The progression of art on The Straits of Galahesh cover

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For The Winds of Khalakovo, I was lucky enough that the artist, Adam Paquette, shared with me some of the thumbnail sketches and early incarnations of the artwork for the final cover. I documented that in this post.

Todd Lockwood, the artist for the cover for The Straits of Galahesh, was also nice enough to show me some of the early work, and I thought it would be cool to share some of that again.

Here’s the first image that Todd sent, just a thumbnail, in his words. It seems like more than a thumbnail to me. I’m sure it didn’t take him a ton of time, but it’s way more than I can do. I’m all thumbs when it comes to art. Note the number two in the bottom-right corner. Makes me wonder just how many thumbnails there were…

The second one was when Todd was getting down to business. All the framework was starting to fall into place by this point. He just hadn’t started filling in the color. Note the cool, organic nature of the perch that the two Aramahn are standing on. Todd confessed in a recent interview for Speculate that that was one of the things he really liked about this particular piece. It’s one of my favorite things as well. I love how organic it looks. I used that word, “organic,” when describing the scene to Todd, but I went no further than that. The rest of the inspiration came from him.

I also love how cool the right boot of Nikandr looks as well. I think it’s neat how photorealistic it looks against the raw and unfocused background.

And only the barest framework of the windship is being shown at this point. It’s amazing how much further that progressed.

See how nicely the ship is filling in now? It’s an amazing transformation. There’s so much depth added by the sunlight and the shadows coming in low through the rigging. And note the cool colors that have been added to the clouds and the sky. It really adds a lot of depth and context to the leap Nikandr is making here.



And then we have the finished piece. The Aramahn men standing on the perch have been fleshed out. Nikandr as well. And note how much perspective has been added with the addition of the gulls. It was amazing how much more clarity it lent the ship and the men on the perch.

And finally, we have the cover. Quite a ways from that original thumbnail, isn’t it?

In some ways, I’m sad that more of the art can’t be seen on the cover. But that’s the nature of the beast. The artwork is always covered to some degree. The point is to sell the books, and that takes some combination of marketing and artwork. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m very pleased with the final cover. I think it grabs the attention, and it gives a strong sense of adventure, which is largely what Night Shade was looking to evoke. Clearly, the cover designer wanted to focus the eye on Nikandr, to give the reader someone to relate to, and I think from that perspective it was a rousing success.



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  2. Ryan

    February 19, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    It was nice to see the progression of the cover. I agree, it’s a shame to lose all that extra detail (was that a painting or all digital?), but it is a book cover, and the purpose of a cover is to attract readers.

    I liked the Winds cover, but it was static. It told us about the setting, but not the story. I think the Straights’ cover will be more effective at attracting readers as it tells us a lot about the setting and the story. It’s more dynamic. If I put the two covers side by side (knowing nothing about both), I think I would be more likely to pick up the Straights book.

    Here’s hoping that it does its job extremely well! 😉

    • Brad

      February 19, 2012 at 3:24 pm

      I did like the tone and mood that the Winds cover evoked. I think it matches the book quite nicely. But like it or not, we tend to be more instant-reaction than we used to be, so many won’t get that far to appreciate the subtle tones of the art. Todd’s is more straightforward, but still evocative, and as you say, it gives a greater sense of story than the previous cover.

      Yes, here’s hoping. Indications are good so far!

      • Ryan

        February 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm

        I think a fun question is if you were redoing the Winds cover to add more info about the story, or to make it more dynamic, what would one change?

        Perhaps having a second ship swooping down and firing? Add a helping/attacking spirit?

        I’m not sure how well it would work.

        An odd thing about covers is that they evoke an emotional response. Sometimes a cover reminds you of book covers of a certain type or time period which give a sense of “this is not new.”

        I think there is something in the style of the Straights’ cover that evokes a “modern” “this is new and exciting” feel..

        • Brad

          February 19, 2012 at 6:46 pm

          Well, first let me say that I love the Winds cover. I think it nails so many things about the book. But art is not the same thing as marketing. So I wouldn’t necessarily change that artwork. I might (if I were a marketing guru—which I’m not) switch to a more character oriented cover. I think what the art director, Dave Palumbo, and Todd Lockwood did was great, and hopefully it works well. Still, even saying that, it’s somewhat of a crapshoot. No one *really* knows what will be a hit with the market. It’s only after the fact that they know, which is why there are so many copycat covers out there.

          I was amazed at the covers in the teen romance section how many of them looked JUST LIKE the next. It was a little horrifying, actually, as they all portrayed skinny white women in fairly suggestive poses. Freaks me out a little bit with a daughter at 6 years old. She’s not going to be wandering into the bookstore picking these things out real soon, but it won’t be long…

  3. Don

    February 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Hey Brad,
    I really like the Straights final cover. The action is a type that will give the person searching the book store or on line a sense of action and questions. What is he running from and where is he going? And why?
    I like the facial features of Nikandr, who you say this person is.

    My question would be, how does the artist come up with the ideas? Does he read the book or early drafts? Or does the author discuss the book’s direction or theme with the artist?


    • Brad

      February 23, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      Thanks, Dad. The art director and editor from the publisher generally choose a few scenes, sometimes asking the author what they think, and sometimes talking with the artist to narrow it down to 1 or 2. Usually the artist doesn’t read the entire book, just scenes that their given by the editor.

      Then the artist generates some thumbnails so that the art director can get some idea of what it’s going to look like. They make adjustments, then approve the design, and then the real work gets underway.