Wicked Fairy Tales: Under the Covers

by Siolnatine

Hello all you beautiful people! I’m Siol na Tine, the resident cover artist here at ForbiddenFiction. 🙂

The Wicked Fairy Tales Special Collection Anthology is out, and it’s awesome! I’m extra proud of this one, because I did the covers for half the stories in this collection, plus the main cover, and helped with yet a couple more. This makes sense, given that my focus is on stories with folklore or mythological references.

What I appreciate the most is that, as a full-length anthology, this collection may eventually become available in print! I could give a copy to my mother! I haven’t decided yet whether I hope she reads it… ;p

In many ways this feels like my own anthology. I learned the ropes of my job designing the covers for these stories, and I’m proud of my work, so I want to take a moment to tell you a bit about each of the covers I helped to create.

Cover for A Little Night Swimming1: A Little Night Swimming was the very first story I did a cover for. The mermaid on the cover was modified from a drawing I had done several years before. I was sketching a portrait of Yemaya, I suspect, but I didn’t make any notes one way or the other at the time.

I’ve always been pleased with that mermaid drawing, and I’m even more pleased with how that first cover came out. I often have beginners luck, and I still believe this is one of my best covers. It may even do the sweet story Mina Kelly wrote justice.

Cover for Forever After2: Designing the cover for Kailin Morgan’s Forever After was quite the learning experience for me. I’m an illustrator at heart, which is both my strength and my weakness as a cover designer. I got some of my first serious lessons in the difference between illustrating a story, and advertising for it – a book cover’s job is to entice the reader, not explain the story.

(You can go back and read all about my trial-and-error process if you like.)

I’m still proud of the fact that my first portrait of our dear Fairy “Godmother” remained the heart of the cover from beginning to end.

The Three Wives of Bluebeard Cover3: The Three Wives of Bluebeard by Annabeth Leong captured my attention immediately. I had the image for the cover in my head before I even finished reading the story, and I knew what medium I wanted to work in: pale pastels on dark paper – oh so spooky!The Three Wives of Bluebeard - Concept Model

I got a couple of my friends to pose for some reference photos for me, which I composited into a rather hot composition mockup (right) if I do say so myself. Alas, I could not unbury my black paper from the morass that was my unorganized craft room (got bettah…) and my attempts to sketch out the image in my head using vine charcoal on white paper were so terrible I won’t even upload them to my Flickr stream for the morbidly curious.

Luckily, one of my favorite out-of-copyright illustrators, Arthur Rackham, had several suitable illustrations from which I was able to pull together something rather classy.

4: The main character images for the cover of To Market were done by a friend and former-neighbor of mine who excels in anthropomorphic art. The character work is, as you can see on the story page, truly fantastic. What you can’t see is that they originally didn’t extend quite far enough down!

I’ll tell you a dirty little secret of cover design: We’re often working with the limitations of cropped images, and we’re always working with the limitations of industry-defined cover proportions, so I have to find a way to extend the image in one or another direction believably without getting caught by your diligent eyes. That shading behind Elizabeth A. Schechter‘s name isn’t just for our protagonist’s modesty, it’s also to hide the fact that my handiwork is not quite the same as the original artist. My other challenge was to create a background that suggested a goblin market without adding visual clutter that would detract from the focal characters. I think we pulled it off.

5: In retrospect, it’s kind of strange that Elf Esteem was an ordeal so similar to Forever After. Nobilis Reed‘s story delightfully mirrors Kailin Morgan’s in certain ways, so I suppose it’s only fair that my experience with them did the same.

I’ll give you more details in my full writeup on this one soon (patience, my darlings, patience…). For now let me just say that I do believe the final cover for Elf Esteem is one of my best yet.

Do Virgins Taste Better? - Princess SketchDo Virgins Taste Better? Cover6: I had great fun drawing the cover art for Do Virgins Taste Better?  Princesses and dragons aren’t new material to me. I’m a second-generation RP gamer. I cut my drawing teeth sketching out scenes from D&D campaigns in grade school. So when I my boss handed me R.W. Whitefield‘s witty answer to the question of draconic epicuriosity, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.

Whitefield wrote an erotic parody, so I drew one. My wicked princess (left) is a carefully naughty tribute to all those flat animated heroines I grew up watching – she doesn’t look realistic and she quite frankly isn’t supposed to. The result turned out even better than I’d imagined.

7: R.W. Whitefield’s Little Henna Hair is an example the rest of my job. I touch up, tweak, and finish far more of the covers than I officially design, much less illustrate. Most of our covers are still designed and primarily assembled by our reigning Wicked Queen-of-Everything, D.M. Atkins (as if she didn’t have enough to do).

As time goes by and I learn more about the business aspects of the job, I also contribute more and more incidental assistance on the covers in general: a background here, color shifting there, cleaning up the edging, adding a touch of texture, or tweaking the lighting angles. Of course we always trade opinions – mine on composition and color, hers on marketing value and visual clarity. She keeps our eyes on the prize while I try to get away with as much artistic perfection as I can cram in before the deadline.

In this case, my main contribution was in making sure the titular character actually had hennaed hair color, and some help with the composition and photo choices. Not much, I admit, but enough to make me feel that twitch of pride when I see how nice the cover came out.

Wicked Fairy Tales Cover - Clean8: I all but begged to be allowed to do the main cover for the Wicked Fairy Tales collection. As I said above, in many ways this feels like my collection. Or at least my first – here’s hoping for many more! Atkins warned me that the anthology would eventually go to print, and the requirements for a print cover were more strenuous. Was I up for that?

Not for illustrating it, I thought, but I could pull off a good enough photo collage, I was sure of it. This is how I found out just how amazing my boss is at finding the right photos available for commercial use. I knew I wanted a mirror frame, and a woman gesturing out of it. For every search I made for suitable elements, Atkins did, not one, but many choices better. I swear she’s an image search engine whisperer or something. It’s a good thing too, as the pieces she found for me to play with were exactly what I needed to assemble a sweet and spooky cover.

I never feel I own photo manipulation images the way I own drawing from scratch, but I must agree with Atkins’ assertion that this is the best cover design I’ve done for FFP so far.



Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply