This is the cover art for Sofia Samatar‘s novel The Winged Histories, sequel to her World Fantasy Award winning A Stranger in Olondria (both published by Small Beer Press).
The process of revisiting A Stranger in Olondria to reconstruct my illustration approach there was illuminating – particularly in relation to remembering to usefully label layers in Photoshop. We learn.
I had the chance to catch up (with Small Beer’s permission!) with Sofia at World Fantasy to discuss the broad approach to the cover, and exchange some reference for her vision of architecture and birds, and mine of uniforms.
That settled, I prepared the thumbnail sketches and general colour approach for approval – G was chosen (although the profile was later changed, and colours deepened).
Time for everyone’s favourite: Awkward reference photos! I used other reference for the figure (but won’t embarrass them), I’m just here modelling in yoga pants and a leather jacket with blue masking tape so that I can see what key parts of the costume do in the pose. Again, a skyline of crockery set up with a plasticine-and-plastic-bag vulture gives some reference for light/perspective.
Then a foster-cat attack.
And redrawing (there were several replacements of hands, heads etc).
I scanned and pieced the elements together in Photoshop, then coloured them. Here is a gif of the process, but it makes it look far faster and more logical than it was: there was a lot of reworking, experimentation, remixing and so forth, as well as adjustments, added decoration, skin tone changes and other adjustments on consultation. But gifs are fun.
And I can’t remember why it came to this: