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Dandelions For Dinner is the fourth book in Valerie Comer’s Farm Fresh Romance series.  I had a lot of fun illustrating this cover and I’m excited to take you through the process.

Preparation

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Because we were working with an established series, I already had a good handle on the branding.  All the Farm Fresh Romance books have been in the same illustration style with pretty, muted colours, and include swirls across the background.  Being Farm-lit, the covers are always outside, and being romance, they always have the male and female lead pictured.

I discussed the book with the author to get a feel for the characters and story.  She was still writing (which is often the case with cover art, it’s good to start the cover well before the publishing date) but she already knew the characters well.  She showed me the photos that she had based her characters looks on and we discussed the female lead’s grey and black wardrobe.  Maybe by the end of the story she could have a yellow necklace or something.  I got to pick the kitten’s colour (did I mention that Valerie is my mom?  Not all my authors let me choose the colours of pets!).

I started think about the layout, which would be a bit different than the previous books as Dandelions for Dinner has a kid as a main character.   I liked the idea of some sort of picnic in a field of dandelions.  Often I do rough sketches, but because we had such a good grasp on the series, and she knows me so well, we just talked about this without visual aids.

I looked around on Pinterest for posing ideas.  My thought was to get some ideas and then ask friends to model for my reference photos (I generally prefer to shoot my own references).  I came across the perfect photo and really wanted to just use it.  The pose was great, the people were the right age/gender/build.  Perfect.  I won’t use someone else’s photo without permission, even if it’s just a reference.  Why make an enemy when you could make a friend?  I tracked down the photographer and asked permission.  She was happy to agree.  You can check out Chelsea Nicole’s gorgeous photography at www.chelsea-nicole.com.

Sketching

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I knew I wanted the wind to swirl from the back cover to the front so I flipped the reference photo so I could swirl the girl’s hair in the wind.   As I sketched, I adjusted the details to match the story.  The little boy needed a shirt and I lengthened the girl’s hair and dress.  I swapped the buckets for a picnic basket carrying a kitten, and the man and the boy became half Korean.

When the tight sketch was finished, I transferred it to the front cover to finalize the layout with the text before starting the line art.

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Final Art

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Next I drew the line art over the sketch.  I love this stage, when it’s really starting to take shape.  Then it was time for a first pass at the colours.  It was feeling a bit dull, so I changed the title colour to pink to brighten things up.

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I extended the canvas to show the full cover wrap at this point.  I like to draw the swirls straight across, even though the spine will be a solid colour.  If it’s one seamless image it’s more versatile for promotional use.

Next came details like clothing patterns and basket weave.  Some dandelions to sink your bare feet into.  Little puffs blowing on the breeze past striped kittens.

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I’ve been using Dancing Script for this series and while I like it a lot, the “o” looks like an “a”.  I decided that just because the font creator thought this was okay, I didn’t have to agree.  I made a new “o” and changed it wherever it showed up on the cover.

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So here’s the finished front cover, and a couple of my favourite details.

Cover Wrap

I delivered the front cover as soon as I was finished (for promotion and pre-orders), but to finish the wrap I needed the back cover copy and the page count to get the spine width.  The page count is one of the last things an author knows, so I’m used to waiting a bit at this stage.  The wrap design came together very quickly this time, as it was made to match the previous books in the series.

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Here’s the finished cover!  I love how this one turned out, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the printed book.  I had a chance to read the ARC a couple weeks ago and it’s really good.  Nothing makes me happier than helping a truly great story find it’s readers.
So, what did the author think?
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“You know one thing I like? Once again, the guy especially is a unique individual. He doesn’t look like “any” guy. He looks like one guy.” – Valerie Comer

 

 

And that is the joy of a custom cover, my friends.