Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tapping Inspirations -Book Illustration

-by Donato

With this particular commission from Tor books for the cover of L.E. Modesitt's novel Scholar, I not only tapped into the manuscript for inspiration, but found another source to push me beyond the commercial work and into a theme I have been exploring for my gallery presentations - that of the sea.

Many times in my career I have found it exciting to pull ideas and concepts from outside the literature I am to create and illustration for and dive into themes which may be more universally appealing. While Robinson Crusoe was not on my mind when creating sketches for this work, it slowly emerged from the depths of my subconscious as I began to generate the full sized cartoon and play with destruction of the ship after a storm - illuminating the frailty of humanity's struggles against nature. Once the work began to speak to me, I was no longer executing a commercial cover commission nor attempting to create a painting solely for gallery exhibition, but rather I was engrossed in the process of creating a beautiful and compelling work of art for its own integrity.

When this state hits me, I am in artistic heaven! I will do what ever needed to complete the work to my satisfaction, regardless of deadlines, fees or commercial constraints. For when a work speaks to me in such a way I know it will likely speak to others and justify the additional labor needed to pursue its perfection. I look forward to these works, and have been lucky to have this feeling strike more and more often in these past years.

I wish you the same pleasurable mining!

Scholar- Robinson Crusoe
36" x 48" Oil on Panel

I now began to consider that I might yet get a great many things out of the ship which would be useful to me, and particularly some of the rigging and sails, and such other things as might come to land; and I resolved to make another voyage on board the vessel, if possible. And as I knew that the first storm that blew must necessarily break her all in pieces, I resolved to set all other things apart till I had got everything out of the ship that I could get.

Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

And here is the real artist at work! One of my daughters, Cecilia, putting in time during the night shift at 3 am :) And yes she was working on the painting for real!


  1. Wow. Cecilia is getting big.

  2. Stunning! Beautiful work.
    Almost exclusively reflected light, combined with the dark masses above him ... really underlines the feel of claustrophobia (and unsure footing ;-) ).

  3. Great to see this in it's final state, Donato, it looks fantastic! Best wishes, P.

  4. Thanks for posting this. Really humbles me and pushes me forward, showing me the weakness in my own work. It also points out and opens horizons in my own work I hadn't considered, or was afraid to.

    My favorite part of your post is the inclusion of your daughter, very serious, confident, very intent on her work. Like James Gurney including his wife's photos and work in his blog. What a great foundation to share and build family relationships with, something much more important than just putting paint on canvas. I had hoped to foster such interest in my family, but only one of my now nearly-grown children has gotten even a casual interest in the arts. Perhaps the next generation...

    In the mean time, well done.

  5. Amazing. I love intereseting book covers. I'll often pause in reading just to stare at the cover and comtemplate the story. I hate when it's all minimalist and just type, how boring! Also, your daughter is adorable!

  6. Impressive detailing in the wreckage! The sea looks great as well and really balances out the overall brown of the wreck. Beautiful piece.

    And the photo of your daughter working on your painting is priceless. I love it!

  7. wow. I really love the light at the bottom. The tangle above him has this impending doom feeling and the water rolling in has the same.

  8. Crusoe was one of my favorite books as a see it come to life so well executed is amazing!! Thank you Donato =D

  9. That's the biggest book cover I've ecer seen....what size is that original?

  10. That's Beautiful Donato. I hope I have that kind of relationship with my children when they get older. Beautiful work, and the painting too...:)