Posts Tagged ‘Art’

The Making of a Cover: Final Retouched Illustrations

Welcome to the most in-depth, behind-the-scenes, play-by-play account of how a cover is born, from the point of view of the Art Department. We’re charting the conception and birth of the Shadowdance series by David Dalglish.

So far we have talked about the first real step of a book, Acquisitionand then what goes into Cover Briefing. Then we let our minds wander and collect inspiration and form Directions for the cover. Then we agreed on a Photographer and Illustrator. We’ve even found our hero, the Cover Model. And we found a Trampoline for him to do stunt work on safely. We decked him out in book-specific Costume & Props. We spent all day at our Photo Shoot. We received the Rough Cuts, and while the illustrator was working, Kirk was developing the Design Roughs. Here’s Kirk Benshoff to talk about the Final Retouched Illustrations: (more…)

The Making of a Cover: Interior Maps (Bonus)

Welcome to the most in-depth, behind-the-scenes, play-by-play account of how a cover is born, from the point of view of the Art Department. We’re charting the conception and birth of the Shadowdance series by David Dalglish.

So far we have talked about the first real step of a book, Acquisitionand then what goes into Cover Briefing. Then we let our minds wander and collect inspiration and form Directions for the cover. Then we agreed on a Photographer and Illustrator. We’ve even found our hero, the Cover Model. And we found a Trampoline for him to do stunt work on safely. We decked him out in book-specific Costume & Props. We spent all day at our Photo Shoot. After receiving the Rough Cuts and narrowing down the images, it was time for the illustrator to get to work, and while he did, Kirk was already working on the Design Roughs. Meanwhile, during this whole process for the cover, I was also working on developing Maps and Chapter Icons for the interior of the book.

Maps are an important part of world-building in SFF, especially in epic fantasy, and often authors will have pretty in-depth maps sketched out for themselves while writing the books. It’s also really interesting for readers to be able to see and navigate the maps along with the story, so at Orbit we try to include maps as often as they are available, and useful to the story. Of course, we need an artist to take the author’s sketches and notes and scribbles and turn them into a coherent map. It’s not just a art job, it’s also a seriously geek job. You need an artist that is really into figuring out the details and making everything work. It’s not uncommon for one of my map artists to discover that the geography needs extra definition (and in some cases, outright redesign) to get the pieces to work. In the case of David Dalglish’s Shadowdance series, the maps were already pretty detailed and included in David’s self-published versions. However, we really wanted to push them the extra mile, so I brought in illustrator and mapmaker Tim Paul.

I’ve known Tim Paul’s work as an illustrator for a while now, and actually had no idea he illustrated maps too. And then one geeky night at the Society of Illustrators (yes, such a place exists, and if you are a fan of illustration, SFF or otherwise, you should check it out if you’re in NYC. They also house the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) and we were having a super-geek conversation about D&D and how into being a Dungeon Master Tim was, how he made intricate maps and props for his campaigns. He had also started doing some map commissions for smaller publishers, and really enjoyed it. I literally hired him on the spot.

Neldar-Dalglish-TimPaul

Here’s a bit of process from him: (more…)

The Making of a Cover: Design Roughs

Welcome to the most in-depth, behind-the-scenes, play-by-play account of how a cover is born, from the point of view of the Art Department. We’re charting the conception and birth of the Shadowdance series by David Dalglish.

So far we have talked about the first real step of a book, Acquisitionand then what goes into Cover Briefing. Then we let our minds wander and collect inspiration and form Directions for the cover. Then we agreed on a Photographer and Illustrator. We’ve even found our hero, the Cover Model. And we found a Trampoline for him to do stunt work on safely. We decked him out in book-specific Costume & Props. We spent all day at our Photo Shoot. After receiving the Rough Cuts and narrowing down the images, it was time for the illustrator to get to work, and while he did, Kirk was already working on the Design Roughs.

Kirk Benshoff did the type design for the covers, so I’ll let him take it from here…

Once we’ve decided on what images we want Gene to work on, I need to figure the style of how Gene is going to retouch the images. I also need to work out the layout and type options. This stage of the process can get hectic as I’m trying to figure out more than one thing at one time, so I have a few balls I need juggle.

