Doing a Struzan

There is an old saying. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

While this saying certainly has a lot of merit, one must remember that a book cover is a very important piece of advertising. You can have a dull cover wrapped around the greatest story in the world, but if that first image doesn’t grab a reader’s attention, how can you expect someone to take an interest in it while skimming a book shelf?

My first book has had a difficult journey. Fantasy is a very difficult genre to sell not because it is hard to get out there, but these days the market is pretty saturated with many fantasy epics, it is hard to make one’s own work stand out as something unique. Fortunately, I believe we have succeeded with that in the writing. It is undergoing its final edit, and once that is done, the query process will continue.

There were two things I wanted from this cover. I wanted it to reflect the love that everyone put into this project, and show this story was different from the rest of the bunch. Funnily enough, the concept for the cover I actually had a pretty clear idea of when we started illustrations. I wanted to do a Struzan.

You all know his work even though you may have never heard his name. The man whose stunning paintings captured our imaginations from the 70s to the 90s, the artist whose works may well be more recognizable by the general public than the works of greats like Da Vinci or Picasso, a talent who was able to sum up some of the greatest stories ever told with a simple stunning image. Drew Struzan

I can already hear some of you saying ‘Who?

Let me jog your memory.

I can totally see that look of recognition through the screen. Yes, Drew Struzan is the man behind the poster. He is the Poster Guy of the movies in much the same away that Don Lafontaine was the Trailer Voice Guy.

Struzan’s work is nothing short of stunning. His distinct penciled style is breathtaking and the way he puts an image together manages to let the viewer know exactly what they are in for with nothing more than a glance. Even though it is uncommon to see painted film posters anymore, Struzan’s style of constructing an image has been very influential in film advertising. These posters for Lord of the Rings and The Force Awakens bear his style of composition.

Yes, Struzan gave many of our favorite movies a face to remember, and influenced the collage artists who came after.

The book we are currently working on is heavily influenced by many of the films Struzan advertised, most notably the Indiana Jones series. That is the main difference with this book. It is largely action oriented, featuring set pieces that one would expect to see more in a Harrison Ford action vehicle than a sword and sorcery epic. It is an active book, and Struzan always creates active images. It seemed appropriate for our cover to reflect that style, at least the way the image is put together.

One of the things Struzan likes to do is find production photos of the actors and sets, using them to create a collage which he projects onto a canvas and uses as his template. He doesn’t begin with a single image. Rather, he picks the elements he likes, experiments with how to put them together, then does the final illustration.

So that is what Joe and I are doing. We are drawing one element at a time, starting with the characters and moving up to the background. Once everything is in place, we will use whatever styles and colors we can to blend it into one unified mural that will hopefully tell the story.

Our last two meetings have been pretty successful, with two of the most significant characters already almost finished. Shown here is our deuteragonist, young River. Below him is the hardened soldier, Major Celice Arietta. Though our illustrator does not have photos to work from, he has done a good job capturing the essence of both characters. We did use the faces of some actors for initial inspiration before moving off in our own direction.

Cover_River_01

Cover_Celise_01

As you can see, these two characters have been drawn separately. Once the images are completed, we can reposition and resize them at our leisure in order to come up with something that works. This makes the revision process very easy, getting it done in a matter of minutes. We will complete these two and begin work on two more characters this coming Sunday.

I must say I am very happy so far. River especially looks very lifelike. It is a very promising start to a cover we all hope will be a special one, and serve as a nice little homage to a great artist.

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