Sunday, May 15, 2011

All my Scholastic covers – part 1

Children of the Lamp #1 – The Akhenaten Adventure
For many years I wanted to paint the book covers, but never got the chance to do it. The publishers were not interested in what my painting brush had to say about that, so there were no book cover commissions coming my way. Gradually I accepted the fact that I would probably never become a book cover illustrator. I thought then that this would be yet another unfulfilled wish of mine, another unattainable dream.
But at the end of 2004 I was approached by Elizabeth Parisi, the art director of Scholastic Inc. She saw my work in Spectrum annuals, she liked it and wanted to check out whether I would be willing to do the book covers for the series of children’s fantasy, titled Children of the lamp, written by P.B. Kerr. She told me about the conditions of the commission, and she named the price that I would be getting per cover. I thought, Wow! Somebody was offering me a job that I was longing for for so many years, and even was offering me a very good fee. Although I was a little insecure about whether I would be able to answer to the commission’s demands, I bravely accepted, hoping that my lucky star will keep on guiding me along this unknown path.
So, soon after I read the synopsis of the story, I started to make the sketches. My first sketch was refused because I did not include a cobra in the composition. The new one, with the snake on it, was accepted and soon after I started to make the preparations for the painting. Surprisingly, the painting went rather smooth and the cover was finished in a week's time. I sent the image of the finished piece to Elisabeth and set down to wait for the answer. I was very anxious to hear her reaction, although I thought she would certainly find a good reason to say that the cover is lacking in something and that in the best possible case, I would have to repaint it. When she finally replied, I was astonished. She said that the cover looked great and that she decided to ask me whether I would like her to raise the fee? Although astonished by hearing this fantastic news, I made a stupid joke by saying something like - “I am sorry but I can’t accept that”. Silence on the other side of the telephone line. Then I quickly added, “ Just joking! Never believe an artist when he refuses to be paid extra for his work”.
I was  in the seventh heaven, well perhaps not in the seventh, but certainly in the sixth one. After so many years of working more or less in obscurity, an art director of a big and respected publishing house, noticed  my work and gave me the opportunity to show my capabilities as an illustrator . Needless to say, I was extremely flattered by her generous and noble offer to raise my payment. I guess it was a pure luck. In fact, I can’t remember that I ever asked her why she did it. I liked to believe that it was purely because of the quality of the painting. Later on I learned that they have a certain budget for all the projects they do, and that perhaps, at first, I was not offered the highest possible amount for that particular project. It is also possible that, after seeing the finished cover, Elizabeth’s generosity was triggered, and she decided to offer me more money for the cover... I don’t know. I should ask her once. However, after that first one I did another 6 covers for the Children of the Lamp series, and for the same higher fee.
After all, I believe I was just lucky. Lucky to have collaborated with an art director like Elizabeth Parisi, and lucky that it has happened before the outbreak of the global financial crisis.

Children of the Lamp #2 – The Blue Djinn of Babylon

Have a good day!


  1. Very nice Petar. Funny story behind your inauguration into the world of a book cover artist. I hope they ask for more paintings from you, and that they keep raising those payments!

  2. Thank you, guys!

    John – I hope they ask for more paintings, too. But, having in mind the current developments in the field ( my work is getting a bit old-fashioned, I am afraid) and the impact of the economic crisis, I am not so optimistic about it. Thanks, John!

  3. Petar, I can make an argument that while your work has elements of a traditional approach you make it fresh, contemporary and exciting. I don’t think your being a classically trained artist should be confused as being “old-fashioned.” The recent paintings you are doing are so full of energy and life I could never perceive them as being stale. Regarding the economy, that is a point I won’t argue with you.

  4. I agree with John. He's a pretty smart guy Petar. I wouldn't mind doing a few more covers myself but I have really gone off the deep end. I think it really is about the specific assignment. Your beautiful, powerful, narrative paintings would work well for a lot of stories. Those covers you've shown are proof.

  5. these are wonderful covers. Really taken with "The Blue Djinn of Babylon"!

  6. John, Bill – I hope you are right, guys. But still, I am afraid that in the eyes of the art directors my work looks a bit dated.

    Quite frankly, If my work looks a bit old-fashioned to some of them, than I think I know the reason - it is my refusal to let go the old art values and principles. In other words, I refuse to produce the images that are overloaded with “special effects”, images that are aligned with the prevailing visual cacophony of forms and color.

    But, perhaps I am wrong. I don’t know for sure what is the reason that the art directors are not interested in my work when it comes to book cover illustration. In any case, the time will teach us.

    Francisco – I am sorry but I do not understand what you mean by “bad joke”. Can you clarify your joke (hope it is a joke), please? However, thanks for stopping by.

    Thank you, Bruce!