Thursday, December 15, 2016

Assassin's Price - Concept vs. Composition

Assassin's Price    18" x 27"  Oil on Board    Donato Giancola
by Donato

A peek at the preliminary rough sketches for this cover illustration for another novel in L.E. Modesitt, Jr.'s continuing series for Tor Books, Assassin's Price.  In talking to one of my classes this past week, the discussion delved into what art directors like to see in cover sketches.

One of the main points I called out in this exchange was the difference between providing varying concepts as a solution in contrast to varying compositions.  A concept, in this context, is the narrative and symbolic elements and the inferred meaning between them all.  A Composition is the two dimensional graphic layout and solution in arranging the various elements together.

 Concept is not composition and vise versa.

These sketches build upon a concept tying them all together, that of spilled coins, yet each drawing displays varying degrees of change within that concept as well as modifications to the overall compositional delivery of the message.

There is no right nor wrong way to provide options to the art directors and editors, either through a singular concept revised with varying compositions, or unique concepts and compositions engaged for each sketch.  Regardless, I attempt to provide at least three sketches as potential solutions to each commission.

Below is another set  of sketches for a just released novel, Firebrand, from author Kristen Britain with DAW books.  Here we have three varying concepts, with two of the lower compositions using similar design solutions. Each offers choice for the art director with a varied interpretation of the narratives from the novel.

Lastly, the final cover art and type treatment to Assassin's Price and Firebrand.


  1. Sad to see the other two comments on here are spam :/ Really enjoyed reading this post ^^ always nice to see the process and thoughts behind how the final image comes out. Especially as specific as this. Quite interesting. :)

  2. As 3spice I really enjoy the thoughts behind a project.
    Also... Those hands. I would stare at them the whole day

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Do you read the novel or scene to be depicted yourself or do you get a spec from the art director and create to that spec? I've always wondered as to what the process was - I'll confess I've seen a few covers in the past where I doubted that anyone read the story :)

    1. It depends on the publisher as to how much of the manuscript the illustrator may received to work on the commission. I have created covers for novels with as little as two paragraphs of content! Thus, yes, the artist may not have had access to the novel. In particular, I had the whole novel to work on here, but both of these covers do not depict actual narratives from the books, but rather capture the essence of the stories. Varied approaches are sometimes desired by art directors and editors (as well as artists!)


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