Today I am beyond excited to be launching our very first Cover Artist Spotlight! You all know I am crazy for a good cover and I thought it would be fun to talk to some cover artists and find out more about their design process and background and to showcase some of their amazing art.
I am thrilled today to welcome Paul Richmond who has graciously agreed to be our first featured artist. You have probably seen Paul’s work around quite a bit as his designs are very popular (and a big favorite of mine). Paul’s covers are beautiful and distinct and his work appears on many Dreamspinner books. Today he is answering questions and sharing some of the “behind the scenes” details on his work. [Note: click on any of the pics and they will be bigger and even more beautiful]
Not only was Paul kind enough to agree to my interview, but he is generously donating a signed copy of two of his favorite cover prints to two lucky winners! In addition, Dreamspinner Press is donating FIVE books featuring five of Paul’s favorite covers. So yes, in addition to getting to know Paul and seeing some of his amazing work, we have seven awesome prizes to give away today. So be sure to check out the details at the end of the post.
So with that, please join me in giving a huge welcome to Paul Richmond!
Hello Paul, thanks for joining us today!
Thanks for the invitation! Love your site, and I’m a rather joyful fellow myself! 🙂 Let’s do it!
So for starters, do you think you can tell us a bit more about yourself? And maybe a bit more about your background and training as an artist?
I grew up in a small town near Columbus, Ohio and I’ve always loved to draw. I remember sitting at the dining room table as a young kid “making books” (piles of drawings that my parents were instructed to staple on the ends). If they were lucky, a book signing and dramatic reading would follow. I started taking art lessons from a local painter named Linda Regula just before my fourth birthday. She encouraged my creativity and it blossomed under her guidance. I graduated with a degree in illustration from Columbus College of Art and Design in 2002 and came barreling out of the closet shortly thereafter. This had such an impact on my life and work. Not only did my paintings become a means of connecting with the LGBT community through gallery exhibitions, I also stumbled upon the incredible opportunity to be a cover artist for Dreamspinner Press. Now that I am working as their Associate Art Director, my childhood dream of making books has become my life’s work!
Can you tell us more about the medium you work in? Does most of your work start as painting or hand drawing, or do you work digitally?
I’m always more interested in the story being told than the technique I use to tell it, so most of my covers are a unique combination of mediums that somehow come together throughout the process. Sometimes it’s just whatever is within reach when an idea strikes! Most of my earlier covers were done entirely by hand as oil paintings on panel, sometimes with acrylic, colored pencil, or ink wash thrown in. I would usually paint them in black and white, then scan them, color them digitally and add type. I still use this technique for some covers today, but I have also become much more skilled at digital illustration. I love how programs like Photoshop allow us to replicate the look of almost any traditional medium, and I don’t have to scrub myself down afterwards (because I am a rather messy painter!). I also do photo covers as well, which are an entirely different process but equally fun. They are more like putting together a puzzle, scouring stock sites for the perfect images and piecing them together in a way that best tells the story. I’ll show you a few examples and give the behind-the-scenes scoop. [Note: I had to make these tiny in order to get the formatting to work, so remember if you click on these you can make them bigger and see all Paul’s notes and details]
How did you get started designing romance covers? Did you begin with your other work and move into cover design, or go the opposite direction?
It started with my other work. After coming out, my paintings and I were on parallel paths of increasing gayness. My friend Jane Seville, whose novel “Zero at the Bone” was about to be published, wanted a unique cover and asked if I’d be interested. It was so much fun and such a great experience working with Dreamspinner, that I was hooked! I loved that my little painting was going to help an author share their story with the world. Shamelessly I requested more work, and thankfully they obliged. Over the past few years, I’ve created almost 200 covers for them! And it’s still just as exciting for me today when I see something I made pop up on the “Coming Soon” page or get my hands on a printed copy.
For me, some of your most recognizable work is the Cheesecake Boys, as they have been featured on many of Dreamspinner Press’ Advent collections. Can you tell us more about these guys (and why they can’t keep their pants on)? 😉
I’ve always been fascinated with pin-up girls from the 40’s and 50’s. On the surface, it was a more innocent time, but as we know, sexuality doesn’t like to be repressed. The over-the-top scenarios these artists dreamed up in order to get their models to “accidentally” bare a little skin is endlessly entertaining. It intrigues me that it was almost always women shown as hapless victims of undie-flashing circumstance, while male models were in complete control of their sexy shenanigans. I like challenging gender roles, so my Cheesecake Boys were born as a modern-day counterpoint to the classic Cheesecake Girls — and because it’s fun to paint cute guys with their pants falling down! I really enjoy doing the Advent illustrations. The second cover I ever did for Dreamspinner was Mistletoe Madness, and I love it to this day. What better way to get a cute guy’s attention under the mistletoe? We won’t say if I’ve tried that trick or not.
