I’ve recently had 2 projects on the go that required a bit of a detour from using stock photos. One is a children’s book called It’s a Catastrophe that I wanted to use great character illustrations for, and the other is a cookbook called A Gluten Free Taste of Turkey that I wanted to use a photo montage for the cover.
But where do you go to find an illustrator/graphic artist? And how can you make sure you get what you’re looking for? After all, an image in my head of how I want something to look isn’t the same as in someone else’s. If I said imagine an apple to you, it probably wouldn’t be the same picture that sprang into my mind, which is exactly why I’m not an artist because I can’t draw to save my life! So today I wanted to share two amazing artists that I found with you…
For It’s a Catastrophe I had very specific things in mind. Since the characters are cats, I obviously needed someone who could draw cats well. I didn’t want the effect to be cartoony. I needed illustrations of cats that looked like cats but showed their personality through the artwork. Some of the characters are based on my cats so I knew what I wanted them to look like, but for the others I scoured Google images for hours on end, looking for cats who looked like they would have the personality of my characters. I made a PDF document with all the pictures of the cats and listed their personality traits and any items I wanted them to be wearing/using in the drawings. That was my blueprint for the illustrations, now I just needed to find an illustrator.
I asked for recommendations from other authors and put a post on Kindleboards and came up with about 10 names. After emailing them, I narrowed it down to a couple but none of them had any cats or animals that they could show me. I decided to go with one illustrator who’d seen my blueprint and assured me they would be able to give me the look I wanted, but when I got some samples back, unfortunately, we weren’t on the same wavelength. They were a good illustrator, but just not right for this project.
I’d nearly finished the book by that time so I was panicking by then because I wanted it to be out before Christmas, and I knew that 13 illustrations of the characters would take a while to do. Then, as luck would have it, I saw a posting on Kindleboards by an artist called Leos Ng Okita, advertising his artwork. I sent him the blueprint, he sent me a sample back, and I breathed a massive sigh of relief! I’d found my illustrator. When you see what he’s done, I’m sure you’ll agree that his artwork is just brilliant! Here are a few of the final illustrations that are in the book:
Buster is the Mogfather of the Katz Crew!
Fidget has OCD: Obsessive Cleaning Disorder!
Kitler is the leader of the local feral cats
and all round Bad Tom!
Tyger used to be a supermodel cat!
Smoky is the only one of the Katz Crew who can use the Internet.
He enjoys playing online Sudoku!
Here’s a little bit about Leos:
Hi, I’m an artist from Singapore! I started drawing from a young age and did some manga drawing lessons in my country. I originally trained as an internet systems administrator but made the choice to go professional in art during my National Service with my country’s army. After my service ended I got an internship position in a local studio before taking up a private course to learn more about my industry. Three years ago, I began doing freelance illustrations to supplement my income.
I am capable of doing concept arts and I specialize in illustrations. My primary interests are in historical fantasy kind of designs, towards the steampunkish style with flying ironclads etc, and I sometimes write background stories for them like these: http://luches.deviantart.com/art/The-Urban-Explorer-217657450?q=gallery%3ALuches%2F71558&qo=8 and http://luches.deviantart.com/art/Northern-Base-260609906?q=gallery%3Aluches%2F71558&qo=10
Professionally, I do not have a fixed method to creating an illustration, as it depends on what the client wants, but personally my own style requires quite a bit of time to execute. You can find me at my Facebook page: facebook.com/LeosNgOkita or website: luches.deviantart.com
For A Gluten Free Taste of Turkey I was looking at other recipes books and decided to have a photo montage of some of the dishes on the cover, but I’d seen it done well and I’d seen it done badly. I needed something that was bright and light with tones of the Mediterranean and also screamed professional cookbook. At that time I saw another post on Kindleboards by Keith, who was advertising photo montages and custom cover art for $50, which is an amazing price for custom work. I sent him the photos with a free reign to do what he wanted and this is what he came up with:
Pretty fab stuff, isn’t it? But that’s nothing compared to some of the custom art he’s been doing. Check this out:
Here’s a little bit about Keith:
As a boy I always loved drawing and spent most of my time doing that (even during all my other lessons) and was especially fascinated by superhero comic art. This led me to learn an awful lot about drawing people. By the time I hit fourteen I started to notice book and album covers, especially sci-fi book covers, and most especially the work of Frank Frazzetta, Chris Foss, Peter Jones, Patrick Woodroffe, Roger Dean, Rodney Mathews, Brian Froud, Alan Lee and many more. That’s really the point when I got into painting seriously. I was taking a class on Saturday morning where I was encouraged to pursue this interest, and I ended up taking and passing a basic art A level and a Graphics A level before I had even taken my O levels at school.
