughter alone have appeared on countless covers. Among the many reasons for preferring to do this is that it gives me complete control over the imagery: I am using exactly what I want rather than the closest thing I can find. I have complete control. Another reason is an important consideration for anyone searching through stock image collections: avoiding the danger of having the same image appear on the covers of a dozen other books. Oh, yeah...and I don't have to pay anyone!

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Comments

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Indeed. But I still maintain that nowadays a book cover is only a small percentage of advertising. But I also say that's no excuse for anyone to use a poor cover. Which yours are not of course, and I hope mine are not, too!

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    Of course, book covers are only a part of a book's advertising and marketing...but since it is a book's packaging it plays a particularly significant role. For instance, a magazine ad might make you think about trying out a new breakfast cereal...but that urge can only be satisfied by getting up and going to the store to find it. But if you are already at the store and happen to be browsing along the aisles and you spot an especially attractive box of new cereal, you can pick it up and buy it on the spot. It's the immediacy of the book cover that adds to its importance.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Of course, book covers are only a part of a book's advertising and marketing...but since it is a book's packaging it plays a particularly significant role. For instance, a magazine ad might make you think about trying out a new breakfast cereal...

    There's more to adverts than just a picture of the box. There's often unrealistically attractive people shown 'enjoying' the product, which they have been paid to do, of course, and TV adverts have dialogue also. Not that they entice me to buy things though. :)

    but that urge can only be satisfied by getting up and going to the store to find it.

    Or ordering your groceries on line.

    But if you are already at the store and happen to be browsing along the aisles and you spot an especially attractive box of new cereal, you can pick it up and buy it on the spot.

    It's exceeding rare to see new cereals, and most people go out with a shopping list anyway, and are often very loyal to brands and the types they produce.

     It's the immediacy of the book cover that adds to its importance.

    Well we have been down this path before. So not the reviews in all media? and being notified by their favourite writers' websites of a new book? And so many novels are linked to TV series, also. It's not the same promotional scene as it was even just ten years ago.

    This is possibly a good example of how things have changed. This couple were the famous presenters of a Brit morning TV show, on every day for decades. They had a spot reviewing books, and it developed in to this >> https://www.whsmith.co.uk/d/Richard-And-Judy-Book-Club-2018 overlapping with their TV show and carrying on as a site after they retired from TV.

    And there's this place of course, full of reviews and recommendations (such as this example)  >>  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11178476-where-eagles-dare?rto=x_gr_w_southomepage_bp

    Not to mention this British newspaper publisher, which not only also publishes many of the books they promote, but also have the advantage of free full page adverts and reviews in their other publications that are of course never negative reviews ...

    https://www.mirror.co.uk/all-about/mirror-book-club

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    Of course, every example you give is illustrated with the cover of a book.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Not only the covers, Ron, and not only the back cover blurb, but also reviews. No matter how attractive and competent the covers are, if the reviews (which are on the same page) say the book is rubbish, who is going to buy it any way? (Apart from those who bothered to review it?!) There's no need nowadays to 'judge a book by its cover.'

    I don't feel my covers are unattractive, or bad, but they do not seem to aid my sales in any way! One day I may bother to attempt all the other methods of promoting them!

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor

    I don't feel my covers are unattractive, or bad, but they do not seem to aid my sales in any way! One day I may bother to attempt all the other methods of promoting them!

    Wondering: How do you know? Have you made the experiment of simultaneously publishing the same book with an attractive, well-designed cover and with (say) one of Lulu's solid color generic covers?

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor

    Not only the covers, Ron, and not only the back cover blurb, but also reviews. No matter how attractive and competent the covers are, if the reviews (which are on the same page) say the book is rubbish, who is going to buy it any way? (Apart from those who bothered to review it?!) There's no need nowadays to 'judge a book by its cover.'

    You kind of prove my point when you suggest that a cover gets someone to stop and read a review or blurb. If it's done that, at least, it's done its job. After that, the book is on its own to succeed or fail.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Wondering: How do you know? Have you made the experiment of simultaneously publishing the same book with an attractive, well-designed cover and with (say) one of Lulu's solid color generic covers?

