Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cover to How-To Book Becomes How-To

Above is not the cover to the book with this title unless you're from an alternate world. In our world it's the cover to Starfinder, a nicely written book by John Marco.

I was planning to write this as a detailed explanation of how I work but I changed my mind and I decided to leave it open to question. If you want to know how the paint was applied, what paint I used, what mediums went into this or if there’s anything you wonder about ask me and I’ll answer. It’s likely that there’s a lot of things I don’t know I know and won’t till someone asks me.

This is a step-by-step for the cover I did for OtherWorlds: How to Imagine, Paint and Create Epic Scenes of Fantasy. That sure is a long title. I have to look it up every time I write it. The original title for the book was A Kama Sutra-Like Guide for the Fantasy Artist: With Detailed Step-By-Steps. Unfortunately, it got changed at the last minute. I don’t know why.

The reason the painting above couldn't be used for my book is that Starfinder is still in print so I couldn’t let them use it. We talked about other possibilities and they asked me if I’d paint a new cover for the book so I did that. Here are those steps with few comments:
Above: First is my initial idea, some idea drawings of sculptures and then examples of me trying to get everything to fit in a pleasantly aesthetic manner with the cover design they sent me. Photoshop is used as an arranging tool.
Above: Look ma, no pencil! The initial lay in is done directly with paint on pre-toned gessoed board.
Above: Close-up.
Above: A change to the design takes place. The dragon sculpture becomes a goddess instead.
Above: This is a close-up of the change.
Above: Color is added wet into wet.
Above: Details are added and color is shifted to cooler warms.
Above: The dam is changed and refined. I can never stick to a script.
Above: More refining, probably less than an hour's work. Note how the foreground dragon's wing changes but will change back. Can't make up my mind.
Above: So is this blog entry TMI, Too Much Information or TMI, That's Mighty Interesting?
Above: A close-up of an area of change.
Above: The other area of change.
Above: The background is concentrated on.
Above: Knoll becomes grassy with texture and drybrush work.
Above: Early versions of the dragons' coloration.
Above: It's hard to tell what I've done but it has been refined.
Above: You can barely see the lines but this is a perspective test. I've guessed it fairly well but adjustments are needed. Note that the spine of the book will line up with the column in the center. Type will go there.
Above: A close-up of refinements. People are added. Can you see the mermaid sculpture?
Above: A shot of the detail. You can see how I turned and moved one of the dragon sculpture drawing ideas over here.
Above: The finish without any type over it. I've Photoshopped in some extra space around it to make it easier for the designer to place because I try to make other people's jobs a bit easier when I can. Click here to see it as a cover. It feels kind of empty like this. Click here to see a lot more of the book. Google put up a large portion of the book. I'm guessing the publisher knows and is okay with this. To buy it click on the previous 'to buy.' Remember what I said about making other people's jobs easier? That 'to buy' link makes the promotions department at Impact happy.


Blogger Unknown said...

Just amazing! Thanks so much for sharing your process. So interesting to see that you sketch with the paint directly, I was always encouraged to do that in painting classes but it gave me the sense of walking a tight rope with no net.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Tom Kidd said...

Thanks Eric. My painting professor urged me to do the same but that's not the way Rockwell did it so I treated the idea with great skepticism. I know now that the more I can keep things organic the better my paintings turn out. It mainly works for me because oil is mighty forgiving. A rag is my eraser. Also with digital photography you can take a picture of the underpainting and it can be your sketch (a net of sorts). The direct painting approach also allows me to quickly lay in the main tonal masses with big brushes. If you want to be brave work directly with pen & ink. There's no do over then. For me it's either success or utter failure and the failures go in the trash.

I'm following your blog now. This is my new philosophy with the internet, computers, Facebook or anything like that, I'm just going to do what everyone else is to see if it works for me. My fear here is distraction. I can happily look at other people's work all day at the neglect of my own.

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Lex Berman said...

