Early in my career, I alloted myself far too little time to do concept sketches, thinking that because they are so loose I can do them quickly. When in fact, they are the most important phase of an assignment, and often times demand more time than the final rendering. If I rush a concept, I frequently find myself rendering a piece for days on end, all the while knowing that it will never be successful because my plan was flawed from the start. Over the years, I have learned that lesson the hard way... repeatedly. Now, I try to spend a minimum of 2 full days sketching concepts. If it takes me 4 days before I come up with something good, so be it.
When I sketch, I am not only looking for an interesting image, but for something that really captures the flavor of the story. Of course, everyone's tastes are different, so what I find appropriate does not always work for someone else... most importantly, the Art Director.
Over the course of my career, a lot of sketches that I really loved have fallen by the wayside.
Either the AD felt they did not make as strong of a cover, or would not have been as good for sales, or maybe they just didn't leave enough space for type. Whatever the reason, they get rejected, pushed aside for an alternate concept that simply out-shined them on that particular day.
I always tell myself that I will revisit these ideas, but it is very rare that a new assignment comes along where a pre-existing sketch would actually be appropriate for it. So, instead, the sketches sit, as clumps of kilobytes, digital dust-bunnies hiding in some remote corner of my hard drive. For this post, I'd like to dig up some of those sketches, and share with you what some past covers might have been had the AD simply decided to go this way instead of that.
This is the final art and a companion sketch for a novel called 'Doppelgangster'. Both are rather campy and sexy, buy ultimately, I think it was the visual integration of the title that really sold the AD on the chosen concept.
Here is an alternate sketch for 'Implied Spaces'. Since the novel deals a great deal with time travel, I feel the chosen concept definitely captures the story best. Though the mood in the unused concept is a lot more appealing to me and I still regret not getting a chance to paint it.
Lastly, here is a brand new piece for an upcoming Urban Fantasy anthology called 'Naked City'. Fans of Jim Butcher may recognize the guy on the back cover as Harry Dresden, a character which I've had the pleasure of painting 4 or 5 times now for various omnibuses. Below is an alternate concept for the wraparound which wasn't chosen.