When I was first preparing to launch The Impossible Children, I thought maybe perhaps I should commission some art to go with it. I feel like fantasy stories are always helped by a good bit of art to help capture the atmosphere of the story.
Plus, it helps a good deal in making you feel like you’re a legitimate author!
The trouble was that I had this particular thought the week before I was to launch the website. There was no possibility of having any art on the website when I first started releasing chapters into the wild.
But I didn’t mind. Rushing things would have left me unhappy. We’ve all made that impulsive decision we regretted further down the line. No, I had to be patient, even if it meant no art on the website for a couple of weeks or months.
Even so, I knew exactly the artist I wanted.
Kelley McMorris is someone whose art I’ve respected and admired for many years now. Her art is colorful and evocative; when I look at her illustrations, I feel humor and melancholy in equal measure. See her pieces “Otherworldly Sight” and “The Lost Princess” to see what I mean. So I thought she would be the perfect artist for the middle grade portal fantasy I was writing.
When I contacted her, I wasn’t sure she was going to accept. I assume professional artists have very busy schedules, and I am but a humble self-published author. I couldn’t imagine that my commission would be very enticing. A single promotional cover image is a rather small project to someone who must get large commissions all the time.
Still, it couldn’t hurt to ask, and from her website it seemed she was friendly to self-published authors in general. Also, her advice on how to email an illustrator came very much in handy!
And yet, I still felt a moment of trepidation as I sent the email. I didn’t really have a second choice in mind for the project, so…
To my great surprise and even greater delight, Kelley replied within the same day and accepted the commission!
One note I want to make. I’ve written before that programmers should absolutely be paid for the code they write, even in technical interviews. So it should come as no surprise that I also believe that artists should be paid for their work.
It’s much the same, in my mind: fingers on keyboard, pencil on paper, brush to canvas, people should be paid for their work. I was determined that if I ever ask someone to work on one of my projects that I pay their fair market price. Otherwise, why bother?
Here’s the initial description I gave:
Ideally, I would like this to be black and white art in the same style as your piece “Giselle”, with the heroine Annabelle tumbling through a cosmos of many countless worlds.
I thought this captured the tone and atmosphere I was going for in the story I was writing. I decided to go with a black and white image because I wanted to evoke a sort of nostalgic feeling in the viewer for those old portal fantasies we all used to read as children.
Though I can’t say I wasn’t torn. I would have loved a color image, given the artist’s colorful portfolio. Maybe next time!
But this is when I did something I rail and rant against when working with my own clients. In essence, I became my own worst enemy.
I changed the requirements.
Part of the problem was that I didn’t know what I wanted. I thought I wanted a simple illustration of my story’s heroine, but then a few days later after ironing out the details with Kelley, I discovered I wanted something completely different and far more complicated.
Another problem was that I get ideas later on down the line, and I look at my previous idea and it’s just not as good in comparison. But the previous idea was already out there, and it would be very difficult to change. I suppose this is what comes of serial writing or any kind of work released at a regular cadence.
Luckily, Kelley took it all in stride and simply ironed out more of the newer details and quoted a new price.
Without further ado, here’s the illustration!
I’m glad I was patient.
Annabelle came out better than I would have imagined. For the longest time, Annabelle was just a vague, amorphous idea in my head. All of these words I’ve written about her have made her real to me, but to see her as ink on the page made her come alive. It’s a difficult thing to describe, but she looks amazing.
Likewise with Grace, Seppo, and “the man in the dapper coat”. The Door has that grand sweeping epic vibe I had imagined all along. All of the elements of the illustration just came together very nicely, and I’m very pleased with how it all turned out.
Anywho, if you like this illustration, go and check out more of Kelley’s art, it’s great stuff!