Monday, April 12, 2010

One Crazy Summer--More from Cover Artist Sally Wern Comport

Rita Williams Garcia's new book, One Crazy Summer for middle grade readers is creating quite a stir out there (A Fuse #8 Production, and The New York Times, just two of this title's glowing reviews). It's about three sisters in the late '60s who travel across the country to visit their mother for the summer, and end up spending most of their time at a center run by members of the Black Panthers movement.

We LOVE the cover. You should see it in real life because the image here doesn't capture the colors right -- the reds are so saturated in real life; heat practically radiates off of the jacket. I recently asked the cover artist, the talented Sally Wern Comport, to tell us about what went into creating the cover art. What follows is her thoughtful reply, which pulls back the curtain on what-all goes on when an artist approaches a cover project.

Sally Wern Comport:
The story, being narrated by Delphine, the oldest and mothering character in the book, needed the visual idea of reflective thought. She clearly calls the story a memoir, so it seems fitting she is pensively reflecting on the experience that is related in the story to follow. She is the most prominent in the narrative even though each sister is very much a distinctive character. Delphine is also “plain” as in “plain spoken” so her center position and symmetrical pose anchor the character as the solid one of all three in the frame. The book takes place in a historic 2oth century setting (60’s in Oakland, CA) so references to place (clothing, cars, architecture), to temperature (this is summer), to atmosphere altogether seem critical to impart in the visual scope. I chose a surreal landscape perspective so, rather than a montage, the scene is somewhat realistic and somewhat fantasy as are the stylizations of the 3 main characters. The narrative is part fiction / part historical fact –so this type of aesthetic fit the story. Because the girls are mostly ignored by their mother during their visit, and left alone, it seems appropriate that they are primary to the cover without Cecile’s (mother) image. The palette is also very intentional. It is warm summer and the thick city atmosphere is pink as the sunset, as is the misty idea of memory of the scene, as is the idea of the hot tempest of this particular time in history.

When I am creating cover concept sketches for any book, I will normally immerse myself in the surrounding sociological visuals. (Photographs, posters, Art, Newspapers, fashion, architecture, signage) I often make new discoveries of artists working during the same time period of history and mimic, to some degree, the art styles or compositions for the time. For this book, I looked at many black and white photographs, but decided, because of the rich and colorful content of the narrative to direct the art more towards 60’s styles of illustration most evident in the graphic sun shape in the background, and the tilted cityscape. The heavy outlines of the figures also mimic the 60’s styles of illustration. The content of this book made creating the content for the cover a joy. Every new discovery in researching for a piece of art is the reason I will never grow tired of making pictures.

Sally Wern Comport's website
Rita Williams-Garcia's website

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this cover story. I loved One Crazy Summer so I enjoyed reading about how the cover was made. The cover screams summer, you can see/feel the heat waves rising.

    It's totally perfect that Delphine is front and center, looking rather thoughtful and responsible too.

    Also after reading the book, I appreciate the Chinese sign in the background. haha