Necessity is the Mother of Re-invention

About a week ago, I drew the line in the sand; Highfields Volume One – The Road Out,  is finished.

I have worked my way through the preparatory stages for publishing and I am missing just one thing; a cover.

I sat for hours, wading through images, considering options, examining other people’s covers and deciding what I wanted.

I formed an image in my mind of the perfect cover.

My eldest daughter has been blessed/cursed with the same artistic bent as myself, and we had long talks about what the cover should be.

Our aim was to go for a drive around our area, which is resplendent with the kind of beautiful scenery that is described in the book, and find a road leading down into a valley.

We would set up a nice shot, take a photo, give it the once over on the computer and Bob’s your auntie’s uncle.

Yes, that was the plan; until I started thinking.

In general, me thinking is not received all that well by my family, and with good reason.

Our dire financial situation, which took three years of nail-biting to somewhat climb out of, is all down to me thinking.

Great ideas, long wait times, much expense and, ultimately, failure.

However, this time my ideas were pondered for a longer period of time, with my family none the wiser, as I did the thinking all alone.

For about a week, I considered the cover in-depth; doing research, reading blogs, extracting the nucleus out of the writings of those with much more experience in this industry than the pittance I had.

What I discovered pulled me up short; there was way more to this than met the eye.

The cover, in the E-book industry, actually plays a more significant part than one might first consider.

Think about it; what is different in the way people buy their E-books than the way in which hard copies are purchased?

Logging in to Amazon’s front page, we are greeted with?

Covers. A few details below that, but it’s the picture that dominates the page and grabs that initial brief moment of engagement.

The star rating is less of an attention get, mainly as the review stars are, according to many pundits, getting old.

No, the cover artwork, in this E-book age, is much more significant than one might think, at first.

So, after considering all of this, I hit upon a few conclusions that form the basis of what Highfields Volume One needs for a cover.

A road, leading into a valley, surrounded by the beautiful scenery that the property lays in. But there’s the historical angle to consider as well; this is set in 1969, not today.

Sitting in the fore of my mind was all my experiences of beautiful Australian scenery; they were gained through two avenues – first hand, with a Mark One Eyeball, and through paintings.

First hand demands a photograph; but that would take away from the setting, which is 45 years back down the track.

A painting, on the other hand, would help to capture the historicity of the book.

It would also, I believe, capture the attention of prospective readers in a much more effective manner.

This presented a problem. Okay, it presented a huge problem; anything I used as a cover for a book would have to either have the rights purchased or be a commissioned work.

Both of these avenues are expensive, and firmly out of my reach for a one off purchase.

I also considered myself to be a very difficult customer for any graphic artist to work for, what with me being somewhat of an artist myself…

Which is where I had an epiphany; I used to paint oil landscapes.

Why couldn’t I just paint the picture I wanted for myself?

No rights issues, and I could deliver exactly what I wanted, having only myself to blame for any shortcomings.

So, I needed to purchase canvases, paints, brushes, an easel…

And set up where, exactly?

Our house is small and already full, the shed is huge, but the dust and insects ruled that out.

Then I needed to get a digital capture of the finished product and, oh, that’s right, the turpentine plays havoc with my health, I forgot about that.

Stumped.

After all that time of thinking, I was right back where I started.

Now, I wish I could remember what pointed me at the computer, but it won’t come back to me.

Somehow, I found myself Googling art programs for the PC, something I have fiddled around with before.

A few hours of research and a drive to the Sunshine Coast netted me a copy of Corel Painter 2015 and a Wacom Intuos Pro stylus tablet.

Remember what I said about me thinking and expense?

When I called my wife to relay the news, I braced for the worst. This was me going straight back down the road that saw us riding into the valley of debt in the first place.

I have written of my wife’s qualities in the past, and I guess I should have read that post again before I called her.

As it happened, we could afford the outlay, and she was nothing but supportive, after a brief moment of silence, that is.

There was another motivation for the purchase; both my girls spend enormous amounts of time drawing, both on their tablets and on paper.

Painter 2015 is a well designed program indeed, with both my daughters already fighting me for time to paint.

This setup allows the user to paint in any media they choose, and I have to say, it feels fantastic.

It gives the beginner fairly easy access, but has an incredible depth to the controls; with the stylus being sensitive to angle, speed, pressure, depth, rotation and a host of other parameters.

For me, it’s the best of both worlds. The techniques I learned all those years ago at art college and afterwards are all necessary to produce something that looks for all the world like an oil painting.

The amount of brush settings is downright frightening, but the 968 page user guide is well written and will give me years of guidance, I am sure.

The painting itself?

Well, all who have seen it have had a bit of a jaw drop moment, including my wife, who is notoriously difficult to impress that deeply.

Yes, it’s going to take some time, but it should be done by the end of this week.

I will, of course, do a cover reveal post when it’s ready, and I’ll be sure to pop up a text free version as well.

All this is quite a turn of events, and is swallowing up a huge chunk of time.

However, I have every confidence that I can produce a decent cover for myself, and perhaps for others in times to come.

I must say, after a twenty-five year absence, it feels damned good to be behind a brush again.

 

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