Guest Blogger - Jason Chan

Hi, everyone!  It's a real honor to be here!

A little about myself:  My name is Jason Chan and I'm a freelance illustrator dealing mostly in fantasy and young adult book covers and trading card games.  I am also a full time video game/ movie concept artist working with Massive Black in San Francisco.

I've always been a huge fan of movies, comics, video games, fantasy novels and card games ever since I was a kid and I would spend hours drawing my own "contributions" to my favorites.  Little did I know that I would grow up to do it for a living!

So today I thought I'd share with you what a typical illustration job is like for me.


Among Ghosts, ©2010 Jason Chan

This image is for the book Among Ghosts, by Amber Benson.  I was asked to do an image of the main character, Noh, standing in front of her new school, which is scary and haunted.  She is to be holding an Evil Eye, from which a magical fog is escaping and ghosts can be seen.  It's a wrap around cover and they specifically asked for a burnt dormitory to be on the back cover with ants crawling into it.


So, the first thing I do when starting off a new job and reading all of the provided information is gather inspiration and references.  I spend an hour or so just on google saving images that might be helpful for everything - in this case gothic buildings, burnt structures, gargoyles, and teen girls in hoodies.

Next I prepare some sketches to show the client.  I normally do my sketches in grayscale, but if something relies heavily on color, I will do color sketches.  This is not one of those times.  Since this brief was pretty specific, I only do 3 sketches, but make sure that each one is unique and has it's own special "something" that makes it an interesting
cover.  A lot of times it's easy to have an idea for a cover you really like and then be lazy and do some throw away compositions just to fill space.  I don't recommend this, because more often than not, they WON'T pick your favorite!  It's best to make sure there is something in each sketch that you like so that you don't end up working tens of hours on something you don't like.


The client picked sketch C with minor adjustments.  If there were no adjustments requested or if they are very minor, usually I will just continue to final and that will be the next thing the client sees. However, in this case the client requested another pass for them to see and approve.  This image gives them a pretty good idea of how the image will end up.  This is not an in progress image, but rather just another colored sketch.  I will start over when doing the final image because I have specific steps that I skipped to make this rough image in the interest of time that I will need to go back and do in order to have a better looking final image.


Finally I put the rough draft in the oven and cook on high for 20 - 60 hours depending on the complexity of the image.  And we have a final image!  I made a few adjustments here and there (made the foreground shape on the left more interesting and adjusted the hoodie on the girl), but the client liked them so I was safe.

That's the basic way most of my illustrations go when things go smoothly. When things are not so smooth, there are a lot more revisions.  In concept art, it seems like all you do are revisions!

So if you are still reading, thank you!  I hope that this was informative (probably not) or at least entertaining.  Thank you so much for your attention and thanks to Dan and the crew for having me!

-Jason Chan

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