Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IWSG- Interview With Retta Stephenson

This is the Insecure Writer's Support Group post with our host Alex J. Cavanaugh. Unfortunately, I'm not able to display our badge. There seems to be a foul up with my computer.

Our co-hosts for this month are:

Tamara Narayan   
Eva E. Solar  
Shannon Lawrence  

I'd like to introduce an amazing artist who has shown me how important art is to the writing world. Retta Stephenson not only has done some of my book covers, she's also established her own site HERE. Here is me interview with her.

Questions For Retta
  1. Where did you grow up and how did this influence your art?
    I’m a Southern California girl, now transplanted to Oregon! When I was growing up, my family moved every year or two from the time I can remember and I know that had a huge impact on me.
    By the time I started to make new friends at the new place, we’d up and move again. I only really had one best friend in grade school; ditto for jr and senior high school. So I spent a lot of time in my room, drawing and painting.
    Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, allowing me quiet time needed to go inward and “see” things to draw. Back then, in the Dark Ages, we didn’t have tv’s and computers in our rooms. ;-)
  1. What brought you into the world of cover design?
    I was dragged kicking and screaming…. no no,  just kidding. Actually, My-Sister-the-Writer finished a book, and needed a cover! Oh, her name is… Karen Elizabeth Brown. Her book (still available HERE) is called Medieval Muse.
    I had a blast researching the different elements of the design for the cover art. Her writing is so descriptive, that I was able to “see” just the kind of cover I wanted to make. The challenge with art is to be able to translate the inner vision outward! But it was a lot of fun to do.
  1. Do you have a certain time of day you like to work? And do you like music, TV or silence while you work?
    I work when it’s quiet! When the pup and kitties and The Husband won’t bug me. I totally can’t “go elsewhere” in my imagination with others around and interrupting me, jerking me back to reality. So yes, I tend to end up painting in the middle of the night too often.
    If I am in the creating phase, it’s instrumental music ONLY. No words. Something about mixing left and right brain hemisperes, I’m told. Later on, I can listen to my favorite music or even a tv show that I can listen to more than watch. Though I must say, many times it all disappears and I’m not even hearing it anymore, cuz I’m “inside” the image I’m working on. Then I look up and realize 2 hours just went by!
  1. Pen and ink? Acrylic or oil? Are your book covers done by hand or digitally?
    Usually they start with many hand draw thumbnail sketches in pencil or black ink on scratch paper, done after reading the material from the author. They are rough, and I’m usually the only one that sees anything in them but chicken scratches.
    I’ll settle on one, try out a few color schemes, then run it by the author for approval. If it’s a go, then it’s my usual process: pencil, acrylics, scan it into computer, finish in Photoshop, in that order. I check with the author for any final adjustments, and voila! ha ha, makes it sound so easy.
  1. How much time do you spend on a book cover?
    Depends. I’m not a fast painter to start with, but sometimes it goes smoothly and I “see” it right from the start. So maybe a week.
    Other times… like pulling teeth. Yet invariably, towards the end when I’m convinced I’m a total fraud and how dare I think I could ever do this…. it comes together and I end up being surprised and loving it!
How do you create your basic idea for a book cover? 
  1. Basic rule of thumb: if I can’t “see” it first, I can’t paint it.
    So first thing is to get alone and quiet and get lost in the story. Or if I don’t have a finished story, read what the author gave me. Sometimes I ask specific questions once I get the seed of an idea, and the answers from the author can flesh it out.
    But let me warn you… it’s chancy putting in too much time before the story is finished. These authors have fertile imaginations, and have been known to change their minds! Then it’s EEK time, and I scramble to change my cover concept. Note to self: be patient, let the author finish first! ;-)
    7.  Are certain colors more important than others in creating a book cover?
    Color psychology, meaning of colors, science of color… oh my, there are SO many books on that topic! I’ve studied color for so long that it’s sort of intuitive for me now.
    But I will say, there are plenty of statistics that claim  warm colors combined with sparks of complementary color make a book cover that tends to attract people. So they say!
    While not discounting the experts, personally, I’d rather match the cover art to the needs of The Story. If The Story needs green, then let’s make it an exciting green!
    8.  When you read a synopsis, or part of a book, do you draw pictures while you’re reading (like an author takes notes)?
    Not usually pictures, since that takes too long and take me out of the story. But I do jot down notes, even if a word or two, to remind me of the image I saw in my minds eye. Since I don’t know yet which idea I’ll use, I save them all until the  concept is finalized.
    9.  Besides book covers, what other wonderful projects do you have in the works? Would you care to share a few with us?
    Right now I’m in the creation stage of a new series. Still making notes, drawing thumbnails to try out compositions, and bought some still life props.
    Let’s just say it involves flowers, a brass candle holder, an hourglass, many little animal figurines, and a human skull. No, nothing dark and foreboding. Rather, a time honored tradition in the art world: Vanitas still lifes. Mine will be full of color and hope and light. My candle will still be lit, my flowers alive, and my colors bright!
    10.  Some artists have favorite subjects to work with. Do you have any favorite subjects you like to paint?
    That changes often, I think. The one constant, though, is color and meaning. It has to mean something to me. To be worth exchanging my time, my LIFE, doing it. It can be serious, or light and fun. But ultimately, I would hope it adds something to someone elses life, too.
    It would be like writing a book that no one read, if no one saw the finished art. We create, and send it out into the world to be a blessing to others. And that’s my passion and my purpose.