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My apologies for how long it’s taken me to announce the winner of the Frida Kahlo book giveaway! There so many entries, and I underestimated just how long it would take me to count them all up and do the random drawing. I wound up having to print out all of the names (plus duplicates for the Facebook entries), cut them into strips, and draw one from a hat. OK, I didn’t actually use a hat, I used a manila envelope…but you get the point. Maybe there’s some kind of amazing program out there that will do all of this automatically?


Anyway, without further ado, the winner is…Alex! Congratulations, Alex. Your book will be in the mail this week. I hope you enjoy it, inside and out.

And if you weren’t the lucky winner, you can of course still buy a copy! The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo is out now in English and Spanish editions, both with covers designed by me and illustrated by the ever-amazing Lisa Congdon.

Thanks to everyone who entered!!

Remember the book about Frida Kahlo that Lisa Congdon and I collaborated on the cover for? Well, The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo was finally released for sale on Tuesday! Woo-hoo! I know this is a little bit goofy because I never do giveaways on my blog (I kind of feel like I’m masquerading as a “real blogger” right now), but I got an extra sample copy the other day and I figure giving it away is more fun than just sticking it on a shelf in my office.

I’m so happy with how the printed books turned out! No matter how many covers I’ve designed over the years, it never stops being exciting to see the finished product in three (tangible!) dimensions. I haven’t actually read the book yet because it hadn’t been translated into English yet when the project was given to me, but I’m looking forward to bringing it along with me to London next week for airplane reading.

From the book description:

When several notebooks were recently discovered among Frida Kahlo’s belongings at her home in Coyoacán, Mexico City, acclaimed Mexican novelist F. G. Haghenbeck was inspired to write this beautifully wrought fictional account of her life. Haghenbeck imagines that, after Frida nearly died when a streetcar’s iron handrail pierced her abdomen during a traffic accident, she received one of the notebooks as a gift from her lover Tina Modotti. Frida called the notebook “The Hierba Santa Book” (The Sacred Herbs Book) and filled it with memories, ideas, and recipes.

Haghenbeck takes readers on a magical ride through Frida’s passionate life: her long and tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera, the development of her art, her complex personality, her hunger for experience, and her ardent feminism. This stunning narrative also details her remarkable relationships with Georgia O’Keeffe, Leon Trotsky, Nelson Rockefeller, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Henry Miller, and Salvador Dalí. Combining rich, luscious prose with recipes from “The Hierba Santa Book,” Haghenbeck tells the extraordinary story of a woman whose life was as stunning a creation as her art.

Here’s how to enter:
1. Leave a comment here for one entry.
2. “Like” both Door Sixteen AND Lisa Congdon on Facebook for an extra entry. Make sure you let me know that you liked us both in the comments here so your entry counts. (It’s OK if you already liked us before, of course!)

This contest is now CLOSED. I’ll draw a winner at random when I return from London in a few days!

(Shipping is included for US residents. International entries are welcome, but the winner will be responsible for any shipping costs.)

Entries will be accepted until Friday, October 5th at 10PM EST. I’ll draw a winner at random and announce the winner when I return from London the following week!

And yeah, I totally stole those giveaway rules from Honey Kennedy, because Jen is a real blogger and she knows how to do these things the right way.

In October 2011 (yes, almost a year ago!), I started working on the cover for the September 2012 publication of Mexican writer F. G. Haghenbeck’s The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo. That’s a fairly typical time span between when the process of designing a cover starts and when a book has been printed, bound and is available to buy.

Initially I considered using one of Nickolas Muray’s amazing color photographs of Frida Kahlo on the cover, but rights clearance proved too difficult so that idea was scrapped. There was some talk about using one of Kahlo’s self-portraits as well, but rights issues were again a concern. The more I thought about it, the more I felt like the right path for this cover was a combination of photography and illustration. After all, the book is a fictionalized account of a life—it’s a fantasy based in reality.

I never considered asking anyone other than Lisa Congdon to work on the illustrative aspects of the cover. Lisa is a dear friend, but before I knew her as a person, I knew her as an artist. I’m a huge fan of Lisa’s work, and I knew that her sense of color, scale and balance combined with our mutual love of Frida Kahlo would be perfect fit. I’d never been so excited to ask someone to collaborate with me on a project before, so of course I was thrilled when Lisa said yes!

Once I found a great photo of Frida that was perfect for the cover and made sure it was available for licensing and alteration, I put together an extremely rough mockup of the kind of layout I was envisioning for the cover (that’s the first thumbnail above, in case you can’t tell!) and sent it to Lisa. I shared references with her for color and illustrative style—I wanted the vibrancy of Casa Azul and the spirit of Día de los Muertos masks and sugar skulls!

Before color was even involved, though, I asked Lisa to work up two pencil sketches of the cover—one with a fully-illustrated background and one with more of the photo visible. Based on those sketches, the publisher preferred seeing more of the original surroundings. Lisa then began to add color to more refined versions of the individual elements, which she then sent to me to experiment with placement. Once a final layout was approved by all necessary parties, I mocked up the title type digitally and sent it all back to Lisa again for her to do the final hand-lettering and painting work.

Initially we weren’t sure how best to go about sending the assembled layouts back and forth, since so much cutting-apart and positioning of tiny elements was involved. We ultimately decided that it was best for Lisa to create the illustrations on a white background, and to send them to me as individual parts to be put together in Photoshop. That allowed me to layer the leaves and move them around or add more as needed without Lisa having to re-do the entire thing from scratch every time. It also meant that I could later design a spine and back cover that would wrap around seamlessly from front to back. I love when books feel like finished packages!

The bound books haven’t been delivered yet, but I did just get to see a cover proof. I specified that it should be printed with a matte finish over the entire background, with a glossy coating on the special elements in the foreground. I tried to take a photo (above left) so you can see how nice it looks—the matte and gloss finish really gives the cover a lot of dimension. I’m so happy with how it turned out. Oh, and there’s a Spanish language edition, too! Lisa’s hand-lettering looks beautiful in any language.

Speaking of Lisa’s hand-lettering, did you know she has her very own font available for purchase? Yup. It’s called Petit Lisa, and it’s tall and skinny and full of the warmth that all of Lisa’s work exudes. I can’t wait to try it out on a project!