Book cover
The fifth and final cover for the Windsmith Elegy series of novels.
This one is a comparison between a 'spitfire' and a dragon… spitting fire. I'm really pleased with how this one turned out, and it was fun to work on as it involved actual modelling (with plasticine for the dragon's head), a digital 3D model of a plane, then lots of textures and holiday snaps to build the final piece in photoshop. A selection of reference shots involved in the making are shown below. There was very little painting involved at all—the whole thing was put together with photo reference, layer masks, and layer blending options for the fiery special effects.
Here you can make out the twisty cabbage leaf textures. The fire is colourised sea foam blended in using the 'blending options' from the 'fx' option on the layers palette in photoshop. The dragon's eye is manipulated from an image I shot of a cassowary in Cairns zoo where I also shot close-ups of crocodiles for skin texture which you can see elsewhere on the body.
Work in progress
Here's how the sky first took shape and the overall tone of the image set in/on a dark stormy night. It began as a normal cloudy sky shot out of the window, the contrast was increased before removing the colour. I often work in monotone to begin with and make colour decisions later on with the hue and saturation options. That way I'm not limited to reality, it's what I like to think of as 'augmented unreality'.
The first two images show how I use waves as fire, colourised, contrast really punched up, then the blending options fiddled with. Cabbage leaf… indispensible. I've used it lots of times; it's always good for fleshy effects. Lastly croc skin.
Early version
Early on in the process I couldn't decide where the dragon should go. I'd established where the plane was, and didn't want to move that or I'd have to lose the wings. The position I finally opted for seemed more frantic and menacing as if they were in a race since they were going in the same direction so the attack was implied and impending rather than happening. Slightly more of the dragon's wing is on show in this version—unfortunately that had to go.
Final with cover text applied.