    I started off on Lulu using their generic covers. I also have one or two of the same book around with different covers on. No one is going to buy them unless they are told they exist, which is often the case for any product.

    Amazon alone have mulitudious competing books on their sites

      https://www.quora.com/How-many-books-does-Amazon-have-for-sale

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    You kind of prove my point when you suggest that a cover gets someone to stop and read a review or blurb.

    I did not say that, I said it's all on the same site page. Often a small cover image (even small on my 28" monitor) with the back cover blurb. Those two alone can be seen with one glance, in fact most of a site's page can. A Preview, and just under them, many reviews. The latter cannot be seen in bricks and mortar shops, most of which have shut down.

     If it's done that, at least, it's done its job. After that, the book is on its own to succeed or fail

    There's not just the cover on book sales sites, Ron.

    However, covers do still fill a service, even with e-books, which don't even have covers as such, because they are not printed, of course. (And I have no idea why Lulu call them a Marketing Image because they are 'virtual covers.') When an ePub or Amazon MOBI are downloaded to a reading device, the cover appears on the reading app's library shelf, for to be clicked on to open the book.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited April 1
    Back to my original post (and ignoring most of the conversation since), I thought that I would copy here something I posted on Scribophile recently. It has to do with a recurrent problem I see with far too many home-made book covers: an overdependence on stock images.

    An author was looking for help with their cover. The story was set, apparently, in a kind of anarchic America. He had found a good image of a strand of barbed wire, which he used very nicely on the cover. The only problem, I felt, was that the image by itself didn't really convey what the book was about. To a potential reader, barbed wire might suggest anything from concentration camps and prisons to Zane Grey. So I suggested that he add a torn remnant from an American flag hanging from one of the barbs.

    The author's reply was "I started down that road, but couldn't find a flag I liked."

    Here is my response:

    Make one. It might sound a little sacrilegious, but buy a little flag from some discount store, tear a rag from it, hang from something and take a photo. Cut the image from the photo with an image editor and insert it into the cover art.

    I do special little set ups like that all the time whenever I need something very particular. For instance, for this illustration I did for a science magazine the spacecraft is a photo of a paper model my wife made for me (the background was painted digitally).

    I've put together a handful of examples of cover and other art in which I employed photos I've taken myself. http://black-cat-studios.com/samplecovers/index.html 

    Sometimes it's a major part of the cover, sometimes it's only a very tiny detail. Occasionally, a cover might involve bits and pieces of half a dozen photos. Whatever it takes to get exactly what I want. 

    It is not always an absolute necessity to always depend on what images one can find online. Your cover should not be dictated by the limitations of stock image sources. All too often I hear someone say, "This is the best I could do because it was all I could find." Think outside that box! Besides, when you create your own you not only get precisely what you want, it's fun, too.

    But if you do use a stock image, make it your own: adapt it, change it, add to it---make it something special and unique for your book.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Back to my original post (and ignoring most of the conversation since),

    I sincerely hope the other viewers of this thread have not ignored it, but we will never know because they never join in with further opinions.

     I thought that I would copy here something I posted on Scribophile recently. It has to do with a recurrent problem I see with far too many home-made book covers: an overdependence on stock images.

    Quiet so. And I often wonder were the cover art is sourced from that one can buy for $20? "Your text on this cover, for only ..."

    An author was looking for help with their cover. The story was set, apparently, in a kind of anarchic America. He had found a good image of a strand of barbed wire, which he used very nicely on the cover. The only problem, I felt, was that the image by itself didn't really convey what the book was about. To a potential reader, barbed wire might suggest anything from concentration camps and prisons to Zane Grey.

    Or even a guide for the collectors of vintage barbed wire. https://www.amazon.com/Barbs-Prongs-Points-Prickers-Stickers/dp/0806108762/ref=sr_1_1/135-0740666-4730225?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1522629835&sr=1-1&keywords=Barbed+wire+-+Collectors+and+collecting&dpID=51refa8eWwL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

     So I suggested that he add a torn remnant from an American flag hanging from one of the barbs.

    It is a bit of a stereotypical image, but it gets the idea across fast, though.

    The author's reply was "I started down that road, but couldn't find a flag I liked."

