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  • Robin Allen

The artist behind the cover art of It's complicated: A Novel - Wendy J. Jackson

I wrote the story for my latest book It’s Complicated: A Novel many years ago. It’s a multi-layered story with different plots: the high-powered world of legal entanglements, the heart wrenching drama of families in crisis, a group of maniacal people determined to stop positive change, and the glorious fulfillment of abiding love are masterfully interwoven in this evocative novel.

Most experienced and published authors will share that writing a book is a long and involved process requiring outlining, writing, rewriting, revising and editing. You may even add new characters or decide that a particular character doesn’t move the story forward. There are several title changes, often as the book changes and especially when publishers get directly involved.

The main character’s father is a visual artist

There’s another plot line about the main character Sage Kennedy: her father was a visual renaissance artist. His artwork is similar to Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Henry Ossawa Tanner and Hall Woodruff. As an adult, Sage is an avid collector of black art. Her father is an important part of the story and his presence in the story was elevated during my revisions of the book. He added a strong element of mystery to the story.

The fact that her father was a painter became a source of inspiration that went beyond the storyline. My vision for the book cover was to have an artistic painting that would connect with the story and create a visually appealing cover. At the time, I contacted a local Atlanta artist who had a prominent art gallery and was willing to provide one of his paintings as the visual for my cover. Unfortunately, my publisher had conflicts with the concept (there was not going to be any fees for using the painting) and the company pursued a different option for my cover. I was extremely disappointed and discouraged.

Another chance to get art on my book cover

I’m excited to re-publish this book with cover art that has been provided by a well-known Atlanta artist, Wendy Jackson. I became acquainted with her through a mutual connection.

We had a conversation about our dreams as creatives. She’s a painter and I’m a writer. We both have creative spirits and share a special gift and the ability to focus on our craft. We are artistic and can envision what does not currently exist and turn it into existence—something tangible like a painting or a book. We are dedicated to our crafts and spend hours and hours working on our artistic projects. It’s our passion, but I jokingly call it the ‘crazy creative zone.’ I love being in that zone—it’s fun, exhilarating and divine.

Food for the Soul

Wendy’s mother passed away in 2001. It was a turning point in her life which is an often-quoted statement for adults facing the death of their parents. For Wendy, she turned inward—to the source of her creativity—as a coping mechanism. She started writing poetry which had a therapeutic effect for coping with her overwhelming sense of loss. “Everywhere I traveled, I took photographs and drew the scenery for the poems I wrote,” explains Jackson, a native of South Carolina who now lives in Atlanta, Georgia. “The writing and photography got me through my grief, and I wanted to share my journey.”

In 2005, she published her collection of inspirational poems and photographs in a book entitled Food for the Soul. The creative genie was out the bottle, and she began painting abstracts for her poetry, unleashing another creative talent that she had yet to discover.

Her Journey to Abstract Painting

A self-taught artist, Jackson enrolled in an art workshop in Marietta, GA. She had completed six abstract paintings when her instructor encouraged her start selling her art. With those inspiring words, Jackson completed 20 abstracts and boldly stepped into the art scene around Atlanta. She had showings at local art festivals and events. Her art began selling almost immediately, and she was invited to galleries, guilds, art centers and art events where she had the unique opportunity to show her extraordinary work in more formal and exclusive environments.

Jackson has earned several art awards over the last decade. “Being a visual artist, I enjoy creating from my heart. It’s where my truest and deepest feelings reside,” she explains. “Art allows me to express my feelings about things around me that makes me who I am today.”

Jackson specializes in acrylic paint and uses brushes, palette knives and other objects to create her art. She believes color is integral to all our lives. “Color symbolizes the mood of calmness in our minds, spirits and our souls,” she says. “It sets the tone for our feelings, culture, tradition and religion. It also brings harmony that is pleasing to our eyes. It’s the universal language of conversation, as it brings joy, laughter, sadness, love, and most of all, peace.”

The intersection of our creativity

Wendy very generously offered me the opportunity to use one of her paintings as the background for my new book It’s Complicated: A Novel. I selected her painting ‘Eruptions’ not only because of the beauty of the original painting, but it visually parallels many aspects of my book’s twisty-curvy storylines. I hired a graphic artist to create a cover that would highlight the artwork. She did a fantastic job. The cover is beautiful, powerful, dynamic, and inviting. I am ecstatic and proud of my book cover.

Jackson also shares that she is more engaged in her art process when she has her hands in her painting. “I use hand movements when I want the painting to evolve and move in a smooth pattern,” she explains. “I want the painting to tell its own story. I never know how or when the essence of the color is going to reveal itself.”

As a writer, I can relate with her process of painting. What often happens when I’m writing books is the characters, especially the main characters, take over the story. It sounds crazy, but I do know other writers who have had similar experiences. When you plan out a story, identify the characters, develop the plot points and create an outline, that is really the first step. You don’t stick to the outline. That’s because you will discover that the story should go in a different direction. When you really “feel” the story, it’s because the characters have taken over and you’re following their lead in a subconscious way.

It's a creative irony that Wendy and I discovered our point of creative intersection.

For me, it’s when my story comes alive through my characters. Similarly, Wendy explains that she uses her hands and lets the painting to tell the story.

Wendy shared with me her thoughts about the cover. “The cover looks fantastic,” Jackson says. “I want to say that I’m immensely proud of you and thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey. God bless you; I wish you much SUCCESS.”

Sometimes dreams come true unexpectedly

Years ago, I was extremely disappointed that the art I wanted on my original cover did not happen. Ironically, I have now published my book with the type of cover that I envisioned. I am a lover of paintings and art and frequently visit museums. The correlation between my love of writing and appreciation for painting comes together beautifully in the embodiment of the cover.

I hope my book cover grabs your interest. A summary: When secrets unravel, ambitions collide, families explodes and love overflows—it’s complicated.

It all begins with a dream

I know that dreams may not be realized in the moment or exact time that you desire. I hope you never forget that there is always that possibility that your dreams will come to fruition. I would like to share that for me—that special moment has arrived. A full circle moment that brings me joy, hope and peace. It has brought me to the beauty of the higher source’s light—the manifestation of a dream.

By: Robin Allen

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