Any Day Now by Robyn Carr: Behind the scenes with Art Director Gigi Lau
by Gigi Lau, Art Director
The challenge for creating the cover of Any Day Now was creating the stairs setting inside a photography studio. Why didn’t we shoot it outside? Finding the exact type of stairs I envisioned was going to be a difficult task – I also wanted the title type to be actually integrated into the steps and not done post shoot in Photoshop.
Enlisting the talented photographer Matt Johannsson was a no-brainer for me, we work with him often when we need to create a beautiful set with full control of the lighting and cover elements. I asked Matt, how he came up with his solution with the steps.
“Not out of concrete of course; we needed something lighter and easier to work with. Polystyrene insulation panels, they were light enough and they could be easily cut to the right size and shape and glued together to create each step.
The second challenge was how to create the rustic, weathered look to the steps. The polystyrene panels were very smooth and needed some treatment. To achieve the desired look each step was lightly dampened with a wet sponge and then, very carefully, heated with a blowtorch. The effect was perfect; the variations in water on the surface allowed the torch to melt and blister the polystyrene, to varying degrees, in a random pattern. The next step was to paint the staircase with a base grey, followed by black and finally a light coat of “stone-effect” black spray paint. This spray paint gave an interesting textured and speckled final touch that finished the stairs off perfectly.
The final challenge was how to paint the book title right onto the stairs. The title font was scaled to fit onto the face of the steps and printed out. Each letter was then cut out of the print to create a stencil. The stencils were lightly spray-adhered to the steps as a mask and the title was sprayed on with a yellow spray paint.”
As you can see – a LOT happens before I even arrive on set to do the shoot. When I arrive, we touch up the slate grey of the stairs. We also add dirt, twigs, stones, leaves, moss and flower petals to create the rustic, natural outdoor mood that this book is set in. The lighting is worked on, as is the placement of certain leaves, petals and twigs. We experiment with spraying water onto the set to give it a slightly damp look to the stairs and also try tossing petals in the air to give the shot a bit of life.
I was very pleased with how the beautiful pink pops of petals contrasted against the dark textured stairs. The yellow title also reads so well against the dark texture. Looking at the finished cover, would you have known these steps were propped up by milk carts and foam core panels?
Gigi Lau is the Art Director for many of Robyn Carr’s bestselling covers.
Matt Johannsson is a commercial photographer, owner of Reflector Inc.