Wendell (AKA Bookwraiths) and I were talking about guest post ideas for the week of Manifest Madness and somehow we hit upon the idea of talking about the art process for the cover of The Mirror’s Truth. It only occurred to me later that I really had no idea what the process was. I mean, from my point of view, the process was: call John Anthony Di Giovanni and say, “Dude, I need an awesome cover for my book.”
Don’t tell John (though people keep calling him Anthony so…not sure what’s going on there), but I had no idea he was an artist. I was trolling facebook groups, looking at book covers I liked and trying to decide who to hire for the project when my wife said, “What about Anthony?” referring to her brother’s wife’s nephew.
“He’s an artist?”
And then she gave me that look she gives me when she thinks maybe I’m not altogether there. So I looked him up online (click on his name above to check out a bit of his portfolio) and was blown away. I immediately began stalking him. Luckily, there were some family events he attended which made it much easier.
Anyway. I pestered John/Anthony for a few words on his process and he agreed! And so without any further babbling from me, here it is, straight from the artist’s mouth…uh…typing fingers…
Exploration actually began before these sketches with a couple of pages of postage stamp sized thumbnail drawing in a sketchbook. I’ve learned to use the thumbnail process to exhaust all of my default solutions to a visual challenge and explore more interesting compositions in a quick and inexpensive way.
I chose some thumbnails I thought might work, opened up photoshop and put together a few tonal sketches to send to Michael that would give him an idea of different directions we could take things.
After some discussion we decided the sketch on the left was the most dynamic and had the most potential to indicate the movement and madness that the story embodies. From here I opened up a new canvas and started in color, refining the composition and exploring the sort of palette that would feel right for this book. I shot several photos for reference material for our leading man and began working things to a point where Michael could get a pretty clear idea of where we would end up in the final. I sent it off to him and he seemed pretty pleased with it – he had a few good notes and I told him I’d start working on a finish.
At this point, while Mike seemed pretty happy, I felt like the composition really wasn’t succeeding in expressing the energy and dynamism I was aiming for. I wanted the image to express the violence and chaos of the story in the ‘graphic design’ as well as the content (angry man charging with axe). I spent some time troubleshooting the composition, I broke it down into its most basic value pattern and tried to see if there were things I could nudge and shift to get the arrangement of shapes and values to read more boldly.
I also realized that for a cover like this our lead guy needed to be bigger.
It was already beginning to feel like something of an improvement at this point, but I still wasn’t sold. It was also a bit of a tricky balancing act because I had already showed Michael where we were headed and there was a deadline looming. So while it was clear to me that my image needed fundamental improvement, I was hesitant to change things too dramatically.
I decided to take a risk. The shape of the lead character wasn’t doing it for me and I decided to start from scratch. I made new sketches, shot new reference photos, and roughed in a new lead character – and I did it fast.
To make this big a change, I had to blow Michael away or else I would have been pulling all-nighters trying to make the old version work. I did a bit more rendering, brought the ghouly soldiers closer to the foreground and made sure I had some clear reads with their silhouettes. I also worked to make the dragon shape more dragon-like. I crossed my fingers and sent this version to Michael, luckily his feelings seemed to reflect my own on the matter and I moved into the finishing process.
Mike: I think my response was, “Holy shit! This is amazing!”
The finish was mostly a ‘feeling-it-out’ kind of thing. Working digitally I sort of just lean on the magic of layers and the ability to undo any major mistakes and try things out. I do a lot of experimenting until things feel right. At the same time I’m always thinking of my intention for the composition and making sure every decision is emphasizing my point and not weakening it or watering it down.
From my own point of view, he made a cover I was quite happy with, muttered something about tweaking things a little bit and came back with something that blew me away. Bits of brain stuck to walls and everything.
After that, I turned to Shawn T. King for the typography. But that’s a post I’ve promised to someone else. Here, is the final front cover:
Back Cover Copy
Where belief defines reality, delusions are both strength and curse: The deeper you sink into madness the more powerful you become. But that power comes with a price. Your darkest nightmares hunt you at night. The face in the mirror hates you and wants to be free. Your fears manifest and plot your destruction.
Bedeckt defined himself by the list of crimes he was unwilling to commit. It was such a short list. How could straying from it have gone so wrong?
Now Bedeckt must undo the damage caused by wandering from his precious list. The Geborene god seeks to remake the world with his obsessive need for cleanliness and perfection, but Bedeckt is going to bring him down. Nothing can stop him. Not even death.
The two friends he abandoned in the Afterdeath chase after Bedeckt, bent on revenge. Psychotic assassins hunt him. Something cold and evil follows, lurking in the clouds above, shredding reality with its delusions. Madness and sanity war, stretching and tearing the very fabric of existence.
The dead shall rise.
Michael R. Fletcher lives in the endless suburban sprawl north of Toronto with his wife and daughter. He dreams of trees and someday once again being able to see the stars at night. He used to do sound for bands in dark clubs where the air was blue with cigarette smoke. He used to record bands in dank basements where things crawled across your feet and swam in your coffee. For a while he was a Project Manager. Now he writes books. Next he wants to be a either race car driver or a ninja.
John Anthony Di Giovanni: http://www.jadillustrated.com/