Sunday, October 27, 2013

Beginners' Bumps

Hand-carved fleur-de-lis
Ever since I saw master carver, David Easterly's stunning work at a New York gallery last year, I have been on a quest to learn how to do what looks like the impossible with wood. Truth be told, I pestered Mr. Easterly to teach me how to carver but he refused and told me to teach myself as he did. My research into locating a teaching carver told me that there aren't too many wood carvers left in the world and even less who are willing to share their skills.

Unlike the UK and Germany where there are still a few State supported crafts' guilds, the US long ago abandoned its belief and support of arts' guilds. I was about to give up my search for a carver who could teach me intricate carving techniques when I web-stumbled upon David Calvo of Gloucester, MA. and last week plunked down a reasonable chuck of change in exchange for one of David's five day wood carving classes. It was money well spent and in just a few days I walked away with a lot of tools, knowledge and a lot more hunger to carve!

A love being a student. I like learning new things but I don't like being a beginner. I want to be an expert while only being a novice. The destination is better than the rolling roads that take you there. Or so I thought. Once I gave over to the not knowing; to the learning, to the sound of wood being scooped by steel tools; to the realization that there's no secret way to magically transfer a life-time of practice into a few days of study, the dust in my head began to settle and I gave in to being a beginner. 

The fleur-de-lis pictured above was the final project from the five day class and provided many lessons. The greatest challenge was carving grains that travel in opposite directions within the same section. David's thirty-three year's of experience made it look easy but all five students struggled with making their cuts smooth. I plan on carving several more fleur-de-lis in order to get it right. If all goes well and my neighbors don't have me evicted from the noise caused by the mallet meeting the steel carver tools, I'll start a foliage project. Until then, I'm enjoying the curves and bumps in the road of being a beginner.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Book Cover Designs

©2013 Bruce Katlin
©2013 Bruce Katlin


It is very exciting to see the front and back cover designs coming together for my first novel, Birds Like Us: The Pi Phillecroix Story. I was encouraged by others to design and create the designs myself but after ten years of working part-time on the book I just wanted someone else to do it for me. I first engaged my cousin, Karol Greene Baker who is a very talented artist to come up with a concept. She did an excellent first sketch but I knew that I had to see the entire process through to the end by creating the art work on my own. So to paper and pencil I went.

People do judge books by their covers and I had an idea of what I wanted based on the book's story and central characters. I spent a lot of time researching French architectural images and in particular the  L’ Arc de Triumph where our little feathered heroine resides. 

I came up with five different concepts and settled on the on the bottom pencil drawing shown above. To a bird that can't fly, the world is an intimidating place. Since I exhausted all efforts to have the book published via the old-fashioned, traditional route, I decided to become an independent publisher and utilize Amazon's Create Space. They offer complete publishing services sans a marketing and PR. (They do offer marketing "help" but they don't and won't market and promote your book for you so that people will buy it.)

Once I committed to the basic design I turned to the  the brilliant graphic designers at Killswitch Collective  who took my book cover sketch and infused it with color and and text which is displayed in the top image above. Meredith Reshoft, Killswitch Collective's Owner and Creative Director created six different options for me to consider. Meredith will also be formatting the book to meet Create Space requirements. Something I have no patience for. 
Each day for the next six days I'll be asking to my Facebook followers to vote on their favorite design. I'll choose the design with the most votes to be printed. Everyone who votes for the selected cover will receive an autographed copy of the book. You can view all six of the designs on my Flickr page

There's still a lot of work to be done. I'm in the process of finishing the back cover and spine designs and creating a video to accompany my Amazon author page. It's all worth it. Even if the book sells just a few copies I have learned and enjoyed myself immensely. 

Check in daily and "follow" me on Facebook and vote for your favorite cover design.