Sentinel Fantasy Book Cover Commission

This is my newest book cover illustration for the novel Sentinel by Melanie Jordaan (title may be subject to change). I was given several pages worth of scenes featuring various characters, locations and magic concepts. One of the difficulties I had was trying to fit as many of the important features into the illustration as possible, but I knew it had to focus on the Sapphire sentinel (the protagonist). A few scenes were discarded as being too dark for the tone of the book cover (i.e. great imagery, but not fully indicative of the novel itself), or too complex (i.e. too many competing features/ characters). The city is set on the top of a mountain, contains a crystal wrapped map room, and the background has an impossibly large landscape of a moat-like river and mountains in the distance. This almost became a secondary character to Sapphire.

These were the initial sketches I sent through. Most of the action has to be on the far right, where the front cover is. The left side should be fairly empty to allow for the blurb.

Sentinel Thumbnail sketches

I sent through the sketch based on option 6 as chosen by the client. The scene was one where Sapphire is looking back, watching as night changes into day. It's kind of a metaphor for the internal battle between light and dark the character goes through. I wanted the blue of her dress to pop, which is why I wanted the background to be oranges and pinks.

Sentinel Colour concepts

There were some final adjustments to the sketch which included some villages along the shoreline, removing the staircase and moving the moon. The client sent through a detailed description of the map for the floor. Colour concept number 1 was what was decided on. Her costume needed to be head to toe, with a veil covering her lower face. Although the architecture is more European gothic, I combined elements of Chinese garb and simple cotehardie of European style. The fabric is meant to magically flow as though touched by air. There's also very little decoration.

 Sentinel approved line-art

Sentinel approved line-art

The glass/crystal went through a few rounds of edits. This version I toned down as the ebook version looked quite pale. I'm not sure what version the client will go with.

Sentinel Cover Illustration - Glass more transparent

This is the approved final image. The background is toned down a bit because the crystal/ glass is more opaque.

Sentinel approved final image

 Detail of one of the villages... yes, details matter :)

Detail of one of the villages... yes, details matter :)

 Detail of Sapphire, the protagonist

Detail of Sapphire, the protagonist

The Moss Mist fantasy cover art

This is my latest cover art that I just finished for Regina Richards.

The brief was based on a scene in the book which had a lot of complex elements. 5 characters, each with detailed descriptions, green skinned characters in leather garb against a forest background, and one blue skinned character who is central to the novel. The original brief called for the female character to be on top of the rock, but the client and I agreed that it took the focus away from the two main characters  and just didn’t work for the purpose of the commission.

Sometimes this happens – what is a great action scene in a book, will translate fantastically well to an illustration, but may not work for a cover. When designing cover art, you have to remember that there has to be space for the author’s name, as well as the title of the book. As an illustrator, it’s my job sometimes to try and guide a client down a path that I think will work better. But all of my commissions are very much collaborations, with a very large amount of input from the client. Ultimately it’s the client’s product that I am creating work for, and it’s their name that will be associated with the work most visibly.

That’s why commissions can take me 2-3 months from the first contact to the delivery of the final images. This piece had 5 sketches, one colour sample, and a couple of tweaks to  the original sketch. And then there is the painting (I think I took 2-3 weeks for the final painting). In amongst this, I normally have a day job, although for this one I was at home, but not very well. I couldn’t spend huge amounts of time at the computer without feeling sick or dizzy.

Anyway, here’s the finished product, and a few sketches as well!

The Moss Mist - final wraparound cover

The Ebook cover illustration

The line art / sketch that the client went with. I never fully render trees as I tend to prefer painting those details and allowing them to be a lot more organic

The colour concept with design markings to show the spine location and bleed

Love’s Call – Painting Work in Progress shots

This is the 3rd post in this series. You can find the first one here (describes design & composition notes), and the second one (colour concepts) here.

This painting is finished, it is in the galleries under the Love’s Call cover art page. I’ve also posted it at my other haunts, though without the layout work done by the publisher.

I don’t normally paint this way, I just decided to try a different way.

Colour blocking and starting with a gradient for the background

  1. This shows roughly how I have things set up in Photoshop. I often have the one painting opened in two windows so I don’ keep on having to zoom in and out on certain areas.
  2. On a few separate layers, I defined base colours for the major features in the painting. This helped me with selections later, so that if I wanted to paint only the columns, I could load the selection, and paint on a new layer within the lines of the selection. I also created a gradient to roughly match the colour concept, and created the base sky colours. I’d already started on the wolf, since fur, like feathers is still evil to paint It will continue being evil until I get more used to it.
  3. I started working on the costumes. I work all over the place. I did Leargan’s shoulder plate/ pauldron. There’s a wolf insignia on it which took a fair amount of time. I started on one of the columns, still unsure as to the perfect colours.
  4. I started adding volume to the central columns, and added some mountains. I wasn’t sure I liked them so I left those to focus elsewhere in the painting
  5. More working out the stone work and columns
  6. I’ve done a lot of work on the female character by now. Her face is mostly complete, her clothes are near done. I’ve started adding in the purple flowers in the middle ground, and roughly working on the greens for the background fields. Added rough shading to castle towers, loosely painted mountains on the back cover.
  7. Minor fixes to her hair
  8. Minor fixes to her skirt
  9. Mountains have been given more detail. I started work on the male character’s face and sword
  10. Added details to the male’s costume, gave him hair, started playing with fields in the background.
  11. Worked on the central columns. These were not working at all and I repainted them a dozen times.
  12. Hydrangeas are evil to paint. But that’s what I’d chose to paint, so that’s what I painted. I worked from several references, winging the flowers in a lot of bits.
  13. This was the ‘smack me upside the head, gosh I’m stupid’ moment. The castle behind them is supposed to be the same castle from the first book cover… which has round towers mostly… and is more white stone than yellow stone. So I completely repainted that. I repainted all the fields on the back cover, because I liked the way they looked on the front. The stones floor and columns were simplified.

Also, just to show you  how crazy I am with details, that never show up in the small view of the painting, here’s the hydrangea process:

Animated gif of how I painted the hydrangeas

Details from Love's Call

The final painting