Earlier this month, Varnette P. Honeywood passed away. Even if you don't know her name, you likely would recognize her work and style. One of her pieces was featured prominently in the Huxtable home on The Cosby Show. And she created the cover art for all five of Tina McElroy Ansa's novels. (Go look at those covers again - completely unique on your shelf, right?) [Full disclosure - Tina is my friend and mentor].
Read Tina's tribute to Varnette P. Honeywood here - it is a beautiful piece.
Ms. Honeywood's work comes immediately to mind when I think about Tina McElroy Ansa's novels. I can't think about Ugly Ways or The Hand I Fan With without seeing those covers. That is powerful - an image that stays with you just as long as the story.
I do not think most book covers achieve this now. And maybe, with the increasing popularity of ebooks, this will continue - the cover becomes irrelevant.
I'm definitely a pro-technology person. But I will miss (already do) the use of artwork for book covers. Thoughtful, powerful pieces that make a cover a frame-worthy piece. I don't have enough art in my life. And I may never be a collector of original work, but I love beautiful design and art in "real" life - covers of books, posters, beautiful fabric.
The book cover still moves me. I have a hard time buying books that just have a photo cover (this may also be because some of those books are positioned as "urban" fiction). I still look for a piece of art, something a little less revealing than a photo. (I don't mean revealing as in showing too much skin - but revealing as in too easy to read - leaving nothing for the mind to explore).
I am sad to hear that Ms. Honeywood has passed. Her work is wonderful and I especially loved her depiction of children (Little Bill is her creation as well - that who beautiful community).
I know there are other artists doing beautiful, culturally specific work. I wish that publishers would find them and give novelists an opportunity to have visual art connected with their words. And I hope that our independent and self publishers will reach out and find an artist - think of the collaborations that we could cherish.
Here is some of the coverage about Ms. Honeywood.
Los Angeles Times
New York Times