The illustrious cover designer, Kirk DouPounce, is interviewed by Faceout Books. It’s a fascinating technical insight, complete with step-by-step illustrations, into how the veteran cover artist goes about creating covers. In this case, he describes how he went about designing and developing the cover for A Throne of Bones:
Were there any constraints from the client?
Yes, which actually got me into some trouble.
A couple years earlier I had designed and illustrated the cover for Summa Elvetica, a prequel of sorts to this series. It had an ecclesiastical feel to the story, so I digitally painted a medieval tapestry, a la Umberto Eco. The author and publisher were expecting the same treatment for this cover. However, after reading the rough manuscript, that direction didn’t seem as appropriate. This story was much more gritty and epic in scope. I wanted to keep the medieval ornamentation, but instead of painting a 2D tapestry I decided to create a 3D relief sculpture. Also, in place of the elf that was on Summa, the author had requested a heroine for this cover, one of the nine major characters from the story.
Because they were expecting a variation of the Summa cover, the first draft was not well received by the author or publisher. Not wanting to ditch this direction entirely, I asked the author if he would be willing to post it on his blog for feedback. And feedback he was given, over a 160 responses.
He posted the two covers side by side and asked his fan base which direction they preferred. It was pretty much split down the middle. For the most part, the criticism against the new cover related to the woman’s face. They essentially said that she made the cover look too teen YA. The author suggested putting a skull in place of the heroine. I don’t get a lot of requests to put skulls on covers, I was more than happy to comply.
Kirk is giving me a bit too much credit here. My suggestion wasn’t just a gilded skull, but a gilded skull on the end of a post from the back of the chair, as per the description of the Sedes Ossi which serves as the Sanctal Throne and is constructed of the bones of the Four Apostles. I even sent him an image of a gilded skull stuck on top of a leg bone, which looked for all the world like the world’s most disgusting Pez dispenser.
Fortunately, Kirk was able to look past my ridiculous attempt to visually explain my idea and identify the useful elements underneath it. This is why I really enjoy working with him, because he is one of those rare artists who can understand what you want much better than you can articulate it.