Category: book covers

Anatomy of a Book Cover – Genesis Part 1

I promised art my last post and now I’m making good!  I’ve been a little silent around these parts thanks to a very serendipitous opportunity that came up to work with Wade Garret, an author who is about to publish his breakthrough dark fantasy book entitled Genesis: Book 1 of the Kingdom Come Series.  I’ve been contracted to bring his characters to life in a wrap-around book cover-slash-promo-art for his world.  After dabbling the past few years in licensing and portraits with the intent to verge into book covers this year, this was a challenge I was eager to take on!

Designing a book cover is a whole different beast than the art direction that comes with drawing fantasy images or just building a fanbase with your own scribblings.  In my experience, this brand of painting had little to no art direction beyond the basic subject matter and the freedom to create whatever I wanted (harder than it sounds! Sometimes more specific briefs can lead to a more cohesive image).

With book covers, however, there are very specific needs to be faithful to the characters, to make it look awesome, AND to entice a very specific target audience to pick up the book from the shelf.

It began with getting to know the characters via the manuscript enough to start formulating basic thumbnails.  I’m also working directly with the author instead of an art director, in this case, which means info directly from the horse’s mouth, as it were:

After much deliberation, the winner was number 8!

I have a 2nd version of this sheet with placeholder text treatment just to be sure the characters and composition won’t be overcrowded by font and that there was enough leeway in the compositions to allow for bleed edges.  The winning thumbnail represents the culmination of our characters’ struggle to overcome a powerful ancient enemy (to find out more about that, you’ll just have to go read Wade’s blog).

We have two characters facing off with a monstrous creature on the back cover.  Their placement in an outside location plus the opportunity to show off some of their wardrobe gives me an opportunity to convey the narrative’s setting, culture, and atmosphere.  The coffinlike pod technology helps ground the viewer with the thread of scifi that runs through this tale of a futuristic, yet devolved world contrasted with the hint of medieval style that I’ll get to convey in the characters’ wardrobe.

But we’re not through yet!  The characters and tech are still somewhat too vague, and that means doing some basic conceptualizing to get the look and feel of them down.

The pod featured in the front cover.
I used Alchemy to formulate some unpredictable shapes.

Duward, the wise Durgha.

Lady Sedi, the brave noble.

The Big Bad Vhendo.
This is a scrapped design, but isn’t he cute?

Our main hero of front cover fame still needs conceptualizing.  I’ll also need to do another study of the cover’s final arrangement to reflect the more concrete character designs we have now and to brush up the composition.

And all this happens before we even get to drawing the draft!  Who knew?
More sketches and the finished product to come in Part 2!

The Portfolio Regeneration Project

The main character from
Kushiel’s Dart.

Since Dragon*Con, it’s been a week of cleaning, catching up on work, and riding the tide of inspiration that always comes after taking part of such a large art show full of inspiring people.  The portfolio reviews I received there have my brain in overdrive when it comes to thinking of ways I can get my portfolio up to snuff.  I needed newer work and more of it.  I needed more examples of illustration, book covers, and the kind of work I’d like to do for CCG.

While I have CCG covered by using my own in-progress fantasy novel for inspiration, generating art for the rest didn’t seem as straightforward.  That’s when it hit me.  If I am seeking to do art for fantasy novels, why don’t I do what I’m doing with the fake Magic the Gathering cards and do the same with a novel?  Since my own novel is largely incomplete, I’ve decided to take one of my favorite novels on instead – Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey.

With fallen angels, a rich tapestry of unique mythology, masquerade balls, and intricate tattoos, there’re plenty of visuals for me to play with in this novel that are right up my alley!  The plan to generate more portfolio pieces is to re-read this wonderful book and create my own versions of illustrations of my favorite scenes, as well as any character art that comes to mind.  This may include my tries at creating concept art sheets for that career wish of mine to get into concept art for games later on in life once my work is ready.

Finally, after I’ve absorbed the whole book and its themes, I plan to do my own version of the cover art for it.  If all goes well, I will be doing this art generation project with more than one from the Kushiel’s Legacy series, or perhaps other fantasy favorites of mine!

Working from a book which, to date, has no movie adaptation makes it far easier for me to create my own raw original versions without a visual influence.  It also gives me the freedom without the copyright worries, since copyrights for books only cover the text, and not any visual representations.  Even so, I don’t plan to sell whatever art comes from this project without Jacqueline’s blessing first.  It’s main purpose is to freshen up my portfolio and not my own pockets.

The plan is to post sketch collections from this project on this blog, but for those of you who want to keep up with every step and sketch of the Kushiel’s Legacy themed work from this project, you can follow the Kushiel art blog here or its Tumblr counterpart here, which will echo the posts on the Blogger version.  The Kushiel art blog is empty right now, but it won’t be for long!

The old iPad I inherited from my dad has proven an invaluable tool for this ambitious project, as I can add searchable notes to my ebook version of the novel and highlight pages which have physical description for illustration purposes.  The pages are marked, the blank sketchbooks have been acquired, and my drawing fingers are itching!  Let the regeneration of my portfolio begin!

What is your dream illustration project?  What novel would you love to do work for?  Finally, what novel would you love to see me illustrate?  Discuss in comments!