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John Ennis' Art Work

Ed. note, May 2006...John Ennis' website moved since this column was written, and he no longer illustrates book covers. His new website, linked to on the previous page, is devoted to his [new] career as a Fine Artist.

A number of people visited John Ennis' website to determine which images would be used in this column. Though we loved many of the covers we saw, we would disagree with the organization of some of his material. Many of the romance covers we recognized were not in his "romance" section, but were instead in other sections, including "still life," "other works," and even "equestrian." Had we been consulted on arranging his imagery, we would have made some changes. We'd have done away altogether with the "still life" section, and would have moved approximately 12 images into his romance section because they were covers of books sold as romances. His site is geared less to book readers than to art lovers, and given his occupation, that's a valid approach. Still, given the creativity and innovative nature of his work, we wish he'd organized this material more along genre lines. And while no doubt his section devoted to Cassie Edwards' covers contained some interesting images, it's difficult to separate the quality of the writing from the quality of these covers.

Ennis' Favorites

Sandi and I didn't know that Waking Beauty was John's favorite image until after the interview was done. We felt really pleased with ourselves because we had already decided it was our favorite cover and would be the first image we'd focus upon.

I have been waiting for someone to use hands, fingers and arms expressively. Waking Beauty not only uses hands very expressively, the fiber background is a departure from the overused folding and creasing of satin or tablecloth fabric. Normally, I'm not big on using a flower but here the flower is juxtaposed with the rough rope binding her soft, well-tended hands. The contrast between the soft and the rough is wonderful and also introduces a sense of texture into the image. This textural sense is amplified by fine, white yarn or fiber being more loosely woven as a binding around her forearms. The shadow which would be cast by this image in the daylight is well rendered too. Skipping the shadow would ruin this cover. We've seen romance cover art where the shadows are omitted, a big mistake. This image could work well for many romance books. Romantic suspense, for one, where someone always seems to be held hostage.

I must confess that I haven't read any of the Acorna novels by Anne McCaffrey, but I know many of you are fans of this series. Although John's favorite is Acorna (seen to the left, below) , the one in all blues showing the heroine on another planet, the cover art for Acorna's Quest (below, on the right) , in red and violet, is my own favorite.

On the book cover itself, the image winds around the whole book because it is too big for just the front cover. Since I have only recently started reading SF/Romance, it certainly helps me in the SF aisle if the books have covers like these.


Cover for Acorna

Cover for Acorna's Quest

Nothing turns me off faster on SF/Romance books than some reptilian creature on the front or, nearly as awful, a giant spaceship. Another romance reader will then have to swear to me that the novel in question is fabulous for me to go ahead and buy it.

Ennis' Big Sellers

Well, now I know why I have most of Dinah McCall's books in my TBR (to be read) pile, yet have only read one of them! Evidently, I just talked myself into thinking they must be great novels because of their fabulous covers. Have I read the ones pictured? Well, no, but I look at them a lot since they are in the bookstand next to my bed. I don't think I've ever read a Native American based romance with time travel elements. But a great cover is a great cover so I had to have them.

The first one I bought was Dreamcatcher because it was an image extravaganza. The two Ennis art prints you see here for Dreamcatcher are used as covers. The purple hued one is the cover flat with the person on the front and the dream catcher symbol on the back. A dream catcher is a popular Native American symbol sold in craft galleries. It functions to trap your dreams at night so its use alerts the reader to a mystical element being part of the story.

The flesh colored image is the stepback. I think the flesh colored one is the most beautiful portrait of John DeSalvo I've yet seen. In it, he has the most gorgeous hair imaginable. The feathers and beaded tunic and choker are authentic looking costume pieces and I have always loved native costuming of any culture. Does he look like a real Native American? I doubt it, but living in Ohio, it is easy for me to make that imaginative leap since we have virtually no Native Americans. I don't think that the readers/viewers of these books are looking for authenticity anyway. Note that in the two images, the painting is the same but the colors used are different.

 

Then I bought McCall's Tallchief because it was such a fresh, clean image on that neutral background. I liked the unusual angle of DeSalvo's pose, turned partly away from us. The objects assembled to his left finish the image. I just love those paintbrushes.

Next we look at Ennis's most popular art print, Midsummer Night's Magic. This is also a book cover. I can see its universal appeal, especially to women and children, with a fairy, a green and purple palette and a close up view of that other, fairy world. If we changed the child fairy to an adult woman, this would make a perfect cover for Rebecca Paisley's A Basket Of Wishes, which is a marvelous romance with a fairy heroine. Its present cover doesn't make the most of that fairy aspect , a shame since the novel itself is a classic.

 

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