New cover - process
How the sausage is made
Hello from Castrum Lusitania, my fortress in northern Portugal. Welcome to another edition of our weekly newsletter.
In the last few days I did a cover for a new science fiction anthology which was used straight away in the announcement of the series. This is good news because it allows me to share it with you right away. So let’s dive into another kind of step-by-step, but now focused on a single image.
I was invited by the good folks from Oni Press to draw a cover for their new sci-fi anthology called Xino. The project is very cool, has a bunch of great creators on board already and if time allows, this cover won’t be the only thing I’m contributing with in the end. I encourage you to go ahead and read more about Xino.
Now being this an anthology, that meant that the usual route to find a hook for the image (using a main character/illustrating the events of this specific issue) are gone through the window. One story could be picked and brought to the front but luckily for me, the publisher gave me carte blanche - the only brief being “sci-fi”.
With that in mind, the image of a lonely robot looking over a city scape started to appear in my head. I considered using a few places as reference but in the end I went with Lisbon for a couple of reasons: 1. I wanted something different and I love the juxtaposition of old buildings with advanced technology. 2. It’s my country’s capital.
After looking through a few images online, I settled on this one as the basis:
This fitted perfectly with what I had in mind, showing a good glimpse of the city and providing a great spot to place the robot on the foreground. So going from here to the thumbnail was fairly effortless:
Since the cover is a vertical image, I compressed the background a bit to better fit the format, mostly by dragging the building on the left slightly towards the right. The editors of the book loved it as much as I did, so I was able to immediately proceed.
First came the pencils. I followed the photo fairly closely, adding almost nothing to it except for the wires and the massive rings in the distance. The robot’s design, improvised in the thumbnail image, was improved and polished in this stage.
Inking it was lovely. The city took some time (they always do) but I really fell in love with the robot. Fleshing out all those details is enormously rewarding. To keep it separate in my mind from my work on Phenomena I inked it with pens instead of nibs. This is something unnoticeable in the final image, but the process feels very different, helping me to keep the projects apart.
Finally, I scanned the image and added some grey tones on the iPad. These are flat grey tones that I pass on to my colorist - Chris O’Halloran - for him to incorporate and manipulate in his own way. We’ve been working like this for a while (we used this process for the entirety of Righteous Thirst For Vengeance or the cover for Phenomena, for example).
The tones follow pretty much what I had already done in the thumbnail stage and reflect a sunset type of lighting. Even though this was going to be colored, I included gradients for the sky and sea - this was to make sure the mood I had in mind was as clear as possible.
So I suggested Chris an orange sky, a blue robot with yellow bits and sent him the photo you saw above as reference for him to color the city. I asked him to stay close to it as helps to further develop the uniqueness of this background in a sci-fi context. He followed everything brilliantly, as he always does, and sent this rather spectacular image:
I love the golden myst of the city and the depth it provides. The robot pops incredibly well in that strong blue color and the purple tree brings an extra level of excitement and weirdness to the piece. I couldn’t be happier with the final result.
What else happened
This week had me essentially focusing on two things:
A new batch of Phenomena pages (did layouts/thumbnails and started pencilling them - expect to see some of this next week).
Lots of work in a short story I cannot tell you much about it for now. Only that the thumbnails were worked last weekend, approved early this week and that I’m typing these words with my laptop on top of 8 penciled pages for it (from a total of 10). Whenever it is announced, you can expect all the details on this space.
I’m replaying Mass Effect 3. I went through 1 and 2 last year when the remastered collection came out and I’ve now begun the final piece of the trilogy. These are some of the best games ever made but I find them especially great for any storyteller. Not only is the overall narrative fascinating but they made all the characters just as compelling. The progress of the story has an amazing pace and I’m always in awe of how well crafted it is for something so complex as the incredible adventures of Shepard and Co. vs the terrifying Reapers. Despite being more than a decade old, it all holds up very well.
That’s all for now, folks. Until next week!
Thanks for reading CASTRUM LUSITANIA! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
This is enlightening! Thank you for continuing to share your process! Gives me lots to consider. So many different way to create.