    That is remarkable.

    Here is my response:

    Make one. It might sound a little sacrilegious,

    And to deface it, possibly illegal.

     but buy a little flag from some discount store, tear a rag from it, hang from something and take a photo. Cut the image from the photo with an image editor and insert it into the cover art.

    Indeed, if you have a digital camera or scanner. Or even a Smartphone.

    I do special little set ups like that all the time whenever I need something very particular. For instance, for this illustration

    ("Image temporally unavailable")

    I did for a science magazine the spacecraft is a photo of a paper model my wife made for me (the background was painted digitally).

    I've put together a handful of examples of cover and other art in which I employed photos I've taken myself. http://black-cat-studios.com/samplecovers/index.html 

    Sometimes it's a major part of the cover, sometimes it's only a very tiny detail. Occasionally, a cover might involve bits and pieces of half a dozen photos. Whatever it takes to get exactly what I want. 

    I did not realise you used photos as clip-art. It does save a lot of time, though.

    It is not always an absolute necessity to always depend on what images one can find online. Your cover should not be dictated by the limitations of stock image sources. All too often I hear someone say, "This is the best I could do because it was all I could find." Think outside that box! Besides, when you create your own you not only get precisely what you want, it's fun, too.

    Not everyone has the creative talent to make a decent cover, or all covers would be good.

    But if you do use a stock image, make it your own: adapt it, change it, add to it---make it something special and unique for your book.

    Hear hear, but even that can take quite a bit of talent in the use of editing software, or even just with scissors and glue, old-school. But what you are right about, is that an effort should be made, not just a 'That will do' attitude.

    The basic technical nature oh how to draw can be learned with patience, however.  http://www.drawinghowtodraw.com/drawing-lessons/drawing-faces-lessons/howtodraw-people-tutorials.html     and many other websites and stuff on youtube to guide you through it.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited April 2
    Just FYI, it’s not illegal to tear or cut up a flag, but if the author felt uncomfortable doing that, there might have been many ways around it. Since all he would have needed was a torn scrap, he could have made that from scratch. The point of course was to not have such a slavish dependency on stock art.

    And I think that the issue may not be so much a lack of artistic ability, but of imagination.

    You are absolutely right that even a little training would be a good thing. One cannot learn to be an artist---that comes with your DNA---but one can at least learn the fundamentals of color and design, just as one can learn to be at least competent with image-manipulating software. Sadly, it is much too easy to search stock image sources for a cover image and settle for something that only just comes close to being adequate rather than take even the minimal time and effort to obtain something that is both unique and fitting.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Just FYI, it’s not illegal to tear or cut up a flag,

    It depends on the situation and reasons, not to mention the State.

    https://www.thoughtco.com/state-laws-on-flag-desecration-250038

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Since all he would have needed was a torn scrap, he could have made that from scratch.

    Indeed. And who would know, anyway?

     The point of course was to not have such a slavish dependency on stock art.

    Quite so.

    And I think that the issue may not be so much a lack of artistic ability, but of imagination.

    Oh there are many people who can imagine things, but cannot put them down on paper. In commercial places they often employ visualisation artists.

    You are absolutely right that even a little training would be a good thing.

    Indeed. It can be annoying to hear some one say they cannot draw a freehand circle or a straight line, because not many people can!

     One cannot learn to be an artist---that comes with your DNA---but one can at least learn the fundamentals of color and design, just as one can learn to be at least competent with image-manipulating software.

    Indeed (again.) but there is often a difference between an artist, and a person who is able to draw, say, people, every day as their work. They have often learned to do that by months of practice (using guides like that link I pasted in). Often they are called Commercial Artists.

     Sadly, it is much too easy to search stock image sources for a cover image and settle for something that only just comes close to being adequate rather than take even the minimal time and effort to obtain something that is both unique and fitting.

    Easy and lazy. http://www.alamy.com/category/book-covers.html       https://www.shutterstock.com/search/book+cover but at times, understandable. Many of those are far better bets than some created using Lulu's Cover Wizard tools.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    You might be surprised to hear that I heartily agree with your comments! 

