Petting Tigers

This blog post is part book review for Petting Tigers by Shelley Smith-Jones and part sneek peek of the creative process behind my cover art for the book.


Petting tigers. It sounds dangerous, doesn’t it? But who can deny that tigers are beautiful and magnificent creatures? What if we, as humans, could actually develop a loving relationship with tigers and other wild animals? What if there was a way to extinguish violence in all its forms, once and for all? Well that’s exactly what Jehovah’s Witnesses are offering. *

Paradise promised by Jehovah's Witness Faith

Shelley Smith-Jones was born and raised in the religious culture of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She was taught from birth that strictly following the precepts of this religion would allow her to pet the tigers in the paradise that was to be established here on Earth after the impending Armageddon.


If only toeing the line laid out by this organization wasn’t so… impossible… for Shelley. The photos below show Shelley as a young girl around the time when the doctrines of the Jehovah's Witness faith started to become memorably impressed on her mind.

Shelley as a young girl
Shelley as a young girl

Her upbringing and early adulthood carried her along a rollercoaster ride of smiles and tears. It was only a matter of time before Shelley’s inherent longing for freedom and independent thinking reached a critical mass and her life-shattering change became inevitable.


Coming out the other side only to have to learn life all over again at nearly forty years old is no small challenge. Shelley’s is a story of desperate change and hard triumph that so many of us will relate to. I know I do.


Petting Tigers, written by Shelley Smith-Jones, is a ripe fruit of this marvelous tree of transformation.

Petting Tigers book cover art by David Oliver

Through a stroke of luck—if you believe in luck—I had the opportunity of creating the cover illustration for Petting Tigers. It was an enjoyable and unique project that involved regular communication between Shelley and myself throughout the creative process.


I like to involve my clients at each step along the way to ensure that things keep moving in their desired direction and everybody loves the resulting artwork.


My first task was to establish a composition. Shelley chose the top right among my four options pictured below.

Petting Tigers cover art composition thumbnail sketches by David Oliver

Then comes the sketch. A couple of requested tweaks were made before arriving at the sketch below.

Petting Tigers book cover sketch by David Oliver

After adding the final lines and color I played with a few background and font options (below) before Shelley settled on a minimalistisc background for greater impact.

Petting Tigers book cover background option 2 by David Oliver
Petting Tigers book cover background option 3 by David Oliver

Thanks are due to Gorham Printing for the final font choice and text layout. Oh yeah, and there was the last minute hair color change to more accurately reflect young Shelley's actual hair color! The whole cover project lasted approximately 1-2 weeks and the printed result was very satisfying to all.

Petting Tigers printed book cover art by David Oliver

If you’d like to experience Shelley’s story and enjoy my printed cover art you can get a copy on Amazon or on the Gorham Printing website. Links below:

Petting Tigers at Amazon

Petting Tigers at Gorham

If you have a cover or other art project you’d like assistance with please email me with the details. I’d love to work with you to realize your vision.

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* To be fair, Jehovah's Witnesses aren't the only ones to believe in a paradise to come. There is actually indication of this in the Christian Bible, as can be seen in the verses quoted in the image at the top of this blog post. The main difference between the Abrahamic faiths, in this regard, seems to be how the Bible passages are interpreted/understood.