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!