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Leigh Guldig on her Cover Illustration for Print

With every issue, we take pride in the cover art. The April issue of Print, the New Visual Artist issue, is no different. We always kick around a few ideas, and our art director, Ronson Slagle, works with the cover artist to create visuals that capture the feel of the entire issue and convey the information that you’ll find nestled inside. Leigh Guldig (who’s also one of this year’s 20 Under 30 artists) tackled the artwork for this issue’s cover.

Guldig is no stranger to illustration work, as her client lists includes NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, among others. As Slagle explains, “We really wanted to work with one of our artists for this cover. Leigh’s illustration style is so unique and striking, we decided she would be the best fit for the project.”

And Guldig was kind enough to let us peer over her shoulder and learn more about how she approached this particular piece of work.

The final April 2014 cover

Can you describe the elements of the cover and the images?

I roughly played around with the concept of artistic development. I considered different tools that represented an artist and how I could use those tools to demonstrate growth and promise. Ultimately, I settled on a paintbrush blooming into a full bouquet of flowers. With my process, the idea comes first, followed by the alignment of that idea with shapes while playing on the positives and negatives within the space or page.

How did you choose this color palette?

I typically scan old color sheets but with this project, I drew inspiration from an old Sears-Roebuck paint sample brochure. Old ephemera gets me every time. The final color palette was inspired by vintage elements.

Print art director, Ronson Slagle adds additional insight:

In the end, I think we were most drawn to the bouquet imagery – which we brought back from last year’s New Visual Artist cover. It avoids the trap of a lot of cliched imagery associated with being young and talented. We might even consider bringing it back again next year and use it as sort of a symbol for the issue.

What was your process in developing the cover? Was this different than your typical approach?

By now, I’ve developed a fairly regimented process. I begin with research and word maps to generate ideas. From there, I sketch a series of rough thumbnails to play with space and shape and to make my concept ideas visual. This is one of my favorite steps of the process — I love discovering new ways to solve visual puzzles. Because my ideas can evolve rapidly, I usually don’t show my thumbnails during the process, but have included it here as an example.

After narrowing down thumbnails, I take at least three ideas to a full sketch. Once a direction is decided, I then take the sketch to a final. This project was particularly fun, because I was really excited to play around with the concept of growing as an artist.

1. Thumbnail: Quick sketch (one of many) to get my ideas out/consider layout 2. Sketch: Complete first round of sketches without background elements or value complete assemblage / start line work 3. Working sketch: Add value & complete line work 4. Final sketch: Incorporate the image with the header and other elements for the final cover, make any necessary layout adjustments 5. Final: Complete color, execute back ground

What medium(s) did you use to create the cover?

I used ink, a digital Wacom & pen, scanned textures, old scanned engraved pieces and lines, gauche, and cut paper.

How long did it take you to create this piece?

For my first set of sketches, I submitted three directions. Bringing the idea and assemblage together with line work takes a while, so it took me about 55 hours to create the first round of sketches. I also had several ideas that didn’t work in execution. The final image with type took another 70 hours.

Sketch to final comparison

Do you listen to music while you illustrate? What did you listen to while working on this cover?

Yes– in fact, there are few occasions where it’s not blaring in my studio. Lately, I have been streaming on Spotify — it’s perfect for long nights spent on a project deadline. When I need an extra boost of inspiration, I’ll break out my record player and some of my favorite Motown albums.

What did you enjoy about creating the cover?

Working with the fantastic team at Print was one of the best creative experiences I’ve had. I was so grateful for the freedom and flexibility of this project.

What does it feel like to know that there is an article about you, as an NVA, in the magazine that you’ve also designing the cover for? Is there additional pressure?

I feel so honored to be a part of this. I’ve been a Print fan for years, and I have such great respect for the magazine and its content. There is always pressure with any project, but I just try to enjoy the creative process and focus on making the best piece I can. No, we didn’t pay her to say that.  Guldig didn’t disappoint, as Slagle points out, “She really brought something special to this cover. The colors, the way the banner wraps into the flowers, the butterfly – they’re all very unique to her style. Great flourishes on what could have been a tough assignment for an illustrator.”

More About the Leigh Guldig Leigh Guldig is a freelance illustrator who lives in Boston, MA with Bonzo, her grumpy French Bulldog. Her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, books, packaging and advertising with various clients such as National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, AARP, Gap Inc. and more. She received her BS in graphic design from the University of Cincinnati and her MFA in illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design. See more of her work: www.leighguldig.com and follow her on twitter @leighster.

Additional Resource Discover the other New Visual Artists and get your copy of Print’s April issue. Plus, learn more about Seymour Chwast and his process. Don’t miss another issue, subscribe today.

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