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June 17th, 2011

Step by Step: The cover for Intruder, by CJ Cherryh, from DAW books, part II

Step Three: Painting

Part I is here.

I do my drawings on the computer using Corel Painter—even if the finish is going to be done traditionally. It simply saves so much time. Here in this time-lapse of the painting, you can see that I begin with the final sketch on a ghosted back layer to help position the elements. Though I started the drawing of the vase in purple, color doesn’t really matter at this stage. I want to establish my main masses before I get too invested in color. I also want to watch my narrative content. It was especially important that Bren, Ilisidi, and Machigi look like they were admiring the vase, and not spotting the monkey. At first I had Machigi gesturing toward the vase, but he looked like he was pointing out the little intruder! With grandma gesturing instead, the group narrative came together.

Once I’m satisfied, I take my monochrome drawing into Photoshop to colorize it a little bit, turning my drawing into an underpainting. I will typically turn all the noses, ears and knuckles pink, for example, determine warm and cool zones, and drop in some colors that I want to show through my glazes to come. At about 32 second into this video I have what is essentially my underpainting.

You’ll note that I like to work from background to foreground initially—a holdover from my traditional habit. My usual digital approach is not terribly different from my traditional approach: transparent glazes first, followed by opaque highlights, working back and forth that way through as many layers as it takes. In this illustration of dark-skinned people in a white room, once the background was more or less finished it was easy to go straight for the faces, to establish my dark and light extremes early.

At about 1:19 you’ll see that I became dissatisfied with the arrangement of heads on the right side. The two background characters on the right echoed Ilisidi and the boy too perfectly, causing stagnation in the choreography. I spent the better part of a day moving heads and bodies around. In the end what was required was what my friend Greg Manchess calls “uncomfortable overlap.” Meaningful groupings, in this case abetted by adding more heads in the background to complete the clusters and give movement to the scene. Click the image below to view the movie:

Next: Characters in Time-Lapse

Posted by Todd in Art!, Blog Home


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5 Responses to “Step by Step: The cover for Intruder, by CJ Cherryh, from DAW books, part II”

  1. Krystyna says:

    I was thrilled to find this, via Ms Cherryh’s excellent website. It’s fascinating to see the care which you devote to the work – and I’m amazed you can do it on computer. Many illustrators have not managed to make that transition. It’s also wonderful that the publisher has at last found an artist who can actually portray the world of the atevi so vividly, and who can provide visual continuity to the jackets. The previous jackets were OK (barring a couple of duds), and the Whelan ones are probably the best (the first one is iconic), but even he doesn’t portray humans as well as you do.

    Anyway, I love the composition of this piece, with he ape-like creature in the foreground highlighted against the lovely vase. The dowager looks great – exactly as I imagined her – and the heir, and I like Bren’s pose. Just one tiny thing: will you perhaps make Machigi and the heir’s faces a bit more ‘atevi’-like? Machigi is supposed to be very good looking, but his face and perhaps the heir’s looks a little bit too rounded, the nose slightly too bulbous. The atevi tend to have quite slim faces with high cheekbones and slim, aquiline noses. It’s just a thought, and by no means a criticism of a wonderful work.

    I’m deeply immersed in the sequence at the moment, and couldn’t resist adding a comment to this fine website…

  2. Krystyna says:

    P.S. Just to add that I love all the previous jackets you’ve produced for this sequence, particularly the ones for Conspirator and Deceiver. They are all very dynamic and full of ‘life’ – the jackets before this one tended to be more ‘static’, if that makes sense.

  3. Linda S says:

    I have been re-reading the very first book “Foreigner”, after having read the latest release “Betrayer” – and I am intrigued by the “mind’s eye” perception that readers have of atevi, and the evolution of the description of Bren and atevi in the books themselves.
    In “Foreigner” Bren is described as having brown hair (page 65) that has a tendency to curl (pg 250). I not sure when, possibly by the second book, Bren is blonde, infuenced, no doubt in my mind, by the book covers! He is described in “Betrayer” as blonde, as is Barb. (Toby, BTW, has brown eyes. I know I marked the page, darn it!)
    I haven’t gone thru all the books again yet, but I don’t recall atevi as being described as having pointed ears. I think I read somewhere that C.J. herself scetched Banichi that way, but I can’t recall where I read this. Maybe on C.J.’s website?
    Jago is described in “Foreigner” as having a “flat face and vivid yellow eyes” (pg.76) and broad nostils (pg 77).
    I somehow just find it all interesting, how the artist’s vision influences not only the reader’s imagination, but the writer’s too!

  4. ToLo says:

    That’s very interesting, Krystyna! My intention was to take the covers back to the baseline set by Michael Whelan on the first few covers. So far as I knew, he was ALWAYS blonde! perhaps his hair has simply become sun-bleached? Less ozone on the upper atmosphere of the Atevi homeworld blocking UV rays blah blah blah? Michael painted him with those quasi-elfish ears on the first cover, so I attempted to adhere to that standard.

    Sadly, I have not been able to read every book, so I’m at the mercy of those who have come before and what I read now.

    (And thanks for the nice words, too, btw…)

  5. Linda S says:

    Just thought of something else: Machigi is supposed to have “An old scar slanted across his chin. That had been no minor injury.” Implying an assassination attempt? (pg 34, “Betrayer”) same page says Machigi has dark gold eyes, but I don’t see how that would make much difference on a book cover.
    Enjoyed your movie, BTW. Very interesting watching the progress.