    But as a professional commercial artist of nearly 50 years' experience, your description of what a commercial artist is kind of puzzles me! Would you care to expand upon it?
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited April 3

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor

    Just FYI, it’s not illegal to tear or cut up a flag,

    It depends on the situation and reasons, not to mention the State.

    https://www.thoughtco.com/state-laws-on-flag8-desecration-25003

    Well, not really. While some states still have such laws they are essentially unenforceable since they have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    But as a professional commercial artist of nearly 50 years' experience, your description of what a commercial artist is kind of puzzles me! Would you care to expand upon it?

    Indeed.  https://study.com/commercial_art.html

    Normally they work to what they are asked to do. Designing the graphics for a box of cornflakes, for example. (I am not saying that they are not skilled artists.) I too was once one, for adverts.

    See the source image

    Where as 'art' is this >>  the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

    See the source image

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Well, not really. While some states still have such laws they are essentially unenforceable since they have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

    That's true, but it only takes one other judge to overrule another, as often keeps happening with what Trump tries to do.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor

    Well, not really. While some states still have such laws they are essentially unenforceable since they have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

    That's true, but it only takes one other judge to overrule another, as often keeps happening with what Trump tries to do.

    True...but we are talking about what the law is now...and no lower court can overrule the Supreme Court.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited April 4

    But as a professional commercial artist of nearly 50 years' experience, your description of what a commercial artist is kind of puzzles me! Would you care to expand upon it?

    Indeed.  https://study.com/commercial_art.html

    Normally they work to what they are asked to do. Designing the graphics for a box of cornflakes, for example. (I am not saying that they are not skilled artists.) I too was once one, for adverts.

    See the source image

    Where as 'art' is this >>  the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

    See the source image

    That definition is much too pat...and not entirely realistic. To take just one example, virtually everything Michelangelo did was done to order. Even the Sistine Chapel was done on commission for a client who even dictated the subject. This comes clearly under your definition of commercial art. Then there are artists such as Toulouse Lautrec, who straddled the two, creating posters for his commercial clients as well as gallery art for its own sake. And, of course, virtually every portrait created in the history of art was done on order for a client. At the other end of the spectrum you find artists, such as Norman Rockwell, who rarely work other than for commercial clients, appreciated for the fine art qualities of their work—which is now collected by museums. There is in fact an immensely broad grey area between purely commercial art and purely gallery art.

    Perhaps where you go wrong is where you state that a fine artist “produc[es] works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” This glosses over the fact that an artwork can have a duel purpose and that an artist can use a commercial assignment to create something with a personal statement or deliberately with “beauty and emotional power”...and it also ignores the fact that whatever the intentions of the artist may have been or the original purpose of the art, that does not necessarily fix how the art is ultimately appreciated.

    If you think that purely commercial art, such as a paperback book cover, cannot be created with “beauty and emotional power,” just take a look at what one of my favorite cover artists, James Avati did for the novels of Erskine Caldwell.

    But what had puzzled me was the definition of commercial artist as you described it in your earlier post...”but there is often a difference between an artist, and a person who is able to draw, say, people, every day as their work. They have often learned to do that by months of practice (using guides like that link I pasted in). Often they are called Commercial Artists.”

    As near as I can puzzle out your meaning, it is that fine artists don’t need to study and practice while commercial artists need only a few months with a handful of trivial how-to guides in order to set themselves up in business.
  • I've been trying to learn Photoshop. I have 2014 version. I purchased an awesome book called 100% Photoshop which teaches how to create graphics using what is in Photoshop itself. I got started but my patience is lacking. I would to be able to make my own covers. Mostly I used public domain photos with permission and do some photo editing but that is limited.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited April 4
    I've been trying to learn Photoshop. I have 2014 version. I purchased an awesome book called 100% Photoshop which teaches how to create graphics using what is in Photoshop itself. I got started but my patience is lacking. I would to be able to make my own covers. Mostly I used public domain photos with permission and do some photo editing but that is limited.
    That’s a big step in the right direction! (And don’t worry about the vintage of your version of PS...mine is not much newer.) But...Photoshop is just a tool, just as an airbrush or pencil is. You should try to get some training in drawing, color and 2-D design. Take some courses at a local community college, if you can. They will stand you in good stead!

