Friday, 28 August 2009

Trios: The Third Sign, by Gregory A Wilson: Cover Art

We've heard already from Gregory A Wilson, author of The Third Sign, and from his editor at Five Star, John Helfers. Now it's Joshua David McClurg-Genevese's turn in the spotlight as he reveals how he created this stunning cover image.

I first met Greg at a gaming convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was there as an artist sitting in my booth, and I remember clearly he came over and spoke with me about one of the illustrations I had up on the wall behind where I was set up. He talked about a book that he was writing, and that he was trying to find an artist to work with on the cover.

That was where our process began. He contacted me some time later and we began talking about The Third Sign.

The first step was to work with Greg and get a sense of what The Third Sign was really about. An overall appreciation of the book and of the setting are the first things that I try to develop, and after a few discussions the main themes and emotions began to surface. In addition, Greg was kind enough to send me a number of sample chapters so that I was able to actually read part of the book before having to develop concepts. This was extremely helpful in getting an understanding of the world that he had created, and a feel for the characters.

I read through the chapters, and he and I discussed them for a time. He had a good sense for certain scenes in each of the chapters that seemed the most visually interesting and that might be good candidates for the illustration. In the end, we chose two of them, and I began working on concepts.

The second step was to develop a series of rough sketches based on the scenes we chose. I was looking to develop the overall composition of the illustration, the camera angles, the dynamic elements and where the cover text would go. The characters were also roughed in, though again it was mostly to solidify the overall composition. The details would come later.

Once I had each of the scenes drawn out as a rough sketch, I sent them back to Greg. We talked about them and decided what worked and what didn't. We narrowed down the choices, I made a few more revisions, and then we decided on a final direction. In these initial stages of rough sketching there was a lot of back and forth between myself and Greg. I tried to make sure that the overall feel of the piece matched what he was looking for, while still maintaining a good sense of artistic composition and design.

The third step was to finalize the drawing. I again discussed the scene with Greg, focusing now more on the details of the setting and the characters. What color were the robes on Orrinell, how intricate were the markings on Sarrtax's battle axe, what species of bird was Squaar? The details are what really makes an illustration come to life, and establishes a firm definition of the setting. I wanted to make sure that the elements in the scene were accurate, and that the way I was depicting the characters was appropriate.

Once the drawing was finished, I again sent it back to Greg. We revised it a number of times to ensure that I was capturing exactly what he was looking for. Once that was completed, I moved on to the painting.

The final step was the painting itself. I transfered the drawing on to watercolor paper, mounted it to a sheet of masonite, and then painted it with oils. Once the painting was completed (and dry), I made a high-resolution scan that became my master working file. With the digital file I was able to make any last adjustments to color that I felt were necessary, before sending it on for the final review.

In the end, I think the cover turned out wonderfully, and I hope it captures the elements of the book.


Lexi said...

That's fascinating. It must be marvellous as an author to be able to choose the artist, and direct what the cover looks like. Is this unusual? I'd always believed the author was barely consulted about how the book looked, because publishers think they know best what will sell.

The techniques, too; Joshua David McClurg-Genevese paints a lovely dramatic sky. Can you say more about the lettering?

Lisa Barrow said...

My reaction is much like Lexi's--

1) How neat!
2) I thought this never happened...?

Greg Wilson said...

Thanks, Lexi and Lisa. It is a bit unusual, but it's one of the advantages of going with a smaller press--you can work with them to find other artists, so long as said artists pass their quality control (which Joshua clearly would and did). The lettering and cover arrangement was done by the cover design people, and that was all their concept--I was extremely pleased with how they blended their ideas into the cover painting. (And obviously I was even more pleased with the painting to begin with. :) )

Finally, many thanks again to Jane for running this series!