Tuesday, February 07, 2012

A picture is worth 70,000 words

Ever since I saw the first concept sketches for what was to become my awesome cover for THE BETWEEN, I've been in awe of the talented Jade E. Zivanovic.

I was lucky to connect with her just at the time she was looking for new inspiration and I was looking for a cover artist. I first 'met' Jade maybe 6 years ago or so, when we both ended up in the same on line critique group via Forward Motion for Writers. At the time, she was both drawing and writing. The group dwindled and disbanded as many of those groups do and I lost track of Jade.  Last last year, we reconnected on Facebook and I discovered she was focusing on her art--and once I saw her work, I was blown away.

Because Jade refuses to toot her own horn, I have to do it for her.  So here is an interview with Jade, along with some of her artwork and her contact information at the bottom of the interview.

A study for Jade's oil painting 'Samson & Delilah'

LJ:   Were you one of those kids who always sketched on the margins of your schoolwork? Did you ever get in trouble for it?

JadeI sure was, but I didn't restrict myself to just the margins :)  I remember my Biology teacher being horrified and angry that I had spent most of my class time drawing all over my pages.  Then I had awesome teachers like Mr. Atthow in Geography class, who actually encouraged me!  History class was spent not drawing on paper, but drawing on some of my friends hands and arms. 

Funny thing is, I nearly failed Art class.

Despite being mostly ignored for the rest of my high school years by my Biology teacher, who never got over my 'disrespect' as she put it, I went onto university to study Biology (I was actually quite good at it!).  For my assignments at uni, I poured most of my time into my diagrams and technical drawings, even if the assignment didn't really call for it.

My Biochemistry teacher once said during our lab work, "Jade! What are you doing here?" Confused, I just shrugged my shoulders, to which he continued, "You should be a tattooist!" I forgot I had decorated my white lab coat with tattoo designs, tribal, dragon and the like. 

I always thought I would go through life unnoticed, but unintentionally, I kept sticking out, because of my art.  Naive, I guess.

"Now, only I survive." By Jade Zivanovic

LJ:  When you sit down to draw/paint, what is your process? Do you have a sense of what you want to produce (plotter), or do you let the work emerge (pantser)?

:   I guess I have a couple of different processes. It's not something I spend a lot of time thinking about. Sometimes, it's like the picture is there, floating around in the air, waiting for someone like me to grab it and give it life.

Those ones can be the hardest ones to draw. They are often blurry, or sometimes moving, like a segment from a movie. With those ones, I usually have to feel the picture, and subconsciously I know how it will look in the end, but on a conscious level, as I'm drawing it, it's like it's unfolding itself in front of me in detail for the very first time.

Other times, I paint my dreams. I don't dream as much as I used to, and I'm thankful for that. But sometimes there will be a dream that keeps recurring until I paint or draw it. These can be hard too, because I am painting them because I need to, not just because I want to.

My favourite things to paint, are the pictures that stem from emotion. These are the paintings that have a character, a personality, a story within them.  Sometimes, it may be triggered by music and song, sometimes it is one of those pictures that are floating around in the air, sometimes it is an idea spurred by social or political stances.

When I am drawing or painting for someone else, be that commercial art or an oil painting, I can usually get a good visual from the person's words. Then it is just trying to match my visual correctly with their own vision - sometimes this is very hard to do - but it is always worth it in the end!

LJ:  How different is it to work digitally versus in more traditional media--oils, charcoal, etc? Are there things you can do digitally that you can't otherwise?

Jade:  I find digital media is closest to drawing or painting with acrylics. There are so many different ways to use digital media. You can treat it like painting, or you can just utilise all the digital effects, but in the end, like traditional media, digital is still hard work and digital paintings are still works of art. My favourite part about digital art, is there is no drying time, which is why it is a great medium for commercial work. It is also easier to adjust sketches and paintings to your clients tastes, cutting down on the hours of work needed.
That being said, there is still nothing like viewing an oil painting that has been painted in many layers. It has a certain life to it, a glow that only intensifies with the age of the painting.

LJ:  What is your process when you work on a cover image? How closely do you work with the writer? How do you feel when the writer doesn't share your vision?

Jade: My end result, is to have a happy writer! I feel so privileged when a writer gives me the honour of drawing or painting the cover for a story that they have put in so many hours, blood, sweat and tears into.

I encourage the writer to tell me what they visualise when they think of their cover. If they have specific colours or styles that they like, it is always beneficial to send me examples, that way we can think along the same lines from the start. From there, I start doing preliminary sketches and layouts. Sometimes they are approved straight away by the writer, sometimes we have to go through a few different designs. I won't lie, rejection always hurts, but the feeling is fleeting, because I always get excited about doing a new design, or trying something from a different angle.

Sometimes the author gives me complete artistic control. Sometimes this is more nerve wracking, but so far, they have all been successful :)

Oh, and I love to read, so if the writer can send me excerpts of their book to help me to visualise, that is a great advantage, plus a joy for me! Some books I have read in full, which is always exciting :)

LJ:  What elements do you look for in a book when you are planning your cover design? What do you need from the writer to support your work?

Jade: I think the most important thing, is that the cover doesn't reveal any of the plot that could spoil it! Then I guess it comes down to if the book is character or plot driven.  So should the characters be on the cover, or is a scene more relevant? Perhaps even an item or symbol.

Most times, the writer has an idea of what they would like to see on their cover.  From there, it's all about getting a nice layout that is easy on the eye but also reflects the atmosphere of the novel.  Font is important, and tag lines.  All these things must translate well for both a hard cover book and an e-book.  The cover needs to look good as a thumbnail, and this is something I take note of as I design it.

(n.b.: Not only did Jade capture the spirit of THE BETWEEN in her artwork, she also came up with its most excellent tag line!)

As an artist, I also want the cover to be noticed straight away by people browsing, so it must be creative and original, to set it apart from all the other books on the shelf or on the screen.  That is part of the artist's ego I guess.  That can only translate into positivity for the author!

LJ:  What is your name?  What is your quest? What is your favorite color? (Silly Monty Python reference. . . )

Jade: My name....is Jade of Tootgarook.  My Quest....is to find a self cleaning paint brush.  My favourite colour....is Green! Nooooooo Dark Green!!!! aarrrgghhh

LJ:  Is there anything I haven't asked you that you think is important for readers to know?

Jade:  You pretty much covered everything :)

What I want you to know about Jade, is that she is incredibly creative and responsive. She was an absolute dream to work with and I can't imagine anyone I'd rather have bring my words to life.  You can find Jade here, on her FB page (You don't need to have a FB account to see her page).  You can email her: jade_erica@hotmail.com 

(And because I've been pestering her about it, she now has a website:  http://artofjez.webs.com/)

Jade is currently running a special on covers, if you let her know you've found her through this blog.


  1. She's very talented!

  2. Great interview and art too !
    Janne Kearney

  3. Thanks, Piecuppaticket, Anon, and Lisa. I had to drag Jade, kicking and screaming to promote herself. :)