Hi Everyone and Happy October! Thanks for stopping by to visit today’s blog featuring the cover process for Gustav Gloom and the Castle of Fear, book 6 in the series by Adam-Troy Castro / Grosset & Dunlap / Penguin Random House. The book was released this August 2016. I will have copies of this book and others (including original illustrations and paintings, prints, and my fine art work) at the upcoming Hockessin Art and Book Fair Saturday October 22, The Pal Center in Hockessin, DE.

The finished cover you can see above, and below I’m going to walk you through the concept and sketch phase, followed by the painting process from start to finish.


These are some initial rough thumbnails for the cover. Trying to work out the energy flow and placement of the forms. Doesn’t look like much, and it shouldn’t. I don’t want to feel committed too soon so that I can easily make adjustments, so these sketches are really loose.



Jumping ahead a bit, here were some concept sketches for the cover that are more¬†finished. I was also working out the Cloud Acetate design as well (each cover had a ”shadow” black acetate hiding part of the cover design until you open the cover-too cool).



Here is the final cover sketch.


Once the publisher approves the cover design, it’s on to the painting! For my illustration work, I paint on Strathmore 500 cold press series illustration board, primed with gesso (Winsor Newton Artists ‘Gesso) and sanded in between each coat (3 coats). I then tape my illustration board with cover sketch to foam core to keep it from warping. It also keeps the border nice and clean.



I then start to mix up my oil paint palette. Lots of reds, my absolute favorite palette to work with!


I always begin the painting in the background. For me, the fun part is how can I paint this in the most efficient way possible and not mess up. Background to foreground. I start with the sky and work my way down and then forward. I stopped at this specific point in the fog so that I could paint Lord Obsidian.

2015-09-07 17.44.05

You can see Lord Obsidian is almost entirely finished below.
2015-09-08 15.07.15

Here’s where things get tricky. I need to finish LO but I can’t do that until I start the fog under his hand, so I proceed to lay down more of the fog around him and the kids. You can see it’s pretty loose. I’ll go back and soften it up later.

2015-09-08 15.45.06

This seemed like a good time to start painting the kids as most of the fog was painted. I work with oil paints, and I prefer the entire painting stay wet while I work on it so that I can do any blending to establish atmosphere and soft edges.

2015-09-09 12.38.46

You can really see the illustration coming together now. Almost done, finishing up those shadowy hands! I love painting spooky hands. it’s one of the motifs, especially in my personal work, that I try to include as much as possible.

2015-09-09 19.10.30-1

2015-09-10 12.34.21

Finished Illustration below.margiotta-gustavgloom6-coverfinal

I hope you enjoyed checking out my blog today on the painting process for Gustav Gloom and the Castle of Fear! I always enjoy learning about other artists and their process. Be sure to check out my other blogs featuring additional paintings, their process, and more!

If you are interested in seeing me live paint, and to observe works in progress, please follow me on Facebook ( Kristen Margiotta Art and Illustration) or Instagram @kristenmargiotta. I tend to post videos, progress shots, and art events I’m participating in.

Hope to see you at the event below! I’ll have books available, including the new Gustav Gloom as well as original paintings and illustrations available for purchase.