Monday, December 16, 2013

Q&A with cover designer Christopher Saghy

Here's a surprise right before the holidays! The man behind the cover design of Cursed With Power, the first book in the Magicians series: Christopher Saghy. Chris agreed to do an interview with me, and I've been eager to share his answers with all of you. The first questions I usually receive from readers or potential customers when they see the book is about the cover, and I've been answering those questions to the best of my knowledge, but here with more of an inside look to it all is the designer himself. And remember to stop back in later this week for another special post; you might be in for a special holiday related scene!

Without further ado, here's Chris!

1.    Tell us about yourself: how did you become a designer, what have been some of your favorite works, etc.

About myself… here goes… I’ve been drawing since before I can remember. Seriously. All through school, Art was my favorite class. By the time I was a senior at South Carroll High School, I managed to fill my schedule with art classes from Commercial Art, Studio Art, Applied Art and even an Independent Study class. (I also had a Study Hall that – more days than not – I spent in one of the Art classrooms.) I went to UMBC and studied Fine Art but found that no one was going to pay me to sit in a field and paint pictures of flowers and such (LOL) so afterwards I ended up studying Computer Graphics/Graphic Design at Catonsville. Right now, I am working as a Graphic Designer for Kohn Creative in Westminster… That’s my steady paycheck – which is important when the freelance work dries up, but more on that later! We do everything from Business Cards to High End Museum Displays.
As a Freelance Artist/Designer I do much of the same things…  illustrations, logos, posters, and, as you know, a lot of book covers. My freelance work provides me with a second source of income, but I am careful not to rely on it too heavily… Most of the times it’s “feast or famine.” Meaning, sometimes I don’t have a cover or illo for a month or more and then I am all of a sudden hit with three covers at once, with an illo and a logo to boot. That gets back to why it’s important to have that steady daytime job!
As far as my book cover work goes, Cursed with Power definitely rates up there as one of my favorite cover designs along with The Legend of The Bully Slayer – which features my son as the model and is a rare case of me shooting photos for a cover… mainly ‘cause the model came cheap!! (LOL) Some of my other favorites include: The Jack of Many Trades, His Salvation, A Broken World and Midnight Eclipse. (All available through Old Line Publishing.) I am sure I am forgetting a bunch, but so much work has come across my desk that it’s hard to remember it all! One of my first covers for Old Line had an Elvis impersonator on it AND it was a sci fi novel… kind of a fun juxtaposition of concepts…  you don’t get commissions like that every day!

2.    How did you decide on the design for the cover Cursed With Power

SOP for a cover design is that the publisher will send me a story blurb – rarely do I get the entire text – the author’s ideas and, if I ask for it, a description of the characters if they are to be featured on the cover. So it’s usually not a whole lot of info from which to come up with one image that represents the whole story.
In the case of Cursed with Power, I got a blurb from Craig Schenning at Old Line, your ideas and descriptions of the character and your thoughts on the mood/feel that the cover should have. I also had the “working cover” which helped me get a feel for the mood for which I should shoot.
At that point it became a matter of finding an image that fit the mood and (HOPEFULLY) the description of the characters. I use a couple of stock photo sites. The reason for this is that I am working within a set budget and do not always have the time and/or money to shoot custom pics… renting costumes, hiring a model… yeah... it just isn’t there. And that is the reason I go the graphic design route on most of my covers as well. The budget just does not  - except in rare cases – support me creating a painting or illustration for use on the cover.
So, for Cursed With Power, I set out to find one pic or a couple of pics I could cobble together for the cover. (A good example of this “cobbling” is the cover for Midnight Eclipse. There are at least five different photos that were used for the vampire alone!) The description I was given was “Celestria has long red hair, green eyes, would be wearing a dress… nothing too elegant; simple and dark…” So I downloaded several thumbnails but when I found the image I ultimately used, I knew it was the one! The mood was right. She had red hair. It was a very dramatic pose… I almost instantly knew what I was going to do with the text… have her holding it and make it the source of the under lighting while making it look like it was “her power.” Only problems… she had brown eyes and was wearing a traditional witch’s hat. Solved the witch’s hat problem by careful cropping and lighting effects… and changing the eyes from brown to glowing green was not too big a deal. Really.
Actually, those changes were extremely easy compared to creating the text for the cover. To create the text, I started in Adobe Illustrator because it lets you warp and manipulate the text much easier than Photoshop. Once I brought the text into Photoshop, it took 7 different layers to get the lighting effects that you see on the finished cover and that does not include the layer I had to create so her finger can overlap the title!
I usually send lo-res comps to Old Line for approval, but with this one I was so sure I nailed it that I went for broke and did a complete hi-resolution version right from the start. (Plus, I did not want to have to create that text twice!!)

3.    What is like to design book covers for published authors and see your work across the internet and (possibly) make it into bookstores?

It never gets old… seeing your work in print is as exciting the 40th time as it was the first. It’s wild, really. Y’know, a lot of times I sit here and think, “Hey, I’m actually getting paid to do this. How cool is that?!”

4.    What's the most challenging part of your job and the most enjoyable part? 

The most challenging part is making every cover or illustration or whatever that much better than the last one. I try to make the covers look like me… my style... but still be their own thing while serving the needs of the publisher and making the author happy and proud that their name is on the book. Yeah… that can be quite a challenge… but so far so good. Having all that happen would be the most enjoyable part. (And  -- except for some very rare occasions – it usually does.)

5.    Any work in the near future we can look forward to?

Yeah… I am getting ready to shoot pictures for the sequel to The Legend of the Bully Slayer. Going to tap my son, Michael, again for the model. I figure I can pay him with the rubber band guns I had to order as props for the picture!! (LOL)

6.    Anything else you'd like to add?

I think I’ve said enough. (LOL) But seriously, thanks for taking the time and letting me talk about the cover and my work. Best of luck to you as an author! Remember, if you love what you are doing, you’ll never work a day in your life.


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