August came to a good end with the completion of a book cover design and set of 10 illustrations for book two of Jim West’s Magicae series. As always I was still working on things right up until the last day, but there was no rush and no panic and things had run to course extremely well due to setting realistic completion dates at the outset. I so often get requests for cover design work just a few weeks before the work is needed and it’s never a good start to a project. Felt great to have enough time to work on this set of illustrations which included nine black and white drawings and one full colour cover painting. It’s great working with someone who can think like an illustrator and has clear ideas about what is needed; It makes the whole process a joy.
Other than one or two rough pencil sketches at the very beginning the rest of the project was entirely made digitally.
I started off thinking that I may make all nine of the black and white illustrations by using just one brush type in Photoshop and try to best replicate a pencil, and then use cross hatching and other techniques for filling in large areas of dark and for all detail shading. This was partly to ensure that there would be continuity between book one and book two. – I had made all nine illustrations for book one using pencil and paper.
With the first one or two illustrations I could already see that I was slipping from my decision to stick solely to trying to mimic pencil. While it can be done it kind of defeats the point of working digitally. However I did not want to completely abandon the initial restriction I had placed on myself, and what soon developed was a mixture of techniques whereby I used a relatively strict pencil-like brush for the characters in the foreground, and for background work I used much larger, painterly type brushes and used them very sparingly. Then I played with settings so that the two styles did not seem at odds with each other.
For the majority of the time, generally speaking, I work from source images often taken by and featuring myself and anyone else I can rope into it, or failing that a search online. Thanks to my wonderful partner, Anna-Lena, this is made so much easier when we are together as we both enjoy photography and the acting about and dressing up that is always required. Once I have the photos I need I can, if necessary, adjust them in Photoshop to suit the required age and gender of the character being portrayed.
The first two images below are the only ones made with nothing but a pencil-like Photoshop brush.
Mada, and Maya with a pile of strings.
Alex leaping across a wide river.
Alex using a crystal to fend off a pack of wolves in a night-time forest scene.
Diades and Demetrius gathering flames into the golden band of power.
Man wearing a Minotaur’s mask and charging out of a labyrinth.
Archimedes working through the night.
Nyliaj and Alyal in the a night-time forest being chased by wolves.
The Guardian, Rawna, comforting a wounded guardian in the arena.
This is the completed cover illustration and layout design for the paperback version of the book.
I am very pleased to say that I will be working with Jim on book three of the Magicae Series next and expect to start on a new set of illustrations and a cover design any day now.
I hope you enjoyed the images and the bit of background info about the process.
Thanks for stopping by!
You can see more of my cover designs, illustrations and other artwork at my website here.