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ROL: the cover

I’m dedicating this cover to sweet, wonderful, talented Kato-ji. More on that later.

I decided with this cover it was time to quit running scared of actually creating images on the computer and “paint” my boys. I was relieved (to say the least) that they came out as well as they did. (See previous posts.)

I also wanted to keep the designs for the series relatively simple, and concentrate on the characters. There are a number of reasons for that decision, not the least of which is plain and simple…time. I’ve got a lot of covers to churn out, and complicated backgrounds, especially cities, take time. Also, I’m most comfortable with figures and faces, so it seemed the way to most quickly advance my comfort with the computer art programs, and get my drawing hand back in condition. (I have the mental image of the “spider doing pushups on a mirror” kid’s hand-trick!)

I always thought it strange that none of the covers had anything remotely resembling a ring on them, so that seemed an obvious place to start. And lightning…that seemed a natural as well, for a book called Ring of Lightning. And the boys. A simple family portrait for the first book to set the “impression” of the main characters. Make them interesting enough physically to attract and intriguingly different in their expression/body language. Let that language carry the cover.

That was the idea, anyway. Let’s see if it worked.

All images are copyright © 2009 Jane S. Fancher. Thank you for respecting that copyright.

That final change of design was Kato-ji’s idea. She contacted me at the exact right moment. I liked the cover, but I didn’t love it. I sent it to her as a “sneak preview” and before the day was done, she shot back a revised version which absolutely solved my problems. I didn’t use it verbatim (tho pretty darn close, including tracking down the same typeface for my name!) but the changes have to do with what I plan for the other covers, and what I think is going to work best with them as well, not the quality of the suggestion. In fact, note I don’t put it up here for fear you’ll like it better!

Anyway, thank you, Kato-ji, for the suggestion.

Ja ne!

Ja ne!

1: I began with the same background as for GT. But I soon decided the stars made it too busy.

2: So I went to just a transparent computer chip and this great rainbow gradient.

3: Then I began adding semi-transparent cave images. First a lake…

4: Then some cool rocks and stalactites.

5: I still debate this next move, darkening the whole thing, but think I’ll stick with it for the added depth it gives the final result.

6: A couple of dark shadows “buttonized” to give it the bevelled edge depth…

7: Balanced the same sort of background for the title.

8: That all-important title and author…

9: And then came Nayati. His development is a whole other slide show!

10: A little shadow at his base to “ground” him in the cave…

11: And my Computer Kachina! I LOVE the way he turned out!

12: Talk about another slide show! Then, I needed a link between them.

13: Suddenly, it hit me. Electricity. Lightning. And, boy, did I have the perfect bolt!

14: His wand needed …something. He represents the ‘Net and N-space…

15: …so I began with a black hole and matched it with a white hole in his other hand.

16: Then I made his wooden staff into a computer staff, added some halos…

17: But the staff still needed some… tweaking. It looked too much like a rolling pin!

18: Serendipity struck while preparing the slide show in the form of the original, unrotated lightning.

19: A final layer of dark beneath the center to up the contrast for the B&W and…viola!

23 comments to ROL: the cover

  • 82Eridani

    Hoorah for Kato-ji! :w00t: Non-artsy me was entralled listening to the two of you discuss your drawings, Jane. And lurking at Shejidan’s art-focused threads gives me greater appreciation for the finer points of what makes a good drawing versus great. And yes, we’re all artsy in our own way, but most don’t have your and Kato’s inborn talent. My left-brainedness at least helps me reassemble broken things and grout!

  • Glyn

    Oooo! I’m impressed! And the three brothers look pretty much as I thought they would from the books description. You can also tell a great deal about them just by their expressions, which shows your skill both as an illustrator and an author.

    Great work!

    • Jane

      I’m glad they look right. It’s a mixed blessing being both author and artist. If I get it “wrong” for someone…it’s REALLY wrong! :w00t: Got no one to blame but myself. :ninja:

  • Pence

    Very nice.
    It is fun to see the sequence of your work.

  • OrionSlaveGirl

    I love it!

    Keep those slide shows coming, BTW. I know it’s a lot of work for you to put them up, but I watch them over & over. Fascinating!

