Behind the Cover Video: THE SPIRIT WAR by Rachel Aaron

Here in the Art Department, we work over a year in advance on our book covers, so it’s a thrill to finally be able to go back and share these process posts with you. Today we have a special treat, because last year when the fabulous illustrator Sam Weber was working on the Eli Monpress series for us, he invited us into his studio in Brooklyn to take a peek at THE SPIRIT WAR in progress.
I have really enjoyed working with Sam on this series because not only does he paint such gorgeous covers for us, he’s also a gigantic geek and loves to read the books as well. It really makes a difference in a cover when your artist really gets into the story and characters…especially in the case of Eli, master thief and scoundrel extraordinaire.

In the video below, Sam walks us through his process from thumbnails to final art. Even seeing him work up close, I still can’t believe he gets the amazing textures and luminosity he creates out of the watercolors. Let me tell you, if you are not an artist or have never tried painting in any medium, never mind watercolors, you have no idea how unforgiving a medium it can be.

I know the sketches and stages he shows go by pretty quickly in the video, so I’ll post a bunch of the cover stages so you can see what he’s describing up close. Enjoy! And look forward to part two, when we move past the process of physically creating the cover, and reveal how big of a geek Mr. Weber really is.

After the jump, see the process images up close and personal…

Here’s the covers to THE LEGEND OF ELI MONPRESS (an omnibus of the first three books), THE SPIRIT WAR (Book Four) and SPIRIT’S END (Book Five). I do so love seeing a series all together… If you haven’t met Eli Monpress yet, I can best describe it as a cross between The Princess Bride and The Lies of Locke Lamora, both of which are pretty fine company in my book. You can read a chunk of the beginning of the first book here. (or you can download a pdf)


Here you can see all the stages the art went through, from sketches to tight drawing, thru the painting process, and then to the final illustration after finishing in the computer.

Rough Sketch
Final Drawing
Painting Eli
Painting in the Details and Background
Final Painting
Final Illustration after compositing and finishing in the computer
Final Cover

Thanks to Sam for letting us invade his studio space, and to Eric Westpheling for being our cameraman as usual, and Ed Carson for editing our admittedly rambling conversations.