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UNCOVERED: Paul Richmond

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love pen by querita

UNCOVERED: Paul Richmond

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Thank you for inviting me to write a post for this site. I enjoy sharing my artwork and discussing the cover illustration process (though it does add a little more pressure knowing I’m supposed to be sharing “wisdom” today, but I’ll give it a shot!). Afterwards, if you have any questions – serious, silly, or otherwise – ask away. I’m an open book!

Before we get into the “wisdom” part though (see, I’m stalling already), I want to announce the winner of my Uncovered Contest….

A little over a month ago on Elisa Rolle’s site, I invited readers to vote on their favorite of three cover illustrations to help me decide which one should become a limited-edition print. The contest closed last night at midnight and one winner has been randomly chosen to receive the first print in the edition of 200, plus a copy of the novel/novella courtesy of Dreamspinner Press. There were a lot of votes and it was a close race! But the wait’s finally over and without further adieu, the winning image is…..drumroll please….


And the winner of the Uncovered prize is:
Laurie G. Ballantyne-Gaska.

Yay!! Congratulations Laurie, and thank you to everyone who entered!! I also want to thank all those who helped promote the contest. I hope you enjoyed it -- we should definitely do this again sometime!

Prints of The Hired Man are now available to one and all (for a reduced, first-day price) in my online store HERE. You’ll also find a whole slew of other prints, paintings, and merchandise while you’re there, just in time for the holidays. 

Ok, and now on with the “wisdom”…

I have been thrilled to create artwork for a growing list of fabulous novels recently. As a reader, I know how cover images often play a big role in the books I pick up. I guess I didn’t listen when my mom told me not to judge a book by its cover. What can I say, I like pretty things! I am honored that so many authors have entrusted me with their masterpieces, and I hope I’ve done them all justice. I have a deep respect for the genre and its history, going back to the good old pulp days (even if they were a bit before my time). Drewey Wayne Gunn and cohort provided some fascinating insights about that colorful history when I worked on the cover for The Golden Age of Gay Fiction, and reading it has opened my eyes even further. At a time when gay people were incredibly isolated, these books provided a much-needed connection. Nowadays, the gay fiction community is even more golden in my opinion, because it has expanded to include people of every sexual orientation. I believe anyone who has something meaningful to contribute should be welcomed and acknowledged without bias. After all, if there’s anything I’ve learned as an artist who explores gay themes in my work, it’s that we all have our own closets to come out of in life, and there’s a universality to that experience that transcends any label.

In fact, it was a work of gay fiction that first helped me find my own way out of the closet. I grew up in a small town in Ohio called Grove City (close to Columbus but closer to cow pastures). All throughout college (art school at that), I remained in denial about my sexuality for fear of losing the love of my family and the acceptance of my friends. After graduating, I spent a year painting murals with my friend Melissa Forman, and it was during that time when I found myself randomly perusing the fiction rack at a local bookstore and happened upon a collection of short stories. Included was one called “Scordatura” by Mark Ray Lewis. The story, about a gay male character, was written in the second person, meaning that instead of referring to him as he, the author wrote “you.” What an effect this had on me! By the end of the story, I realized that it really WAS me. A light bulb flicked on and the next day, I revealed (to a very un-surprised Melissa) that I’m gay, just like the character in the story. Perhaps she wasn’t shocked by my revelation because of the gigantic mural of Cher I convinced her to help me paint in my apartment, or maybe it was my tendency to prance down the aisles of the costume shop gleefully when we went looking for project research. Regardless, I consider her and the author Mark Ray Lewis as two of the people who helped me most during that challenging time – which might surprise Mark since he has no idea who I am.

But I’m straying a little off-topic (blame it on the paint fumes!). I was asked to share insights about my work as a cover artist, and I have come prepared with visual aides in tow. First though, let me give you a quick rundown of what happens in Pauly’s studio. Usually, when a publisher or author gives me a commission, they supply a summary of the story along with pertinent details including a description of the characters and setting, and of course where it should fall on the hot-and-heavy meter. I then take reference photos of friends (or myself, when necessary) and work up a sketch to submit. When possible, I like to also do the typographic layout so I can choose complimentary fonts and integrate them with the image. After the publisher and/or author reviews the sketch and gives me the go-ahead, I paint the illustrations in black and white oil paint on masonite panels and then scan them to add color digitally.

Sound fun? Want to see? If you answered yes, then you’re in luck! While looking through a book about Norman Rockwell the other day, I got inspired by the way they presented his photo references and sketches alongside the finished illustrations. It was great to catch a glimpse into his creative process and see behind those iconic illustrations we all know and love. Now I’m no Norman Rockwell (especially since his subjects did a better job of keeping their clothes on than mine), but I thought I would take a cue from the book and share similar process images with you here.