  • Bri

    Okay, picky sister comments coming. Hopefully constructive ones LOL!

    Overall, really nice. I think the general design is gorgeous. Ignore the following purely amateur comments if you wish–you’re the expert on this stuff.

    There are a couple of things that bother me a bit–both resulting from compositing using separate images.

    First, and most serious–Khyel seems to be getting a bit lost. He looks a bit ghost-like compared to the other brothers. Part of this is a result of his very different color palette, of course, but he almost looks semi-transparent. And he looks small.

    The other thing is that, at least on my computer, Nickki’s terrific hair looks–green.

    These problems are similar to problems I have creating collages of photo images from different sources–the three brothers’ portraits are individually gorgeous, but each comes from a different color place.

    Don’t hit…**cringe**

    • Jane

      Never! Well…maybe years ago, when I was an evil little sister. :ninja:

      That’s what I need to hear. I deliberately played with the relative transparency of the three. I wanted Khyel to recede…the dark eminence in the background… but I might well have overdone it. This computer has a very bright screen, and balancing it so it looks good on all screens is part of the reason for posting.

      The green hair…hmmm…I’ll have to see what I can do about that. Doesn’t on my screen, but let me play with it a bit.

      Anybody else having the problem?

      And you’re absolutely right, the final color balance in a composite is very difficult, especially when the three begin so different. I both want to retain the variety, and make them work together. I do a lot behind the scenes before I ever post…adjusting the separate files after I begin doing the composite, but that doesn’t mean I get it right.

      Not to make excuses, but I’m working very fast (at least for me) so I’m posting before the cover has “settled” for a while. You guys are my backup! 😆

  • katoji

    Awwwwww….Thanks Jane! I’m just now getting to checking this out after a short vacation. That’s so nice!

    I haven’t had the chance to check out the rest of your posts since I’ve been gone. So I’m off to do that.


  • aelith

    Ah, now that Bri has pointed it out, I see that the yellow over blue-brown shadows is turning it green. That same yellow as a highlight on the chestnut retains some of its warmth.

    I will also say that Khyel was looking terrific till you put in the cold pink color on the lips and back-light(?) line on the neck. Now the left side of the neck in the solo portrait is not reading right for me.

    I like that last change with all the text at the bottom. But I liked the matching fonts too.

    Would capping the top with: A CLOSED CIRCLE E-BOOK be too much.

    • Jane

      It’s funny…I didn’t add the pink to his lips…it was one of the first things I put on. I think, maybe, it was the addition/proximity of the dark beard that perhaps made you notice it more. I’ve toned it back a little…and I agree about his neck. Took that out.

      anyway… have taken everyone’s suggestions to heart and played with it today. Waiting to hear from Bri whether I fixed her precious Nikki’s green curls before posting the new version. 😆 I wanted his hair a really rich gold which requires a fair amount of green to keep it from going red, and it just really came out in places. It was a long process toning it down.

      Dare I admit…much as I love hair, it’s never been my forte? :blush:

  • emilyrln

    Heh, Khyel’s lurking in the shadows…
    Camera-shy? Awww! ;P
    The darker yellows on the top of Nickki’s head are a bit green on my monitor, but I didn’t notice until I read Bri’s comment, like Aelith 🙂 Maybe scale the hue a bit more toward orange; dark yellows tend to look weird, neither yellow nor brown.
    Re finding the perfect typeface, for majuscule titles I’d reccemmend Trajan, Garamond, Caslon, and Felix Titling (serif) or Century Gothic, STHeiti, Hypatia Sans, and Geometr231 (sans-serif). My personal favorites 🙂
    *is desperately awaiting the arrival of her ordered copy of “Harmonies,” rereading bits of “Uplink” and working through her box of sewing projects to distract herself from the trauma of not having the next—let alone LAST—book in a series! Plus her mum says no making the green 18ême siècle gown until she finishes all her old projects!*
    P.S. “And viola” <3 😛

  • Jane

    Fixing his hair color wasn’t nearly that simple. ARGH. I think I’ve got something, but I’m waiting to hear from Bri. (Hoping she gets my email.) Anyway, I’ve spent all day on this expletive deleted cover. Once I get to futzing, that seems to happen.

