24 Nudes A Second - This piece started out as just an artsy, messy shot of the woman, very hand-drawn looking...but of course there is no illustration I can't slap text on top, behind, or next to.

The "plot" came together rather easily, given the somewhat shamed pose; this girl came to the Big City, got caught up with the wrong people, needed some money, was desperate...you know the rest.

I think 24 Nudes A Second is one of my better made-up titles, if I do say so myself.


The Bride Wore Red - As you can see from this cover, I was in kind of in a more graphic, more abstract sort of zone this time around.

One of the things that's continually bugged me about my own style is sometimes I find the final result to be too stiff, too clean. Trying to be messy and unruly sort of goes against all my internal rules I have in my head when it comes to illustration and graphic design, so its a constant fight to let myself go and let things look messy and unruly.

So while I had a bit of that last week, I really tried to push it further this time around, stripping it almost entirely of niceties and detail, and just going for big slabs o' color.


A Bullet For Betty Lou - This one took a while to get right in terms of the text (title, author, and tagline made up by me). I started with it all on the background behind poor dead Betty Lou there, but it never quite looked right. But I had a ton of other stuff to work on, so part of me was ready to get close to "right" and then move on.

But before I did that, I thought why not try something else, and see how that goes--and once I did, dropping a box on top of the picture and then adding the title, it clicked immediately and after some minor dabbling with colors, this baby was ready to go!

On a side note: I think my favorite element is the feather pattern on Betty Lou's shawl or whatever--it just sort of screamed 50s showgirl to me. But as much as I liked it, I had to admit that the composition worked best with most of it covered up. Oh well...


Confessions of a Park Avenue Playgirl - Probably my favorite design, this has a real happy, sexy feel. This is the kind of book that wouldn't shy away from it's sexual content, but winks at you the whole time, taking none of it too seriously.


The Dragon Murder Case - I haven't done a new faux-vintage paperback book cover in a while, and I had been itching to get to one before it came time to update the site again.

Since last time, I'd discovered my paperback covers have their own little fan base, which is flattering as all get out and a little bewildering. Knowing these are appreciated by the audience I meant them makes me want to work on new ones all the more.

This one started as nothing more than the woman, and I messed around with the colors until I found a mood I could do something with. After a while, I liked the kind of "dragon lady" vibe, and then I dipped into my The Great American Paperback hardcover book to look for an actual vintage paperback whose title might match what I had.

One page in after opening to a random page, I found The Dragon Murder Case by S.S. Van Dyne--I really didn't need to go any further! That was exactly the title I was looking for.

It took me a while to balance all the right elements, and I must have tried a thousand different colors on the bottom, until finally realizing a nice big open white space balanced the busy top-half perfectly.


H Is For Harlot - I recently picked up a book called Dope Menace, featuring nothing but "drug" paperback book covers over the 20th century. Not only were the covers beautiful to look at, but now I have hundreds of more genre paperback book titles that can inspire me to make my own faux-paperback covers!

This is one of those, and I had different ideas how I wanted this to look when I started it, but eventually the thing kind of took on a life of its own, and it ended up much more of a constructivist-type of thing, all tilted angles and abstract shapes.


Hot Rod - I hadn't done a paperback book cover in a while, so when I had a hole in my schedule I worked this up, and I think its one of my best designs. It's a little busier and kitchy-ier than I normally do, but I dig it and it was a real joy to work on.

And no, I have no idea what those numbers mean; I just thought they looked cool and fit the whole hot rod/dragstrip feel of the cover.

Vroom! Vroom!

  Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye -I hadn't done any new paperback book covers in a while, so I slotted this in between some other work.

I wanted more of a mystery thriller cover instead of the lurid nudie look, so no sex here at all--you've got a tough-looking dame holding a gat, looking over her shoulder, either ready to kill or be killed.

I think my favorite part is the blood spatter on the "goodbye." I thought the cover needed one extra little something, and then I remembered I had this graphic in my files from when I used it on a poster. I dropped it in, and it was exactly what I wanted. I never throw anything away.


The Man With The Golden Arm - Another faux-paperback cover, but with some slight variations in the format.

First off, this one, for once, doesn't feature some gorgeous-but-dangerous dame, but a scungy-looking guy. I had this photo in an old folder of such items, clipped from magazines over the years, and I realized that I could mess with it a bit (ok, a lot) and it would work really well as the art for another "drug" paperback book, the kind I've been messing around with since I bought a book all about them, called Dope Menace.

As I went through the various titles, I realized the best one to pair up with this image was one of the most famous titles of the "drug book" genre--Nelson Algren's The Man With The Golden Arm (which is probably even more famous from the movie starring Frank Sinatra).

Once I started laying type in, I saw that the best use was not to over-design it and dress it up too much--just having it there, as stark as possible, looked the best to me.

Also, I realized the book's hyperbolic tag ("More powerful than a woman's love...more binding than a man's word...it was dope!") line didn't really have a place on here, so I left it off. I think it looked really perfect just like this--the title, that face, surrounded by darkness.


No Time For Sleep - Probably my all-time favorite paperback cover, I think this is the perfect synthesis of illustration and design, if I do say so myself. You can pretty much figure out what "no time for sleep" means, and if you don't, the scantily-clad woman looking right at you oughta close the deal.

The all-hearts background works to me as both a sort of realistic wallpaper look (like something you might see in an old-time bordello), or just a pure design element. The title combined with the tagline looks like a smiling face to me, which is a nice bonus. I also like the semi-bifarcated look, with all the color at the top and just black at the bottom.


Pick Your Poison - This one's just a crazy jumble of images--kind of like how you feel after you drank too much the night before AND EVERYTHING JUST SEEMS TO BE SO LOUD!

"Liquor and women...both led to death!"--one of my favorite taglines, if I do say so myself.


Strip Till Dead - This is Strip Till Dead, a crime novel by author Mike Gerrard. Mike contacted me a few months ago asking if I was interested in doing one of my vintage-y covers for his book, since that was the kind of look he wanted for his book, involving murder in the world of stripping.

I said sure, and had the pleasure of reading the book while trying to come up with a concept. This idea of the stripper's shadow being a police tape outline hit me a few chapters in, and at that point I was just finishing the book for pure pleasure, because I was pretty certain I knew this was the way to go.

Mike liked what he saw, and before long I had the finished version, which adorns the book. You can purchase it as an e-book on Amazon, which I recommend to anyone who likes a good old-fashioned crime thriller.


Too Hot For Hell- I knew I wanted the fiery background to go behind the portrait, and I knew I wanted the portrait to be without anything but the darkest shadows. I felt like that was a compelling image, and all I needed was a suitable title.

When I saw the title Too Hot For Hell (again, from the Great American Paperback hardcover book), the fact that they were talking about a man didn't bother me, since it would work just as well for a woman, if not better.

After messing with it for a while, I settled on having it in a box, on a slight angle, to give it a sort of "branded" feel, which felt very hot and painful and wrong, therefore totally right.

e:namtab29@comcast.netp: 856.261.2265 • all artwork © 2012 Rob Kelly