Don't judge a book by it's cover, we've all heard that saying, but my lovely guest this week is an exception to the rule, Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics, designs covers that takes your breath away.
"Greetings Ya'll! I'm Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics writing to you from rural North Carolina, USA. First of all I want to thank the truly fabby and charming Pauline Barclay for inviting me to her blog! It is great to be here and to be introduced to all of her readers.
I met Pauline through a mutual friend, UK author Helen Hollick, who recommended my creative services to her back in April. I am a graphic designer and I specialize in designing book cover jackets, and Pauline was in the market for a fresh cover design for her latest novel: Sometimes It Happens...
Pendragon's Banner Trilogy with praise for her phenomenal telling of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar. We became instant friends and she gave me the opportunity to redesign the cover for her pirate novel 'Sea Witch'....and I've been working with Helen ever since! She's introduced me to a whole bunch of great folks in the industry, so I owe much of my recent successes to her!
I grew up with a healthy interest in anything related to the Arthurian legends - thus the inspiration for naming my design business. Fantasizing about castles, knights in shining armour and all that frivolity were (and still are!) my favorite pastime. Also, I have always been fascinated with British history; in particular the Dark Ages. I regularly attend local Renaissance Festivals here in North Carolina, and plan to travel to the UK for the first time in 2012.
I am also an fervent digital photographer and often use my own photography in my design work. I grew up with dreams of becoming a filmmaker, or a singer, or an artist, and so I've always considered myself a creative soul. As a teenager, I sang in my school's choir, played the trumpet, and was student director of many school stage productions. I graduated with the distinction of being named Drama Student of the Year in 1985. But it wasn't until much later in my life that I returned to my creative roots. Fresh out of high school, I failed to follow those creative dreams. Instead, I followed the job market earning a steady income for the first twenty two years of my professional life working in dull cubicles crunching numbers.
Besides all things 'Arthurian', I also fell in love with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings novels while still working in the drab office environment. And when Peter Jackson produced the stunning films back in 2001, I found my muse again for imaginative pursuits. I began writing poetry and dabbling in fan fiction writing. And I wanted to create my own computer desktop wallpapers based on the Lord of the Rings and other fandoms.
So after some research into how these digital wallpapers were created I discovered a computer software program called Adobe Photoshop! Years before I went to college to gain a formal education in the medium I taught myself how to create graphics for the web and print media with Photoshop. What my formal education gave me was the technical skills that I would need in order to apply my creative skills in the field of Advertising and Graphic Design. Most importantly, I learned how to prepare digital designs for print and quickly discovered a particular love for book cover design.
How I do it - I am often asked about my process in designing book jackets and my initial response goes something like this: each project is unique and it 'depends....' I know, that is incredibly vague. *laughs* I ask the client about their manuscript first, then ask a few questions about favorite colors, other book covers that they favor and if they have any specific elements they'd like to see on the cover. Then I begin my concepts (in Photoshop, not by hand which usually surprises folks) based on the client's input and largely on my own gut instinct after interacting with the client. I like to work directly with the client in developing a cover design that truly speaks to them and represents the story that they are telling within the pages of their book. While my education taught me the 'rules' of formal graphic design, I like to step outside that box and go for something more unique whenever possible. Not all publishing houses allow free styling in book cover design, but I certainly push that envelope! I fashion myself a photo manipulator with a serious addiction to typography. However, my resume simply says 'Graphic Designer' as that would be the prim and proper title for my profession.
So what I do - offer an array of design services and have geared Avalon Graphics to suit the self-published and small businesses in the market in need of quality design while on a tight budget. I provide full book jacket layouts, marketing materials such as flyers, post cards, bookmarks, web graphics, book trailers for YouTube and even portfolio websites for my clients. I have signed on with UK publisher Knox Robinson Publishing to handle all their book cover needs in 2011 while I also continue to work with many individual authors including Helen Hollick, Richard Denning, John Baird, and Pauline!
I want to thank Pauline again for lettin' me descend on and take over her blog for an entry today. It has been a pleasure!"
Cathy Helms, Graphic Designer
Avalon Graphics (established in 2009)
Home page: http://www.avalongraphics.org/
Associate Member: http://www.newwritersuk.co.uk/