Sunday, February 26, 2017

Avremier - The Evolution of a Cover

When I decided to print and publish my long-running fantasy setting using the OD&D rules, it was a little project for myself - and maybe a few of my players and gamer friends. Five-to-ten copies - max. Because of this intent, graphics and slick production were not even on my radar. It was going to be a booklet designed after the earliest rules of the game - a fun homage to the roots of RPGs.

Many of you know how that went. Along the way, I was learning every aspect of the publishing process - as it pertained to my project. I hadn't become Mothshade Concepts yet. I was a guy spending every free moment writing, editing, compiling, drawing, proofing, designing, and wondering how he'd gotten himself into such a mess.

After it was done, and Avremier was published in a limited print run of about thirty copies, people seemed to get excited about the whole thing. They bought copies. They asked questions about how it all happened. They clamored for more. I like watching the "making of" segments for films. I like knowing what inspired an artist or writer. I like answering questions.

In brief, *stifled laughter*, this is how the cover of the Avremier supplement came about.

It had to look like the original volume that I was emulating - Greyhawk. The layout and content of this supplement guided my efforts in the project. For my own cover, I wanted the same fonts and design. I also wanted the illustration to essentially be an armored warrior/adventurer against a round monster that would be featured in the pages of the booklet itself. So, it was decided that there would be an armiger vs. a cauldron golem for the cover.

Now, the hard choices had to be made. I had already decided on gray for my covers. Beige (or whatever the Greyhawk cover was) had already been done. The recent reprints had white covers. I wanted a neutral hue for my covers, and I like gray. So, my "canvas" was set. While I am able to draw, I hadn't been doing a lot of art for nearly a decade. I was out of practice. After a few false freehand starts for an armored warrior, I realized a new approach was needed. I was in a bit of a rush and decided I would "rotoscope" this thing.

Deciding on a pose for my armiger, I gave my wife a Nerf sword and did a quick photo shoot. I took the photo I liked into Photoshop and adjusted the opacity to dim down the details. I just wanted a mannequin to put armor on. I printed out the resulting image and started to draw directly onto the model. If you look closely at the photos, you can see the faded human figure inside.

Even then, I made some changes along the way. I was researching different styles of armor and deciding what I wanted for my own world. I wanted something that looked "real." Functional, at the very least. Also, since this was an armiger, I needed a motif. In the end, after some input from those with an interest in the project, I chose the chimera as a design motif. There would be elements of the lion, goat, and dragon. The Nerf sword was crooked and had to be straightened with my pencil. The visor of the helm underwent an adjustment or two as I stumbled through the design process.

Eventually, I felt pretty good about the results and scanned the drawing for more development. There was another element coming - the cauldron golem.

For the cauldron golem, I wanted to convey at least some of the threat involved. Originally, there was to be at least two golems, but I was running out of time and motivation. I decided the cauldron would be spewing flames to threaten our hero. Great - now I had to draw fire. For reference, I turned to my own photo library. Had I taken pics of fire? Yes, I had.

These were some of my models.

Drawing a cauldron was probably the easiest part of the whole project. But, it was easier for me to draw it separately and merge it with the armiger element in Photoshop. More scanning. Some rotating and adjusting. I wanted the raised foot to be placed against the side of the cauldron, and I wanted the blade of the sword to look as if it had been caught in the ring handle of the cauldron - for a bit more dramatic tension. To make the golem look even more formidable.

In the end, I think it worked out well. I've had a number of kind words said about the cover art and layout. Finding the right fonts and integrating my own logo brought the whole thing together pretty much as I'd wished. My booklet could stand on a shelf next to its forebears with a semblance of pride.

In a future entry, perhaps I will do the same for the newly-printed cover for the Dhavon supplement.

In closing, here is my book next to its inspiration - by way of comparison. For my own purposes - mission accomplished. And, yes, even the color of the titling has a purpose. The green represents the overwhelming presence of nature in a land that can be hostile to the spread of civilization.

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