A Stranger in Olondria – cover art

I am back from Conflux, although still recovering from the flu which left me spending most of the convention propped up in corners trying to catch my breath. While I collate my convention thoughts, here is an overdue cover process post!

Last year, Small Beer Press asked whether I would be interested in trying a more ‘painterly’ style, for the decadent, festal beauty of the city of Sofia Samatar’s novel A Stranger in Olondria.

Here are the initial thumbnail sketches (you should be able to see a larger version by clicking through to the Flickr page). 
Olondria Roughs

Here is a little colour study from when I was still working out what I was doing – but in the end we went with the larger image from the right-hand page of the sketch above.


Here is the layout sketch, to make sure there was room for text.


The jacket is based slightly on a wonderfully ornate teal cutaway number my housemate bought at a second-hand shop in England, and I mocked-up the skyline on the dining table to make sure domes didn’t cut through walls, etc.


I had not, at this stage, begun the cover for Midnight and Moonshine – that cover happened because certain people got wind of the style we were trying for Olondria – so there was an amount of trial and error in this. I really prefer to have a single final piece of line art so that at the end I can hold something real that exists in the world. In this case, however, I was nervous and drew four separate pencil layers: figure, railing, city and sky.

Here is the linework put together with the colour flats under it. They make it easier to select, colour and change the areas of the picture.

Olondria WIP

Here is the full wrap-around art for the cover. The most pineapply of the rooftops is based on a roof of Queensland’s Parliament House, and I now do a double-take when I walk past and see it.

Olondria cover art

And here it is in the wild, seen in Pulp Fiction bookstore in Brisbane today!