The following is a post from Chris Yarbrough, the cover artist and concept designer for our transmedia project, Pileaus.
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The Pileaus project is an endless well of fantastic art prompts, and The Black Yonnix was no exception. A wraparound cover, featuring a black ship with a black eagle figurehead, as it sails into history, the prompt presented a number of great challenges.
As an artist, I will never complain about drawing masted ships. I love everything about their construction, from the beautiful hydrodynamic construction, to the intricate spiderwebs of rigging. I just think they’re just so damn cool. (This might not be too surprising, if you have seen pictures of me with various Lego pirate ships, throughout the years). This ship especially was fun, because I got to mash a bunch of historical designs together to make something different. There’s some medieval, renaissance and enlightenment age stuff in there, for anyone looking.
This prompt was pretty challenging, as book covers have an extremely small window for the subjects to play in. I had to figure out how to present a sense of adventure, showcase three leads, and make sure the black eagle with crimson eyes, was clearly visible.
I experimented with a couple of layouts, before landing on this tight shot. I feel like this shallow angle achieves several goals. I get to show off the ship a bit, put the figurehead front and center, and have our leads glowing up the cover, while having a nice peaceful nature scene for the back cover, and just a bit of world building with the moons of Baeg Tobar hovering serenely (or forebodingly!) in the sky.
So, I had the subjects in the piece, now it became about how to best draw eyes to where I want them. Using the swooping lines of the ship’s hull, the clouds, waves, and some strategically placed rigging (rigging is just the best) I pointed as many lines in towards our subjects as possible, with secondary lines going to the eagle. I then used the standing rigging and bowsprit to box in our daring crew.
From here, I used color and line-holds (colored line art) to draw attention further in. Imagining the morning sun peeking through a cloud bank onto deck of the ship, gave me a fun, golden light source to really brighten up the characters. The prompt called for the captain to have a red cloak, like a classic pirate, so I used this to frame the characters as well, with the hottest values in the picture being represented in the highlights of the cloak, and the vest of the central character. I used the red of the shield to hopefully pull attention back down and into the eagle, which has a slash of red for his eyes. The color composition is mostly blue, so a bit of red is a nice pop of spice in the dish. The final touch was to put in some seagulls for atmosphere and depth.
Now, whether or not any of this was successful is up to the historians, but these are the things I considered as I went on my merry way. I hope people really enjoy their time with this book, and I hope I’ve made something people will love to see on their shelves, for years to come. If I haven’t convinced you, maybe the handsome and incredibly skilled author’s very words will sway you!
“I was really blown away by Chris’s work the first time I saw it. The look of the three main characters really captures that sense of fun and adventure I wanted to create in the story – like they’re headed for trouble and they know it and they can’t wait!”Scott Colby, Author of The Black Yonnix: A Bitter End.
See? I at least have one person in my corner!
“The Black Yonnix: A Bitter End” by Scott Colby is available now in paperback and digital format from Outland Entertainment.