This is the first draft of a cover for a book called Cornix Sinistra by Steven Davis. The book is a science fiction/fantasy novel about parallel worlds, alternate dimensions, etc. all centered around a very unusual book shop. The final cover will have a crow in the centre of the lotus, but I wanted to display the lotus sans crow, as some of the nebulae at the centre will inevitably be obscured by an omen bird of great portent.
This image is both digital and traditional. It is primarily traditional, but has been assembled on the computer. Process wise, I think how I made it could be of interest to other artists, as it was certainly an educational experience for me, so I hope you forgive me for going on at length about how exactly I made this.
The first step was, of course, coming up with the concept. This was the product of a long discussion with the author and a tiddly little doodle! The intersecting circles idea came up qutie quickly, but it wasn't until I actually started doing a quick sketch that we both realised the similarity to a lotus. The crow came from the title of the book which means "Omen Crow".
The next stage was to paint the space-scapes. As there are many worlds, I wanted to fill the spaces between the intersecting curves with different space-scapes. I decided that as the lotus had 12 petals, I needed 6 space-scapes. I will not detail the process for each individual painting, as each one was done via the same method, except for the nebula on the far left.
The space-paintings each start out as an A4 sheet of water-colour paper. This I cover with a very thin, but very wet, wash. Into this base colour wash, I added areas of broad, bright colour. I then let the whole thing dry out completely, which always looked interesting because as the paper was very wet, the bright colours bled into each other and produced interesting effects.
The next step in painting the space-scapes was apply the first set of stars. This I did with very thin slithers of wood, pins and latex masking fluid. I tried a brush at first, but the masking fluid ruined it, and it didn't make small enough dots. The best thing I found was to remove a very thin slither of wood from a dead match, about the size and diameter of a sewing needle, and use that. The dots of masking fluid were done in varying sizes, the smaller ones most frequent, in clusters as seen in astronomical photos.
Once the latex had dried, which was relatively quick, I applied the next layer of paint. This was a much darker layer, and was based on either blue or purple depending on the underlying colour and what looked most realistic. This layer was very thick, and covered the entire page, but was made up of lots and lots of splodges of deep blues, purples, greens, etc. all mixing into each other on the page. I used the colours as they came from the bars, and mixed them on the page for greater intensity of colour.
Once the whole page was covered, while it was still rather wet indeed, I sprinkled it thickly with rock salt (it is best as the grains are of quite varied size). When the page was still wet and salted, I splattered it with black paint, and more of the second layer colour, as necessary, and lots of water. Splattering was done by flicking the brush. The salted page takes a rather long time to dry. Looks can be decieving with it, as page can look dry when it in fact isn't, and as the speckling doesn't work at its best unless the page is allowed to dry fully, one has to be careful.
Once the page was dry, I brushed of the majority of the salt, but left traces. I was cery careful NOT to brush off the latex at this point. I then, on the lightest areas, and the areas with the best colours, applied more latex dots in the same way as the first layer. Once the second layer of latex was dry I either applied another layer of colour, or the final layer of black, depending on how the second layer of colour looked once it was dry. More salt was added to the layer of black, but not as much as with the layer of intense colour.
Many of the nebulae, and halos around stars, were painted in. This was done with a wet brush and no colour, and by lifting away layers to reveal pastel shades beneath, and done in several goes, to get a layered, cloudy effect. In some areas paint was lifted by dampening it and then dabbing at it with toilet tissue. The red nebula to the left was painted differently, using both the paint-lifting technique, and actually painting on colour.
The final step was to rub off all the latex dots to reveal the stars, and brush off any clinging salt remains. I found that some of the smallest grains of salt simply would not budge, and left them on to add to the patina.
Once I had done five space-scapes, each done more as a page of textures and colours and areas of space to use as a resource for the final image than as an image in their own right, I realised I had all the colours and textures I needed for the final image, and did not need to paint a sixth, for any new colour would upset the balance and pallet of colours already used. Once they were all throughly ready and dry, I scanned them into the computer.
At this point the process turns digital. In photoshop I created a new file to the correct dimensions (the image here has been shrunk and the resolution brought down to 72dpi for web use) and set about creating the geometric design. The file was in CMYK for printing, and the layers set to being transparent until something's drawn in them. This was done initially using the shape tool to make a large circle, and then creating new layers, pasting that circle into the new layer, and then rotating the each layer 30 degrees, each layer successively rotated a further 30 degrees so that the circles intersected, and then the rest of the image is simply more circles. I collapsed the geometric layers into one layer with the design on it.
Once the geometric design was on one layer, I used the magic wand tool to select the spaces between the lines, and then the clone tool to fill in the selected space with part of one of the water-colour scans. Some of the sections had minor adjustments made to the brightness and contrast, and I made adjustments to the colour balances of some and the hue and saturation for the lotus flower itself. I also tweaked away a few imperfections (trails or knicks on the edges of stars, extraneous stars, etc.).
The final thing was using the dodge tool to soften the edges of the stars and make them look more realistic. The dots left from the painting process have rather hard, crisp edges, and this does not realistically look like a star, so I faded away those edges to give a glowing halo where I had not done so by painting (some of them had halos I'd painted in using the lift technique). Some of the 'extraneous' stars found themselves moved from cluttered sections to more empty ones for the sake of balance. I also dodged out the centre of the lotus.
The crow is a standard water-colour, it will, on the final image, be added in on a new layer over the centre lotus on the right.