Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Beneath the Dark Crystal #10 Cover Process

Here is my tenth variant cover for Archaia's Beneath the Dark Crystal series!

This cover, the last in the run to feature Mystics and skeksis, is of UrSu the Wisest of the Mystics and skekSo the Emperor of the Skeksis. Like my other covers these two are the counterparts of each other and paired together facing opposite directions. To the left you can see the finished artwork for the cover, but below I'll walk through the steps I took to to get there.

I'll start by saying that the challenge of this cover was that there was no official design for skekSo the Emperor in full skeksis garb. In the film he's bedridden and dying. My editor and I asked Henson for any chance of possible past Froud sketches or even perhaps any insight if skekSo is in the new Netflix prequel series, but they were only able to provide me with photos of the puppet used in the original film and some nice images of his bedchambers to draw inspiration from. So I set out to design The Emperor's costume myself.

Like all the past covers, I drew each character on separate sheets of copy paper. For the Emperor, I tried to use some of his blankets, wall hangings, and tasseled chords to drape him in. I also noticed in the run of drawing these covers that skeksis tend to have some carapace from some beast on Thra as part of their adornment––so I gave him a Crystal Bat collar with the crystal eye acting like an all-seeing 3rd eye for the ruler of those wretched cruel creatures. On his back I attempted to draw something resembling a Landstrider skull, but I'm not sure if I really did that so well.

The Wisest of the Mystics was fairly straight forward as a drawing in comparison, and when the two were drawn, I scanned them and tinted them each a different color when laying them out for the composition to help me see them better.

My editors and I waited, a little worried about the approvals on this one. The others were so inline with the original designs, that I took few liberties (other than trying to work out and interpret details of the costumes)––but here I 'd completely made up the visuals for a main character's look. We all breathed a big sigh of relief when Henson approved.

I printed out the above layout and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore bristol to start inking it on a lightpad with Copic Multiliner pens.

In terms of ink details, I do think this one got a bit more texture than most of the other covers as I tried to help the viewer's eye (as well as my own) understand where fabrics and materials changed as they overlapped and draped the characters.

When the inks were approved, I started on flatting the colors. This is the step where I add flat colors, not worried about the texture and rendering and lighting effects of them, to the characters to establish what parts of the image are which colors.

The biggest challenge here was that I had very little to go on for what the Emperor's color palate would be. I opted to make him a bit darker than I think most of the bedchamber & puppet reference was to make this skeksis the most terrifying looking of them all.

The last step was to render all the colors adding highlights and shadows and texture with the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop while using a textured brush.

This cover marks a transition in the run. I still have two covers to go in the series, but this is the last cover to feature skeksis and mystics, and it was the last cover my Mouse Guard & Dark Crystal editor Cameron Chittock worked on with me before he moved on to a new path with his wife (another former Mouse Guard editor) as they start a new chapter in Boston.

2 covers left to go...time for some gelflings...

2019 Convention Appearances

Emerald City Comic Con March 14-17
Heroes Con June 14-16
San Diego Comic Con July 17-21
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20

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