How Dillon Samuelson Created the Cover Image for The Throes of Crime

the-throes-of-crime-finalArtist Dillon Samuelson (website, Tumblr, Behance) and I first collaborated on the comic book FORTUNE. (You can get a copy of FORTUNE — print, electronic, or free PDF — here.)

Next, Dillon produced an amazing cover for my short story ALL ALONE.

Now he’s created an incredible image for the cover of my first book, a short story collection titled THE THROES OF CRIME.

Dillon and I went through several cover ideas before arriving at the final version. I enjoyed the process; collaborating with Dillon is always a great experience. I recently talked to him about the techniques he used to develop the cover for THE THROES OF CRIME.

Let’s start with the final image. What kind of materials did you use to create it?

The final image ended up being a mixture of relief print and drawing done primarily with black and white ink and acrylic paint, with bits of pen for the colors in the bullet and tear.

ChalkBody1Originally, I thought I wanted a woodcut version of a chalk body outline. You did some work on that, but pretty quickly I decided that image was too simple. Did you agree?

I liked the idea of a body outline primarily because of its simplicity to make: when you pitched the idea I figured it would be relatively quick and an easy subject to draw. I don’t mind simple iconic images for covers, but I agree just the body outline started to feel boring next to some of the other possibilities.

Next, we tried to add some details to the chalk body outline — woodcut-style designs inside the outline, some blood, etc. What did you think of those ideas?

I was not a fan of the abstract patterns we considered, but I liked the idea of incorporating another image into the outline and think the layering of images had an interesting effect.


What materials did you use to create those early images?

The preliminary drawings were done with ink. Sometimes just a pen sketch, but often I would also go into black areas of ink with a whiteout pen to recreate the reductive process of carving a woodblock.

ChalkBody3One of the images was a skull behind the chalk body outline with blood coming out of the skull’s eye — which happened to be where the body’s chest was. That was too busy, I think, but it got us to focus on the skull instead of the chalk outline. Were you happy with the move from the chalk outline to the skull?

That particular idea was my favorite from the preliminary pieces, but I agree with it being too busy. It lost the graphic punch of a single icon and became confusing from a distance – and may have become even more so as a carving.

The skull — with great input from you and my wife — then evolved to “smile” a little more, get the gold bullet tooth, and have the blood take the form of a teardrop. Are you pleased with the final image?

I am pleased. This is the first relief print I’ve made in years, and while it ended up being more a mixed-media drawing, it was fun experimenting with the medium again. The addition of the bullet and tear give it a good pop of color and add some uniqueness to the classic skull.








THE THROES OF CRIME is now available in ebook and paperback.

Grace Askew On Writing & Creativity

Here are some great tips from one of my favorite songwriters, Grace Askew, about writing and creativity.

“Allow yourself to write garbage.”

“Get it all out and eventually you’ll hit a gold mine.”

“Be comfortable with both creativity and fear, because the fear’s always going to be there.”

“Creativity is a muscle. You have to work at it every day.”

“Discipline and artistry work beautifully together.”

Here’s where you can find Grace Askew: