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Covering for Friends

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I'm happy that friends have asked me to cover for them. I did. And it was fun!

I’d be glad to cover for you too, should you need it

I'm talking about book and CD covers, by the way. My friend an author, Diana Armstrong asked me to do the cover art for her new book, "A Winding Path to Umbria: The Silent Bridge of Time". As well, my nephew, Ben Johnson, asked be to do the art for his CD titled "Handcrafted Peace" an album of piano music that he composed. Here's the story of each.

A Winding Path to Umbria

Diana G Armstrong is a gifted friend and author who lives in both Denver and Italy. She and her husband David have a beautifully charming home in Lubriano, Italy. Much of that charm comes from the fact that their abode is part of a converted, 400-year-old monastery. In her first book, "Somewhere South of Tuscany: 5 Yeas in a Four-Cat Town" (2010), Diana tells the story of how they came upon, purchased, and renovated their home is a sleepy, four-cat town. 

Diana's second book is a bit of a departure, in that it is a story of historical fiction; the historical part having a very close tie to her past and her Lubriano home -- both of which she learned were intertwined. 

Here is a photo that I took from Diana's window, where she often sits to write. 

That little village, isolated atop a table of rock, is Civita. Note the pedestrian bridge leading to Civita...this bridge plays an important part in the story that she writes.

Diana had admired her view for years before she found out the significance to her family. Recently, she uncovered the fact that her South African father, 70 years earlier, was here, too. He fought with the allies in this Calanchi Valley against the mighty German war machine. How could an author not write about such a connected event!

When Diana first asked me to do the cover art for her book, my thoughts went to the intrigues of battle and dark nights, where allies crept up on Germans ensconced in this hill top fortress. So, I began my book cover imaginings there...with a paperback cover of the traditional size.

I cropped the photo that I taken from Diana's window into a format that I imagined for a paperback novel. Here is my first imagining. 


As I was imagining a night-time scene, here is where my imaginings took me.


Operating in the dead of night could be risky in the days before night vision goggles, so we needed a moon to give our troops a bit of maneuvering light.

I can just see them sneaking through the trees, ready to scale those cliffs, can't you?

I created a bit of moonlight reflecting off of the rooftops.

All we need now is some text for the book title and author's name.

Ahhh, not to be.

When I woke up from my imaginings and actually met with Diana to discuss the book and its book cover, it turns out that the bridge leading to Civita is a central figure in the artifact that just had to have prominence on the cover. So, it was time for me to change my imaginings and it was back to the drawing board. We needed a completely different view of Civita.

Here is a photo that we settled on that would give the town prominence, while also showing the Calanchi Valley through which the allies operated, and all the while, showing the bridge to Civita front-and-center. 

We worked through several iterations of color, artistic effect and cropping..."should we show this much of the bridge? or this much? or how about this much?"

I began to use my 'digital brushes' to create various artistic, painted effects.

With about two-dozen images to chose from, here is the final result that satisfied both Diana and her publisher.

And here is that photo, sitting right, smack, dab on the cover of Diana's new book. 

If you click on the cover of her book, you will be taken to the Amazon website, where you can order either a paperback version, or a Kindle version. Go ahead...give it a try.

Understand that all proceeds for this book and Diana's previous book go to underprivileged African children. Funds go to both her daughter's mission that now works with Living Hope Charities in East London, S.Africa, and also to a Hospice for Children (mostly born with Aids) in Durban South Africa. Diana says that money from the US makes a huge difference in Africa.


And here is the link to Diana's previous book about her lovely, little community, "Somewhere South of Tuscany: Five Years in a Four-Cat Town". 


Oh, one more you like to eat? or cook? Then you will just love Diana's first book -- its a cookbook. It is called "Cooking for My Friends". I know that she knows what she is writing about, because we have been fortunate to be friends for whom she has cooked. 

Handcrafted Peace

On a gentle, musical note, my nephew Ben Johnson, is a very talented piano player and composer. Ben's aim is to create music that is just plain peaceful. Saint Benjamin (his new moniker -- not a saint of the dead variety, but a saintly work in progress) wanted to create something that you can listen to that will a release you of all of the negative thoughts of the day. He succeeded. 

When Ben contacted me, he had spent time looking at photos on my alternate website, Steve Burkett Photography. He felt that certain photos in the Winter Solace gallery met his vision of 'peaceful'.

Here is the original photo that he asked me to work into the cover art for his CD.

I took this photo in the spring of 2013 in eastern Colorado as I returned from a trip to Virginia. 


After just a bit of work to add contrast to the image, I arrived at this next iteration.



Obviously, a CD cover-insert needs to be in a square format. And, as Ben wanted something in the black & white vein, we settled on this photo for his 'Handcrafted Peace' CD.

If you click on the CD cover photo, you will be taken to Ben's website, where you can listen to his peaceful music, and even purchase a copy if you wish. 


Ben's latest project is creating music that conjures up visions of the emojis you've seen in your texts. Want to hear what an emoji sounds like? Go here to hear his drafts, including this emoji for a slice of pizza. Who would have thought?



So, that's how I've spent a bit of my time -- covering for my very talented friends. I'd be glad to cover for you too, should you need it.


Ciao for now,