Under the Covers: The Art of Cover Art

Cover artists Don Maitz and Don Dos Santos joined publisher Toni Weisskopf of(Baen Book) Sunday evening to discuss the making of cover art and final covers for SF Lit.

Both Dons knew early on that they wanted to do covers. After finishing art school, to break into the field, they hit the pavement and showed their portfolios to publishing house art directors in New York City. After he was hired, Dos Santos recalled delivering paintings, finished but still wet.

All agreed that the process has now gone digital with art transmitted via email. Maitz said that it is very difficult to break in as a cover artist in today’s competitive environment.

Weisskopf asked the artists if they were ever taught to translate words into pictures. Dos Santos said, during art school, that there was no training or classes for illustrators or for art directors. If he wanted to worldbuild, the challenge was to express his vision in single painting.

Maitz agreed. He always liked to read and imagine. He would look at a cover, read, and compare. Doc Savage books were among his early studies of cover art and book comparisons. He also loved author- illustrator Howard Pyle. One painting of a wizard floating off the floor changed his life. Through the magic of realistic visualization, you believed it. He then built a portfolio of generic fantasy and science fiction that he could show to art directors.

Dos Santos thinks that one artist can do it all, science fiction, fantasy, kids’ literature. He added that art directors will hire you for what you can do, so focus on getting good and you will sell your paintings. Weisskopf said the same was true of writers.

After a stunning review of exemplary cover art and final covers, she said that, “Cover art is the collaboration of writer and artist. The reader completes the triangle.”

Author of the article

Amy L. Herring (Louise Herring-Jones) writes speculative fiction, with a preference for historical fantasy and alternate mystery. Her stories, appearing in fourteen anthologies, include “The Poulterer’s Tale” in God Bless Us, Every One—Christmas Carols beyond Dickens (Voodoo Rumors Media, 2019). Amy is a NaNoWriMo co-municipal liaison. She also coordinates the Huntsville (Alabama) Literary Association’s writers’ group. Visit her online at http://www.louiseherring-jones.com.