    Re typeface…I admit, I love playing with them and finding what I like the look of with the image. One reason I chose this one was because I loved the way MY name looked in it. Then, I had to admit, I preferred the balance with Trajan for my name. WAH! But I’ll check out those you mention. I’m starting a little stash of possible “typefaces for covers.”

    “And viola”…well, YEAH. I also say “Hahs-tee man-ya-nee” :D:D:D (tho I admit, this was a typo. But, hey…it’s funny!)

    Harmonies…Ooo…hope you like it!

    18eme siecle…dare I ask?

    • emilyrln

      Re 18ème siècle (I muffed an accent mark last time): read “dix-huitième siècle” aka “eighteenth century,” en français. It’s a Simplicity pattern (4092), since I discovered that they have a Hallowe’en costume contest with a grand prize of—a grand! (What could I do with 10^3 greenbacks? Ooh, I’d soooo love to find out!) I have nearly six yards of dark green crêpe-backed satin from some project or other, and I’m making a Louis XV era gown (but not the one requiring over twenty yards of fabric, as I am neither certifiably insane nor loaded with the cash to pay for it—plus, who wants to wear that much fabric?!). If I have time, I’ll also make a clockwork droid mask from the Doctor Who episode “Girl in the Fireplace.” If all goes according to plan, I will join all my Doctor Who fan friends for a fantastic (as Eccleston’s doctor would say) Hallowe’en. Dare we hope that “The Waters of Mars” will come out on 10/31? 😀

  • dali

    Wow, you are very skilled AND talented! Never mind being an author, which takes tons of work and dedication by itself, but to do illustrations of the books, can we say I am impressed?? I have no criticisms of the artwork, I am certainly not qualified to offer such input, all I can say is that I think they are awesome. Thanks!

  • skitterling

    I’m coming late to the party, I know – I’ve been sick, but much better now!

    Jane, aside from all the gorgeousness, three things are bothering me. One, Nikki’s eyes come across as a little insane-looking on my computer. I think the blue and white are bleeding into each other in the small image and it kinda makes him look like he’s baring his teeth to go for a throat. :ermm:

    Two and three, Khyel’s nose got a little long, I think, and the little downturn of his mouth on the left side leaves him looking kinda…sulky and spoiled in a not very pleasant way. I absolutely loved the sketch of him, but the final product kinda looks a little like a Disney version of the evil grand vizier. 🙁

    Sorry, sorry, sorry! I think the work is amazing and I could never produce anything like it and I am properly envious! :cwy:

  • Jane

    Oooo…I’m sorry you were sick. :sick: Big get-well completely wishes flying your way. :angel:

    Khyel’s nose is a bit long, but I really can’t fix it without completely redoing him. I think he still looks pretty good, and I was probably channeling Deymio when I painted it. (Can you say painted when it’s pixels on a screen…hmmm….) But Deymio’s first comment about him in RoL is Khyel “looking down his long thin nose” or something like that. 😆

    However, I’ll check out Nikki’s eyes. I forgot, when I did the transparent overlay, the black in his eyelashes went transparent as well and it’s possible the white drop shadow I did on this new version is bleeding through. And Khyel’s mouth…I’ll check that out. That sounds like an easy fix.


  • Jane

    I’m seriously going to have to expand my dedication on this cover! Kato-ji, you still get top billing, but thank you everyone.

    Tho I did a lot of art many years ago, I’m still really new to this cover and computer art stuff and the feedback is invaluable.

    • skitterling

      You are far too kind – letting us bitch and nitpick! :happy:

      • Jane

        It’s honestly really helpful, and frankly fun. Art can be a very lonely process.

        I don’t arbitrarily change things just because someone has a problem with it, but I do check it out and if it’s something I can do something about without compromising my “vision” of the cover, I’ll do it.

        So far, most that’s been said was something I wondered about, but wasn’t sure if I was “seeing” right, if that makes sense. You get a bit snowblind working on so many images and so fast, that the backup is seriously appreciated.

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