This is the illustration I did for Curtis Gray's new novel, Sorrow Sublime. Curtis commissioned me himself and was awesome to work with. I happened to be away from my studio during the making of the cover, so 100% of it was done digitally on my computer, unlike much of my work that is done mostly in oil paint.
My process starts with lots of daydreaming and tons of sketching. At this point Curtis had not finished the manuscript yet, so I was given a rough draft of the first chapter, and let loose to create an image from those pages.
At first, my sketching is really like a bunch of scribbles; its a matter of daydreaming in order to sketch out tangents of ideas that will allow multiple ways of telling a story. I pick out some of the best ideas -in this case, three- and present them to the client. In the first chapter of Sorrow Sublime there is a river and bridge that are very integral to the story and Curtis really wanted them to be depicted on the back of the wraparound cover. He really liked the first and third sketch, and left the decision of choosing one of them up to me. I chose the first sketch because it was the more intimate portrayal of the two main characters and I really wanted to capture their personalities, which really carry the story of the first chapter.
First, I start shooting photo reference, using my friends as models, if possible, and renting from costume shops if I can't find something hidden in the back of the closet.
Using my photo reference and original sketch, I create a larger and more refined line drawing. I create this sketch on a transparent layer in photoshop with no added tones of value. This makes it very easy to try out different value and color sketches on a layer set beneath the line drawing layer, allowing the weight of the image to be carried by the lines. I then submit the color image to the client. In this case, Curtis approved it straight off and I begin working on the final.
From here on out, its just a matter of painting, and then adjusting and refining the painting. Painting takes up more than half the time of the project, but most of the project's success comes from those initial sketches. If it doesn't look good in the sketch, it doesn't look good in the final.
I really hope to get the chance to work with an author again, as it was very exciting to discuss with Curtis one-on-one about the process of interpreting his characters.
At the moment I've got a lot going on. I can't really say much about it other than it is comic book related, which I am super stoked about. I'll try and get an update earlier next time around. Tah tah for now, and thanks for tuning in...