Designing a Book Cover in 3 Acts. Act 1: Brainstorming

I’ve had the great pleasure of designing the cover art for Brian Metters’ new book: “It’s Not About The Wine! A 50 years memoir of wine WITH history, philosophy, art, travel and people”

Now available to order on Amazon Kindle, print version coming soon! It’s Not About The Wine! by Brian Metters

I met Brian, otherwise referred to as “Dr. B” through our blogs 2 years ago. Since then our friendship has grown not only out of our mutual love of wine but also our numerous conversations on a wide range of topics; mostly wine, of course, but also philosophy, perception and psychology. We may not always agree, but I’ve learned a lot from his knowledge of the human brain, his approach to tasting wine, and his acute philosophical inquiry. I hope, in some small way, he could say the same about me. I’ve also been inspired by his many accomplishments in his lifetime including mountaineering in the Himalayas, education aid work in Nepal, and publishing three books. Not to mention he has been instrumental in supporting and encouraging my blog. So, when he offered me the opportunity to create some art work for his book, I was more than happy to accept.

Being commissioned to do art work for someone has come with new challenges, setbacks and revelations. I’ve gained a lot personally from the project and I hope to find more opportunities to express myself through art in the future.

ACT 1: Brainstorming




When we first started talking about what the book cover should be, we spoke about what’s in the book: wine, but also history, philosophy, art, travel, chemistry, and so on. Brian mentioned being particularly drawn to history and philosophy, especially with regard to his travels in France where he seemed to run into reminders of philosophers such as Rabelais, Voltaire and Francis Bacon quite often. He sent me some pictures from the book and then left the rest to me.

Some pictures from the book:

Brainstorming was probably the most enjoyable part for me because there was no pressure. I was free to play around with ideas, experiment with new techniques, and get everything in my head out on paper with no strings attached. Looking back now, I wish I had kept some of that freedom and spontaneity throughout the process, but what’s done is done and lesson learnt.

Book Cover Inspiration:

I generally draw in a (more or less) realistic style, but I wanted to try my hand at something different this time. I started with a cubist sketch of a wine bottle as cubism had spurred a lot of conversation between Brian and I. It’s difficult to wrap your head around the full implications of the theory and even more difficult to put it into practice. (You can find my related articles on Cubism, wine tasting and wine illustration here: Assembly Required Part 1 and Assembly Required Part 2) The next time I hear someone say “what’s so special, anyone could do that” about a Picasso painting, I’ll have to laugh. That being said, it does get your head thinking about the object and how to depict it in different ways which is a useful tool for any artist.

Next, I tried some continuous line drawing. The only rule is to not lift your pen, which means you have to use your imagination to get around the contours of the object, and especially the details. Sometimes the best continuous line drawings are simple and spontaneous, but the more detailed ones produce some interesting ways of showing shading and texture. As an exercise in drawing, I discovered new possibilities of expressing detail with freedom, spontaneity and creative problem solving.

Then I moved onto blind contour drawing which produced completely unpredictable results. There are three different ways to approach this type of drawing:

1. you don’t look at the paper at all, just the object your drawing

2. you can look at the drawing occasionally, but only about 10% of the time.

3. a mixture of looking at the paper and the object, somewhere around 50%/50%.

This technique is a useful warm-up for artists because it trains your hand-eye coordination and your ability to trust yourself. While some of my sketches were just downright terrible, others actually turned out OK, and some more than OK with an abstract quirkiness I would have never been able to achieve had I been trying. It may not be for everyone, but to be honest I find it inspiring and I love the feeling of surprise when you finally look at what you’ve drawn. It’s not about being perfect, if it didn’t come out right your excuse is you did it without looking, and it keeps the act of drawing lighthearted. My new logo is, in fact, inspired by a blind contour drawing that I reworked.

And so, I did dozens of drawings in this way, filling up my sketch book, blowing through the copy paper I had left, leaving a swirl of pens, pencils, paper, pencil shavings, and rubber clippings strewn across the table, laughing like a mad scientist in a laboratory. Then things got serious, desperately serious…



  1. A brilliant post on “how it all began” Danell, totally accurate from my own perspective too. Very clever to do it in stages too, the ups and downs we had were like the North Sea in a gale, but looking back some were quite funny. I am doing something similar but from a different perspective that probably won’t be posted until after book publication. I will reblog this next week so you don’t have to deal with too many new followers at once.
    Your final sentence made me laugh out loud 😂😂😂🍷

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The best way I could think of to describe the process was theatrically, again that fine line between comedy and tragedy. There are two more acts to follow, mostly about the creative process, but of course also our time in the gale-winded North Sea of image formatting. I’d love to say the coast is clear and it’s smooth sailing from here on out, but with trying to post the illustrations on my blog I’m back in deep waters. I’ll stop with the sea analogies and get back to figuring it out!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Buddha Walks Into A Wine Bar …. and commented:
    Blogging can be an “empty” endeavour, we write alone and post into an echo chamber with a few views, fewer likes and zero comments. It happens to all of us ….. unless we work hard to cultivate a community where the ultimate result is collaboration. This can be reblogging someone else’s post, (as I’m doing here), sharing information, or actually collaborating in a project. Such a project collaboration has happened to me recently and in the next few days I will post about it from my own perspective demonstrating how I was helped in the publication of my new book It’s Not About The Wine. The help I needed came from Danell Nelson, my American sommelier friend living in Italy, someone with a quite unique way of writing about wine, often from an aesthetic viewpoint rather than a purely sensory viewpoint. Her blog is at Vinthropology and she has just begun a series of 3 posts describing our collaboration, so here is the first, Act 1, Brainstorming:


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