Artists run in my family. There is so much sheer talent among my family members, they could populate the Royal Academy or else serve as Staff for the Rhode Island School of Design. I must have been busy elsewhere when the artistic ability was handed out because I most emphatically am not one of them. My drawing ability is limited to stick figures and somewhat fantastical horses.
No false modesty, no hiding my talent up my sleeve: I can't draw or paint and that's flat. But I do enjoy designing book covers for my work. Fiddling with images is not the same as drawing or painting, but it can be rewarding. Sometimes. Then there are times where you want to tear your hair out.
I have a series in the works, with the first book out. It is set in 1830's Paris. The series is called The Orphan's Tale. The second is, I'd say, 80% finished. The third is not too far behind. Because Book #1 is published, it stands to reason that it has a cover:
The lady, who is Elise, the heroine, is taken from a portrait of that era, and the structure in the background is the Tuileries palace in Paris. It stood opposite the Louvre, but was destroyed around 1870. This painting, executed some 20 years after the setting of my story, shows a party at the palace. It works very well with the lady's hair and fashion.
The big problem arose with Book #3. It originally had Larouche in place and, it taking place during one of the periodical riots that plague Paris, was appropriate. Or so I thought. Unfortunately, some of my nearest and dearest pointed out issues with the painting. The fellow motioning to the rough-looking crowd is rather dopey-looking. The face fungus appears out of period, the apparently dying boy (who somehow appears strong enough to hold up a flag straining in the breeze) is not an asset, and the dopey young man is wearing striped trousers. Enough said. Besides, I needed a depiction of the main male character, Paul Malet.
That was difficult. He is described as a tall man. His hair is thick, dark, and graying, and his eyes, set under straight, dark brows, are a light brown, almost green.
I came up with this. The coloring is appropriate, though he still looks delicate. Still, I had been looking and LOOKING, and this was the best I had. A little refined, but setting the head in a uniform coat seemed to help for the moment. Now to look for some appropriate settings.
Well, there was Lawrence's portrait of Admiral Pellew, who fought in Britain's navy during the Napoleonic wars. The body looked pretty good from the neck down. From the hair, crew cuts were a Napoleonic invention, but I didn't plan to use the head. It only remained to paste the head I had designed atop the body. I set to work and finished it fairly quickly. The proposed image is below:
The big problem with this, aside from the apparent olive color of the uniform coat, is that the hero, Paul Malet, would have been the last one to wear an English uniform, admiral or not. I was aiming for historical accuracy.
I tried another uniform, just to see how it would look. The hero, being a veteran and a police officer, would have worn a uniform. This one was a little better, though the man who posed for that one was Russian and, for reasons unknown, had stopped in the middle of doffing his cloak.
The general effect is rather awkward. And this ruddy smiling fellow, also painted by Lawrence, was Russian. Hm... I found I could not take the painting seriously. When I added the head of my character, the result was especially laughable.
There is too much going on. Too many bodies, too tangled. And the expression, looking grimly to the left, does not work with the background. He doesn't appear to be paying attention.
I liked the flag, but ... No. I needed something to show tumult. I also needed to find something to go with the theme of the earlier covers, which incorporated monumental buildings.
I had an idea, and I tried something else:
...now all I have to do is finish volumes II and III.
Piece of cake.
...and avoid watching my nearest and dearest as they draw and paint.