December 6, 2012

Art Directing 2065

A tale of an Art Director, a roving Illustrator and Vampire Aliens

I recently produced a book jacket for a Science Fiction series set in 2065: E.E. Knight’s Vampire Earth series. I was given a list of expected and required elements for the cover: A road warrior type figure placed in a post-apocalyptic mid-American setting with remnants of our civilization present but showing our demise. Perhaps a landmark or something commonplace like a service station or strip mall. Symbols of mass consumption without being too specific. Oh yeah, vampire aliens off in the distance chasing him would be cool too! What?! I know.

Because this would be the first in a series, I didn’t want to focus in on all of the details at once. I needed to pace the storytelling that would unfold on several covers. Besides, composing all of those elements in a single cover would be tricky considering there would also be type as well. It seemed to me that I needed to find an illustrator that could depict the tension of this future scenario through lighting and atmosphere and not necessarily in the details and rendering of objects since we needed to remain somewhat vague. My choice? Gregory Manchess.

Greg Manchess caught my attention while I was at Music & Art High School, although I didn’t know it at the time. As an Art Major student, I was provided with a very affordable and attractive subscription rate to Communication Arts magazine. After collecting a few years of issues, I resorted to tossing old issues but tearing out the things which inspired me. I didn’t realize at the time, but quite a few were paintings that Greg had done.

The first set of thumbnails

About 5 years ago, Vincent Di Fate (a giant in Science Fiction illustration, himself) offered me the opportunity to audit a class in the Illustration Masters Degree program at FIT. I would be sitting in on a class taught by a working illustrator to provide the students with the perspective of how an illustrator works with an Art Director. A fitting place for me as I seemed to bridge both areas and an interesting spin for the class to have an Art Director present to also provide that perspective. The instructor happened to be Greg Manchess!

Since then, Greg and I have tried to work together but our timing never synched up. Until now, that is. Greg was available and was up to the challenge. There was quite a bit of back and forth to fine tune what we were looking for. We reviewed his sketches at various stages getting it closer and closer to the finish. Mind you, all of this was taking place while Greg was criss-crossing the country. Each time we spoke, he was either on the West Coast or in Chicago or New York, Canada or Atlanta and either catching a plane or a train or searching for an internet connection in Starbucks. Despite all of this, there was never a lapse of his professionalism. Each date was met and met with exhibited results.

Read Greg’s version of the project over at the Muddy Colors blog.

Revised thumbnails

Refined pencil drawing dropped into a layout. I shared this with Greg prior to the
painting stage as it provided him with type placement.