Okay, it's a pun about drawing a bow, and creating the cover art for a new novel. P. H. Solomon released his new book the other day, and he's stopped by to tell us about his cover artist and share a blurb with us.
There are two things important to publishing a book: good editing and a good cover. When it comes to fantasy, a good cover is essential since the artwork must be original and capture the essence of the story. When I committed to self-publishing, I knew I needed to commission an original cover for The Bow of Destiny.
Last year I did a little fund raising to publish my book. From that I could afford to hire an artist but I didn't know how to find or choose one. Then someone tweeted some fantasy artwork, one of which was a piece entitled, “Robin of Loxley”. I immediately knew the artwork captured much of what I was looking for as cover-art for The Bow of Destiny. The archery and forest scene being very compelling for communicating theme and setting – both very effective for a fantasy novel.
I looked up the artist, Christopher Rawlins, and queried him about cover-art based on the original. Christopher was willing to take on the project. We settled on the cost and I provided him with general descriptions. When Christopher sent me the first version I was stunned. He had nailed it on the first try. We went through a few iterations to best show the title until we settled on the final version you've seen. Since then, many people have contacted me on my blog or over social media and let me know they loved the cover. It's all due to Christopher's intuitive efforts. Below is his bio and a short interview with him:
“I have lent my brush to a huge diversity of subject matter and styles. Portrayal of humans, horses, animals, and landscapes, using contemporary and modern techniques have earned admiration, acclaim and a large following. I am passionate about strong compositions, realism, detail, accuracy, dramatic lighting and strong compositions.
My artworks have been used for numerous book covers, albums and magazines, as well as entire books growing a wide audience of authoritative scholars who respect integrity, as well as faithful patrons and enthusiasts who love the action-packed and emotional style.
I have a passion for history and art so to bring history to life through my artworks is a dream come true. My approach is to try and put yourself / the viewer there to bring a true-to-life realism that the books of my childhood lacked. Detail of research for any painting is key if you are attempting a realistic representation. I research many of my artworks in detail and travel abroad to battlefield locations, museums and military archives.”
What's the best part of the work for you?
It’s a great honour to be entrusted with creating an artwork for someone else’s vision, bringing something to life visually. An entire world full of fanciful characters and other entities that the author has dared to dream about, labour over and then I’m allowed to give that world and those characters faces, costumes etc… It’s a real privilege, there are millions of artists so to be chosen for something that is so dear to someone is wonderful and as close to recognition as you are likely to come by.
Can you describe your process — and how you work with authors?
The process is always different; some authors have a very strong idea, particularly when it comes to characters. They have already seen the artwork in their own mind.
It’s really just an exercise in taking their vision and giving it a visual. That said it’s often more difficult because you know that they have such a clear idea you’re terrified that you’re not going to meet their expectations and that the characters won’t appear how they have in the authors mind. In this case for ‘The Bow Of Destiny’ I was given a very strong brief, down to eye colour and hair thickness. This was incredibly helpful but again illustrates how intimately the author knows these characters and put tremendous pressure on you to execute it. It’s like painting someone’s loved one from a description of them. It’s never going to be quite right.
What have you noticed most in terms of trends in the marketplace for covers?
Almost all artworks I’m asked to undertake for book, CD, game covers etc… have much more of a Hollywood feel than in the past. They all have a movie poster quality about them. Were all so used to seeing that kind of artwork it’s fairly natural to expect.
What is your inspiration?
That’s very difficult to answer. Everywhere and everything I guess. Unless I’m given a specific brief it’s usually music, a lyric, a haunting melody that sort of thing. I’m always looking at other artists work, looking at their treatments of similar subjects or even more abstract pieces in an attempt to push the boundaries. Movies too, they have the scope of motion, and it’s trying to bring that motion to a static piece, that’s the challenge.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Again, that’s very hard to answer. I see artists every day that genuinely blow me away, be it composition, design or superb execution I’m forever seeing images that are just stunning. That’s one of the many wonders of the web, a sharing of information and images that otherwise would only be seen by a very small number of people.100 or so years ago I would have trotted out the names of a few well known masters, but nowadays because of the wealth of information sharing it’s impossible to list out the names of all those that have wowed me. I have a new favourite almost every day.
How do you begin a cover?
It’s the background really. The sky dictates the image really. It sets the mood and the lighting; from there the distance and the middle ground take shape. Then I play around with the composition of the characters in a simply silhouette form to see what works best. Then work the characters up, basic costumes, accessories, weapons etc… I usually leave the faces until last because that’s the hard part. Once you goat a great looking character you’ll persevere with the face until you get it right. If I started with the face and had nothing else I may well give up with frustration, but the fact that you can see the rest of the image there save for a face or two give you the impetus to carry on.
About how long is the process?
This very much depends on the complexity of the image. The cover for ‘The Bow of Destiny’ was relatively straightforward with the exception of pressure of getting someone else’s vision right. I have recently created an artwork for the ‘Battle of Chillianwala’ a real battle that took place in 1849, part of the second Anglo-Sikh war.
This scene contained approximately 40 characters and 7 horses in 5 different uniforms plus an array of cannons, lances, swords, rifles and shields. All of which had to be referenced / researched to make sure they were historically accurate which is quite a task in its own right, that’s before you drawn a thing. Something like this can take around 80 -100 hours and take you to the brink and back several times over.
What do you love other than art?
Obviously, my very supportive wife Zoe and our family, who allow me the time and space needed to get into the zone. I love a variety music which as mentioned often provides me with inspiration and a keen love of classic cars and all things old.
The Bow of Destiny Blurb
Haunted by his past. Hunted in the present. Uncertain what is real.
Athson has seen things that aren't there and suffered fits since being tragically orphaned as a child at the hands of trolls and Corgren the wizard. When a strange will mentioning a mysterious bow comes into his possession, he's not sure it's real. But the trolls that soon pursue him are all too real and dangerous. And what's worse, these raiders serve Corgren and his master, the hidden dragon, Magdronu, who are responsible for the destruction of his childhood home. Athson is drawn into a quest for the concealed Bow of Hart by the mystic Withling, Hastra, but Athson isn't always sure what's real and who his enemies are. With Corgren and Magdronu involved, Athson must face not only frequent danger but his grasp on reality and the reasons behind his tragic past.
About the Author
P. H. Solomon lives in the greater Birmingham, AL area where he strongly dislikes yard work and sanding the deck rail. However, he performs these duties to maintain a nice home for his loved ones as well as the family’s German Shepherds. In his spare time, P. H. rides herd as a Computer Whisperer on large computers called servers (harmonica not required). Additionally, he enjoys reading, running, most sports and fantasy football. Having a degree in Anthropology, he also has a wide array of more “serious” interests in addition to working regularly to hone his writing. The Bow of Destiny is his first novel-length title.
9/29/15: Guest appearance on Entertaining Stories, hosted by fantasy author C. S. Boyack.
9/30/15: Guest appearance on speculative fiction author, Emory Skwara's site.
10/1/15: Guest appearance on Cindy's Notebook, hosted by author, Cynthia Harris.
10/2/15: Guest appearance on Brain to Books hosted by speculative fiction author, Angela Chrysler
10/2/15: LIVE interview 1:30-2 ET on “Tell Me a Story ” via Blog Talk Radio, hosted by Annette Rochelle Aben and The Bow of Destiny will appear the following month in the review section of the digital magazine, The Magic Happens.
Current & Upcoming Titles
Prequel short stories to The Bow of Hart Saga:
Book 3 of The Bow of Hart Saga: The White Arrow is due out Fall of 2016 (links pending).
Future Works in Planning:
A parallel series to The Bow of Hart Saga is also in process as three novellas.
There will likely be a sequel trilogy for The Bow of Hart Saga and possibly at least a prequel book.
Guardians of the Gate epic fantasy is also a book/series in development.
The Black Glove adventure-fantasy series is also in development.