Djamila Kopf. Nils Nihils. Cotton Valent. Anna Khlystova. Niken Anindita.

What do these names all have in common?  They’ve all created cover art & artwork for one of my shows.

One of the things I love to do early on in the creation of a show is to imagine what the cover should look like.  I usually start with a concept.  For Bryar Lane I imagined Milly following Sprig through the woods.  All I needed was an artist to bring her and Sprig to life. Cover art is very important to me and I’ve always thought it can make or break a show.  A good visual can grab you.  Especially when presented with dozens of thumbnails on a page.


The Fiona Potts Experiment


For the Fiona Potts Interview I commissioned Djamila Knopf, the wonderfully talented artist behind Bryar Lane, Izzy, and Charlie’s Mailbox to draw Fee.  I envisioned a closeup of Fee against a white background.  The show was originally titled The Project.  When I changed it (after a complete overwrite) to The Fiona Potts Interview the cover looked like this.

I was happy with it and that’s the way it went out when the show went live.  The show did well during it’s eight episode run.  After that it continued to gain listeners but not as much as my previous productions.  I have to admit, the cover design wasn’t my best work.  This was my fault and not in any way the artist’s.  Djamila’s rendition of Fee was spot on.  It captured the character (as played by Meredith Hama-Brown) perfectly.  The problem was that the concept didn’t provide the listener with any insight into what the show was actually about.  Sure, it’s an interview, but it does not tell you, or even hint at, what kind of story Fee is going to tell.  The show is science fiction with fantasy elements.  You get none of that from my cover concept.

A few months later I tried something different.  I found out about a new service called Unsplash that provides free images.  Attribution is recommended but not required (I use Unsplash as the source for most of the post images you’ll find in this series).  After a couple of quick searches I found an image I liked.  This was one that depicted a woman standing alone in front of what appears to be a portal in a wall.  Much closer to what’s in the show.  This is the updated version.

Did it change anything.  You betcha.  Within weeks the download numbers increased.  It’s not a perfect test, but I do believe the change in cover art contributed to the show’s uptick in listeners.

While you can’t judge a book by its cover,  a good cover will draw your eye to it like a moth to a flame.


So where….?


So where do I find artists like Djamila Knopf and Cotton Valent.  I’ve found every artist I work with at DeviantArt.  DeviantArt is an online community of artists who work in photography, comics, paint,etc. You’ll see work by both amateurs and professionals.  It’s eye candy taken to the nth level.  You can spend hours there (and I have!).

With a concept in mind I’ll perform a search of a few keywords and look at the results under digital art.  Sometimes I’ll just look for a particular style.  For Pixie-The Devil’s Daughter I wanted a slightly anime feel to it with a dash of Tim Burton.  That’s how I came across the marvelously captivating work of Cotton Valent. I found Djamila purely by accident. When one of her works caught my eye I immediately knew she was the artist for Bryar Lane.

When you find an artist that you feel may be the one to bring your cover concept to life reach out to them.  I’ve found, after years of working with the community (as far back as 2007), that the artists there are gracious and thrilled to hear from fans, of their art, as well as potential patrons.  Many accept commissions, and some may even be so kind as to lend one of their pieces to a project.  I once ran an online magazine that focused on new authors in the horror, sci-fi, fantasy genres and all of the art used during its run came from artists happy to let us showcase their work.


Putting it Together


I usually ask for the artist to provide a 4000x4000 300dpi rendition of the finished work.  I’m a Mac guy and use Pixelmator Pro to create the covert art. After adding the title and any manipulation or effects needed, I create a 3000x3000 version (for Apple Podcasts) and a 600x600 version for website use.  A couple other apps I use is Picturesque for quick crops or sizing, and ImageOptim to reduce the file size for faster image loading.

How about you?  Have you ever seen a piece of podcast cover art that grabbed your attention?


Other Posts in this series:

Artwork and sketches by Djamila Knopf.

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