Judge this man by his covers: Artist Jonathan Myers conjures images for writers selling their work online

By Dan Dunkle | Aug 01, 2018
Jonathan Myers creates illustrations for fantasy and science fiction novels. He loves these genres himself.

Dragons tower over spear-wielding warriors; space bounty hunters rub elbows with galactic leaders; and trolls the size of houses play with children.

You can visit these characters in worlds created by writers of fantasy, science fiction and horror, but you probably wouldn’t bother if it weren’t for cover artists like Jonathan Myers of Endicott, New York.

As thousands of writers take part in the digital gold rush of self-publishing through Amazon and other online channels, they create demand for the work of freelance artists, illustrators, editors and cover designers found on sites like Fiverr or Reedsy. Writers bringing their novels to market pay artists anywhere from $50 to thousands, hoping the resulting book cover will stand out as readers scroll through the offerings on their Kindles.

“I’m really just a big kid exploring the imaginative landscape of Neverland,” said Myers.

The 43-year-old comes home from his day job as an administrative specialist and draws creatures, cityscapes and characters for writers who have found him through social media or by referral. It plays into his interests not only in art, but pop culture in general.

“I absolutely love the films of Ray Harryhausen and swords and sorcery…” he said. “I am certainly a child of the 1980s and the pop culture of those eras holds a nostalgic sway over my imagination. Atari, Don Bluth, Spielberg films, Rankin/Bass etc. all find their way into my work; whether through the use of lighting, color, subject matter etc.”

He shares these interests with many of the writers he works with.

Myers studied art at Pensacola Christian College where he met his mentor, Brian Jekel. This instructor had studied under illustrator Phil Steele, who in turn was a student under iconic pop culture artist Norman Rockwell.

He does most of his paintings with Prismacolor colored pencils on illustration board and prefers traditional methods to drawing with a stylus on a digital tablet.

“I am amazed at the technology and young artists who have revolutionized the artistic landscape with digital media,” he said. “It is certainly the future of illustration.”

The pencils are particularly important to his technique.

“I am color blind, so knowing exactly what colors I am applying to a piece can be helpful in the process. I found this limitation to be an obstacle when mixing colors in traditional mediums such as oil, acrylic, gouache and watercolor.”

He uses the smooth tone technique, layering, shading and working the lead deep into the pores of the illustration board. He can create near photorealism and evoke the style of oil paintings.

“It is a swift and versatile medium that gives you optimum control over detail and the potential to develop Popeye forearms,” he said.

Myers has painted a dozen book covers for science fiction, fantasy and horror. He also provides illustrations used for games, magazines, puzzles, comic books and commercial projects. He has also dabbled in modeling effects for independent films.

Myers is supportive of the writers he sees putting their work out into the digital universe.

“I think it’s great! We are living in exciting times. Amazon, Print on Demand resources and independent publishing through digital means have created a new renaissance in publishing. Authors can now get their writing directly to consumers, without being stopped ‘at the gate.’ Sure, there is an issue of quality versus quantity, but I feel that readers are sophisticated enough to discern these attributes without a ‘gatekeeper’ choosing which books get to see publication and which ones don’t.”

He also faces some of the same challenges writers do, trying to stand out in a sea of illustrators doing similar work and reaching clients without spending big bucks on advertising. Freelancers also have to handle financial negotiations themselves and make sure they are going to be properly paid for their work.

And just like those writers, he is doing the work because this is his passion.

“There is a science-fiction convention held here locally at the Roberson Museum of Arts and Science in Binghamton, NY. They usually have me paint a topic pertaining to the event. This past con they had me create a painting celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars. I had so much fun working on that illustration and it was such an honor to work on that subject matter. I felt like an eight-year-old boy again creating that commission. I’ll always remember that experience.”

Myers lives with his wife and fellow illustrator, Lola, his daughter, Sara, and his Boston terrier, Sparkle.

Daniel Dunkle is author of “The Scrimshaw Worm,” available in paperback and ebook on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CLV7JN3. Visit his website at https://danieldunkle.wordpress.com/ or email him at ddunkleauthor@gmail.com.

(Photo by: Jonathan Myers )
(Photo by: Jonathan Myers )
(Photo by: Jonathan Myers )
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.