Especially with a first volume in a series, there are essentially four things needed to establish the look and feel for the cover:

  1. Image Treatment/Style
  2. Image Crop
  3. Layout
  4. Typography

Image Treatment/Style – In other words, we just shot pictures of Bryce as an assassin, but I need the pictures stylized or “Orbit-ize” if you will. We did talk about this in the early concept stages, but now we have images from the photo shoot. I want to explore variations of the initial concept or maybe even an entirely new idea if inspired just to make sure we are getting the look and feel we want. Do we want the final image to look high contrast like the movie poster for Ninja Assassin? Or HDR like the cover for The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie? Do we want the image styled monochromatic, black and white, bright or with a muted color palette? Keep in mind, this is the first book in the series and we can’t change the style later. So we want to be confident with the choice right from the start. Figuring this out is the first item I work on so I can give direction to Gene when I give him the specific photo’s to be retouched.

Here are some of the options I presented internally for the Image/Treatment Style. How did we want the background? How was the art going to be stylized? These are very rough so we can get a knee jerk reaction to a direction.

(more…)

The Making of a Cover: Rough Cuts

Welcome to the most in-depth, behind-the-scenes, play-by-play account of how a cover is born, from the point of view of the Art Department. We’re charting the conception and birth of the Shadowdance series by David Dalglish.

So far we have talked about the first real step of a book, Acquisitionand then what goes into Cover Briefing. Then we let our minds wander and collect inspiration and form Directions for the cover. Then we agreed on a Photographer and Illustrator. We’ve even found our hero, the Cover Model. And we found a Trampoline for him to do stunt work on safely. We decked him out in book-specific Costume & Props. We spent all day at our Photo Shoot. And then a few days later we got the Rough Cuts from the shoot.

Rough cuts are the raw images that the photographer shot, completely unedited. All the lighting tests and misfires are in there, so it’s a lot to go through. We were immediately thrilled at not only how much material we had to choose from, but also how amazing the quality of the images were. We knew we had way more than enough for six books. And I’ll let Kirk Benshoff tell you how he narrowed it down…

This is one of the most difficult and enjoyable parts of the process. Once the shoot was completed, I now have hundreds upon hundreds of pictures to comb through. In the days before digital, designers used to get contact/proof sheets from our photographers. A contact sheet is the process of developing film exactly the same size as the image on the negative. Contact sheets are ways to see entire rolls of film, so designers and editors can look at the shots and decide which images to use for the final project. Since the images are so small on a contact sheet, a loupe is used, which is a small magnifying lens to view the images in detail. Now with digital photography, we have programs that simulate the contact sheet for us on-screen.

One of the challenges back in those prehistoric days is we didn’t get our pictures right away. Shooting with film, you needed to wait a few days for the film to be developed, contact sheets made and finally shipped to your office. With digital photography, that wait time was virtually eliminated. In most cases I can leave a shoot with a hard drive of all the photographs. With the Shadowdance project, Michael Frost sent us a link to a special website he uses that acts as a virtual contact sheet. A hard drive with our high res images came the next day.

MIchaelFrost

Looking at the images can be overwhelming at first. But once you divide up the pictures, it can be easier to handle. We group all of them by  shots or pose and from there decide the best shot from each. Depending on how much post work/retouching you plan on doing, you may have images on the docket that you plan on taking elements from. For example, Image A is the best shot overall, but Image B the sword is in a better position and Image C The hood is sitting over the face nicer. So I’ll flag all of those shots and when I send everything to Gene Mollica, I’ll tell him about Image A, B, and C and he’ll do a new composite using the overall image from A but with the sword from B and the head/hood from C.

In the case of these Shadowdance covers, we needed to immediately decide what poses were going to be on the first three books. So I brought in the best examples of my favorite poses and showed them in our cover meeting. As a group, which included my Publisher Tim Holman, Editor Devi Pillai, Creative Director Lauren Panepinto, and Marketing Alex Lencicki, we all debated in detail on which pose we felt best suited each volume of the series. Once we picked the overall best poses, then we really looked in-depth at which facial expressions, arm poses, leg poses, weapon shots were the most dynamic. With the magic of Photoshop and digital compositing, we can pick and choose the best bits of many photos and make them work together.

Once we decided on these, I sent Gene a huge email with lots of information and waited for his initial roughs on compositing all the best parts together.

 

The Making of a Cover: Day of Shoot (plus video)

Welcome to the most in-depth, behind-the-scenes, play-by-play account of how a cover is born, from the point of view of the Art Department. We’re charting the conception and birth of the Shadowdance series by David Dalglish.

So far we have talked about the first real step of a book, Acquisitionand then what goes into Cover Briefing. Then we let our minds wander and collect inspiration and form Directions for the cover. Then we agreed on a Photographer and Illustrator. We’ve even found our hero, the Cover Model. And we found a Trampoline for him to do stunt work on safely. We decked him out in book-specific Costume & Props. And now it’s the day of the Photo Shoot!

Photo shoot days are stressful and exhausting—there’s always a ton of people to coordinate, and we were doing this shoot in a studio that wasn’t home base for anyone. We had to make sure everything was set up for stunts, and keep Bryce, or ninja, safe while he was flying around. On top of all of that, we were trying to shoot enough material for six covers at once! Never mind we also had a two-man video team taking all the behind-the-scenes footage. Photo shoots always go like this: Over-caffeination high, anxiety, concern that nothing is getting together on time, then you start shooting and it’s not quite there…then everything clicks into place and it’s magic. Watch the awesome video below and you’ll get a feel for how good it feel when everything starts going right:

Art Director Kirk Benshoff on the day of the shoot: (more…)

The Making of a Cover: Costume & Props (plus video)

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAWelcome to the most in-depth, behind-the-scenes, play-by-play account of how a cover is born, from the point of view of the Art Department. We’re charting the conception and birth of the Shadowdance series by David Dalglish.

So far we have talked about the first real step of a book, Acquisitionand then what goes into Cover Briefing. Then we let our minds wander and collect inspiration and form Directions for the cover. Then we agree on a Photographer and Illustrator. We’ve even found our hero, the Cover Model. And we found a Trampoline for him to do stunt work on safely. Now, to outfit him in the proper Costume & Props.

First, we have a fantastic video clip from the day of the photo shoot talking about all the props and costuming…

Our illustrator, Gene Mollica, is an expert when it comes to pulling together the necessary costuming and weapons. He has a great number of artists he works with to either adapt or create custom details, and he really geeks out on it. But first, Art Director Kirk Benshoff had to figure out exactly what these special cloaks were all about…

While I was hunting down a location for the photo shoot and finalizing the logistics with Bryce, I needed to get a costume ready as well. I figured David wasn’t going to be to keen on Haern dressed in an all black sweat suit with a couple inflatable swords for the cover. So I needed to work with our illustrator Gene Mollica to get all the details sorted out on the styling.

But before I go into that, let me tell you a little bit about Gene. Gene is awesome. Gene was that kid who loved fantasy so much as a kid, he never let it go as he got older. You talk to Gene about a project like this and you can feel his enthusiasm over the phone. As an art director, I get even more stoked about the project as I feed off his eagerness.  I gave Gene the details about everything and you can hear his brain running a mile a minute brainstorming about what we can/should/MUST do. Another amazing thing about Gene is he has an arsenal of weapons and props to contribute, either made or modified. I’ve been trying to talk him into letting me use his stuff for Halloween but he been (understandably) hesitant. :)

One of the first things I felt was really important was Haern’s three-piece cloak. Even though there was going to be a lot going on in the pictures, I wanted the cloak to be as accurate as possible. I worked up a few options that I ended up running past David to get his feedback:

Cloak Options
Cloak Options

After talking, David settled on Option #2 which was then sent to Gene and his costume designer.

FinalCloakSketch
Final Cloak Sketch

Gene and I needed to work out other details on the cloak as well. What was the color going to be? What kind of fabric did we want to use? Different fabrics can look very distinct once they’re photographed. Also, how was the fabric going to flow with the floor fans once Bryce started running with the cloak on? We want a strong image as a foundation so we can add drama and badass-ness later.

Over the course of the next few weeks we went back and fourth on changes and edits to the final cloak.

Haern was also going to be rocking armor as well. While the Cloak was being made, Gene was getting the leather chest plate, gauntlets, knives, throwing stars, and swords all made. Each piece meticulously put together by hand in amazing detail!