    (Unless you already have some background in art! Forgive me if I mistakenly assumed you didn’t!)
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    That definition is much too pat...and not entirely realistic.

    They are not my definitions. I don't know about the USA, but there are UK websites that precisely describe names of employment, what qualifications are needed, what they do and the average wage. 

     To take just one example, virtually everything Michelangelo did was done to order. Even the Sistine Chapel was done on commission for a client who even dictated the subject. This comes clearly under your definition of commercial art.

    Not as such, he would be described as in Interior Designer nowadays, who employed people to at least help him to fulfil commissions.

    Then there are artists such as Toulouse Lautrec, who straddled the two, creating posters for his commercial clients as well as gallery art for its own sake.

    Indeed, there's always grey areas.

     And, of course, virtually every portrait created in the history of art was done on order for a client.

    You are giving examples pre-the invention of the camera. And I have mentioned this before, when cameras took over from portrait painters, many of those artists turned to painting things that in those days could not be done using a camera. Picasso said it took him years to learn how to paint, then a few days to learn how to paint like a child. You said that the idea that photos put portrait painters out of work had no truth to it, but I did  not make it up. It's not exactly a secret. Here's just one example of that fact >>   http://bigthink.com/Picture-This/how-photography-changed-painting-and-vice-versa

     At the other end of the spectrum you find artists, such as Norman Rockwell, who rarely work other than for commercial clients, appreciated for the fine art qualities of their work—which is now collected by museums. There is in fact an immensely broad grey area between purely commercial art and purely gallery art.

    I know there is, but when an artist is employed or takes on a commission, to create a poster or illustrations for books, or whatever, to an exact order, they are then a Commercial Artist. That's the name of the job. That they also painted for pleasure in their spare time (or before they started to get poster commissions,) is irrelevant. A friend of mine had the contract to paint Swizzles/Matlows delivery trucks (old-school) he was a very good graphic artists, but he called himself a sign-writer. That's yet another designated name for a person paid to do art of a specific design. (Nowadays they use large printed pictures on their trucks. It's far cheaper, but a printshop commercial artist will have designed the original, apart from when they just scanned my friends work.)

    Perhaps where you go wrong is where you state that a fine artist “produc[es] works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” 

    I don't go wrong. Again, that is not my definition of it. It's a common definition, it is not my fault you do not agree with it. It seems a reasonable and common enough definition to me.

    This glosses over the fact that an artwork can have a duel purpose and that an artist can use a commercial assignment to create something with a personal statement or deliberately with “beauty and emotional power”...and it also ignores the fact that whatever the intentions of the artist may have been or the original purpose of the art, that does not necessarily fix how the art is ultimately appreciated.

    That's irrelevant. a Commercial Artist is a specific job title, and as I keep saying, it's not me who says so. It's not to do with creating art purely for pleasure and no financial gain. "A commercial artist designs graphics for print and online magazines, advertising campaigns, and packaging materials. He or she meets with a client or boss to get a general idea of a project concept, and then creates several drafts until the finished product is accepted. Commercial artists may draw by hand or work primarily with computer design programs. Professionals are employed in many different settings, including large corporations, magazine publishing companies, graphic design consulting firms, and private freelance studios. Commercial artists in large companies often work with teams of other designers and advertising experts, while a self-employed professional typically handles all aspects of a project. An artist is usually given a basic concept for a project and allowed to work out the details independently. He or she helps the client determine the best designs based on the type of product or advertisement and the target customer base. Once a plan is established, the artist can begin forming hand-drawn or computer-aided drafts. It is common for a commercial artist to speak with clients throughout the design process to explain the project's direction and receive input. The artist may create several versions of a finished project so that clients can choose their favourites."

    If you think that purely commercial art, such as a paperback book cover, cannot be created with “beauty and emotional power,” just take a look at what one of my favorite cover artists, James Avati did for the novels of Erskine Caldwell.

