In 2007 I was commissioned by Scholastic from New York to do three book covers for the Unicorn Chronicles (UC) book series, written by Bruce Coville. Because of the certain reasons, the first cover that I had to do was the cover for the third book (UC #3). The cover concept that I got from the publisher was quite clear, and because I felt very confident about it, I did not make the rough sketch first, as I usually do, but went immediately to Amsterdam and rented a few costumes and props. Then I arranged a photo session with a daughter of a friend of mine, who was to pose for the main character from the book, a girl called Cara ( by the way, this character had to be depicted on all three book covers). They lived in a city north of Amsterdam. So I took the train, went there, did the photo session and quickly headed back home. I was eager to begin the work on the cover as soon as possible. Back in my studio, and still full of self-confidence, I started to work on the detailed preliminary drawing. A few days later I presented the drawing to the publisher. After a portion of waiting I finally got the answer from the art director – they did not like the tree. And because the tree was a very important part of the scene, they asked me to do another drawing.
I was a bit surprised by their reaction. The next day, just before starting the work on the new drawing, I noticed that a big chunk of my self-confidence was missing. However I did another detailed drawing. This time they liked it and the composition was approved.
After two-three weeks of intense labor the painting was finished. I was pleased with the results and regained my self-confidence. I sent the image of the finished cover to the publisher and set down to wait for their answer.
The whole week has passed by but I did not get any response from the art director. Strange, I thought, they usually react relatively quickly. After another few days without the publisher’s answer I started to worry. About two weeks after I sent the image of the finished cover I got the answer from them – “ Although the cover is nicely painted, we do have a little problem with it”, was their response. “ You will have to repaint the girl. We think that she has not the right physiognomy, she is a bit short and a little too fat. She’s not the type of the girl we are looking for. But, because we already approved the sketch, we will pay you an additional amount for repainting the cover…”
I was shocked, angry, sad…At first I could not understand what they were talking about. What was wrong with the girl…? I liked how I had painted her. There were some details that I was really pleased with. Now, it has to go away. I had to remove the nicest part of the painting. I lost my “compass” and my self-confidence was shattered into thousand pieces. The fact that I was to be paid extra money for the additional work gave me a good feeling, but that feeling quickly evaporated as soon as I looked at the painted girl that had to be removed from the painting, forever.
Suddenly I got an ingenious idea ( at least I thought it was ingenious at that moment): I thought, I am going to paint another girl on the separate sheet of paper and then put the pieces together in Photoshop. In this way I would satisfy the publisher’s wishes, and at the same time keep the actual painting unchanged. So, I went to another friend, who lived in Amsterdam, and made a few photos of her daughter. When the new version of Cara was finished I showed it to the publisher. “ No! Her expression is still not good enough. She is not charismatic enough. Do it again, please”, was their reaction.
Well, this time, I thought, I would have to be smarter. So, I used a photo of a young gill from a glossy magazine and repainted Cara’s head. “ Sorry, this one is also not good”, the publisher replied.
I became desperate. I did not know what to do. Above all, I did not know what they actually wanted me to do with that …bleep…girl. The deadline was quickly approaching, and I still had to paint another two covers. Fortunately the publisher came with a solution. They suggested to find a model in New York, do the photo shooting for all three covers on the basis of my sketches, and then send me the photos. I agreed because I thought that this must be the real solution to this embarrassing problem, and hopefully the end of my book cover nightmare.
After a week or two, maybe three, I received the photos. This time I repainted the original painting. The first version of Cara that bravely stood its ground for so long, was scratched off from the surface of the painting and a new Cara emerged. When it was finished I was pleasantly surprised with the results. I liked the new painting better. The publisher was quite pleased too, and my piggy bank was grunting with pleasure.