Monday, October 19, 2015

Commissioning cover art for Mysterion

The beautiful cover art now showing as the backdrop to our website was created by the talented Rob Joseph, whose work we discovered on DeviantArt.  We thought people following our project might be interested in a behind-the-scenes look at how the art progressed from initial concept to final image, and that reading about the process might also be helpful for other independent publishers just starting out, or for those interested in self-publishing.

We looked at a lot of artists on DeviantArt.  We wanted to hire someone whose work we loved, whose portfolio included pieces with spiritual themes, and who had a track record of creating art on commission for other clients, ideally including book covers.  While considering various artists, we also started to develop an idea of what we wanted (and didn't want) on our cover.  Nothing too character-focused (no close-ups of artfully posed individuals acting out scenes from not-yet-written stories).  Christian, but not too Christian.  Must identify the book as speculative fiction, without aligning it too closely with any particular sub-genre (no warriors slaying dragons, or spaceships docking at spaceports).

Rob's work fit what we were looking for better than any of the other portfolios we saw, and happily, he was interested in working on our project.  We still weren't sure exactly what we wanted.  But, since several of the images on his website explored or at least hinted at Biblical themes, we thought he might have some good ideas.

Initially, after our suggestion that we work in the concept behind our company name, Rob came up with the idea of a seeker character, an explorer or archaeologist, searching through an ancient temple and finding a mirror that appears to be a portal to some place more beautiful and vibrant than her immediate surroundings.  We thought that could work, and agreed that he should go ahead and do some preliminary sketches.




Here are the first two concepts.  At first, we preferred the image on the left, although we did worry that it might be a bit too monochromatic.  However, the cover designer we've hired to do the lettering and cover layout thought the image on the right would actually make a better cover, especially if we intended to add text to the back.  He felt that the glowing letters on the temple wall would make it difficult to see the light-colored text.

After thinking about it some more, we realized that the main thing we didn't like about the image on the right was the lion head above the portal.  We wanted some aspect of the cover art to hint at Christian symbolism without being too overt, and in one of our first discussions with Rob, lions were one of the many ideas we offered for incorporating subtle Christian iconography.  But how much of that association is due to The Chronicles of Narnia?  We both have considerable admiration for the work of C. S. Lewis, but he casts as long a shadow over the field of Christian speculative fiction as Tolkien casts over epic fantasy.

We told Rob that we wanted to go with the image on the right, but could we replace the lion head above the portal with something like the statues on either side, from the other sketch?  We also wanted more space at the top, so our title didn't end up too small, or obscuring anything important on the illustration.

While Rob was working on the image we'd chosen, he had another idea that he thought might work.





We really liked both images, but had a slight preference for the new concept, and our cover designer agreed.

Finally, after two more revisions, Rob sent us the final image.



We're really excited about it.  We won't try to interpret it for you, but we think it does everything we wanted our cover art to do, and can't wait to see it on our anthology!

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