Finding an Illustrator/Graphic Artist

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!

It’s a Catastrophe is available from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Kobo, Smashwords, B&N.

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

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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:

A Gluten Free Taste of Turkey is available from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Kobo, Smashwords, B&N

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.

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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.


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Comments

  1. Lois Lavrisa says:

    Sibel- I love all of the graphics and artwork- great!

  2. Tamara Ward says:

    Wow! Talent like that is amazing! I love how all the cats’ personalities really come out, just by looking at their mugs. And it’s also amazing to me how different each of the cats look from each other. I think my favorite is Smoky!

    • Sibel Hodge says:

      I know, Tamara! Because there are quite a few cats, I needed not only their looks to be different, but their different personalities to shine through, and I think Leos came up trumps! Smoky is the Captain Jack Sparrow of the cat world! :)

  3. PJ Schott says:

    The creative process is as fascinating as the finished product. Thank you for sharing.

  4. D.D. Scott says:

    These are just wonderful, Sibel!!! Wow! Gorgeous!!!

    I’m going to get your children’s book for my 4 y.o. nephew for his iPad…yep…he lives on his iPad!!!

    And I luuuvvv your Gluten Free Cookbook!!! It’s yummy fabulous!!! And it was a huge hit over at The RG2E with our readers there!!!

    Also, huge shout-outs and welcomes going out to your fabulous illustrators, Leos and Keith! Well done, Guys!!!

  5. Monica Davis says:

    Sibel, your illustrations are fabulous!

    Finding that one person who has the talent, vision, and attitude to work with an author is not the easiest process. I also had a distinct vision for my book cover…it needed to tell a story and stay true to historic details. The saying may be: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, but so many do!

    • Sibel Hodge says:

      Absolutely, Monica. I had a perfect vision in my head, but with my crap talent at drawing, I would never be able to express it, but Leos and Keith are absolutely amazing at taking that vision and making it a reality :)

  6. Wow, beautiful work! Those cats are fabulously detailed. I also really like the turkey cover.

  7. Kitler is WONDERFUL! The cat drawings are so fun, and the Cookbook is beautiful.

    I’m getting ready to self-publish for the first time and definitely needed help with the cover. I read about 99designs.com in an article in Writer’s Digest. While it cost more to run a contest than flat out hiring someone, I had several designers working on designs (giving me lots of choices) and had the cover in a week. The cover I chose is amazing and the designer was extremely professional. I even got to hold a poll and engage potential readers. It was a lot of fun. :)

    • Sibel Hodge says:

      Congrats on your venture, Lara! That’s one of the things that I love about being an indie – we’re in complete control of all the creative input. Choosing a cover is as important and fulfilling as writing the novel itself!

      Good luck with everything :)

  8. Angela B says:

    I’m loving the designs, especially the Catastrophe crew :-)

  9. Alison Pensy says:

    Beautiful artwork! I would love to use an artist for a couple of my books (especially for a dragon on one cover) but I always thought the cost would be too prohibitive. In the end (it was a couple of years ago, before I made any money on my books and my budget was zero) I asked a local high school art teacher if she had any students that could draw dragons. I was lucky to find one who did a pretty decent picture for me and I gave her a gift card and acknowledged her as the cover designer :-) . I am going to have a look into your guy though because I’m sure I’m going to need to find one for my next cover. Thanks for this post it was very interesting. Love the cats :-)

  10. Christina says:

    I LOVE Keith’s covers. If you’re a D&D geek, you know one of his inspirations – Frank Frezzeta. My husband has some of the D&D art books featuring his art and magazine covers. I’m kicking around some ideas for a fantasy series at some point so I will bookmark Keith’s site for when I’m ready for a cover.

    Sibel, thanks for introducing us to these artists. Their work is amazing.

  11. Michael L. Harvey says:

    Wonderful illustrations. I, too, am looking for an illustrator for my children’s book, “The Adventures of Theologis.” What are the costs for illustrations by Leos Ng Okita? I’ll be looking for your book, “It’s a Catastrophe.”

  12. Finding an illustrator/graphic artist is a challenge. There are many great artists, but finding the one who can capture the idea that’s in my head is not easy. I’ve worked with several cartoonists, but haven’t found the ONE best for my projects.

    Thanks for sharing your great finds with us.

  13. Wow! Thanks for sharing this, Sibel. The illustrations of the cats are amazing, the cover for the cookbook is one of the best non-fiction covers I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve made a note of both artists for future reference. Good luck with the books, what age is It’s a Catastrophe aimed at?