So the third draft of the text was at the editor’s, and I was playing around with clip art in Photoshop to try and create heraldic symbols that would convey a sense of the character and importance of the various factions that were fighting it out in the book. I actually completed basic versions of about ten of the seals that became the basis for the current illustrations for Sunset. The stickler was the House Jiao-long seal. I couldn’t find a good image of a dragon in the public domain that expressed the qualities that I wanted. Eventually, I gave up in frustration and turned to my college fraternity for advice. That’s not actually as crazy as it sounds, since I was a member of a co-ed literary fraternity. The writing bug bit me even way back then. In any case I sent an email to our social listserv asking what I should do. I got back two useful replies. One suggested I use licensed microstock images (Which became overwhelmingly important later on in the process when I focused on cover art, but I didn’t really recognize their utility until later.). The other mentioned that her fiancée used cutout images in his work as a freelance illustrator, and that she had forwarded my email on to him.
That’s how I met Craig. Of course, “met” is a relative term. We’ve corresponded extensively since then, but never actually met in person or talked on the phone. Anyway, I told him what I wanted to achieve: a Chinese dragon superimposed on a sword and three gold circles. He said he could probably put something together for me. It took a few weeks, but eventually, he presented me with a truly excellent hand drawing of his interpretation of my half-formed vision. I liked it so much, that I showed him the rest of my semi-skilled images, and asked him how he would approach them, along with excerpts of the books that described how those images were introduced in the text.
Not to say that he worked for free, mind you, but for a flat commission he produced some truly inspired designs. I used almost all of them, with a few tweaks and improvements of my own. I may not be a whiz at making original art, but I’m hell-on-wheels at modification. When I wasn’t writing, I was working on the illustrations in Photoshop, marrying Craig’s vision with my own. With a few exceptions, I think I was largely successful at improving the finished product. Take a look below, and you can see how each seal developed, from my original conception, to Craig’s interpretation, to my new and improved version.
When the time came to think about illustrations for Sunrise, I naturally turned to Craig again, but this time, I wanted portraits. Unlike Sunset, when all the players were introduced, Sunrise was all about the pivotal events that set the stage for the opening of the first book. I wanted him to create dynamic images to contrast with the static images from Sunset. He agreed to take on the project, and I again provided him with strategic excerpts to guide him in crafting his interpretation of my internal vision. The resulting depictions were excellent, and after they were done, I again sat down at my computer to refine them into line with my own ideas about how these characters should look. The original designs and my modified versions are showcased below, as well.
He’s already produced some of the rough images for Moonlight, and I am just itching to see the final designs. Thank you, Craig, for all your hard work. I can’t wait to see what you’re going to come up with next.