I am very happy to welcome artist Aleta Rafton here to DarkFaerieTales.com to talk about her book cover artwork.
You can also visit Aleta around the web here: Website
DFT: How did you get started in the illustration field?
I got started in illustration after graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in fine art and realizing I needed to make a living. My interest was always in painting people and I discovered that painting paperback covers was a way to paint people and make money.
DFT: How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
I’ve always painted realistically so there is some consistency to my style over the years. I have a range of realism however that goes from impressionistic to nearly photographic depending on the project. I’m always working to improve it though by studying older painters as well as my peers.
DFT: How long do you generally spend on a project?
I generally spend anywhere from 2-5 days on a project. There’s always the one that goes way beyond that too.
DFT: What are some important things to keep in mind when pursuing a career as an Illustrator?
Getting started today would be especially difficult because of the economic situation of the world. My guess is there is less work as well as a reluctance of those hiring to try new people. That being said, I think it’s best to always remember that your primary goals as an illustrator is to capture attention and tell a story quickly and dramatically. Secondly you must respect the wishes of the client and be able to easily put your ego aside. Often an art director will have a suggestion that makes the piece really work. So rather than being upset by the change, embrace it.
DFT: Do you have any advice for an artist that is interested in doing book cover work?
Study the covers of books you like and pick a genre you want to pursue. Do at least 20 samples. Then get someone who really knows their stuff to critique your work. Put your ego aside and rework your images.
DFT: Are your originals for sale, owned by you or licensed?
Many of my originals are for sale.
DFT: Do you accept private commissions?
Yes, I do private commissions but only rarely.
DFT: Is any of your illustration work digital, or is it all analogue?
Nearly all my work is digital now but prior to about 10 years ago, it was all oil painting. I never foresaw that I’d love the computer as much as I do. I have more flexibility and can be more creative using it. I’ve taken 4 classes in 3D and if I was starting out now, that’s most likely the direction I would pursue. The possibilities are endless there. You can create an entire living breathing world in your computer.
DFT: How did you get into doing work as a cover artist?
An illustrator friend gave me an art director’s name and recommended I contact him to get a cover assignment. The guy was wonderful and wanted to help me out. He gave me a few assignments right away. After that I contacted other publishers in NY and started getting work. Soon after I got an agent there and have been busy ever since.
DFT: What is your process when working with clients? Can you run us through a typical job? What is your creative process?
The cover process is different with every art director and every job. I can work from a manuscript, a phone call, an email, or a fact sheet. Some covers have very specific direction while others are more open ended. Once I get the information for a cover, I visualize a concept. Sometimes if that’s not working I start looking for inspiration from images of what I think the setting should be. The most important thing for me is the mood or feel and who the target audience is for the book. Then if necessary I shoot a model in a few poses. I find a couple that really work and create tight comps for review. Changes are made and I finish up making it as beautiful and dramatic as I can.
DFT: Is there a cover that you wish you had done or that you just really love?
There so many covers I wish I had done. Too many to name but they are what inspire me and keep me trying to get better.
DFT: Which author would you love to do a book cover for?
Off hand I can’t think of an author whose cover I’d like to do. I have been getting amazing assignments and am so grateful to be busy.
DFT: What is the best part about what you do?
The best part of what I do is that I get the opportunity to use my mind creatively and have the opportunity to grow and improve every day.
DFT: Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
I probably still get creative slumps but I don’t call them that. Whenever I feel challenged creatively, I start looking around for visual stimulation. I go to museums, galleries, movies, book stores. I look at video game art or collector art. I look at old art and new art and see where that leads.
DFT: What was one of your favorite projects?
I have several projects I could call favorites. Usually it’s the most recent one I’m working on. What creates a favorite project for me is when I push the image either by choice or the art director’s guidance that results in something unexpected. It’s what I call the happy accident. Or when I just have this amazing clear idea that’s very strong.
DFT: Describe your work setting.
My work setting has several computers, a easel, lots of books and is generally a mess by most standards. I read once that a messy desk is the sign of a creative mind. That way I don’t feel bad about it.
DFT: Do you have any current projects that you would like to tell us about?
I’m working on several demon covers that are dream jobs! Great art directors, Tom Egner and Ray Lundgren, and great jobs!
DFT: What is your favorite fairy tale? Why?
Pinnochio is one of my favorite fairy tales because truth is so important and it’s so easy to be deceived. Many of Grimm’s fairy tales are wonderful too.
DFT: What do you like to read for pleasure?
I love to read anything by Malcolm Gladwell, history, current events, good sci-fi or fantasy. The only problem is that I realize to become really good at my work, the more time I spend at it the better I get. Besides working out a lot at the gym, there isn’t a lot of time for anything else…
DFT: Aleta – thanks for sharing and taking the time to stop by.
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