In addition, you also have designed covers for many other Dreamspinner works. I’d love to hear a bit more about your process. How do you decide what image you want to use on the cover? Do you try to capture a scene from the book, or just the general feeling of the story and characters?
I always try to think about two things: what will best represent the story, and what would make someone want to buy the book. I think a good cover needs to accomplish both. Sometimes it’s a specific scene, character, or something more conceptual. At Dreamspinner, we have authors fill out a form giving artists the necessary information about the cover. This includes a summary of the plot, descriptions of the characters and setting, as well as their vision for the art if they have one. With their input, we determine whether a photo or illustrated cover is going to be best. Often, developing the cover image is a process of distilling the concept to its most essential elements. Throwing too many obscure or disconnected pieces together on a cover will turn off readers. They shouldn’t have to read the whole novel to understand what’s going on in the cover art. We work closely with the authors to develop the idea, allowing them multiple opportunities for feedback throughout the process. As I’m designing an image, I also zoom in and out frequently so I can see what the concept looks like at a postage stamp size since that is how most potential readers will interact with the cover at first – as a thumbnail image on the web. The image needs to be strong enough to hold up on a teensy scale. Ultimately, it’s about making some kind of emotional connection with the viewer that will hopefully intrigue them to pick up the book. That’s always my ultimate goal.
One of my absolute favorite covers of the year is the one you did for The One Who Saves Me by Cardeno C. The look on the face of the guy on the left is so adorably compelling, it makes me want to know him immediately. And I love how small details of the characters, such as the tattoos are worked into the image. Do you think you can tell us more about this one?
That was a fun cover! Cardeno requested something playful because the characters are best friends, first and foremost. It reminded me of my relationship with my partner, Dennis. He’s just as likely to be tickling me or playing some goofy prank as to be staring into my eyes passionately, but they’re all expressions of love. So I enjoyed the opportunity to show a bit of silliness through their expressions on this cover. I think that makes it very real and relatable. As for the details about their tattoos and clothing, I credit the author for giving me great descriptions to work with, right down to Caleb’s penchant for colorful underwear.
Now as I mentioned, in addition to covers you do lots of other artwork. Where can my readers go if they want to see more of you work and learn more about you?
Come visit me at my website, www.paulrichmondstudio.com. I am represented by the Lyman-Eyer Gallery in Provincetown, so you can also see and purchase paintings through their website www.lymaneyerart.com.
Before you go, I just wanted to take a moment to mention the You Will Rise Project, an anti-bullying program you co-founded. You guys are having a special program this week. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Thank you so much for joining us today and for helping me kickoff our Spotlights. I really appreciate all your time!
My pleasure! Thank you!
And now on to the giveaway! I am so excited because we have a bounty of fabulous giveaway prizes to go along with our post today. First off, Paul is donating a signed limited-edition print of the image from “Woke Up in a Strange Place” and “The Hired Man.” (It is times like this that I really wish I could enter my own contests!).
In addition, Dreamspinner Press has generously offered to give away five books with some of Paul’s favorite covers that he created! You can see them listed above in the Paul’s Top Five image, but here is the full list:
- Woke Up in a Strange Place by Eric Arvin
- The Hired Man by Jan Irving
- Gay Knights & Horny Heroes by Michael Gouda
- Twice by Chance by Susan Laine
- The One Who Saves Me by Cardeno C
So we will have a total of seven winners, one for each prize. I will allow winners to select their prize of choice in the order their names are drawn. You must respond to my email within 24 hours as we have many prizes to give out. Please make sure your spam filter is set to allow messages from Joyfully Jay. The contest will close on Friday, January 18th at 11:59 pm EST. The contest is open internationally.
- By entering the contest, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
- Winners will be selected by random number.
- If you win, you must respond to my email within 24 hours or another winner will be chosen. Please make sure that your spam filter allows email from Joyfully Jay.