Hi Everyone!

Today’s blog features the illustration process for the Gustav Gloom and the Inn of Shadows book cover.

This is the 5th book in this fantastic series written by Adam-Troy Castro, published through Grosset and Dunlap / Penguin  Random House.

Many times, we pick up a book, a cd, a magazine, and think of it as a product and don’t realize the time and energy that goes into the creation of it, along with how many people are behind what may appear to be a simple item.¬† The question I receive most as an illustrator is how I come up with my ideas, or how does the illustrator/publisher relationship work. The information below should help to demystify the process some, and I hope you enjoy!

This is one of my favorite covers to have painted in the Gustav Gloom series. This book will be released to the public in August 2015.

First I receive the illustration requests from the Art Director, what they are looking the cover art to contain. I need to read the manuscript first and I take notes on the description of the scene and my ideas when reading it. The scene may include various elements from parts of the book that are not found together. From there, I create a series of sketches to fulfill this criteria. Below are my first round of loose sketches called “thumbnails”. If you have read previous blogs of mine or studied with me, you will recognize this funny word! When these images are reviewed, I then move onto the Final sketch.




Below is the final sketch for the cover, a more detailed drawing of the illustration. Once this image is reviewed by the Art Director, I move to the final stages of the illustration, which for me is not digital, but you guessed it, painting!



Before I can paint the illustration, I need to prepare my surface to paint on which is Strathmore cold press 500 Series illustration board. This allows me to cut the board to size. Three coats of gesso are applied to the board evenly, and is allowed to dry and then sanded in between each coat. Then I transfer my sketch to the board, as you can see below.

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Below is the first round of colors mixed up, looking pretty if you ask me! I paint using oils, and love their buttery texture, and that they stay wet which allows me to create soft gradients and blending techniques that I prefer.

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You can see the background is in progress, and the most efficient way to begin a painting for various reasons. It helps to set the mood and establish the ground for the illustration, but also, working in this manner allows less mistakes to occur. If I painted the characters first, for example, then painted the background, I would have to carefully paint around the characters, and chances are, I would have to fix some errors along the way, and possibly smudge the characters in the process. Background to foreground is the most efficient way that I like to approach the painting process. Remember, this painting is wet while working on it as I am using oils, but this usually is not a problem for me. I will work over a series of days or longer to complete an illustration or a painting.

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Below the Inn is complete, and Gustav has just started!

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After I finished Gustav, I moved onto Fernie. I am right handed, so it made sense to paint Gustav first, again to avoid having to rework mistakes later that may occur if I painted Fernie first.

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The final illustration is below without the cover text. Looking pretty spooky! Excellent read by Adam-Troy Castro. If you haven’t picked up this series yet, I would recommend it, even for adults. Hope you enjoyed reading about my painting process!