Eleanor Leonne Bennett is an internationally acclaimed photographer and cover artist from Stockport, UK. Bennett has won nearly fifty awards over the course of her short career so far, including the CIWEM (Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management) Environmental Photographer of the Year for 2013 (Under 18 category). Her website hosts an impressive and eerily mature portfolio of photographs and cover designs for a range of books and creative writing magazines.
You're 17 years old and have achieved so much in such a short space of time, tell us about what drives you creatively?
I am very inspired by the natural world and the subtle oddities around me that I find when I go and explore more inhabited urban settings.
You've designed numerous covers for novels and creative writing magazines, how did you first branch out into this line of work?
Because it was pretty much the only way to find the combination of paying clients who also admired my work. Artists of my age and younger, face an unprofitable market in regards to galleries no matter what our talent may command outside those four walls of exhibiting space.
Is it safe to say that the majority of covers you design are for self-published authors? How much would you say you collaborate with the authors? Do you read the manuscripts?
Often self-publishing authors don't hear of me which is a shame as it is normally a lot of fun to work with them. I pretty much at least read an extract of the manuscript I'm working with. I note down some keywords, look in my archives and try to make a match, all the while keeping style in mind and trying to aim for something unique.
How has the boom in the self-publishing industry affected your work as a cover artist?
I normally first make contact with most of my clients by that of recommendation by a publishing house so not positive in the way you'd expect. I have had contact with self publishing people who made a mess of a ready made stock piece of cover art and want something really out there, so to speak. The mass reach of the self-publishing industry has meant a giant boom in the amount of terrible and trite cover designs. I think if I were in the shoes of the author I would maybe give notice a month or two in advance to think about cover design, as I have observed too many that seem awfully rushed. Its not nice to see 50 or 300 books all sporting the identical stock photo.
Walk us through the process of designing a cover, from concept to finished product...
Sending the author the first jpg files to get an idea of exactly what someone wants. When we've decided on the photography, I use my own designs to make the backing of the book. I have lots of patterns that make good backgrounds to place the text on. We decide on the typography and final edits and the finished work is sent as a high res file. Some people pay up front and some pay at the end. I just work with them to see what they most desire.
With the ever-evolving nature of the self-publishing industry, more and more authors are taking to designing their own covers. What are three pieces of advice you have for anyone undertaking this task?
1. You can never take enough time to plan what you want, don't be afraid to make many revisions.
2. If you have a vague concept and not much artistic direction, find the most qualified artist possible with the best track record of tasteful and well thought out design.
3. Don't string your artist along. If you have multiple people on the job let them know up front. If your designer finds out you just decided to go with someone else after they spent hours working on your commission then I don't think there is a quicker way to sever a creative relationship.
We understand that you were the winner of the CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the year for 2013... What was the lead up like to this event, and as an artist, what was it like to experience such a major career high so early on?
I hope to win again sometime in the future. I want to keep up the standard of the entries I make and the work I am creating. They were very lovely at CIWEM. One day I was sending in the final files and regarding myself lucky to become a finalist and then it was announced I had won. I got photography of my exhibited work in situ. It felt quite unreal and I hope to keep winning even bigger and brighter awards in the future.
You also write for Zenfolio, have you always been interested in writing as well as photography and design?
Yes, I love to write non-fiction. I used to write fiction I just don't get time for it anymore.
What's next for you as an artist? Are you working on any exciting projects?
Hopefully being continuously exhibited nationally in the UK with the photographic angle for about two years. I'm not promised for all dates but they are constantly updating their website with upcoming events.
All photography featured in this article is courtesy of Eleanor Bennett. If you'd like to view more of Eleanor's work, click here to visit her website.
Writer's Edit would like to thank Eleanor for taking the time to discuss her work with us.