Monday, November 21, 2016

Ventriloquism Promo Art II

Another early cover design for Jon Padgett's The Secret of Ventriloquism, chalk on black paper.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ventriloquism Promo art 1

When designing a scratchboard illustration, I'll try ideas in chalk on black paper first to see how the contrast will work, and these concept drawings, even when unused, can become stand-alone workable images. For a striking cover to Padgett's The Secret of Ventriloquism, I wondered about Death as the ultimate Ventriloquist- would the dummy be Death's mouthpiece? Or maybe every living human body is but a dummy, which is close to the book's theme, so in this chalk drawing the doll became more human, childlike and afraid.

When another design was chosen by the author for the cover, this image served as promo art to be shared on social media.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Anatomy of a Cover: The Secret of Ventriloquism

For the cover image of The Secret of Ventriloquism, I began with designs that featured a ventriloquist's dummy, and played with expressions of fear and hate- should the dummy be a witness or a construct of evil?

Author Jon Padgett, a ventriloquist himself, worked closely with me on the cover and shared images of his own vent doll, Reggie, though he steered me away from Reggie's likeness, suggesting the following excerpt from his story "The Infusorium" as inspiration:

"The remains of the thing’s yellowed, shriveled skin cracked across its face like desiccated sand. Its mouth hung open to reveal a single line of small, dark teeth. The hair was black and slick, almost as if painted high on its head, giving the illusion of premature balding. Below the neck the child-thing seemed more insect than human. Too many arms, or were they legs? Whatever the case, they were far too long and jointed. Anyway, I had no idea how Guidry could bring himself to touch the thing, let alone cuddle up to it. But worst of all, the thing’s eyes—its great, round googly eyes. I’ve never seen eyes like that on a human being. The eyes of a doll, of a shark—still intact in its head."

The dummy's countenance went through an eerie transformation that hints at the unsettling stories in Padgett's first collection.

Once the image was etched to scratchboard and scanned, graphic designer Anna Trueman added the title banner to the front cover and spine, making it the classiest-looking thing I've worked on to date. The final product, as seen in Padgett's hand below, was a collaborative effort between Jon, Anna, and myself, one I feel privileged to have been party. 

The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook from Dunhams Manor Press and can be ordered online here.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Design Sketches for the Next Dunhams Manor Press Hardcover

Working on new images for the next Dunhams Manor hardcover, a collection by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy. This sketchbook page from the design process is one of the original art pieces to be included with a random subscription.
Ink, chalk, and ballpoint pen on 5.5 in. x 8.8 in. toned paper

Sunday, November 13, 2016

"The Secret of Ventriloquism" Illuminated Manuscript pages

Some of the art on the manuscript pages.

To help Dunhams Manor Press with their line of limited hardcover books, at the beginning of the year I offered to donate a piece of original art with each subscription. Designing the scratchboards for the covers and interior illustration generates stacks of sketches that sit in sketchbooks or are simply discarded in the recyclable bin, and if they got into the hands of readers, publisher Jordan Krall and I thought they'd make for a unique collectible. With the release of Jon Padgett's The Secret of Ventriloquism imminent, I spent the Veteran's Day weekend drawing and painting illustrations on pages of the manuscript sent to me by the author, thinking I'd only do a few... and I became so engrossed in Padgett's stories once more, I went on to create a series of new works that would've easily fit in the book. Each Dunhams Manor subscriber will receive an original "illuminated manuscript" page from Jon's collection.

Watercolored manuscript pages of Jon Padgett's "The Secret of Ventriloquism"

Doing the pages in quick succession, these images explore the themes and mood of Padgett's collection, and this project gave me the chance to revisit some of the imagery, like the blackened screaming skeletons of "The Infusorium." Seen as a set here, the evolution of design can be traced from drawing to drawing, honing the bizarre anatomy with each attempt.

I'm positive readers of weird fiction will enjoy Jon's first collection, The Secret of Ventriloquism, which is available in paperback, eBook, and limited edition hardcover from Dunhams Manor, and I look forward to working on upcoming titles by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, Matthew M. Bartlett, and Jordan Krall himself. While I doubt I'll have the time to do another series of "illuminated manuscript" pages like these, subscribers can look forward to receiving more unpublished art from other books in the near future.