Once all the pieces to the costume were done, we were ready for the shoot and the biggest challenge of my career… finding an available day in everyone’s calendar to schedule the photo shoot. ;)

 

The Making of a Cover: Trampoline?

Welcome to the most in-depth, behind-the-scenes, play-by-play account of how a cover is born, from the point of view of the Art Department. We’re charting the conception and birth of the Shadowdance series by David Dalglish.

So far we have talked about the first real step of a book, Acquisitionand then what goes into Cover Briefing. Then we let our minds wander and collect inspiration and form Directions for the cover. Then we agreed on a Photographer and Illustrator. We’ve even found our hero, the Cover Model. Now we tackle some new ground for us: Finding a Trampoline to do aerial stunts.

This is when it’s good to be the Creative Director, because you get to delegate! Art Director Kirk Benshoff had been super excited to figure out how to tackle the stunts that the inventive dance-inspired fighting style would require…and I sent him on a hunt to find not only a trampoline, but a safe place to use it!

After having more than my share of ER visits over the course of my life, I now heed the advice my mom gave me as child to not run in the house with sharp objects. Sometimes it takes a few walks into a wall before you go through the door, and now, I’ve learned that when one “must” run inside with sharp objects; taking the time to find the best place possible is in everyone’s best interest.

In the beginning of planning the Dalglish project, I had three things that were an absolute must: a trampoline, crash mat, and open space. From there I was not going to get persnickety. Getting each individual thing was not necessarily hard, but getting everything together was the challenge. I found a place that rents crash mats, but didn’t deliver and pick-up. I had studio spaces I used in the past, but none had the equipment. I could buy a trampoline, but what do you do with it living in Brooklyn. For the record Lauren TOTALLY wanted me to buy the trampoline and keep it in the office. But I reiterate the various ER visits in my life… so that option was out.

Eventually, I stumbled across a studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn called Hollywood Stunts NYC. These guys had everything we needed in one location. The stunt studio is located by the East River in Greenpoint inside the old shipping warehouses. Once I walked in I knew this was the place for the photo shoot.

In all seriousness, Gene Mollica usually brings an arsenal of weapons and armor, so he needed space to spread out. Michael Frost needs space for his camera, lights, and backdrops. And we were going have Bryce running with swords and stage blades. Bryce was going to need room to run and having more than one crash mat is never a bad thing. The owner of Hollywood Stunts NYC Bob Cotter was beyond accommodating. And he and his staff you could tell were really into the whole concept of the shoot. After Bryce and I checked the space out, and Bryce nerded out with Bob about stunt work, I knew this was where we were going to have the final shoot. So after a lot of coordination emails, we set the date…

 

The Making of a Cover: Cover Model

Welcome to the most in-depth, behind-the-scenes, play-by-play account of how a cover is born, from the point of view of the Art Department. We’re charting the conception and birth of the Shadowdance series by David Dalglish.

So far we have talked about the first real step of a book, Acquisitionand then what goes into Cover Briefing. Then we let our minds wander and collected inspiration and formed Directions for the cover. Then we agreed on a Photographer and Illustrator. Now we need to find the star of the show, the Cover Model.

I’m going to let Kirk Benshoff tell you all about it, since he’s the one who found our star, and then we’ll hear from Bryce Bermingham, our favorite ninja, who also gave us an in-depth writeup below…

This shoot centered around having a martial artist. I needed someone who could rock a trampoline and execute some back flips, all the while not hurting themselves doing it. I can easily find models; finding a martial artist isn’t as easy as you would think. There aren’t any sites on the interwebs that focus on people who do martial arts for modeling.

I ended up finding someone in the New York City area who does fighting for film and stage, but his specialty was more European sword fighting and I needed someone who knew Eastern fighting styles for jumps/kicks and sword play. I was eventually given the name of Bryce Bermingham, a fight coordinator, stunt coordinator, actor, singer, and dancer who performs martial arts for film and stage.

It was funny — one of the first emails I received from Bryce had a picture of him doing a high kick that would have had me bed bound for a month. That picture alone gave me a good sense that this guy knew the fundamentals.

