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Alessandra Kelley 20-06-09 01:43 PM

Cover Art for my Husband's Novel
I did this painting last month, as the cover art for a science fiction novel my husband, Richard Garfinkle wrote (Short version of long story -- he's an award-winning professional author, but the publishing world has gotten kind of weird lately, so he and I have started our own publishing imprint, "Achronal Press", to publish his books ourselves). It's ginormous for me, 24"x36", all tempera of course.

I talk about it a bit on site at

Alessandra Kelley 31-08-09 03:34 PM

Here's another egg tempera I did for another of my husband's books:

We're trying an experiment in print-on-demand publishing. This is for a science fiction novel, "Wayland's Principia", about human and alien ways of thinking. Anything you have to say about the art -- if there is anything -- would be appreciated. Even "Um, it's kind of ... commercial, isn't it?" (Or one of my favorites from art school, "If you wanted to paint like that, why did you come here?")

Alessandra Kelley 27-09-09 12:05 PM

Hi, I know it's generally a no-no to bump one's posts up, but honestly, does *anyone* have an opinion? Even "I hate it"?

mona 28-09-09 02:22 AM

Cover Art for my Husband's Novel

These are both beautiful paintings, mysterious, and also well-done technically and asthetically. RE: your question Wayland's Principia, covers are usually meant to be comprehended in an instant, and reacting to it as an illustration, the combination of the imagery and the title don't feel like they clue me in enough on what the book is about. I wish I could better understand what I am seeing. You mentioned it's partly about human vs. alien thinking. Is there perhaps a way to introduce the human element more personally into it as a way to ground the unfamiliar?

I hope I'm not being too discouraging with this feedback, it's only one opinion. I'm wishing you all the best with this venture with your husband, which sounds very exciting!


Alessandra Kelley 30-09-09 01:34 PM

Bless you, Mona. I agree with you that book covers should be able to convey something of the book at a glance, and we had a certain amount of back-and-forth about Wayland's Principia. This is a literal scene from the book, involving several different aliens' space habitats interacting near Earth. It's one of those balance things -- do you want a symbolic cover, do you want to illustrate a scene, do you focus on characters (yes for the first painting, not at all for the second), do you want to clue people in to the genre.

It's possible this relies on familiarity with my husband's work. He's published a number of acclaimed science fiction and science books with a strong focus on thinking, xenophobia, and philosophical examination of the workings of the universe, and a strong background in mythology and history. Wayland is an Anglo-Norse legendary smith, and the book is on a pretty high level about smith-thinking and making things to interact with others.

PhilS 30-09-09 05:18 PM

These are brilliant, Alessandra. The transition from mosaic to "real life" in the first one is amazing. And your technical mastery of ET is impressive on the 2nd. I love the variety of textures contrasted with the smooth translucency of the wings. My only problem with the 2nd is that it seems a little scattered. The eye doesn't know where to go first. My passion is simplifying and I can't help thinking that if you had only two elements, with a dialogue going on between them, it might be less confusing. If there are several alien habitats to be incorporated, maybe you could concentrate on one interaction and have the others off in the distance(?). Like Mona, I don't want to be discouraging. It's a great painting just as it is. (They both are.)
Good luck with the projects. Keep us informed on their progress.

jim 05-10-09 05:40 PM

dear alessandra,

i love seeing current projects put online in the forum. if more of our members were to put their current work forward like that, it would probably be more interesting. anyway, i love to see the work and pondering new questions is always interesting. several of the things that come up, to my mind, are just how much impact a book cover would have for a novel being sold online, where you don't see the book on a bookshelf, but you read about it on your computer. i have no experience with marketing anything online, but it would be most interesting to hear someone's opinion about how much effect a high- or low-quality book cover might have on online marketing of the product. book publishing seems to be such a catch as catch can activity. it must be awfully difficult to draw any hard and fast conclusions about what kind of covers will make a book sell and what kind of covers might even keep it from selling. there must be people who think about this kind of thing all the time in their professional life, but i wonder if many of them ever reach any accurate or even useful conclusions.

i find it really nice to see the medium of egg tempera used for such a practical purpose as book cover illustration, when normally it seems to be used for totally aesthetic and rather high-minded purposes. there's something really delightful about taking such an elevated medium as egg tempera and dragging it kicking and screaming into the marketplace.

go girl.


(from the wife). i've tried book covers. it's very difficult to strike a balance between slick corporate pablum and a good painting, but it makes all the difference to the packaging of the book (any scifi crap with a frank frazetta cover, for example, would walk out of the bookstores). the first cover, with the people, tells a story, which is good. the second cover, which only hints, is a good painting. which is also good, because your intention is to attract attention.

i'm wondering if you'll be looking to publish other peoples' books soon...

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