When Christina McMullen, one of my favorite indie authors and a good friend, approached me to work on the cover for her book, I admit I was a bit nervous. I mean, I’ve done commissioned artwork for years, so I’m accustomed to doing artwork for others. And I’ve even done book covers, but they were always for my own books, so it was mostly easy to know what to do.
Still, I’d read an early beta copy of the first few chapters of A Space Girl from Earth, and I was hooked. Ellie was a heroine I could really stand behind, and her story is filled with delicious sci-fi, edge-of-your-seat adventure, and heart-string-pulling romance. Admittedly, I haven’t had a chance yet to read through the final version, but it’s next on my list and I’m itching to get to it.
So, with a just a little trepidation because I felt this was a character who deserved a great portrayal, and because I wasn’t sure I was the one to make that happen, I agreed to paint Ellie for Christina. The result, to my delight, is exactly as I (and Christina, thankfully) pictured her. I’m so excited to finally be able to share the final result with you. Here’s Ellie!
Christina was so happy with all of the details I added to Ellie, that she created a separate cover for the Kindle edition of the book with a close-up:
I had so much fun working on all of the little details, like the doodles on Ellie’s shoes, and her blue nail polish, and of course her glowing spots!
Now, as for the second part of the title of this post… a dream come true. Last night when I was reflecting on the anticipation of today and this exciting cover reveal, something occurred to me. Back in my college days, I studied under a sci-fi cover artist named Abe Echevarria. He was my mentor, and he encouraged me to focus on Illustration as a career. Here are a couple of examples of his work:
At the time, I worked hard to hone my skills and emulate his style. I dreamed that one day I could be a freelance illustrator and have my artwork on fantasy book covers. This was back in a time before digital art, when covers were hand-painted with oils or acrylics and canvases were rolled up and shipped to the publisher to be processed for printing. I romanticized what the life of a freelancer would be like, and imagined myself one day in my own studio, negotiating contracts with publishers and seeing my artwork on store shelves. But abstract painting lured me away, and my focus on illustration faded. I spent my graduate studies in the fine art painting studio, and left illustration behind.
How amazing that the faded dream just ended up falling into place, and here I am twenty years later, with my artwork on the cover of someone else’s novel!. And it’s a trilogy, so I’m really looking forward to painting more covers for Christina soon!
Finally, I’d love to share a fun little video of my process. I do all of my artwork on the Procreate app on my iPad Pro, which records time-lapse videos as I work. If you watch closely, you can see all of my reference images popping in and out of the canvas, along with Christina’s suggestions and comments on some of the images. You’ll notice that I sometimes sketch over the reference images to make sure I get proportions and certain features right. This was one of the techniques Mr. Echevarria taught me, though back in college we used vellum, light tables, and projectors for the same process. I really love technology!
If you’d like to discuss cover art or other commissioned pieces, please feel free to contact me through my website: http://www.missysheldrake.com