Ultimately Bryce knew exactly what I wanted. He understood the need for theatrics in order to have the “wow” factor in the final illustration. We had a great time going over the project, speaking at length about what I had in mind and what he could bring to the table. Bryce was eager to get into character, too, by reading the books, going with me to check out studios, and offering ideas.

Bryce came up with a “shot list” which is a list of moves we were aiming to capture on film by the end of the shoot day. For a photo shoot that has a lot of parts and potential for things to go wrong, Bryce really gave me a sense of comfort, knowing we were going in with goals. In the end he learned exactly what we wanted and how to do it.

8508043_orig

Now let’s hear from the star of the ninja show himself, Bryce! (more…)

The Making of a Cover: Photographer & Illustrator

Welcome to the most in-depth, behind-the-scenes, play-by-play account of how a cover is born, from the point of view of the Art Department. We’re charting the conception and birth of the Shadowdance series by David Dalglish.

So far we have talked about the first real step of a book, Acquisitionand then what goes into Cover Briefing. Then we let our minds wander and collect inspiration and form Directions for the cover. After a period of brainstorming, it’s time to pick how the art is going to be made, and contact a Photographer and/or Illustrator.

I’m going to let Kirk Benshoff, who was also working on the Art Direction, and would ultimately do the Cover Design, to take it from here:

As I was reading over the cover briefing form in the launch meeting and listing to Devi talk about the Shadowdance series, my mind immediately went to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I had this image of the covers showing a martial artist, in mid-move, getting the beauty of the fighting style and in postproduction introducing the brutal and badass.  I felt these books needed to be photographs to give a connection to Haern that illustration wouldn’t have. I want Haern to be alive. I want to see people dressed like him at Comic Con.

dalglish-covermath-webI did do some research looking for illustrators as well, to show different directions. And even though I had some amazing talent on the docket, I still had the photo shoot on the forefront of my brain. I knew the photo option would be the most badass direction and I also knew it would be an enormous amount more work and expense to pull it all together as well as I could imagine it in my head.

Game on! ;) (more…)

The Making of a Cover: Directions for the Shadowdance Series

Welcome to the most in-depth, behind-the-scenes, play-by-play account of how a cover is born, from the point of view of the Art Department. We’re charting the conception and birth of the Shadowdance series by David Dalglish.

Sorry for a bit of a delay, there, folks. Here in the Art Department we love taking you behind the scenes to see how all he Orbit art comes together, but sometimes we get crazy swamped finishing a season! Time to get caught up! So far we have talked about the first real step of a book, Acquisition, and then what goes into Cover Briefing. Now comes the research part, Directions. When last we left you, Editorial had filled out the Cover Briefing form, and we had all gotten together in a Launch Meeting to talk about what our expectations and plans were for the cover. Now it’s the Art Department’s turn to let it digest in our minds for a little while.

In the meeting we talked about the influence of Brent Weeks’s Night Angel Trilogy, but that’s not enough inspiration. Part of my job at Orbit is keeping tabs on everything going on in the geek world, and art world, that could be used to influence or inspire what goes into our covers. I make sure to know what’s going on with other authors and publishing houses and their new covers. I also keep an eye on “geek” culture at large—movies, television, comics, pop culture. On top of all that it is a major part of my job to keep up on artists and trends happening not only in the SFF world, but also in many genres of illustration, design, photography, even prop-making. Once I get a project like this I let it sit and kind of germinate in the back of my mind for a little while, almost like a lint ball under your bed, gathering mass that might seem random and unrelated, but grows into something little by little. As Creative Director, it’s my job to assign who works on what. I knew this was going to be a huge project, so at this point I approached Art Director Kirk Benshoff about being the Designer for the covers, but also assisting with the idea generation, and then taking point on the Art Direction, whether it ended up being a photo shoot or an illustration. So he started brainstorming as well.

And this random mess below, is kind of a window into what was inspiring us: ninjas, samurai, dramatic dance photography, billowing fabric, brush & ink illustrations, other book covers in the field that had the same kind of drama and energy we were after, beautiful wirework fighting scenes. 

dalglish-inspiration-web

 

So Kirk and I let this all just come together, and ferment a bit in our minds, never seeing something that exactly fit, just a lot of elements and inspirations…