Pencil sketches & concept: Cam and I chatted on the phone about what to do for the variant. Because Archaia needed this early, none of the issues had been finished yet, so I couldn't base my cover on the interior story of any of the issues...but we still wanted my cover to somehow tie into them. So, I proposed that I'd create a new dragon who is pushing carved dragon pawns around deciding the fates of their real life counterparts. Here is my pencil sketch as well as a lightboxed revision I made to the dragon and the 4 pawns (each representing the designs of the dragons in the 4 issues)
Rough/Pencils: I scanned and assembled my copy-paper pencil drawings in photoshop into a template for the cover. I merged the two dragon drawings and then digitally painted out the setting roughly. The horde of coins gave me a chance to have lots of tiny details...but not really detailed, because they are just repetition of form...and to hide a great deal of Dragon anatomy I didn't want to figure out for this new creature design. The magical chess-board was digitally distorted in from a traditional old magic circle drawing. This is what I then sent off to Cam for him to also show the Henson company for approvals of my concept.
Inks: Once Henson (and Cam) approved my concept, it was time to start inking! I printed out the rough and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my lightbox I was able to see through the bristol to the printout and use that as my "pencils" as I inked on the surface of the smooth bristol board. I went a little nuts with the coins...I'd originally planned to suggest a great deal of them, but I couldn't help myself once I started. This was all inked with Copic Multiliners (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs mainly)
Below you can see a number of in-process photos I took as I inked the cover on my lightbox.
Flats: This part of the coloring process is just about establishing the various color areas...that the dragon's skin is a different color than his wing flaps, or eyes, or horns, and that the coins are a different color than the background, etc. I'd already made a great deal of my color choices when I did the rough, so this step was mostly about the kindergarden-like task of coloring the right colors inside the lines....but digitally. At this stage, I also added a color hold to all the linework on the board to make it a bit more subtle.
Final Rendering: The last step is to render, shade, highlight, and add texture to the flat colors. I do most of this using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop with a textured brush.