Working on Laurice Molinari's series The Ether was a lot of fun, coming as it did at the beginning of the year over the course of three years. The series varied a bit in its execution each year. Where the first book had me reading a completed manuscript and concepting the illustration, the second and third book had to be painted before the final manuscript was in, in both cases. That meant getting a brief for the type of scene or image they wanted to see, which is a lot more challenging.
For the third book, we had the title and I was given the task of showing Vero armored up and ready to do battle. That's about it.
My initial sketches included a couple of concepts that I really pushed for, that were a bit more symbolic than literal, in that since we didn't have any text to go on, I intended to portray Vero armored, but with the enemy clearly indicated as wanting to destroy him. There were also a couple of others that featured the dragon in one manner or other.
A few of my unused concepts, digital over pencil
It took an awful lot of back-and-forthing on this piece for some reason, despite having numerous solutions that worked well. In the end we settled on one and I got to work.
I think by the time I got the go-ahead on the final, the actual deadline had passed. Not my fault! My sketches were in on time but there were very long stretches waiting on approvals, tweaks, new concepts, approvals. When it came time to go it was basically a matter of needing it yesterday. I got to work, beginning with an acrylic underpainting and then switching to oils.
I probably will never get to reading the other two books in the series, unfortunately, but I hope the direction I got does the stories justice. It is a shame I wasn't able to read the stories, as interpretation is a large part of what an illustrator can bring to the table. It's not that Art Directors and Editors have bad ideas necessarily (though sometimes, they really do), it's just that I think you tend to get the best from an illustrator when they are able to bring their whole creative selves to a project.
In any case, this series is wrapped up as far as I know, and it was good fun. The paintings, too, have been well received and all three covers sold fairly quickly.