    Er, no one said that. Just read what I say, and not what you want to think I mean. I have not said that Commercial Artists are not artists. However, very often it can be learned at it's very basics. (In fact all art can.) Visualizers, trained to do very fast renditions in advertising concept meetings. Then those who create storyboards. Not detailed, just to get the 'flow.'  Indeed, with the likes of James Avati, but are you saying he did not do the cover art to a specific order? One would assume he would have been expected to read a synopsis first. Chris Foss is one of my favourites. But as far as I recall, he painted stuff, which were then bought to use on book covers. Many were just generic SF art, little do to with the actual stories. I do recall Yes saying that was the case with their album covers, too.

    But what had puzzled me was the definition of commercial artist as you described it in your earlier post...”but there is often a difference between an artist, and a person who is able to draw, say, people, every day as their work. They have often learned to do that by months of practice (using guides like that link I pasted in). Often they are called Commercial Artists.”

    It's not my definition, Ron, it's the generic definition of the employment. I am not sure why you think I just pull stuff out of my head. You too can looks such things up.

    https://www.indeed.com/q-Commercial-Artist-jobs.html

    https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/arts-visual-performing-design-applied-arts-commercial-advertising-art#


    As near as I can puzzle out your meaning, it is that fine artists don’t need to study and practice,

    nope that's not what I said at all, and I never mentioned 'fine artists." However, many of them do not because it is in their DNA.

     while commercial artists need only a few months with a handful of trivial how-to guides in order to set themselves up in business.

    At the basics, that is indeed true, as witnessed by some of those who often offer cover-design within the forum.

    But all art can be learned, but not every person is the same, so they only learn to different levels, and, it is in some people's DNA. I have known and do know, many people who do just that. When Woolworths were around they sold original oil paintings. They took 10 mins to paint by people who had been trained how to do that.

    https://onlineartlessons.com/how-to-draw-mist-in-the-valley-in-pastel/

    http://www.jerrysartarama.com/free-art-instruction-videos

    https://www.dragoart.com/tuts/15162/1/1/how-to-draw-stephen-hawking,-stephen-hawking.htm

    They are not going to create masterpieces, but such art is often to be found in shops and hung on many walls. 

    https://www.elitedaily.com/envision/want-to-be-an-artist-heres-why-you-should-forget-about-art-school

    Don't take it so personally Ron!

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    I've been trying to learn Photoshop. I have 2014 version. I purchased an awesome book called 100% Photoshop which teaches how to create graphics using what is in Photoshop itself. I got started but my patience is lacking. I would to be able to make my own covers. Mostly I used public domain photos with permission and do some photo editing but that is limited.

    Quite so. Anything can be learned, even if not everyone can create a Masterworks.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Ron I actually did take art for 2 years in high school. It was mostly charcoal and pen and ink that I used. Done 2 oil paintings that are so so. I really want to learn Chinese painting. I'm not the best artist but have had some experience. To be honest though I stopped doing it in my late teens for some reason and never started back. So I'd like to get back into it with Photoshop.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    Ron I actually did take art for 2 years in high school. It was mostly charcoal and pen and ink that I used. Done 2 oil paintings that are so so. I really want to learn Chinese painting. I'm not the best artist but have had some experience. To be honest though I stopped doing it in my late teens for some reason and never started back. So I'd like to get back into it with Photoshop.

    That's great! I dawned on me after I'd written my original post that perhaps I'd jumped to an unwarranted conclusion. Since I try to write to both the individual I'm replying to and the forum at large, I sometimes get a little too general. 

    If you think you've gotten a little rusty, get yourself a drawing pad and do some sketching every day. The more you do this, the better you will be at Photoshop! And no one has to see what you do other than yourself. It doesn't matter in the least what you draw and it can be any kind of media you enjoy most: pencil, charcoal, pen and ink...whatever. I do this all the time. My favorite media is the stopper from my ink bottle! I like it because I don't have much control over the ink flow. I just get some art or photo books or some magazines and sketch from the pictures I find...


  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited April 4
    Ron I actually did take art for 2 years in high school. It was mostly charcoal and pen and ink that I used. Done 2 oil paintings that are so so. I really want to learn Chinese painting. I'm not the best artist but have had some experience. To be honest though I stopped doing it in my late teens for some reason and never started back. So I'd like to get back into it with Photoshop.