Of course upon leaving school I went straight into art college. I don’t think my Dad was very happy about that at first but he became more supportive when I switched courses. I did that because I was very disillusioned with the basic Art course. It was focused mostly on abstract work which I didn’t enjoy (and my Dad was completely baffled by), and so I moved to a 2 year foundation course in advertising and graphic design and I found that to be very interesting.
At the end of the course I decided that instead of going on to university I would try and get a job in an advertising agency. That was in the early 80′s (yes I am that old) and it was pretty difficult, but after I offered to work for next to nothing (25 pounds a week) I managed it.
My first job was junior visualizer. Basically I sat in a room with account executives and clients, a layout pad on my lap and a set of magic markers by my side. I drew up ideas that we all discussed as fast as I could. I had minutes to produce full color, reasonable quality images, so as you can imagine it was very high pressure but it was really good for my drawing skills. And because of my youthful ego I never worried about failure. If only I were like that now.
After that I moved through the business, taking various positions and eventually ran my own agency. Along the way I had learned many skills, including copy writing, typography, photo re-touching, desktop publishing, web work and 3D, but by that point I had started to worry about consumerism and the way I was contributing to it, as well as really missing doing any actual hands on creative work. I decided to sell up my shares and set up a 3D studio.
This gave me the opportunity to work on story boards (lots of drawing), build 3D models of all kinds of things, paint background mattes and do animation. Things were going well so I decided to move my studio to Mexico. That was for two reasons. One was because the overheads were lower and two because my fiancé Wendy and I wanted to live near her family. Things went well here for a while and I even had a few new staff (I was still able to keep the staff I had in the UK thanks to the internet, they just worked from home), but then the bank collapse of 2008 happened. All of our clients either went bust or simply stopped putting work out and though I kept the studio open for three more months things didn’t improve.
At that point I didn’t know what to do but Wendy suggested I should try and pursue my original interests, and basically she supported me as I started producing samples and getting up to speed. You can see how I progressed by looking at my deviant page here: http://keithdraws.deviantart.com/
After about 18 months I started working with a band called Twelve Foot Ninja, on story boards, animation and covers. I even got the opportunity to write and illustrate a comic for them which they recently published. It is 12 issues of 6 pages each that they give away free with their new album “Silent Machine”. If you are interested the first track and comic is free and it’s here: http://twelvefootninja.com/ I’m still working with TFN and its been a great ride. During that time I also worked on a few different but new comics, one of which was called Birdwatching from Mars, written by Barry Napier. Barry and I became great friends and he asked me to do some book covers for him, and he kept telling me I should go into it seriously. Wendy also mentioned this often and so in September 2012 I decided to give it a shot. I set up a blog with the object of not only promoting my work but also to help anybody who wants to make their own cover, or to help them know exactly what to ask for when ordering a cover. For those interested you can find it here:http://keithdraws.wordpress.com.
I think I also should mention that Sibel was the very first person to contact me and order a cover when I decided to get serious and I will always be grateful to her for that. I think without her confidence in me I may not have even gotten off the ground. I have been booked solid ever since. The rest of the story is pretty much on my thread on kindleboards: http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,126284.0.html and I hope you enjoy looking through it.
Awwww, bless you, Keith, but I think your artwork speaks for itself!
So, there you have it – my experiences with two incredibly talented artists! And I have to say both Keith and Leos were so helpful, professional, and easy to work with.
It’s your turn in WG2E Land – have you used a graphic artist? Would you use one in the future?
Happy Writing! Sibel xx
Sibel Hodge is the author of bestselling romantic comedy Fourteen Days Later. She has 8 cats and 1 husband. In her spare time, she’s Wonder Woman! When she’s not out saving the world from dastardly demons she writes quirky romantic comedies, mysteries, and children’s books (with the odd thriller thrown in).
Her work has been shortlisted for the Harry Bowling Prize 2008, Highly Commended by the Yeovil Literary Prize 2009, Runner up in the Chapter One Promotions Novel Comp 2009, and nominated Best Novel with Romantic Elements in 2010 by The Romance Reviews. Her novella Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave has been listed as one of the Top 40 Books About Human Rights by Accredited Online Colleges.