Cover: Grave Undertakings

The latest cover I’ve made for R.A. Evan’s sequel to Asylum lake, Grave Undertakings, was just finished this week.  You can see the final result below.  For grins I also decided to attach a few early shots to see the progression of the art.  I work about 30-40% in 3D, the rest in 2D.  The reason I will work in 3D is that it allows me to rapidly prototype camera angles, lighting, mood/atmosphere, etc.  It’s a great way to previz (pre visualize) the final result without spending hours upon hours on it only to realize you don’t like that camera angle.  The caveat to this method is often you’ll end up with a slightly artistically stylized end result.  I don’t mind this personally because art is seldom intended to be photorealistic.  In movies and games that’s usually the goal, but I think illustrations should reflect some element of stylization.  So using 3D as part of my process is crucial.  It also allows me to have a faster turnaround time than if I were to draw everything by hand.

My goal is to be able to make a photorealistic cover exclusively with my art should I have the need, but I like my work to have some  sort of style to it.  You may also notice that I try my best to avoid cliche with my covers.  So often I see book covers that lack contrast, have no complimentary colors, no warms to offset the cools, poor composition, business, the list goes on.  These are all things I strive to leave out of my covers.  I’m not afraid of contrast, if my overall scene is lit with a warm color, I try to introduce a cool somewhere in there, and likewise the other way around.  It’s also important to me that, if I am creating a true illustration, that I have foreground, midground and background elements.  This is not always possible, for example while Gabriel’s Return had a fore/mid/back (Ship, Planet, Space/Stars) Flight, however, did not.  (Plane – Foreground, Clouds – Background).  But even then I make sure that the elements are clear which one is what, and never have any competing items that are fighting for a position.  So if you ever want a generic cover for your book that is just a bunch of photos bashed into a giant confusing collage, I’m probably not your man for the job.  🙂

Anyway, below are a few images.  I hope you like them and enjoy seeing a bit of the process.



Initial Camera Angle Shot

Initial Camera Angle Shot


annabelle's marker

Anabelle's Marker Finished


Final Camera Angle

Finally Settled on a Camera Angle


Established Color Palette

Established Color Palette, added midground elements



Almost there - Added Placeholder title, Raven, and Rain.


The Final Result!


Now that’s a lot of pictures, and it’s not even all of the ones I showed the author and a few other artist friends of mine to help me improve the image.  My process is to keep the author in the loop pretty often so that should they see something they don’t like I can change it before I invest too much time into it.  One of the outtakes I didn’t show had a person in the midground.  It could have worked in the long run, but Evans was more keen with having the Raven be the “character” in the scene than a person.  He saw this and made this request before I invested more than 5 minutes into the character which saved all of us a lot of time and headache.

Hope you enjoyed seeing a bit of how I work.  And I hope you like the final result for the cover of Grave Undertakings: due out this summer from R.A. Evans!

About AJ Powers

I am a professional game developer during the day, but at night, my true passion comes to life when I read and write books.
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13 Responses to Cover: Grave Undertakings

  1. J.T. O'Connell says:

    Sick, AJ. Just too sick! Love it! I’m glad you’re willing to make Sunlost’s cover for me. Just awesome work, man.

  2. Spooky. I like it. Now you got to do my cover.

  3. All of your book cover designs are awesome! Thank you so much for sharing a part of your process.

    After reading your post, I want to redo my cover art. Any chance I could hire you as a consultant? (I don’t have much cash in the book budget, but I make great chocolate chip cookies 😉

  4. Mac Perry says:

    I love the cover. I especially liked that you demonstrated the process.

  5. AJ – I love learning about people’s creative process; how they craft their art whether it’s visual or with the written word. Thank you so much for sharing this with us – I loved seeing the steps you took to create another amazing cover. Well done!

  6. Thats awesome. How much does a cover like that run$?

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