Thursday, 29 May 2014

How to paint: Seven Fabulous Wonders covers

My painting marathon has finally come to an end, with the final two Seven Fabulous Wonders covers. (The word "marathon" comes from the ancient Greeks, so it seems appropriate to use it here - even though painting these covers didn't take nearly as long as writing the actual books!)

And now that I've done all seven, I thought you might like to hear a bit about the process. I needed three sessions for each painting:

1. First, I had to get the sketch/composition down on a blank sheet of paper (rather like the visualisation/outline stage of a novel). I then blocked in the main areas of colour with a large brush. Since these are watercolours, it is also important at this stage to leave some white paper, rather like the unwritten scenes of a novel... sometimes what you leave out is just as important as what you put in. For example, I had to resist painting over the pale temple in this scene for The Amazon Temple Quest.

Lysippe, last of the Amazons, meets a gryphon at the Temple of Artemis

2. My second session involved building on the main colours, changing those that didn't work so well, and adding detail with a smaller brush. Also at this stage, it's possible to dab the paper with a wet tissue or brush to remove colour, but this is not easy - as someone who has done oil painting, where you can simply paint pale colours or white highlights on top of darker colours, I find this aspect of watercolour the trickiest. Luckily, I used thick paper!


3. In the final session, I used a thin brush to highlight the details until I reached a stage where the painting seemed to be finished. Deciding on this point can be just as difficult as knowing when to stop fiddling with the details in a novel, so I use a trick that only applies to short-sighted people... I take off my glasses and look at the painting sideways. If the colours work, and I can see a vague shape of what I've painted, then it's done. If it's all a blurry mess and I can't make out anything at all, I know it needs some more work! (The same effect can be produced by squinting at a picture if you have perfect eyesight.)
 
Princess Phoebe and Alexis trapped in the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus with the Chimera!

When the painting was done, I took a digital photograph of it and transferred this to my photo-editing software to create the cover. The picture can then be edited just like a photograph to add contrast, tweak the colours or trim the composition. This also lets me check the picture works in black and white for older Kindles... not always the case with a beautiful watercolour cover.

Here you can see I've trimmed my Amazon painting so the colours of the egg blend better with the purple background of the cover, whereas I tweaked the background colour of the Mausoleum Murder to match the shadowy background of the tomb.




If you've missed them, you can see the other five Fabulous Wonders paintings at these earlier posts:

Seven Ancient Wonders in colour

Two more wonderful ebook covers

***


THE AMAZON TEMPLE QUEST

THE MAUSOLEUM MURDER



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