    That's great! It dawned on me after I'd written my original post that perhaps I'd jumped to an unwarranted conclusion. Since I try to write to both the individual I'm replying to and the forum at large, I sometimes get a little too general. 

    If you think you've gotten a little rusty, get yourself a drawing pad and do some sketching every day. The more you do this, the better you will be at Photoshop! And no one has to see what you do other than yourself. It doesn't matter in the least what you draw and it can be any kind of media you enjoy most: pencil, charcoal, pen and ink...whatever. I do this all the time. My favorite media is the stopper from my ink bottle! I like it because I don't have much control over the ink flow. I just get some art or photo books or some magazines and sketch from the pictures I find...


  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor

    I don’t know why I keep getting myself suckered into debates with Kevin. These almost always prove to be ultimately pointless and counterproductive. It’s probably the crusader in me that hates seeing people who may perhaps be new to the world of publishing being misled. This is especially true when Kevin is talking about things about which he has more opinion than experience or knowledge. But, as I said, these debates are usually a waste of time and energy, so this will be my last word regarding the current topic.

     One of the things I hate doing is trotting out my credentials, which always seems to me to be both pretentious and self-aggrandizing. But in this case I think it might be necessary. Everyone to which none of this will be new are welcome to skip what comes between the following two rows of asterisks.

    **********************

    I will try to keep this as brief as I can. In short: I am a graduate of one of the better art colleges in the country (the Columbus College of Art & Design), from which I obtained a degree in Illustration (with a minor in advertising). I worked as a commercial illustrator for several advertising art agencies before going freelance in 1977. I have created everything from packaging, wallpaper, logos and newspaper ads to motion picture matte paintings, book covers and postage stamps. Since becoming a freelance illustrator I have contributed art to literally hundreds of magazines and books, including several hundred book covers and interior illustrations for such traditional book publishers as Berkley/Ace, Tor, Baen, National Geographic, Macmillan, Warner, etc. as well as magazines ranging from Scientific American to Analog. I have won a number of awards for this work. In working for these companies I have had to have not only a close association with art directors and editors, but a familiarity with the entire print process, from sketch to press to finished product. I have taught art at the community college level and lectured on art history at the university level. I have written a large number of professional papers and magazine articles on the history of art and illustration, as well as several books. One of these---a book about the life and art of illustrator Chesley Bonestell---is the basis for a feature-length documentary which is now a selection of the forthcoming Newport Beach Film Festival. Finally, most of my friends are also professional colleagues who have been commercial illustrators for their entire working lives. If there is anyone even remotely interested in the details of my life and work, they are welcome to visit here. My natural humility prevents me from going any further.

    ***********************

    I think that Kevin can cut and paste all of the little tidbits from the web he wants but---and please forgive this terrible conceit---that doesn’t carry the weight of my experience and expertise.

     What I find particularly offensive is his assertion that all it takes to be a professional commercial artist is a few weeks or months studying how-to manuals online. There are certainly artists who try to do this…but their clients also get exactly what they pay for, just as someone buying a factory-produced painting from Walmart gets what they pay for. What Kevin suggests is no different than telling, say, a doctor that all one has to do to become a physician is read WebMD every day for six months.

     One snippet Kevin cut from the web that he seems particularly taken with is what he believes to be an “official” definition of “commercial artist”---which, of course, is nothing of the kind. It is also at the same time much too broad and not nearly specific enough. There are, for instance, entire fields of commercial art it fails to mention, let alone methods and media. Probably the best definition of the profession would be a paraphrase of Theodore Sturgeon’s definition of “science fiction”: Commercial art is that thing I am pointing at when I say “that is commercial art.”

     Every professional artist---whether they work as a fine artist or illustrator---realizes that there is no hard and fast division between the two. There are certainly two ends of the spectrum, of course, where at one limit there is work has no other raison d’etre than its commercial application while at the other lies work that has no other purpose than its aesthetic value. But there is a very, very broad, very ill-defined grey area between.

