The Making of the Summer 2016 Cover

Auburn Magazine staff collaborated with artist Margee Bright Ragland ’70 to create the cover for the Summer 2016 issue. (Margee is also featured in Mixed Media in the summer issue.) We needed to convey how the sweetness in the face of the young Liz Huntley ‘93 belied the turmoil going on in her home life. Education and faith helped her soar into life as a successful attorney and advocate for underprivileged children. We gave Margee the story for her perusal and of course creative freedom.


A turning point in Liz’s childhood was when she realized “If God cared so deeply for a mere bird, He would certainly take care of her.” We all latched on to that visual and knew it needed to be a strong element of the cover.



One of the mediums Margee Bright Ragland is known for is watercolor. She created a few watercolors using Liz Huntley’s school portrait as a 5-year-old girl, which was the year things began to unravel for Liz.



Margee is also known for her collage art. In the pieces below, Margee used the school portrait of Liz and incorporated the bird and a hand, which represents the hand of God and the hand of her grandmother–both strong figures in her life. The various backgrounds convey hope and turmoil.



Just under a week after being given the assignment, Margee arrived at the Auburn Magazine office to present her ideas for the cover. We loved where she was going and continued to brainstorm while she was here. She brought most of her ideas as pieces (as in they were not glued down) and offered to leave everything with us so that we could create exactly what we wanted. This is a very unusual thing for an artist to do. It shows just how awesome Margee is.


We were most inspired by Margee’s collage art. We wanted the end product to be very dimensional so we used balled up pieces of paper and erasers to create that dimension. We also tried using the photo of Liz compared to the watercolor. Same goes for the bird. Did we prefer the photo or the watercolor? Have you ever tried cutting Auburn Magazine’s masthead out with an x-acto knife? We did, and we liked it. We tried it all. Then we thought about adding branches and straw to the design. A trip to the Alumni Center parking lot was in order. Luckily there had been a storm the night before, so there were plenty of branches to choose from.

Yes. There is a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts in this shot.
It was the week the new store opened in Auburn. Don’t judge.


In case you could not tell by now, we were favoring the starry background. We loved the reflectiveness of the stars and the message of hope that it represented. The branches also made the cut. We decided we liked using the watercolor as the background of Liz but preferred using her actual photo as the face portion of the portrait. This represents the figurative mask Liz had to wear every day to make it through her less-than-ideal childhood. Finally, we had our cover. Off to the printer it went.


This is usually where the story of a cover ends, but not this time. This time, the proof from the printer arrived at our office and, instead of pure glee and pride, we went into freakout mode. IT WAS DARK. The dimension we had worked so hard on was gone. The navy looked black. The branch was flat. What are we going to do? We are on a major deadline. If we had any changes, they had to be uploaded to the printer by 2pm THAT DAY.


We decided to put on our superhero capes, and completely rebuild and reshoot the cover. We had 3 hours. We went back to our #2 choice for a background. It was a lighter color with a wavy texture representing Liz’s tumultuous childhood. The shadows would show up much better on this lighter background. They had to. Our brilliant colleagues at Auburn University Photo Services came through for us. They allowed us to barge into their studio, rebuild the cover, and demand they re-photograph it for us…IMMEDIATELY. Magic happened that afternoon. The new cover was even better than the original we had fallen in love with. The path to this cover had definite high and low points, but the end result was worth it all.


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