What does an average day look like for an Art Director at Harlequin, and more specifically a Love Inspired Art Director? Well, the great thing is, there isn’t an average day-and that’s what I love about it!
I do, however, have a few core elements woven into my day-to-day responsibilities. These are meetings, research, creative, approvals, managing suppliers such as photographers, illustrators and retouchers, and deadlines.
Hey wait! Maybe you want to hear more about my background; how I got into design, where I studied, how long I’ve been working in the industry…. Nah, on second thought, I’ll spare you and skip ahead to the glamorous part.
Creating The Cover (the creative)
Perhaps it’s just my nature, but I think most everything is better explained with visual accompaniment. So, I will use a cover I art directed, His Montana Sweetheart by Ruth Logan, to illustrate each step in the creative process.
Laying the groundwork.
Meeting with the vision team for the creative brief is the first step. This team includes dedicated editors, a savvy marketer, and me, a passionate Art Director (AD).
The editor prepares an art fact sheet (AFS) for each story and leads us through character descriptions, key themes and hooks and ultimately how they are individually unique. Collaboratively, we determine the most relevant and saleable direction for the cover art; which elements will work best visually to tell the story and capture the audience. For example, do we depict a scene of a family in a small-town, a cowboy hero, an adorable set of twins…? Our authors also do an incredibly fabulous job outlining some pivotal scenes in the book that we draw a wealth of inspiration from.
Here is an example of one page of an AFS (typically 4-5 pages in total) with a few key points I highlighted during the brief.
After the briefing, it’s cover concept time!
Research & Creating Concepts.
I’m off to create concepts and develop the look and feel for each of the book covers. My process starts with image research. I’m very excited at this point because it’s one of my favorite aspects about my job. I can spend hours, days, weeks on this without even noticing the time pass. I scour magazines, the online world, stock photo sites, my environment… You name it and I’m there, on the hunt for poses, styling, scenery, lighting, mood and anything that inspires me.
Once my time-management skills get the better of me and I’m able to convince myself to move on, I create a rough sketch/concept on the computer and attach my inspiration and reference images. It looks like this:
Now it’s time to get approvals and make sure the vision team is on board with the direction. Once I get the go ahead, I’m off to create the final cover art.
Working with Suppliers.
Creating the final cover art for a Love Inspired book works a bit differently from our other product lines. I commission the art out directly to amazingly talented photo illustrators who are also accomplished photographers. Some are based here in Toronto and others are in and around the New York area.
We discuss in detail the concept brief including content, styling, wardrobe, casting models, mood and any other important details that need to come across in the cover art.
Speaking of wardrobe and styling, I often get lots of questions on this and so, here’s the quick lowdown. We have a wardrobe stylist for each cover. He/She rents items outlined in the creative brief in sizes specific to the models cast for the role. They pull everything from clothing, shoes, socks, hair clips, blankets, jewelry and the list goes on. This is awesome as it ensures we have the most current and up to date styles reflected on our covers. Besides a couple dated wedding dresses (I’m talking like from 1995 era-ish), a wig and some jewelry here and there, we sadly don’t keep a wardrobe room in the Harlequin headquarters. I think if we did, it would take up the whole 6 floors of our Toronto office!
Back to creating the final art.
I use the direct to artist approach because of the more heavily photo-illustrated art style of Love Inspired covers. To achieve a believable scene where the people are integrated seamlessly into the background, all the elements must work together, most importantly lighting and perspective. The illustrator will first create the background in order to nail down these elements, then shoot the models accordingly, and finally add them into the scene. The background is often a compilation of several purchased stock images and/or images they have personally shot which is how we are able to get such diverse covers each and every month.
We work very closely together throughout the entire process, which typically takes about 3 to 4 weeks. They send me sketches of their work in progress for feedback to ensure the art is taking the right path. I like to say this is where they work their magic and bring the vision to life. I am so often blown away by the great detail, care and beauty of the final product. Truly amazing, amazing work.
This series of images shows the process in a nutshell. First, choosing a pose from the photo shoot (one shoot captures on average 500-600 frames!). Next, selecting stock images for the background and lastly illustrating the final cover:
Once the final art is complete and approved, I lay out the full cover (front, back and spine). It is then passed to the production department who readies the files for print. Here is what a final cover file looks like.
Credits: Artwork by Blake Morrow ,Twitter & Instagram @shootblake
I hope you enjoyed this quick glimpse into the making of a Love Inspired cover. His Montana Sweetheart is available now!!!! So be sure to pick up your copy in-store or online!
Ruthy here!!! I love this inside look at how our covers come together, and honestly, I wouldn't have believed that it was possible to make such lifelike covers by bleeding technological wonders together! I'm crazy impressed!!!!!
Hey, I had Tim Horton's bring breakfast along and the staff at Tim Horton's is building coffees and latte's for you, too! Leave a comment and I'm going to toss your name into the NEWEST cat dish for a chance to win copies of His Montana Sweetheart or (if you've already gotten His Montana Sweetheart, thank you!!!!) I'll send out some copies of Carolyne Aarsen's "Her Montana Twins" the next book in our Big Sky Centennial series!
OH MY STARS!!!! HOW STINKIN' CUTE ARE THESE BABIES???????? ♥♥♥♥♥
And here's a great shot (via debut Love Inspired Suspense author Mary Curry!!!!) of the elevator wrap they have in San Antonio right now!!!!!YAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!!!