Monday, 15 March 2010

Airman - Fan Art

Yet another bit of young-fiction fan art framed as a cover redesign. This time its Eoin Colfer's brilliant historical yarn of an airborne Monte Cristo - Airman.

I first came across the novel in hardback in 2008 when it had a pretty dark and intriguing looking cover by Steve Stone. I thought it was an adult steampunk novel so austere was the design. It certainly grabbed my attention enough to get me reading the story. The cover also reflects a lot of darkness that's actually found within the book's pages, the young protagonist being wrongly imprisoned in a subterranean dungeon only to later wreak vengeance by night as a masked black clad figure.

Its by no means all stygian grimness however. The story is also more than a bit of an old-fashioned ripping yarn. It recalls the swashbuckling romance of Count of Monte Cristo, Prisoner of Zenda, and The Man in the Iron Mask only to meld them with the scientific speculation of Jules Verne and the sense of dramatic presentation latched onto by early costumed heroes from Zorro to Batman. I wanted to come up with a cover that reflected some of these influences. I wanted to approach it the way that illustrators of adventure stories of the past might have, artist such as N.C Wyeth or Frank Schoonover.

I started out by working on the look of the character, based on Colfer's descriptions,

then set about trying to put the character in a pose that would make the most of his costume, mode of transport and capture something of the more positive spirit of adventure in the book.

Once I'd sketched out a basic concept digitally I started a more detailed pencil drawing.

I then scanned the pencil drawing and started adding colour in Photoshop and Painter.

The problem I soon ran into was that temptation by the dark side again. In the book Airman's costume is black, and he usually only flies at night - so I was going to have to work hard to inject some colour into this. I decided to use a bit of artistic license and allow him a daytime flight. I also hit on the idea of having him bursting out of an ornamental 19th century book cover. Not only did this allow us to introduce some vivid hues (red and gold were the colours of the Saltee flag - the story's location) it also alluded to the book's Victorian setting and it's major theme of escape.

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