Interview with Jeff Minkevics, artist

Jeff Minkevics
cover artist for Mik Murdoch: Boy Superhero
not nearly as bad-ass as this photo would indicate, in fact a Really Nice Guy.

One of the books we’re really excited about is Michell Plested’s Mik Murdoch: Boy Superhero. We commissioned Jeff Minkevics to do the cover, and netted him recently to discuss his artistic vision for the cover.

Lorina: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background in visual arts.
Jeff: I’m a graduate of the Drawing program at the Alberta College of Art and Design, with a few Visual Communications courses under my belt as well as having spent a brief stint at the University of Calgary. Currently I’m a graphics developer for a Telecom-focused software company, where I do everything from photography and illustration to logo development and corporate identity. I also do the occasional bit of freelance design, illustration, and Photoshop work, so my stuff ends up in some fairly unexpected places. In fact, I was once interviewed by both National Geographic and Science Magazine over a photo hoax I created that went viral a few years back.
Lorina: Was the present cover the first concept, or were there others? If there were others, what were they?
Jeff: It was the first concept I imagined when presented with the idea of a boy superhero – the classic ‘Superman’ opening of the shirt that reveals the super-secret and iconic superhero identity. I’m pretty certain that every kid’s imagined something similar when growing up, and the mere gesture of opening a shirt like that has become virtually synonymous with the notion of a superhero identity.
There were a couple of other concepts for it as well. One featured a complete shot of a boy who had dressed himself up in a makeshift costume that was very obviously low-budget and thrown together with what was available around your typical house . . . rubber washing gloves, ski-goggles, striped bed sheets tied as a cape, and other things like that. However, while a visual gag like that might be okay for a single cover, it didn’t seem like something that could be built upon for subsequent covers featuring Mik, so I decided against it.
Lorina: What were the basic concepts and images you wanted to communicate?
Jeff: Well, there was the ‘Superman Reveal’ pose, which I figured would get across the super-hero element we were after. I also wanted a plain but colourful outer-shirt that a typical boy might wear, but that wasn’t specific to 2012 or any particular year. The marker-style font for the writing on the shirt sort of suggests that he’s written it himself – an impulsive and child-like attempt at creating some sort of super-hero identity. Aside from that, I just wanted to create a bright, clean, summertime-based look and feel.
Lorina: The lighting in the cover is fairly fresh, without high contrast. Was this a conscious choice and why?
Jeff: It was a choice based on the background elements that were decided for this one. I wanted the cover to be set in an area where the story takes place, if not depict an actual scene from the story. Since Mik lives on a farm and the story takes place in the summer, Michell and I decided that the background should probably have something to do with blue skies and the outdoors. The actual photograph for the cover was taken in the bright sunlight in the early afternoon, with some of the shadows softened a bit post-shoot. The background elements were added post-shoot as well.
Lorina: You’ve almost created the primary colour palette in the cover; was that also a conscious choice and why?
Jeff: Half of the reason for the colours used in this one is another indirect superman reference – the red and blue in the shirt. The other half relates to the colours used during the golden age of comics … straightforward contour line drawings blocked in with lots of blues, reds, yellows, and greens. As comic books and printing techniques became more sophisticated, so did the palette and shading that got used. So, within the comic genre at least, primary colors tend to be associated with a time back when everything was young and fresh and new. This also being the case for young Mik, who aspires to become a super-hero, it seemed appropriate.
That style of line-drawing was also a factor when it came to the above lighting decision, since heavy shadow and dramatic lighting were rarely utilized back then as well.
Lorina: Why the typeface you’ve chosen?
Jeff: Denne Marker was picked to lend a hand-written feel to the writing on the shirt, suggesting that Mik was the one who put it there. I wanted something that was a little haphazard as well – not carefully considered writing, but something more impulsive and excited, so that the words themselves seemed like the sort of thing a young boy might consider a good idea and want finished as quickly as possible.
Michell’s name is done up in Myriad Web Pro, because I wanted a simple, bold, block font that would be easy to read against a busy or patterned background with very little outlining. As it is, I only needed to add a tiny bit of drop shadow to give it enough punch to hold its own against the pattern of the shirt.
Lorina: Where do you plan on taking the visual concepts for the subsequent books?
Jeff: The nice thing about this whole concept is that the pose can remain the same for any and all future covers, while individual elements can change slightly in order to illustrate character growth – more grown-up clothing, a different font, a carefully drawn and colored logo, and other things that suggest the maturing of the character. The background scene can also be changed to fit wherever the future stories take place – a classroom, summer camp, vacationing in Hawaii, you name it. Likewise the actual clothing Mik is wearing can be changed to fit in with the story elements particular to that book … a heavy parka if it takes place during winter, a Hawaiian shirt if he and his family go on vacation, endless variations. If the pose and the ‘secret identity underneath’ elements remain virtually the same for each cover, people will easily recognize each book as part of a single series, all about a very specific character.

Mik Murdoch: Boy Superhero
Available August 1, 2012
ISBN print 9781927400111 $23.99
eISBN 9781927400128 $4.99

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