Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sketch Dairy: Kushiel's Dart Cover Part 1

In the last post, I shared my thumbnails exploring the idea of a redesign of the cover of Kushiel's Dart as illustrated by John Jude Palencar.  I explored many themes in this initial set of thumbnails, including Phèdre's masked guise at the Longest Night masquerade to a more spiritual connection with prayer and doves in the later thumbnails.

It was very difficult to choose between what iconic symbols of this series I wanted to show - the heterochromia of Phèdre's eyes or her symbolic rose marque tattoo.  In the end, I personally favored the tattoo, as her eyes just aren't readable from far away and a prospective reader needs to be drawn in a little more immediately.  Number 7 seems the most aesthetically pleasing, but it feels too confident to me for a coming of age story such as this one.  Number 8 vogues the most with me for the possibilities of creating a very atmospheric spiritual piece and the presence of an angel statue, which very much ties into the lore of the universe.  The rest of the thumbnails feel too generic and posed to be interesting.

Nothing is quite hitting the mark, so on to the next set of thumbnails!

Number 1 still feels too boring and generic while number 3 shows the very important object of Melisande's diamond. However, new readers won't understand the significance of this diamond, which still leaves me with a rather boring image.  Number 4 is my second favorite in this batch again for the possibilities of a twilight garden with Phèdre in somber prayer before an angel statue.

Number 2 was my 'eureka moment' and my favorite out of this batch. Something about the idea of Phèdre framed by a bronze panel engraved with angelic wings and guarded by the bronze masked priests of Kushiel resonates visually.  Is Phèdre a prisoner enchained or is she chained to the post willingly?  Readers who know the story can appreciate the moment that inspired this scene (the scourging at the temple of Kushiel), while those who don't know it yet will (hopefully) start asking questions about her predicament, which is exactly the kind of interest I want in a cover!

My only qualm is that it may be too violent or suggestive for a cover that's to be displayed in the fantasy section of a bookstore.  It's all going to depend on how gorey and/or suggestive I get with possible welts left by scourging (if any) and the figure's posing.

EDIT: After brainstorming more, I realized that even though I like number 2, it's just a little too violent and suggestive to work for a mainstream bookstore's cover. More exploration was needed!

I continued to explore the theme of prayer to Kushiel and angelic engravings as a decorative background element.  The previous thumbnails were becoming too static and flattened by the use of verticals, so I brought back a bit more dynamism by tilting the picture plane and experimenting with aerial camera angles.  Number 9 is a more graphical symbolic theme.  Number 8 is my favorite of this batch because it is clearly readable from afar and possesses plenty of potential for me to push the spiritual atmosphere.

EDIT 2:  After much deliberation, I've boiled down the finalists to the following!
The top one really has a really wonderful sense of serenity and I like the dynamic camera angle, but it's just not giving me enough of the character to work with.  Neither do I get a sense that it can be easily plucked from the shelves filled with other images the way that I feel the middle one can.  The middle thumbnail captures the same sense of serenity, that moment of spiritual awakening I'm aiming for, and even allows me to show more of Kushiel in the carving on the wall.  The emptiness of the temple scene behind her also allows for a nice wide area for text treatment.

At last, we have the bottom thumbnail, which is still quite cool!  The visual motifs of Kushiel's bronze mask and wings along with Phèdre's heterochromia lend themselves really well to a symbolic graphical cover.  It's too simple, for my tastes, and this is a point where I make a personal decision as an artist to go with the more character-centric cover because that's the kind of stylistic and subject choice I'd like to be known for.

The Winner:  The middle thumbnail for its clarity and character centric composition and for the story it tells at a glance.  Next up, crafting the character and the painting.

On to Part 2
On to Part 3

1 comment:

  1. 3 Is the strongest here. You have the large spot of white for the body, and the smaller whites of the smaller whites of the doves. Just like a fulcrum, you need tobalance the seesaw of the composition in the front and thw back separately. I like how it's not a straight pillar like #2 but I like those larget statues.
    There are so many verticals in the composition. Verticals are strong and tense, diaganals are filled with movement and action, and horizontals are peaceful.
    I wonder if you push the perspective somehow, from below or above the woman. From below her, it would make those statues very large and suppressive to her.
    I guess it is a bit provacative pose, and shows a curvacious body. Young readers would probably hide the book if reading it. If you perhaps covered some of the tattoo so you don't give a full reveal at first glance.
    #8 is a little dynamic, but it really could be explored further.
    More thumbnails!