Before each book can be prepared for print, a cover illustration must be created. A lot of the time, this happens well in advance of a tangible release date. While the illustrative work for some of my other books has been largely character-focused, for this project I wanted to try something a little different.
As such, I set about to record the steps in creating this piece.
This illustration is for a future stand-alone (read: not Realm of Tah'afajien) novel, slated for release some time in 2019. The project has a name, but I'm just not ready to share it just yet. That I was already working on the cover art work over a year in advance isn't out of the ordinary. The book itself is written but will need multiple edit runs before it sees the light of day.
Note: These were taken with a camera rather than my usual process of scanning in the artwork. As such, some of the pictures will probably be blurry, off-scale and off-color. There was some effort to correct the worst of this, but I assure you the final image will be digitized with far more care. To be honest, I didn't realize how bad some of these were until I was two stages along.
After creating a digital mock-up in Photoshop, I transferred it to the board. Usually this process involves re-drawing the framework of the painting's major elements (often by using the Grid Method), but I actually printed this out to scale and used toner transfer this time (in a nice, well-ventilated place because Xylene fumes are brutal). As you can tell, this really allowed me to see the outlines of major elements without a lot of excess drawing on my part. Instead of spending days sketching, I was able to move on to the next stage. While there are a lot of finer details lost in the transfer, what does come across is good enough to get right into painting almost immediately.
Early on, I added in base colors to block out the background elements. While the architecture in the distance will eventually be mostly dark hues (a mixture of blue, brown and black), I used gray as a undercoat. Above this is a sky box layered in yellows, oranges and burnt sienna. A lot of the middle is left untouched at this point as I know I'll need to drawn in the outlines of the major elements before I start adding paint.
Of note is that I applied a base of white acrylic on the surface before I began to cover up some old paint that was on the board. The plus side? It provides a small bit of visual texture when painting over it using a dry brush technique. The down side? Water-based paints need to be applied thickly or they bead up like water on a freshly-waxed car.
I wanted to lock in the sky box early on so that overlapping darker structures closer to the viewer could be painted leaving minimal white space. After applying the darker tones, I cut out a mask from a sheet of acetate.
With a mouth atomizer, I sprayed a mixture of yellow and white over the top to add a bit of visual texture to the clouds.
As you can see from the photo, I make use of prescription bottles as storage for pre-mixed paint.
As you can see here, I'd started drawing in the details of the mid-ground structures, using ink, pencil and chalk for the highlights.
At this point, I started adding in the details, mostly with unmixed paint straight out of the tube. This is a lengthy process of sorting out where each of the buildings are in relation to each other. In some spots, color is just added to give me a starting point. Blues, grays and browns are layered to show deeper shadows.
As you can tell by the bridge, a lot of the foreground elements are multiple steps from being anywhere close to done.
Another step on the way towards completion. If you compare it to the above image, you'll see slight differences as I touch up each area. More details are fleshed out with each pass.
While there are some distinct details added to fill out foreground elements, a fair amount of the color added is base paint layers that will be covered up well before this is complete.
While I usually tend to shy away from the use of black (for artistic reasons) in my work, this time around I felt it was important to the finished piece. It allowed for a deeper, darker piece that wears its German Impressionist influences on its sleeves. There is still a fair bit that needs to be done, including the main character and foreground structures.
Below are details of the illustration at this stage.
Details 2 & 3
Click here for Part 2 where there are more layers. So many layers. So many finer details to be drawn and painted in.