     Likewise, there are many artists who do not fit neatly in either bracket. There are numerous fine artists throughout history who had or will take on commercial assignments. Dali, for instance, illustrated a number of books. (Sometimes doing this is an economic necessity, with commercial assignments supporting an gallery artist between shows and sales.). On the other hand, a great many commercial artists are not only accomplished fine artists, but have gallery shows of their work and museums that include their paintings in their permanent collections. To take another famous name as an example, Norman Rockwell not only did commercial magazine and advertising work but also created paintings entirely for his own satisfaction. Even the pulp artists of the Depression did fine art for its own sake. 

     Most, if not all, of the professional book cover artists among my circle of friends work in traditional media---or occasionally mixed traditional and digital. While the immediate goal of their art is to create an effective book cover, they also keep in mind the fact that the original painting will be sold to a collector---often for far more than then the publisher will have paid them to create it. (I’ve sold the originals to all but one or two of the book covers I created in traditional media.) So it behooves these people to keep in mind the dual nature of what they are creating: a good book cover on the one hand and a painting worthy of hanging on a wall on the other. These same artists will also take on private commissions for work that is indistinguishable in style and subject from their commercial work--except for the concessions that need to be made for print (such as leaving space for titles, etc.). How do you fit any of this art into tidy pigeon holes?

     It is also very often difficult to make absolute distinctions between commercial art and fine art, especially in that broad grey area I spoke of. I know from my own experience, the experience of my colleagues and my knowledge of the history of illustration that as much thought and effort can go into the creation of an illustration for a book cover or advertisement as in any gallery painting. To take Kevin’s criteria for fine art as art that evokes a sense of beauty and emotion, there are pulp magazine covers from the 30s and 40s that would be hard to beat on that score. It can certainly be said to be true for Norman Rockwell’s work and the immensely moving paintings that James Avati created for the covers of Erskine Caldwell’s books. The latter rank with any genre painting hanging in any gallery in the world. Perhaps the only criteria that Kevin might cling to is that part of his definition that states that evoking a sense of beauty and emotion is the sole and original purpose of fine art. But that is an artificial and even nonsensical distinction. Any work of art should be judged on its own merits, not for whatever its original purpose may have been. Indeed, it may not even be possible to know what the original purpose of a painting was. Besides, galleries and museums are filled with classic works of art that were done solely on commission, to the order of the artist’s client or patron, in order for the artist to make a living. Even the Sistine Chapel, as I pointed out earlier, was done as a commissioned work of art, with Michelangelo’s client dictating price, subject and location...just like any commercial illustrator. And virtually every portrait in every museum---from the Mona Lisa to Gilbert's George Washington---was done as a commission from a client.

     Art history is filled with examples of artists who straddled the fence between fine and commercial art. I used the example of Toulouse-Lautrec earlier, who was as happy creating posters for his commercial clients as he was creating art for its own sake. For many centuries artists---from Durer to Picasso---have either created or licensed reproductions of their most well-known works for mass distribution and sale. And from the earliest days of commercial advertising in the 19th century, fine artists have accepted fees for the use of their work in ads and on packaging. For instance, the famous logo for RCA was based on a gallery painting by Francis Barraud called “His Master’s Voice.” Exactly where do these people and their art fall on Kevin’s black and white spectrum? Are they commercial artists or fine artists?

     Finally, a word or two about my own special area of commercial art: illustration. The word is related to “illuminate,” which means “to bring light to.” When you hear of medieval illuminated manuscripts, that is what the art and designs were meant to do: to make the text more understandable and relatable. The art illuminated the words. Modern illustration does the same thing, whether it be on a book cover or on the interior pages. It “illuminates” a story by translating the author’s words into something visual.

     Illustration, by definition, is also art that tells a story. And in that light most of the history of art has been illustration. Every painting based on a myth, Bible story or historic event has been an illustration. And an illustrative painting need not be one based on an existing story. A painting, like the genre paintings of the 19th century and the work of Norman Rockwell, can tell its own, self-contained story just as, very often, the cover art for a book can stand alone in telling a story.

    I'm done now with this thread.


  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    We can use either of two definitions for art, imho:

    1.) Any creative endeavor which presents an image.
    2.) Creative endeavors which reveal to the viewer or reader some aspect of human life which he or she might otherwise have not recognized as such.
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