My friends think I can make art and stuff.
I’m better than the average bear I suppose but when it comes to actually doing something professional-grade…I mean, come on. One problem is that my hand shakes before I’ve had my morning coffee and it shakes really badly after I’ve had my morning coffee, so it’s always difficult for me to draw a straight line. Even that aside, there’s still a lot I don’t know.
All of which I neglected to mention when my wonderful editor friend offered me a freelance gig to draw the cover of a YA fantasy novel. The book, I learned, is part of a popular French series called Tara Duncan. The publisher my friend works for acquired the English-language rights and they needed a cover for the American version.
Why did my friend think I was qualified to draw a fantasy cover?
That is a very good question.
In any event, I accepted the job and promised to deliver a colored illustration within a week, which privately I wasn’t sure I’d be able to accomplish because of all the tutorials I’d have to watch on Youtube.
First I needed to know the details of Tara Duncan’s appearance as well as the appearances of all her buddies since there was a very good possibility I’d have to draw them for the cover. My friend emailed me some character descriptions and some translated text. I learned Tara is a 12-year-old girl (actually she’s an alien hybrid, who’da thunk). Her hobbies include having a white forelock, flying, hanging out with a Pegasus, and battling a masked enemy called the Magister.
I looked at some of the media that had been created around Tara including a TV show:
…as well as a bunch of covers from the French and Japanese editions of the book.
I’m not the biggest fan of the French cover. It’s all right, I guess. When I think of French fantasy art, I think of Moebius or Sylvain Despretz. This is kinda quaint, with the robe and the flying horse and the castle.
Especially compared to the Japanese cover which looks like:
I mean, holy shit, are you for fucking real? The artist, I learned, is named Range Murata and he’s been working since the 90s. His work is amazing.
Interesting to note: the French Tara Duncan appears 17; the Japanese Tara Duncan appears 10 and makes me feel like Chris Hansen is right around the corner.
Back to brass tacks, I banged out three thumbnails for the American Tara Duncan cover and sent them off for consideration.
First thumbnail: I wanted to include Tara on her pegasus, flying over her hometown of Paris. I didn’t want to push the fantasy element too hard and figured the fact that she’s riding a flying horse would get the point across. So I dressed her from the Gap.
Second thumbnail: Tara rides her noble steed away from the clutches of the Magister. I probably got the composition from the box of a video game.
Third thumbnail: Tara hovers over Paris and has a staring contest with the Magister, who appears on the horizon. I kind of liked Tara’s pose on this one, but it’s a pretty lazy composition. It’s hard to tell if she’s hovering or if she’s a giant squatting next to the Eiffel Tower.
Fortunately no one liked the third one. The publisher instructed me to go ahead with the first thumbnail in which Tara rides her horse above Paris. Except they didn’t want Paris, they wanted a full-on fantasy landscape.
Which I didn’t really know how to draw.
To be continued…