Monday, May 17, 2010

Going Under Cover

by Nicole Seitz
I didn't mean for it to happen. Honest. I just pulled out my tackle box of paints, grabbed some brushes, and let the Spirit take me and my wild, waving hand all over the canvas. I hardly remember doing it. I remember praying about mid-way though and watching as the image revealed itself like magic before my eyes. When I saw what I'd done, I slapped that puppy on the front page of my new web site. How cool was it to have your own website using your very own name? I was happy. Truly happy. And I'd painted with wild abandon. It showed.

My then publisher saw the painting after browsing my new site and said, "This is what we want for the cover of The Spirit of Sweetgrass." Just like that. I was going to be a book cover illustrator.

Now, I had illustrated for magazines and such before, but to have your painting on your very own novel? It was more than I could handle. I've had more comments on that cover...people say they pick it up because of the the colors, the feel, the woman in the water. It thrills me to think my spirit-filled painting caused a reader to pick up my spirit-filled book.

Next came Trouble the Water. Readers had responded to my artwork so we tried again. Not so easy this time. Different publisher, trying to work with me on it. I did a painting of two girls on the beach. Two young-children-y. I found a painting I'd done of a marsh and storm coming. Too dark. Next, I did a painting of a woman waist deep in water. Almost there, but she looked like she was from another era. Too old-fashioned. I was beginning to feel like Goldilocks. So I took that painting and took off some of her clothing, seriously, arms, showed a little leg. At last we had the cover. I have prints of some of my artwork and that one stays sold out.

The third book was even harder to illustrate. I tried a fish (there is a prominent one in the book.) Too fishy, too masculine. I tried a woman, a Vietnamese woman from the back. Almost there, they said, but no cigar. The winning image for A Hundred Years of Happiness used the fish painting on top of the woman painting with a photograph of water lilies I'd taken. This is definitely my most complex cover, arguably for my most complex book. I think it works.

When it came time for the cover of Saving Cicadas I had my daughter pose for photographs wearing a princess dress and Barbie wings. The narrator is an 8 year old girl. I got some really good ones of her. I painted one. Boom. We had it on the first try. I adore that cover. My daughter likes to tell her little friends, "That's me," while pointing at Mommy's book. My son doesn't like it so much because as he put it, "It's not me." Well, you can't please everyone. fifth book is being edited right now. We're working on a cover. My publisher wanted something a little different for this book. The characters are older (and adorable, lovable...can you tell I'm in love?) It's also inspired in part by a photo of my grandmother that made it's way up to the World's Fair in 1939. I haven't seen the final yet, but I've seen the comps and let me tell you how thrilled I am to have that photo of my beautiful grandmother on the cover along with illustrations of plants and flowers I painted. The feel of the book is different, but there's a whole lot of meaning behind it all. Looking forward to sharing it with you as we get closer to pub date.

I can't tell you how honored I am that I've been able to illustrate the covers of my novels and touch my readers, not only in the literary sense, but visually too. It makes it even more intimate for me. It's a long road and hard work, on top of the writing. Some day (egad!) it may not be feasible for me to paint my covers but for now, I am so grateful to the publisher who lets me paint and to the readers who respond to my brush.

God bless you all.

PS. Which cover do you like best and why?

Nicole Seitz is the author and illustrator of four novels, The Spirit of Sweetgrass, Trouble the Water, A Hundred Years of Happiness, and Saving Cicadas. She is busy working on her next book for Thomas Nelson. Some day she aspires to do children's books, too.

Learn more about Nicole's books and artwork at Click on SHOP on the homepage to purchase her notecards and prints. Click on the Artwork link on the bottom of the page to view her art portfolios.


Anonymous said...

I love them all.It's so hard to choose. They are just gorgeous and I can't wait to see the new one. Maybe I like the water cover best. The colors are fabulous and there's some movement there.

Karin Gillespie said...

I've always heard the writers aren't visual people but you clearly are. All of these covers are so beautiful and they also help to brand your books. I love the one with yout daughter. It tugs at my heartstrings,

LR said...

That's cool that you paint your own covers. I like water so I'll go with "Trouble the Water." :)

Niles Reddick said...

I do think it's really great that you do your own covers, and more importantly that "they" let you. My favorite is the "Sweetgrass" one. I'm not sure why, really, but I think it may be the contrasting colors (and I like hats, though I don't wear them).