Over the past few months I've featured several of my fellow writers from Secret Cravings Publishing, so there's a good chance you've already seen one of Dawne Dominique's arresting, intriguing covers. Her craft is direct result of passionate experimentation and self-education.
MJN: You have designed countless covers for
several publishers. Do you keep track of every project? Do you sometimes
bump into a cover on Amazon and say, "Hm... this looks
familiar?" Do you ever feel the urge to go back and revise one of
DD: I keep a Master List for two publishers.
I’m sent cover art forms for the rest. I’m also a folder freak with my
computer. *chuckles* Being a paralegal in my ‘other’ life, I’m an organized
fanatic. I have to be, so that extends to my cover artist business as well. Every
publisher I work with is different in the way they release, in the timing of
their releases, the amount of books being released, and/or the formats they’re
releasing (eBook or print). It’s my
Indie authors that keep me on my toes.
You know the saying—when it rains, it pours? I keep a spread sheet for those authors. Turnaround time is less than a week. I don’t
sleep a lot.
Of course, I’ve seen some covers out there
that look a little like mine. Creative
minds can be similar in technique. Thankfully,
I haven’t run into a situation wherein one of covers has been copied
(literally). I take what an author has given in me in terms of how they want
their cover to look (descriptions, scenery, genre, etc.) and I go from there. It’s
inevitable that some creative minds think alike. Hopefully, not identical.
With respect to going back and wanting to
revise a cover I’ve done...sometimes. And it’s usually only with my own book covers.
I would be a cover artist’s worse nightmare. I’m never satisfied. Even after
it’s published, I find something I want to change.
MJN: You were voted best cover
artist by Preditors & Editors several times, but last time the competition
got very tight. In a way, it's a popularity contest. Enough people
have to show up and vote for you. How do you develop an
internal protective mechanism to keep your emotions in check when the
DD: I don’t believe it’s a popularity
contest. It’s recognition of cover
artist talent. I’ve never been one who
gives emphasis on ‘popularity’. Even as
a teenager, I had created my own crowd. Renee Barrett, the other cover artist
in contention for first place with me, is an unbelievably talented cover
artist, and an absolute wonderful person through and through. In fact, she
emailed me on Facebook and congratulated me on the win. I admire her talent so
much. And vice-versa. That’s professionalism. This business is
competitive, true, but I’ve never been one to get upset or pout. Life is too
short for such silliness. I will say that I’ve worked with a few authors that I
won’t work with again, but I can count them on one hand...minus a few fingers.
I’ve been doing this for many years. As an author myself, I’ve had to grow
thick skin. Patience is virtue to being
a good cover artist. I grew up with a mentally challenged little brother, and I
have him to thank for the abundance of patience I have today.
For me, recognition for all my hard work is
nice to receive. Just being nominated for any award is a thrill, but without
the authors I’ve worked with none of that would be possible, so any award or
recognition is for them too. It’s their books. I’m merely taking their words
and depicting art.
MJN: With technology making graphic art so easy
to create and edit, you have to stay on top of the latest advancements.
All cover artists I've worked with tell me that so much of it is self-taught
yet you keep having to exercise your muscle to stay competitive. New
editions of PhotoShop make it so easy for new artists to emerge, so the established
ones have to stay one step ahead.
DD: I’m a self-taught photoshop artist. I
began experimenting with digital art in the early to mid-2000 with an
easy-peasy program called Serif. In fact, I still use an advanced Serif program
for print formats, along with photoshop. I always say technology is great...if
it works. Throughout the years, I’ve upgraded programs several times, but I still
use the same photoshop that I’ve used for the last five years. Graphic art has come a long way since its inception.
For me, it’s all about having my own style. I use what works best for me.
MJN: Is there a graphic novel series that you
like and derive inspiration from? I have a feeling that you are a fan of the
covers are amazing artwork. The horror/darkness aspects to them draw me in. My
personal favorite of Neil’s is a book called The Ocean at the End of the Lane. That cover is haunting,
simplistic and definitely eye-catching. That’s what I strive to do with my own
cover artwork. I’m also partial to The
MJN: For an author, one of the benefits of
working with a smaller press is having a say in the cover design. I imagine
that on occasion an author gets a little frantic because he/she doesn't know
how to communicate his/her thoughts to the cover artist. What advice
would you give to an author working with a cover artist that would make the
creative process less stressful and more productive to both of them? You
gave me excellent advice: keep things simple and don't go crazy with too many
characters and props on the cover.
DD: A lot of the covers I create are character
specific. I can never, ever get a character to be as an author has imagined. Yes,
the author has envisioned their characters in a hundred different ways. They’ve
given birth to them, so to speak. I get it. I’m an author myself. But my scope
of models is based on stock photography sites.
I’ve had more than a few authors request a different model than the one
I’ve chosen (sometimes two or three) because “they don’t like their look.” In
retrospect, it doesn’t matter how an author has imagined their character(s). If that particular model fits the character
descriptions in the book, then I’ve done my job. Every reader is going to
imagine the character(s) as they see fit.
A cover is merely a guideline. The best advice is exactly what I told
you: Keep things simple. Two characters
maximum (except for ménage, but I prefer using just the main character on those),
and a background that quirks curiosity in readers and
makes them look closer. If there’s too much going on the front, the eye doesn’t
know where to look first. We artists
call that a ‘busy’ cover. It’s the simplistic, striking artwork that renders
second looks, and those second looks can usually generate a sale.