Monday, October 05, 2009

The Amazing Absorbing Boy - Book Cover Art


Above is the final artwork for a recent book cover assignment for Random House Canada. I was contacted by art director Jennifer Lum to illustrate the cover and 20 small interior illustrations for The Amazing Absorbing Boy, a new novel by Rabindranath Maharaj. I enjoyed this assignment very much, and working with Jennifer was a real joy. Like my last post, I thought I'd share here some of the process and roughs that led to the final art.

The book focuses on the culture shock experienced by a teenage boy as he immigrates from Trinidad to Canada, specifically to the Regent Park area of Toronto. With that idea in mind, I drew up 2 initial cover concepts, in colour like I usually do. Both the drawings below were drawn quickly and featured Regent Park, a distinctive area of Toronto, as a specific location:


While I liked the first concept, I hated the 2nd one. But I sent them both to Jennifer, to get her suggestions. After talking with her and getting the proper final dimensions for the artwork, I drew up another round of cover concepts: some were slight tweaks to previous ideas, while others took the cover concept in different directions:


After sending these to Jennifer, I was told that concept 6 was approved. She also sent back a rough mockup of the cover with all the copy in place:


That mockup formed the basis for the final cover illustration, which is at the top of this post.

I also drew 20 black and white interior illustrations, to be printed very small, as chapter openings. You can see a sampling of some of them below:


All in all, this was another highly enjoyable project to work on. Jennifer Lum gave me a lot of freedom on this, especially with the interior art, and was a great collaborator to work with.

For more information The Amazing Absorbing Boy, you can check out the the listing on Random House Canada's website.

28 comments:

Anshuman said...

Thanks for sharing, Michael.
Personally, I'm a fan of Concept #3--the tones are incredible there.

Joe Decie said...

Beautiful stuff Michael. In a way I wish it could have been printed without the text.

George Coghill said...

Fantastic stuff!

Wil said...

These are beautiful, Michael.
Well done.

MacGuffin said...

Beautiful work. I really like the feeling of loneliness/anomie the swimming figure evokes above the urban setting below... very striking.

alan said...

Yes I liked the illo pre-text too - the negative space really worked to show the loneliness MacGuffin mentions. However, props to the designers who added the type - coz they made good choices too.
Great to see the alternatives and the process!

Dustin d'Arnault said...

Sweet cover!

Eric Orchard said...

This is incredible! What a beautiful drawing and design. I'd grab this book off the shelf n the strength of the cover alone.

pumml said...

Great post, Michael. Love seeing the first drafts and the lovely final.

Per H said...

These are all amazing!

The Stapelia Company said...

I love all of these illustrations, as usual. This book will be great with your artistic touch. :)

Arkonbey said...

In the original version of the final concept, was that meant to be a single piece or was the title/author section always going to go there?

It changes the whole piece when the white separator is there.

MacGuffin said...

Just to be clear, in my opinion, the added graphic design elements really enhanced the overall effect or impact of the inital art. Superb job to all involved.

Dominic Bugatto said...

Nicely done , love the spots .

Owen said...

These are fantastic Michael! Thanks so much for posting, the solid-blue original piece is especially great.

Tom said...

Awesome stuff!!

Michael Cho said...

Anshuman: thanks - I personally didn't like the tones in concept 3, but I was trying to differentiate the 2 areas a clearly as possible.

Joe: thanks, Joe. I like it as an image too, but obviously every book needs a title and author credit.

George: thanks, george.

Wil: thanks, Wil.

Macguffin: thanks -- I'm glad the image had some emotional resonance with you. I was trying hard to convey some of that same feeling.

Alan: thanks, Alan. The designer, Jennifer Lum, is very talented and a very easy person to collaborate with.

Dustin: thanks, Dustin.

Eric Orchard: thanks, Eric.

Pumml: thanks -- I'm glad you found seeing the roughs useful.

Per H: thanks :)

The Stapelia Company: thanks again for another nice comment.

Arkonbey: it was designed to be a single image. It was the designer's perogative to place the copy where she saw fit.

Dominic: thanks, Dominic.

Owen: thanks, Owen.

Tom: thanks, Tom.

Scott Chantler said...

Nice to see you doing so many book covers. Your style is so bold and graphic, it's perfect for that kind of work.

Jen's designing my book at M&S, so it's good to get a glimpse at how she works.

Arkonbey said...

I think the designer ruined your concept. The bar of white doesn't just bisect the image, it separates it into two distinct images.

Your original piece was a surreal image of a drowned man floating above a cityscape; the final version is a drowned man AND a cityscape.

Still, even by the artwork alone, it's better overall than many book covers these days.

Jakob Westman said...

Great concepts and illustrations.
Have to agree with those who said the floating above a cityscape image was ruined by the white band. Made it look like two images whereas one is so much more elegant and intelligent.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful work, Michael!

Kelvin

Michael Cho said...

Scott: thanks, Scott. I've been enjoying the recent assignments I've been getting. Great to hear that Jen is working on your book as well.

Arkonbey & Jakob: Thanks for the analysis. For me, I try to leave those kinds of decisions up to the designer and just concentrate on the illustration.

Kelvin: thanks, Kelvin.

OneSickIndividual said...

way cool! diggin the execution of this piece.

Ben said...

I have to agree with those who feel the final design detracts from the image, however, it's still a great cover; and further, much as I love (LOVE) your comic book work, it certainly seems right now as though you were born to do book covers! I very much look forward to seeing more covers from you. Hopefully, like, A LOT more . . .

Michael Cho said...

Thanks, guys. Ben, this cover is the last of the recent book assignments I've had on my plate. But I do enjoy these kids of jobs, so hopefully there'll be more of them in the future.

Roberto Zaghi said...

Great work really. Even the little interior illos are beautiful.

splicegraph said...

Ya know, I saw the cover for The Amazing Absorbing Boy on the stands at Chapters, and had to look cuz I just knew it was one of your drawings. ;D

Term Papers said...

The bar of white doesn't just bisect the image, it separates it into two distinct images.