Book covers are pretty much the very first thing we can see when we pick up a book. A book isn’t released without one and you see it every time you shut the book. Even if you read only eBooks, they still have covers. So why aren’t our cover designers celebrated as much as they must be? They are the artists of literary world and they paint a picture for the words that we so cherish. When I see a beautiful book the first thing I always want to know is who the genius behind the cover design is, the illustrator AND the designer. And to bring ore attention to these artists, I thought I’d start a Cover Design section on my blog for designers and illustrators. Starting with….. Asma Kazi who illustrated the cover of Dark Things.
I was commissioned by Hachette India, to create the cover art for Dark Things, the dark fantasy novel, by Sukanya Venkatraghavan. The Dark Things cover best represents the absolutely charmed year 2015 was, for me.Sukanya & I bonded over Alice in Wonderland and our love for all things enchanting. And when Sukanya hesitantly asked if I would illustrate the book cover for her, I obviously said Yes!
I had the pleasure, of reading an early draft of the book, an otherworldly tale of the bewitching Yakshi, Ardra, and her quest to finding herself amidst the darkness and mystery that surrounds her. And was only glad, for having committed to the project.
I’m a mixed media artist, and most of my artworks are hyperactive, very textured, and many layered with slathering of paint, and intensive line work. So I had to literally psyche myself with chants to keep things simple, and not go overboard, with the cover.
It being my first time designing a book cover, the process was pretty alien to me. I was however lucky to have clear specs from Sukanya & Hachette, on the preferred colour palette, and the vision for the cover. And after some back and forth, on a couple of concept sketches, we were ready to proceed with the illustration as seen on the cover right now. It was of course just a basic digital sketch at that point.
From there on, the sketch went through multiple transitions, starting with a basic sketch on canvas, to building the multihued night sky & blood moon with layers of paint, and transferring the work back onto digital space to clean up the lines and have it set for printing. What made the complete process most delightful was, closely working with the writer, who had a clear vision of what she wanted for the cover, and still allowed creative freedom & space for the concept to develop into its current surreal form
How it felt to see it in print.
I saw an image, the blown up version of the cover on a banner at the World book fair in Delhi, Sukanya sent it to me. And I freaked out. I was thrilled, to see Ardra standing tall on a banner, next to Ironman. And to hear of all the people taking pictures by the beautiful Ardra. But I was also panicking. I saw the artwork in person, when I got my copy of the book, much later, and was obviously ecstatic about it. I still am, every time I spot the book, on my own bookshelf, or somewhere else.
Will you design another cover again? If you do what kind of book would you like to design for?
My journey as a visual artist so far has been all about pushing my creative boundaries. Going by my first experience of working on a book cover, and the feedback received, I would definitely love to work on a book cover again. Why stop at a book cover, I say, I’d illustrate a whole book.
While I easily gravitate towards all things fantastical, I wouldn’t want to restrict myself to a specific genre of books.
What is your favourite book cover?
I love the covers on all the books in the Inheritance cycle, I am an absolute sucker for dragons. Also, Amruta Patil’s Adi Parva. Love the cover, as well as the gorgeous artwork illustrating the book.
I went through your website and your doodles are lovely. Could you tell me more bout that as well, what you do?
Thank you. The first of the line drawings in the “Dots, squiggle & Lines” series happened by accident, while testing my new pens & drawing pad. The others emerged during the endless hours spent waiting in hospitals, cafes and other random places in 2012. These are drawn free hand, unplanned and are very influenced by tales of alternate universes, conversations, books and other things obscure. Creating zentangles is therapeutic;and it is my favourite kind of meditation.
These drawings are the more “minimalistic” of my works and are available as prints on the website (www.kaleidodrama.com). Minimalistic, only in comparison to my paintings, that are more chaotic, textured and multilayered.