Aaron Renier. I have learned so many things from Aaron over the years, it's not even funny. He is without a doubt one of the most talented creative people I have ever met and I feel so lucky that he is one of my friends. He also has very dynamic compositions in his illustration work and I thought he might be able to help me out of this particular rut. I sent him the sketches I had so far and he gave me two excellent pieces of advice:
1) Stop doing your sketches in color! Color makes the ideas seem too finished and when editors/publishers are looking at them, it's easier for them to dismiss the idea altogether instead of seeing it as a group of components which can be edited, moved around or combined with other ideas.
2) Only design the front cover! The front cover is what will be seen online, or on a book shelf (if you are lucky!), so it should be designed as an independent unit. I was letting the back cover designs influence my front cover decisions, which were leading things astray.
This advice seems so obvious! In fact, I have even given this same advice to others before! Oh well, I couldn't see it until Aaron pointed it out to me, and I was glad that he did! We also talked a lot about Basewood and he encouraged me to somehow get the dragon on the cover, because "dragons are cool." Truer words have never been spoken!
So! I took all the sketches I had made so far and 1) eliminated the color and 2) cropped out the back covers. I then created four new dragon-themed sketches and made a handout with all of the sketches (click to view bigger):
I showed this group of sketches to my design students at CCS as well as the seniors and had them vote on their favorites. The final cover design has already been selected, but if you would like, dear reader, you may also vote for your top three favorite designs in the comment section below. Next week we'll see which were the most popular designs!