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Four Dropcaps for The Old Kingdom Quartet by Garth Nix

Final Covers (process at the bottom): 

About Me

So first of all, hello! My name is Kevin Jay Stanton - my portfolio is kevinjaystanton.tumblr.com or kevinjaystanton.com. I do a lot of work in hand-cut paper, but I'm trying out some digital techniques too!

Intro and Background Info

I started my project by thinking of books I consider special to either my childhood and have continued to be amazing or books that I read as an adult that are amazing. And in one case, the sequel to a book I love but haven't read yet (Year of the Flood). 

My hope is to actually do three different dropcaps for Lirael, Oryx and Crake, and Jitterbug Perfume, and have just finished rereading them all. But I'm starting with Lirael. 

Lirael is fantasy, for those of you who haven't read it. She's a young woman who grows up in a community of predominately women who spend their whole lives Seeing into the future (or rather multiple futures), called the Clayr. Lirael is raven-haired and pale as opposed to her blonde and tan sisters, and her hopes of becoming a full-fledged Seer are dashed when she discovers that she is actually a Remembrancer, a person who can look into the past instead. The enemies of the trilogy are necromancers and their resurrected Dead. The Abhorsen is a person who essentially uses the tools of a necromancer (a set of seven bells and the ability to enter the realm of Death) to instead fight evil, and it turns out Lirael is descended from the line of Abhorsens as well as the Clayr.

There's a lot of magic, in the form of symbols (known as Charter Marks). And the bells all have amazing names (Ranna, Mosrael, Kibeth, Dyrim, Belgaer, Saraneth, Astarael, in ascending order of size). 

First Page of Sketches (12/03)

So I'm playing around with the L for Lirael. One of the inspirations for what I want to achieve is something like Leo and Diane Dillon's cover illustration: 

Mysterious and a little dark is how I'd describe it. Mystical maybe? I like the idea of playing around with the engravings on the door which plays a part in the book, but I worry it might be a little too rigid and boring. 

Anyway, I'm going to meditate on these and do another round of sketches tonight. But if anyone has some ideas, or has read the book and wants to throw out some feedback, I'm all ears!

More Thumbs and Three Tighter Sketches and a Quick Palette (12/04)

So normally I'd let a little time go between thumbs and tighter sketches but I really want to finish a piece this week so I kept going on my thumbnails: 

And then I turned three of my favorites into these sketches: 

1. Keyring - the symbol of office for the Abhorsen (which Lirael becomes at the end of the book) is a golden key. The seven pointed star is the symbol for the Clayr. In the final chapters, Lirael is given a garment that has both of these symbols, marking her as a Remembrancer. I like the complexity of this piece, but I'm not sure it gets at the story quite enough. 

2. Engraving - at one point Lirael finds a door with her name carved into it and it is magically charged with Charter Marks (the triangular and circular marks flowing around the L). I like this, and it resonates with the original cover, but I don't know if it has the oomph factor. 

3. Sword and Bell - Specifically the spelled sword Nehima and Lirael's chosen bell Saraneth. This is my favorite because it gets at more of the meat of the story. I'd wanna work on the details of the sword and bell to get them to be more specific and enchanting, but so far I think this is what I'm gonna go with. 

However, I'm open to ideas! Lemme know what you think!

New Thumbnails Based on Feedback and Ideas (12/04)

So I see that some people liked the panpipe idea. And I also like the sword and bell idea. So I'm gonna try and pull off a trilogy - a dropcap for each book in the set. That way I can use the main items from each book - the bell bandolier from Sabriel, the panpipes from Lirael, and the sword/bell/key from Abhorsen which ties them all together. 

Working on tighter sketches of these three right now - will post soon! Thank you for the kind words and the critique!

Next Round Sketches (12/04)

So based on the feedback I've gotten, I've decided to move these to the next round and expand to the whole trilogy. These are the basic letter-shapes for Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen. At the moment I really like the S and the A, but I'm still thinking about the L panpipes. I'm also planning on adding some additional motif in the background I think. Smoke for the S, stars and Charter Marks for the L, and flames or light for the A? Things to think about!

Gonna try and finish these tomorrow!

Finals (12/05) - like the last minute essentially

This is what I came up for the panpipes cover: 

I did the hastiest job ever photoshopping the cover on here like this, but you get the idea.

Need to walk away from this for a little while before doing a self-critique!

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So right off the bat I'm thinking of redoing this out of cut-paper. I think it'll make the shadows a little less artificial. But I still wanna give it some time before making any changes!

New Sketches (12/13)

I've really appreciated everyone's feedback, especially confirming for me that the gradient didn't sit quite right. So back to the drawing board to rework the final sketches to be ready for a mixture of digital and hand-cut paper (that would hypothetically be laser-cut or printed). And... because I'm a crazy person (read: workaholic), I've decided to not only do the Abhorsen series (S, L, and A for Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen, respectively), but also N and C for "Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case" and "Clariel" (which is Garth Nix's upcoming prequel). 

Quick explanations all grouped together:

Sabriel - The S is made up of a bandolier of seven bells (that go from small to large). The background will have a shadow (sort of) made from dark water, which is how Death is represented in the book (as a place that necromancers and the Abhorsen can enter at will).

Lirael - In Lirael, because she's a novice necromancer, she initially uses panpipes. Missing from this image are more of the Charter Marks, which I will be adding digitally (but differently from the first final attempt, because I agree with you all that they should be fainter and maybe less numerous).

Abhorsen - Lirael, the main heroine of the last two books in the trilogy, is a Remembrancer (a descendant of the lines of the Abhorsen as well as the future-seeing Clayr). This is represented in the book with the motif of a gold seven-pointed star and four keys. The A will be on the star (hard to see at the moment, but will be clearer when I test digitally!).

Nicholas - In this short story, Nicholas Sayre (a character from Lirael and Abhorsen) fights a monster with a chain of daisies and poppies as well as his own blood. The N will be silver or grey and represent the dagger he also wields.

Clariel - Clariel is also in Lirael and Abhorsen, but as a resurrected necromancer. In this prequel her past is uncovered as an Abhorsen-in-Waiting and a goldsmith's daughter who turns to dark magics that corrupt her. As a resurrected creature in Lirael she wears a gold mask that hides her face. In this I'm playing off of the gold mask as well as the harshness of the left side of her face (which will be the C dropcap) and the lunar aspect while keeping the right side softer. 

I'll be doing finals real soon!

Color Studies (12/14)

Goin a little crazy on this (if you didn't already know), but these are some of my color studies that I'm gonna be trying out. It's gonna be a mix of digital colors with my original drawings and shading, and hand-cut paper. We'll see if it all comes together!

A Few Almost Finals (12/15): 

So this is all pretty new to me, the digital painting, using Photoshop for finished work, adding textures, etc. But these are the three of five covers I've come up with. I may not end up doing the N, though - it's not really coming together and is the least interesting visually of the dropcaps, so I may just stick with the four novels.

I'll be done with the A for Abhorsen tomorrow and posting the finals then! Lemme know what you think in the meantime!

FINALS (12/16):

Okay wow. This turned into a bigger project than I'd anticipated, but I'm pretty damn happy with it overall. Thank you to everyone who provided feedback, and to Alfonso Fabrega for showing me that hardcover psd action (entirely new to me - had no idea such a thing existed!). 

Let me know how you like (or don't like, as the case may be) the covers!

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