As I mentioned a while back, I have a new novel coming out soon. The biggest challenge may well have been coming up with the right cover. The writing of the sucker? That I at least have in my control, for good or ill. But art is out of my comfort zone. Making this more problematic is that I couldn't use the wonderful guy, Bryan Larkin, who did my previous book. That's because he's a graphic designer, and for this I need an illustrator. (The book deals with women, and I need the drawing to be reasonably accurate to descriptions in the book.) And making this even more problematic is that illustrators are much more expensive, and I just don't have the budget.
I finally came up with a guy who was very professional, an expert in the historical period the story takes place, and he did a respectable job when he sent in a pencil-drawing sketch. His style was much more old-world rather than that realistic, almost photo-quality look I dearly wanted, but he was far better than my other options at my budget. So, I could happily live with it.
The problem though was that he was busy on a major project, something he never quite made clear. He took six weeks to get to the pencil sketch and kept putting off fixing it week upon week. And then he said maybe he hoped to get the next pencil draft done in three weeks. I estimated that at best, it would all be three months for the whole project, if all went well -- for a job that artists were telling me should take a month.
Alas, I finally had enough and cut ties with him. It was all very polite, though he explained how complex and time-consuming my requirements were. (I scratched my head on that.)
This was last Wednesday morning. I was feeling lousy, not knowing where I'd be able to turn, and what I could get at my budget. I had to start from scratch with zero idea. And my hoped-for deadline had drifted away in the distance.
I was recommended to a website, Freelanced.com. You put up your job and wait to see if any freelancers are interested. I got about 60 responses, and quite liked about eight of them. Several even included personal notes about how the project sounded great and they’d be terrific for it, which I loved hearing their enthusiasm.
Then, late in the day, another illustrator applied, and she also sent a personal note about how good a fit we'd make. I took a look at her website -- and was absolutely floored. Gobsmacked. OhMyGod stunned. It was brilliant, wildly creative work. And she drew women like I'd wished for. But I sent her a note saying that as remarkable as her talent was, I suspected she hadn't seen my posting of my budget, which was paltry compared to what work like this very realistic style gets, and she was out of my league. (It often uses rotoscoping, and I've been told that such an illustrator can cost a great deal.) Plus, she has was represented by a prestigious agency, which raises the price further.
However, she wrote back that what I was offering was fine! Honesty, I have absolutely no idea why, I truly can't figure it out. The best I can guess from things she's said is that she likes the project. Who knows? Maybe it's my cheery charm. Hey, I'm not arguing. She has a full-time job at a photo agency, and has won awards, so I'm counting my lucky stars. She's anxious to do it, and that's good enough for me. She said she couldn't start immediately, but thinks it can all be finished by mid-July. I can live with it. Especially with someone this freaking good. She a) draws realistic-looking characters, b) is wildly imaginative, and c) half her samples are beautiful women.
I'm so sorry I've lost months with this, but I truly can't believe my luck at finding her. It is SO far-superior from what I had. His work was good, very professional, but very old-world style,. Her work...is vibrant. She's quite remarkable. And a pleasure to deal with.
So, from feeling lousy in the morning, to feeling giddy by the end of the day is quite a reversal.
This is a link to her website here, the wonderful Dawn Austin.
This below is just one of many samples in her portfolio. Not the most vibrant. Not remotely The Best. Just one that's typical of her quality and style.
Two days later, she sent me a rough first draft.
The fact that she already had a first draft is stunning by itself. That’s it’s so good – and in full color – is remarkable. (So much for how complex and time-consuming the project is...)
But beyond that, it was absolutely terrific – one friend wrote back, "OhMyGod!" Another said simply "Awesome!" A third said, "You are so lucky."
I am so lucky.
The drawing wasn't “right.” The characters are a bit off, but she said they're easy fixes. Besides which, I wanted to leave her a lot of wiggle room for her own creativity to decide what’s best. Because she's got a whole lot of creativity. But she did the rough draft in just two days. And if I had been on a deadline and needed something that very day, I’d happily have gone with it.
Sometimes, nothing more that pure praise is due. Dawn Austin is deserving of pure praise.
Me, I lucked out.