Lionness Rampant Book Cover Process

I had this project in mind for a while, to illustrate the covers for several of Tamora Pierce's novels. It's something my childhood self would love, so better late than never to do it, right? I started this project last year in late 2016 actually, but got delayed because of work and other commitments. To help me finish the project and get feedback, I enrolled in SmART School, which is an online teaching school by illustrators. I ended up taking Scott Fischer's class after asking Rebecca (the founder of the school) to take a look at my portfolio and which class I should take. I'll talk about the school in a later post, so this one will just focus on the process of creating the final image. 

Plot sypnosis: Alanna becomes a knight-in-training in the kingdom of Tortall. The twist is, she has to pretend to be a boy because women aren't allowed to be knights. Alanna also knows the gift, which is like small magicks. She also has a cat bestowed upon her named Faithful, who has purple eyes. 

Visual Iconography from book: Alanna's red hair and purple eyes, Her black cat named faithful who also has purple eyes, her Lionness shield with the Lionness Rampant crest

1. Figure out the graphic composition

I had several different options for the cover- I could emphasize her fighting abilities, or the fact that a Goddess character is helping to guide her throughout the story. I decided to go with a strong pose in either C or D. A was too Joan of Arc-y for me, B the silhouette wasn't dynamic enough. In E the silhouette was too dynamic and was too complicated to go with the rampant lion silhouette in the background. I ended up choosing the color variant C because the white lion silhouette and her dark armor contrasted nicely, our eyes just go straight to her face.

Different B&W compositions with Alanna and Faithful

2. Inspiration Board

Inspiration Board for color comps: Jody Lee, Jessica Shirley, Kid Chan/Jody Lee, Kid Chan, Victor Nizovtsev

I usually create an inspiration board for the piece I want to do before actually starting it. It's a combination of existing illustrations and lots and lots of photo references. 

3. Color Comps

Color comps for the trio of book covers 

I had to think about the colors for the book covers as a set, I wanted each to have a different color theme to differentiate them from each other. Seeing all three together also helped me establish the theme of animal silhouette tapestry behind the heroine of the book.  I eventually went with #2 (bottom left). 

4. Painting Process

While painting, I like to reference how other artists handle the same subject matter. Here are some of the references I had: medieval armor designs, Krenz Cushart, Otat, Ahmed Aldori, Fire emblem armor designs, more medieval armor.

Witchy From Bhutan Process

1. Line drawings - (I thought of the three poses on the left first and based the right most one off of them).

2.  Adding local color - Started to add color on a Multiply layer to figure out the composition. It is great if I have the anatomy figured out at this stage, but the gesture is what's most important.

3. Build a library of reference images - At this point (or even before) I grab photo reference from the internet and have it scattered around my photoshop document. Not all of them will be useful, but it's helpful to have a lot in case you need to change direction. 

4. Then the next steps are just continue to refine and add paint. I might make a gif of one of the witchies, stay tuned :)