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Anatomy of a Failed Cover

I thought this might be an interesting lesson, ala Drawing Powerful Heroes, a lesson about how you can go thru all of the processes for creating a cover, and ultimately, decide its just not gonna work, so you scrap it and start over.

I started out with this thumbnail, Which I really liked. It’s for a two-page spread cover. Arkon big across the middle earth characters on the right, Last great battle characters on the left.

I enlarged the thumbnail and did several drawings over it. below was the final rough I did, characters laid out, Arkon detailed, ready to enlarge to full size and pencil on the bristol.

Now the mental problem arises. I don’t like the big figure of Arkon, it’s too static - too posed, too boring. The thumbnail above had some ... idk, twist and power to the figure, and I lost that in the rough(s).

Which led me to the six figures shown here. Sticking with that straight on view, I played around, looking for some way to make that thumbnail and rough work. One problem was the thumbnail was designed for Arkon to have his longcoat on, but I wasn’t doing this particular cover with that outfit, I was doing it with his “grieve’ world armor, which is moderately scifi.

I still wasn’t happy - none of these Arkon’s felt ‘right.” The drawing is fine, poses are ok, individually there is nothing wrong with them, but something about them just wasn’t working for me. It’s often hard to put my finger on it, and this happens to me all too often, and often on “BIG” pieces. It’s quite frustrating, and this all takes lots of time, between other work I was doing the process described here went on for 4 days.

I started searching for other poses, trying to find something that worked, something that brought more power to that space, more strength to Arkon, a pose that made this cover design work. once again, I liked most of what I was coming up with, individually they were fine -there’s that weak word again... fine - but still, not right. standing poses just weren’t filling that void in the design... just didn’t give it enough power.

I changed tactics, instead of a bigger, cropped figure, what about a full figure? I really liked him standing with giantkiller across his shoulders - but too passive. Then the idea of him on a dead giants head - Those who know me know I can’t draw enough severed heads - then the bright idea to have him looking away from the viewer, and give some more twist to his body... my eureka moment! I was excited!

So I dug in, I took my little thumbnail and worked it up just like I’ve detailed previously, and started final pencils on 11 x 17 inch Bristol, for Matthew Dow Smith to ink. I worked it into the image shown below. We have a nice dead giant head to perch on, a nice twist to Arkon’s body all nicely drawn, started to block in all of the other figures as the bg elements everything looking god, except...

I hated it.

It was Arkon’s right arm, he was holding Giantkiller, but it’s weak, not ready for battle.

So I had to fix it, make it ‘right’ before I could move on.

Back to the drawing board... with one purpose.


On a mission.

Fix the arm.

And boy, did I try. I must’ve drawn two dozen arms, wracking my brain for one that worked. all the hours on this piece, far more than it would have taken if I’d had no problems and was able to just sail through it, as I have so many other countless drawings, all to lead me to the image you see below.

And I still hated it.

Hated both arms. hated his legs. there’s not enough air around him, everything’s too condensed - I completely lost the feel of that awesome thumbnail I drew above. Hate.

So I scrapped it.

It happens.

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