Of course That's Mighty Interesting! Thanks so much for this guide to your technique. It's great the way the color tones get worked in from the first wet on wet frame into the "cooler warms." It's like the foreground cliff edge is a big purple lump as you figure out the lights and shadows, then suddenly pops in as a green cover when it's all been worked out. Are those perspective test lines done as a layer in photoshop from a photo taken while you are working? Great stuff!

9:43 PM  
Blogger Tom Kidd said...

I like taking photos of my paintings as I do them. Sometimes I get lost in the details when I paint and forget my main thrust. Looking back at the stages reminds me of what I was going for. Those lines were drawn with Photoshop over the painting at one stage. I bet there's an easier way to do it though. Most people seem to know technical tricks I don't know. What you're not seeing is the vanishing points for those lines. That would've meant for a small picture so I cropped those off for the example. I actually thought this step-by-step would appear in my book. It would've shown some things I do not shown in the book. My blog benefits from all the art not used in my how-to books. I've got a lot to post from that.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Larry MacDougall said...

Thanks Tom - really interesting - I love to follow a thorough step by step - it's always inspiring.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Tom Kidd said...

Larry, the one complaint I got regarding "Kiddography," the book of my art, is that it didn't have a true step-by-step in it. At the time the book came out I didn't have a topnotch camera to take step-by-steps so it made it pretty hard to do one. Scanning just doesn't work for my oil paintings so I'd have to be taking the painting out of the studio each day to have it shot. Shots of painting wet into wet would pretty much be impossible. I was happy when F&W offered me this book so that I could make up for that omission with this new book.

I think my next post here will be the cover for "Agatha and the Airship City" by Phil and Kaja Foglio. Pictured will be the cover as it appears and how it looked before I was asked to tone it down. I think people will find it amusing. I do.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Howdy Tom,

This definitely falls into the 'That's Mighty Interesting' category!

It's amazing to see the changes that your pieces undergo as they emerge from the canvas. I am curious, with the big step from the initial drawing to the final piece, are you communicating each change with the publisher as you go along, or is it more like "just give Tom the ball, and he'll take it all the way for a slam-dunk!"

And, since it came up earlier in the comments, one way to 'cheat' the perspective grid is to create a grid of squares in Illustrator, then copy and paste that into your Photoshop document, then use the transform/ skew tool to bend the grid into a perspective grid that's aligned to the major axis of your drawing.


2:26 PM  
Blogger Tom Kidd said...

First, thanks for the perspective advice. I'll give that a try.

Second, shhh! As long as no one notices how fast and loose I play it I'm okay. It's true though, many publishers trust that'll I'll work my ass off to make a good picture. I'm lucky to work for some very cool people. Slam-dunk though? Not something I can do. Maybe a three-pointer though.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Chuck said...

Brilliant as per usual, Maestro !! Now that I see some of the process, it makes me marvel all the more..!?!? Cheers, Chuck

2:47 AM  
Blogger Tom Kidd said...

Thanks Chuck. I'm going to keep posting these till people get sick of them. By the way "Fantasy Genesis" is on my Christmas list but I'm not going to wait till then to unwrap that particular present -- I have little self-control.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Lulubug said...

First off, let me say I bought this book a week ago. Also, that me purchasing said book is how I found this blog. It is now a bookmarked site on my smartphone. (thats a hard list to make) Second, I have to say finding this book made my month. I freaking love it, didn't even know I could find such a book, and I spend copious amounts of time in art book sections at bookstores...anyway. Third and lastly, this was definitely a TMI "thats mighty interesting" type of TMI post. Looking forward to upcoming posts, artwork, books, etc....
A new undying fan,

10:20 AM  
Blogger Tom Kidd said...

Thanks Lulubug! You've inspired me to start this blog up again . . . just as soon as I finish this one cover I'm working on. The last couple of years have been very busy along with the extracurricular project of renovating my house and building a new studio -- something not for the faint of heart. Now that things have calmed down it's time to post some new work.

9:50 AM  
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