3 book cover illustrations for Star Stone by book illustrator Duncan Long

I recently landed a contract to do the book cover illustrations for a YA trilogy from Enslow Publishers, Inc. Written by Paul B. Thompson, the series is “The Brightstone Saga,” with the first book titled The Brightworking.

The final cover is shown above.

But it took three stabs before we arrived at it.

The basic elements were set: The young hero of the story was to be in a dark library where he discovers a bronze magical/robotic head with ivory and jeweled eyes and a hinged jaw. The two would be bathed in light to create a high contrast with the background.

My first try at the picture placed the head on a shelf with the young man reaching toward it:

First book cover artwork by illustrator Duncan Long.

The catch here was that this arrangement placed the “focus” of the illustration in the center of the book cover — and that center was basically empty space.

The solution was to bring them together (in what struck me as a “Hamlet Pose” — “Alas, poor robot…”):

Second book cover illustration by artist Duncan Long for Star Stone.

Now we were in the ballpark. About the only problem with that the story is set in a sort of Middle Ages type environment and the kid’s clothing looked like a contemporary t-shirt. So the final task was to paint a heavy robe over his arms and torso, yielding the final cover (at the top of this post). Also, the archway would get into the way of the title lettering, so it was decided we should drop that (it did get used for another project, as those with a keen eye will notice in the Joan of Arc blog post).

The publisher wanted to use the library background for the back cover; fortunately I was working with layers, so it was relatively easy to remove the characters from the foreground and add a color gradient to the books so they matched the final front cover illustration. That yielded the darkened books that would serve as a background for the blurb lettering on the back cover.

Once again it is easy to see the pluses of digital painting; moving the arms and heads about the composition, or removing the foreground from the background, is relatively easy with a digital painting. With actual paint, it would dictate a complete repainting of the work. And of course “shipping” the digital file to the publisher as an email attachment beats packing and shipping it any day of the week.

So pushing electrons is much easier than pushing pigments when it comes to book illustrations.

But I do miss the smell of linseed oil.

Duncan Long is a book cover artist who paints with electrons. See more of his book cover artwork at: Duncan’s Book Illustration Portfolio