This past week saw the public release of new cover art I created for Naomi Novik’s compelling award winning novel, Spinning Silver.  This oil painting is for limited edition versions published by Shawn Speakman and Grim Oak Press, and will feature an additional 12 interior full page, black and white illustrations.

As always with Shawn, it is a real pleasure to collaborate with him and a brilliant author like Naomi on these special edition books.  Shawn basically finds the right artist to interpret the novel, backs away, and let’s the artist pour their heart and soul into the work.  Naomi provides such great prose and fascinating characters, it becomes hard not to create more art for these stories (I created 35 images for her previous book with Grim Oak Press, Uprooted).

In assessing what to focus upon for this cover, and many of the interiors, the theme of winter was an obvious anchor.  Growing up in Vermont for 20+ years, I have plenty of first hand knowledge and memories about snow, the cold, and and what winter ‘feels’ like.  I wanted to capture a bit of that in these images, yet also provide an artistic interpretation to connect to the fairy-tale flavor shadowing the novel.

Claude Monet – Ice Flows

Tapping into winter inspiration, one of my favorite paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is Claude Monet’s Ice Flows.  It is a stunning visualization of winter and pushes the acceptability of traditional value composition to its limits.  My main pull from this painting is with that of ‘white is not white’ – as in the white snow and ice are never truly white, they are all shades of greys, pastels and subtle hues.


Below is a snowy landscape detail of the Spinning Silver cover art with a blown out pure white square, for we all know snow is ‘white’!

Following along in this multi-hued theme is my treatment of the other aspects of the painting to not use any one local color to dominate an object or form.  What color is the grey sky?  Pink? Green? Blue? Orange?  How about that snow capped mountain peak?

And color for gold coins?  Yellow? green? Blue-grey? Burnt Sienna? Pink?

Over the years I have been freeing up my thoughts about color and pursuing a much more impressionistic manner in application.  It has opened up many new directions in my artistic aesthetic, and keeps me excited about painting even on the most tediously detailed subjects tackled as an illustrator.  I highly recommend this treatment if you are so inclined, it worked for Monet!

In closing here are a few developmental parts to the painting process, a couple of sneak peeks at the black and white interiors, and a link for pre-ordering the book direct from Grim Oak Press:

Spinning Silver Limited Edition

Spinning Silver abstract thumbnails 11″ x 8.5″ Donato

Spinning Silver graphite rough 11″ x 14″ Donato

Spinning Silver Chapter 3 – The Staryk King 14″ x 11″ Graphite and gouache Donato