Going Undercover // An Interview With Book Cover Illustrator, Alex Cabal

Okay, first thing’s first. Before you do anything else, before you even continue on with this post, click the Youtube video below and have it playing while you read. Because to be a good detective, you need good detective music. If old Private Eye Film Noir movies have taught me anything, it’s that the only proper way to do some sleuthing is with the world in black-and-white and jazz playing in the background.


It was the kind of cool, black night that clung to you like something real … a black, tangible fabric of smoke, deceit, and murder. I was still a rookie then, one more gumshoe bumming her way through the concrete jungle. I had just cruised into the precinct office. As soon as I turned on the lights, I eyeballed a handwritten tweet from good ol’ Mac. Turns out Kristina — she’d gone and gotten herself a book deal.

I couldn’t help but remember the morning paper’s headline: “EXCLUSIVE COVER REVEAL AND EXCERPT.” Was there any connection? This had exciting news written all over it like the summer of ’19. I jotted down the details and got ready for a grisly new case. 

I had little to go on this time … but a new contact did hit a worthy lead. A book cover illustrator, with talent galore and a love of flower crowns. A Miss Cabal, she was called. And she was willing to talk. “Time to get down to business,” I said as I loaded up my trusty Apple device with some juice.

Thank you for agreeing to talk, Miss Cabal. Could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Alex and I am an illustrator based in Los Angeles. I previously worked full-time at an advertising agency, but now I work freelance as an illustrator. I am still fairly new to the illustration industry, and have only recently started getting gigs last year. I think I broke into it because of social media, and I’m not sure if clients found me through Instagram or Tumblr or Twitter.

Most of us readers know very little about how a book cover comes into existence. What can you tell us about the process?

First I get a prompt, and a synopsis of the story, and a few concepts that the editor or designer wants. I do some sketches based on what they’re looking for. If they approve a design, I finish it up and send it over. Then I cross my fingers and hope that it gets the final approval.

Who else did you work with to create the cover of I Wanna Be Where You Are? WHO WHERE YOUR ACCOMPLICES?

I worked with Cassie Gonzalez, who was the designer of the book and also the person who reached out to me for the opportunity.

Did you read I Wanna Be Where You Are before you got to work illustrating its cover? If so, what did you think of the book? (In other words, should we be totally excited for it?)

I was able to read an early version of the story to get a sense of who I was drawing for the cover. And yes, you should be excited! I’m horrible with spoilers, so to be safe that’s all I’m gonna say.

The bright colors of the I Wanna Be Where You Are cover art are very striking. What was your inspiration behind this piece?

I draw women of color in my personal work, and I like to highlight dark skin by contrasting the skin with bright colors. For the cover art, I was just doing what I naturally do, but also following what the client was looking for for the cover.

How many drafts did you go through before the final design was settled upon?

I went through a couple of sketches, and two art revisions.

Was illustrating a book cover different than illustrating other projects you have worked on?

The process is very similar to other projects I’ve done, which is that I get a concept, do sketches, and finish it up. What made it unique was that it was the first time that I could create a new character in my own art style.

Every artist has their own workflow. Could you share a little about yours? What are the major steps of your creative process?

First I find the necessary reference images that would help for the project (poses, color schemes, fashion) then I would get to sketching. Once I’ve made a final sketch with everything mapped out, I create big shapes of color. Then I use lines and textures to bring the piece together. This is all done on Photoshop.

What piece of artwork from your portfolio are you most proud of?

It’s really hard to choose, because I’m always growing and learning as an artist. I would not be where I am at today if it weren’t for any of those pieces, because I learn something new every time I create a new piece.

How can members of the bookish community better support book cover illustrators, such as yourself?

All I can think of is to just share (with the appropriate credit) and follow our work on social media. I was lucky enough to have my work seen, which is how I got this book cover art job in the first place!

Alex Cabal is an illustrator living in sunny Los Angeles. Her work primarily consists of portraits set in contrasting colorful backgrounds, sometimes with a floral touch. Some of her clients include Entertainment Weekly, Disney Publishing Worldwide, and Macmillan.

Her Website // Her Instagram // Her Twitter // Her Tumblr // Her Patreon

**All artwork in this post is included with the artist’s permission**

Are you as excited about the I Wanna Be Where You Are cover as I am?

What do you think of Alex’s artwork? Isn’t it amazing?

Do you like old black-and-white Private Eye movies?

How do YOU think we can better support book cover illustrators?


14 thoughts on “Going Undercover // An Interview With Book Cover Illustrator, Alex Cabal

  1. I love this series of posts so, very very much and the I Wanna Be Where You Are cover is one of my favorites of all times, it looks SO stunning and so does the artist’s work overall! Thank you so much for sharing!! ❤


  2. Omg playing the Youtube video in the background while reading this post made the mood feel so, so fitting, I loved it! Also, all of these pieces of art are soooo beautifulll and I love what Alex said about contrasting darker skin against striking colors! ❤ Thank you for this interview!

    Liked by 1 person

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