Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Walled Flower - a little perspective

This is a cover piece I did for a book called The Walled Flower, just released today!  It's the second in a series of murder mysteries set in Victoria Square, New York (appropriately named "The Victoria Square Mysteries").

The picture had to communicate that the house was under some renovation, without making it look dilapidated. I didn't simply copy an existing Victorian house, but rather designed my own after looking at a few dozen of them (thankfully the area where I live is rich in houses something like this).

Here's a detail of the image

As usual, this picture started with some thumbnails

Followed by some sketches...
You can see how I played around with the different foreground elements: the truck, the cat, the sign.  The cat is a necessary element for all books in the series! The art director went with the third sketch.

I proposed adding the sign with the SOLD sticker for a couple of reasons:

1) to show that the house had recently been purchased (the book follows the adventures of its new owners)

2) to create a nice foreground element, allowing me to bring the cat forward, and therefore make him(her?) larger and more prominent, without standing out too much.

I think this is a great example of where narrative (storytelling) meets design (composition) in illustration. The SOLD sign is a great marker for "something has changed, and now interesting is going to happen." Lots of great stories start with someone moving into a new home.

For perspective, I usually just lay down a series of color-coded lines, each on a different layer, so I can hide and unhide them separately as needed (having them all visible at once creates a lot of clutter).

I don't necessarily make lines that exactly coincide with the main lines of the house - I just makes sure the lines are abundant and closely spaced enough that I can estimate pretty much any line I need to paint with some accuracy.

The house basically uses three point perspective (doesn't everything? - yes); in this image I used red for the upper vanishing point, i.e. the verticals (because we are looking up at the house), blue for the left vp, the green for the right (and black for the peaks - vp's four and five, but who's counting?).

For the lettering on the sign I used a little time-saving technique. First I quickly painted a rough version of the sign flattened out. I designed it to look something like a generic real estate sign:

Then I applied a perspective distortion, using the aforementioned perspective lines as a guide.

Because I want to maintain the painterly quality of the image, I have to be careful not to be too precise with the sign. So I use it just as a quick guide, which I then paint over. It's kind of ironic - with physical paint you may struggle to make the lines of the sign as straight as possible - with digital that's trivial, so you have to make some effort to NOT make them too straight. You have to resist the urge...  Here's what the final painted sign looks like:
Observant viewers will notice the extreme shift in ambient and reflected light on the right or "shaded" side of the post. The upper part of the post reflects a lot of blue-purplish sky light, while the bottom portion reflects a lot of the greenish color from the lawn. This may look exaggerated here - but did you notice it earlier?

Here's the cover for the first in the series, called A Crafty Killing, which I also did:

The Walled Flower is available today, and can be purchased at your local bookstore, or from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

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