My friend Deb is still working on the art for the simplified cover, but as seems to be the way with us, the ‘simple’ version isn’t actually simple. Still have inking and all the colors to do, but she’s sent me some more samples. Since we’ve traded some ideas back and forth, I thought I’d show the process.
Deb and I have been playing MMOs and online freeform games together for more than a decade, so this isn’t a standard hire-an-artist deal. Not that I’m really sure what those deals are like, since I haven’t ever done one, but we discuss this stuff every day and she’s read my writing, so she knows what the pictures are supposed to mean, in addition to how I try to describe and scribble them. So I think that helps in making us both satisfied with the work.
It started with this sketch, which was a random idea that cropped up while she was visiting me last year:
I already posted this in another entry but it’s the basis for the rest of the work. As you can see, only the heads have any detail; the poses and bodies themselves are very vague.
When I decided that the image I wanted for the Book 1 cover initially was going to be too hard to quickly produce to my satisfaction, we switched to this idea and she started filling out some of the design. First she did a quick color layer:
Then she started inking some details, heads first. Think I’ve already posted the head-shot of the Guardian but I’ll pin it up here again:
It’s a combination of a couple animals, including deer and kangaroo, which is fitting because the Guardian itself is a compilation of many prey-animal species — it being the Prey Spirit from which all the herbivore spirits and peoples descend. I did ask her to fork the tongue to add a bit of lizard to it, since both Guardian and Ravager should have some lizardy aspects.
The Ravager came next:
I wasn’t entirely happy with it, so we discussed some tweaks. By the way, the teeth are there because of that lizardy aspect; most of my birds are more closely related to lizards than our modern birds, and so many retain their ancestors’ teeth. Also, since a lot of my ‘animals’ are actually shapechangers who can take on a human form, having teeth in their beast form helps them to not have to suddenly grow teeth any time they change. I imagine that would be a pain.
Next is a full shot of the sketch with just the heads so far:
We discussed how the Guardian’s antlers sort of out-weigh the Ravager’s side of the picture, and I had some suggestions to bulk up the Ravager’s crest and wings. As you can see, we were still not clear on what to do with their bodies, so I decided to sketch up my thoughts as a layer on top of her work.
This is my attempt at detailing what I wanted to see going forward. I had started it just to add the feathers to the Ravager’s back and move the wings’ position, but then I realized what I wanted the bodies to be doing; I wanted the two to be fighting, since that’s what they spend most of their time doing in the books anyway.
Deb and I talked some more about it and we decided to go with a turtle paw instead of a hoof for the Guardian, which is also a story detail because one of the historical Guardians (who shows up in memories) was of the Tortoise tribe, so aspects of the tortoise are appropriate to carry over into the design. She sketched out her version of my alterations into this:
I approved that direction for the design, and since then she’s been working on more inks. Today she showed me the work on the tortoise paw:
And the progress on formalizing the rest of the inks:
Still some distance to go, but we’re getting there!