Our suspicions arose when we saw a posting on a writers’ board: Free Custom Cover with Original Digital Painting, read the post. The offer came from Gale Haut and we’d seen his name on the boards before. Months earlier, a writer, Meira Pentermann, had raved about the cover she’d received for her novel, Nine-Tenths. Her cover artist: Gale Haut. So we knew GH had some pretty decent chops but we remained suspicious about his offer. The last time we’d received something ‘free’, we had to sit through a two hour sales pitch. In Las Vegas. During the summer.
Apparently we weren’t the only suspicious people in the house. After the offer was made, exactly ONE person responded. (When we asked him about this, he told us, “I assume some people have seen what I’ve done in the past and probably decided my work wasn’t what they’re looking for.” Poor, sweet, innocent artist.) So, imagine our surprise when the customer cover turned out to be (1) entirely free; and (2) worlds beyond all levels of suck. So we contacted GH, just to see what was happening here.
(We asked author Merri Hiatt what she thought about the cover: "I loved the cover art he created," she told us. "Elliot created a cover that was not only beautiful, but hauntingly so. He has a gift and a honed talent. I'd work with him again in a heartbeat.")
But Elliot's not rich and unlikely to become so if he keeps giving his work away. So we started at that point: where’s the profit in FREE? “I don’t mean to sound pithy or anything,” he told us, “but I really love the dynamic of working with an author. I thought it would be fun.”
Which is almost stunning in and of itself. Do something just for the fun of it? The last thing we did for fun was Frankenstein, P.I. – and you know how well that worked out. With a little further prodding, we learned that Elliot is a professional graphic designer, with a degree in English Literature. “The thing about graphic design is, no one will take you seriously until you’ve had professional work experience or you have a fancy degree in art or design. I had neither, so I took a nontraditional route. I’m a little proud that I’ve made it this far because of how competitive the field is.”
So this is one for the portfolio, is it? It's such a striking piece – “Honestly, my cover work isn’t exceptional when compared to other professional artists who are established in the field,” Elliot interrupts. “Maybe it’s better than the standard self-published cover or small press cover but I have a ways to go before I’m as polished as I’d like to be.”
Okay, we get it, the Society of Illustrators isn’t quite ready to inscribe your plaque, but you’re almost there. Verrrrrry close. Right?
You know what? He won’t even give us that much. “I don’t know the definition of a professional cover artist but I’m willing to bet it’s not me,” Elliot insists. “The cover art industry is incredibly competitive, and I don’t feel that I’m entitled to succeed in it. But I’ll certainly do my best if the opportunity arises.”
We asked a few more questions, received some lovely answers, and quickly grew tired of the guy. Talented, modest, probably movie star handsome (but refusing to admit it, even to himself), Elliot Turner is just a little too good to be true. After all, we’re NOT movie star handsome and, yet, we refuse to be modest.
So what happened after his latest cover was posted for all to see? Well, as you might expect, a number of writers lined up, hoping to get his next cover. We think his talent is obvious, his design philosophy is solid – “Simplicity works. Just as you don’t want to over flower your prose when you write, avoid overworking an image. Keep it clean and get to the point before you lose your way and your audience” – and we’re positive he’ll be charging big bucks for his work in the future.
In the meantime, we're waiting for him to fill his ego tank and decide that, maybe, he really is too good to hang out at the Blog-O-Rama…and then we’ll invite him back. He’ll refuse to answer our increasingly strident emails and we’ll know, at last, he’s one of us.
Fingers crossed, Gale. Fingers crossed.