With this particular commission from Tor books for the cover of L.E. Modesitt's novel Scholar, I not only tapped into the manuscript for inspiration, but found another source to push me beyond the commercial work and into a theme I have been exploring for my gallery presentations - that of the sea.
Many times in my career I have found it exciting to pull ideas and concepts from outside the literature I am to create and illustration for and dive into themes which may be more universally appealing. While Robinson Crusoe was not on my mind when creating sketches for this work, it slowly emerged from the depths of my subconscious as I began to generate the full sized cartoon and play with destruction of the ship after a storm - illuminating the frailty of humanity's struggles against nature. Once the work began to speak to me, I was no longer executing a commercial cover commission nor attempting to create a painting solely for gallery exhibition, but rather I was engrossed in the process of creating a beautiful and compelling work of art for its own integrity.
When this state hits me, I am in artistic heaven! I will do what ever needed to complete the work to my satisfaction, regardless of deadlines, fees or commercial constraints. For when a work speaks to me in such a way I know it will likely speak to others and justify the additional labor needed to pursue its perfection. I look forward to these works, and have been lucky to have this feeling strike more and more often in these past years.
I wish you the same pleasurable mining!
I now began to consider that I might yet get a great many things out of the ship which would be useful to me, and particularly some of the rigging and sails, and such other things as might come to land; and I resolved to make another voyage on board the vessel, if possible. And as I knew that the first storm that blew must necessarily break her all in pieces, I resolved to set all other things apart till I had got everything out of the ship that I could get.
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
And here is the real artist at work! One of my daughters, Cecilia, putting in time during the night shift at 3 am :) And yes she was working on the painting for real!