For starters (and speaking of people losing their clothes), here’s a series of pics showing the development of Mistletoe Madness, my cover for this year’s Advent Calendar anthology by Dreamspinner.  

Elizabeth at Dreamspinner gave me free rein on this one, which as you can see, is a dangerous thing! If left to my own devices, there will undoubtedly be underwear-exposing hilarity involved because I’m a big fan of classic pin-up girls from the 40’s and 50’s. I love their innocent suggestiveness, and often crack myself up brainstorming similarly contrived scenarios for their male counterparts. After all, there’s plenty of gay art already that leaves nothing to the imagination, so at least in that respect, I suppose I do try to channel more of the classic, Rockwellian-vibe sometimes.

In Mistletoe Madness, we have a hapless fellow trying to inconspicuously hang mistletoe above the handsome object of his affections and getting thwarted by gravity in the process. Poor guy! It’s risky business wearing undies like that without a belt! Thanks to my friends who are always such good sports about these things, I was able to take reference photos which helped me stage the scene and capture the humorous interaction in all its festive glory. Thanks guys!

Here’s a similar series of pics showing the cover for Broken, a novel by Dawn Kimberly Johnson. The same friend who lost his pants for the previous cover had to walk with a cane for this one, which makes you wonder if he fell off that ladder during the mistletoe incident! Actually, for this one the author provided detailed descriptions of the characters and setting, and I researched London street scenes to help create a believable environment for this chance encounter between her two main characters.

Here’s a portion of the author’s description which was provided to me at the beginning of the project:

Short physical description of main character including common clothing: Eli’s most striking features are his large, soulful blue eyes. He is 24, about 5’8”, 140-150, shaggy dark brown hair. He uses a cane because of his damaged right leg. He dresses casual, but neat: jeans, sneakers or loafers, polo or T-shirt, jacket.

Short physical description of secondary character including common clothing: Alec is 26, about 5’ 10”, with longish, wavy black hair and grey eyes. He wears glasses to read ... can look bookish, but handsome. He dresses casual, but neat: jeans, sneakers or loafers, polo or T-shirt, jacket.

With the understanding that it may not be possible – If I could have the cover of my dreams, it would look like (please describe): A simple silhouette of Eli’s form ... him standing with his cane, alone and isolated.

Alt. scene or idea for cover: Eli standing at a distance (to show his cane), out of reach and Alec gazing at him from the foreground. Even Eli in shadow or silhouette would work.

Here are a few more process examples.


Since Picasso had his blue period and Monet had his water lilies, I’m going to call these two covers examples of my “Lovestruck-Partially-Dressed-Hunks-with-Colorful-Underwear” period. That has a nice ring to it, wouldn’t you say? Patient Eyes by Andy Eisenberg and Veiled Security by Carolyn LeVine Topol both called for illustrations of gay couples, although the particulars are quite different. Who knew that my living room could so easily double as a mountain landscape one minute and a love-nest for drag queens battling homophobic vigilantes the next?

Well, now that we’ve taken a glimpse into the past (which is pretty recent since I’ve only been doing covers for a few months!), let me share some of my latest work. These should be popping up in a bookstore near you any day now:

The Strongest Shape
Written by Tessa Cardenas
Dreamspinner Press

The One That Got Away
Written by Rhianne Aile and Madeleine Urban
Dreamspinner Press

Dancing for Jonathan
Written by Anel Viz
Dreampsinner Press

Ins & Outs: a collection
By moi


Oops, how did that last one slip in there? ;-) Please excuse the shameless plug, but I’m super-excited about this book. It features my artwork and stories, and it has been recently expanded to include not only my Cheesecake Boy paintings (more pants-dropping zaniness) but also ALL of my novel cover illustrations to date. I know what everyone on my Christmas list is getting! This actually just released today. You can see a full preview and order a copy HERE.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the wonderful world of gay fiction, and for the connections I’ve made with some amazing writers and readers of the genre. I hope we can keep doing this together for many years to come! As an artist, my main interest has always been telling stories with my work, and wow — these authors have some amazing stories to tell! It’s really exciting for me to help bring them to life and, as I said before, I only hope that I am able to do them justice. Well, that and perhaps have a little fun along the way too...

Let me leave you with a sneak-peek at sketches for some of the projects I’m currently working on, starting with next year’s Dreamspinner Advent Calendar:

Written by Heidi Cullinan
Dreamspinner Press

Midsummer’s Nightmare: Things That Go Bump In The Night
Dreamspinner Press


And now we’ve reached the end of our little journey for today, but like any author with an eye on the sequel, I’ll add that perhaps this is only just the beginning...especially if you have any questions you’d care to ask. Now’s your chance!

Many thanks again to everyone who participated in the Uncovered contest, and congratulations Laurie.

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