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Monday, November 3, 2014

Layering Angels

Happy November everyone. Getting cold yet? We just experienced our first snow of the season out here. I have been busy. Several book projects have been on the burners cooking away. Also, I have had one bookcover that I designed and drew for a friend of mine.

That is what I want to show you today. My friend Wendy Siefken and her son Charles contacted me about a book they are currently writing. I have already done a batch of character drawings for them for this particular book, but they had a cover in mind and wanted me to draw it. The request was for an angel, in chains.

The challenge was that this angel was holographic in nature and chained up inside a space ship. They sent me some images they found that illustrated what direction they were looking for.

First: I told them I would try drawing the angel, but made no promises. I'm not so great with the female form yet. I can pull off a decent male form, but my confidence with the female form isn't so great. But, I didn't give up. (Wendy is great at pushing me to try when I say I can't.)

I started with a few poses I found that matched the idea that she had. I wanted the woman to be sad, as it fit the character she had given me. But, not just sad, sorrowful. I wanted the pose to convey the feeling of hopelessness to the viewer. At least that was my intention. I did my best and was surprised that I actually came up with something that was passable and halfway decent.

Next came the angel part. I needed to turn this drawing into an angel. How do you do that? Add wings and hope.

I worked and reworked the wings for an evening until I felt they looked alright.

Okay, so I got the thumbs up on this part and it was time to go forward with the coloring. Keep in mind this is a sci-fi novel and so you can't expect it to look like a traditional angel.

I used a picture of a holographic blue woman that they wanted this person to be colored like. Then I used a tawny owl for the wings. I left the dress white to help symbolize the inherent purity that is associated with angels. I wanted there to be a contrast to what would be around her in the finished product.

Here is where I began to stretch a little further. They wanted this person to appear holographic, or ethereal was the word used often. How do I do that? I pondered that question and then came up with a possible solution. I would add a background and then make the angel partially transparent against it. So, I set out to figure out a background. At first I only considered some kind of industrial looking backdrop; machinery, rusty metal, something like the engine room of a dirty old starship. For some reason that simply didn't work, I couldn't find what I was looking for. Then I had an inspiration. Why not do a space like background with a little metal in it to show she is on a ship? So, I shifted gears and went that direction.

This was the original black and white pencil drawing. 

This was the same drawing in color. I didn't like the large planet, but the moon seemed to work, so I only colored it. I planned all along to cut in a basic space background. Doing stars in pencil doesn't really work all that well.

Here's the final background with the stars cut in. Thanks NASA for all your great free pics. 

 Okay, here comes the fun part. Layering all this together to make it  function like the cover Wendy has in mind. Drawing and coloring all of this is fun, editing it together is tedious.

But, not impossible. I edited her into the picture, then overlayed the exact same background on top of the whole image  so that I could have parts that were solid and parts that were partially invisible. I left her dress solid to help illustrate that she is a hologram. I was satisfied and so was Wendy, which was the important part. But, I forgot something, the chains. DOH!

Okay, so I had to add chains into an already drawn picture. First I printed off the section where the chains would be attached, and then used that as my guide. 

This was my original design and I had an idea about the chains on the left arm going around behind her, but would be partly visible through her so to help the whole hologram idea. That didn't work out so well, which required that I do even more manipulation on the picture to make them work.

I started with only one side of the chains. The editing took over 2 hours just to put it in right. I moved, manipulated, stretched, erased, and recolored those chains to set them on the picture. I was so tired of chains that I asked Wendy if she thought one half would work, she liked it but wanted to see what the other half looked like added in. 

I put the second chain set on and found that it looked terrible trying to make it partly visible through her, it simply did not work. So, I cut and edited them until they came around front of her. 

So, there you have it. The cover for their book. We aren't entirely done yet...well that should be obvious there isn't even a title attached to it. What I mean is that we might add a little color here and there, some minor alterations to enhance it. But, as far as the base overall look is concerned, it is done. 

Moral of the story: When I said I couldn't, Wendy told me to just try. She had a heck of a lot more faith in my skill that I. But, it worked out. Don't forget to encourage each other.