A few weeks ago, Carrie Bailey (a friend from high school whom I hadn’t talked to in . . . . well, since high school), e-mailed me to say that she loved the drawings I was posting. She also had a request — would I like to do the art for the cover of the young adult “fantasy” novel she was writing?
Of course I said yes. YA Fantasy just might be my favorite genre in the entire world. We’ve been e-mailing back and forth, and I’ve been having a lot of fun working on the sketches for the cover. Between working with Ben on the comic and now Carrie on this cover, I find that I really love collaborating with bringing someone else’s ideas to life visually. The cover isn’t done yet, but since I think I’ve got the final concept done, I thought I’d share the process and where I am now. Carrie’s still finishing off the book, but also has a website devoted to writing, Peevish Penman. Go check out her site, and enjoy the sketches.
1. Initial Concept.
I started with a concept sketch that Carrie sent me, as well as her summary of the concept of the book: post-apocalyptic bronze age New Zealand. The key elements were in place — medieval-ish alley, a large cat, and the character, Eron.
2. First Sketch
Working with the main elements, I pretty much just redrew the picture Carrie sent me. I found some source pictures to help with the setting and the cat. After doing very rough layout sketches, I redrew the background, cat, and character all on their own layers.
3. Revised Draft
Carrie really liked the city I’d drawn, so I was on the right path. I felt the scene was bit static, however, so I hid the cat and Eron layers and redrew them. From Carrie’s description, the cat isn’t “bad” per se, but the cover needed some sort of conflict, some drama to draw in the reader. The cat now has some forward movement and a hint of threat. Eron is moving as well, perhaps startled, perhaps about to flee. I like him looking away from the viewer, as I prefer YA novels not to tell me exactly how the hero should look with a picture; no matter how detailed the writer describes them, a reader always creates their own picture of the hero, and I think the cover should leave room for that.
Carrie had suggested blue and orange for a contrasting color scheme, so I threw some colors in to see how it worked, keeping with blue tones for the background and orange tones for the characters and font. I think the contrast works really well, and the oranges tie Eron to the cat and the title and looks nicely unified.
Anyway, there we are. I need to ink everything and then do some real coloring, probably adding some more detail along the way. When I’ve got another draft, I’ll post it.
I’m so close to finishing the last few pages of “Year of the Dragon,” but real life has kept any real art from happening recently. After two busy days where I fell asleep early, the last two nights my daughter has been sick and restless, allowing only one hand for sketching, as the other has to be permanently on her forehead to keep her asleep (even now I’m typing this one-handed while stoking her brow with the other).
I managed to rough out the pencils for the last few pages, but need the solidity of sitting at a table with my elbows supported to do tight pencils or inking. I worked out a slew of banners (every site has its own dimensions), which didn’t involve any detailed work.
Also, I managed to ink the cover, as coloring doesn’t take quite as steady a hand as drawing. I did a black and white version and a color one. Ben liked the black and white but asked for a darker shadow, so I did a second version, which I do think is better. If I ever get a chance to draw again, you’ll get to peer beyond the cover in a week or so . . .
All the monastic sketches I’ve been putting up are for the next project Ben and I are working on. In the mean time, however, we’re wrapping up a story we’ve been working on for the last month and half — I’m starting to ink page 14 right now, with about 6 more pages to go. It’s called “The Year of the Dragon,” and when it’s done, we’re going to launch a web-comic site, using it as the opening story. Hopefully you will be waiting on pins and needles. This is my initial sketch for the cover.
I wanted to practice more “Serious” comic style, and like using pre-existing characters so I can focus on the drawing more than the idea. I sent out a call on Facebook for suggestions, and was swamped. Here’s the first one.