Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Artwork for Incarnation: Wandering Stars Volume One

Back in February, I mentioned that I had to change directions on the artwork for Incarnation and that I would post some details about it.  So, here’s the long—but hopefully interesting—story.

When I began working on Incarnation, the first novel in the Wandering Stars series, I knew I wanted to have artwork that was as compelling as the story I hoped to write.  And while I had created the artwork for the first three Awakened books myself, I slowly came to realize that my artistic abilities weren't up to the task.  Meanwhile, I was struggling to balance all the various aspects of my fledgling career as an author. Time was quickly becoming a precious resource.  So, I decided to look for an artist.

A web search turned up an interesting online community called deviantART, where artists of every discipline, from photography to sculpture, post their work and the work of others who inspire them.  Being an international community, the breadth of styles and vast number of artists were staggering.  But I was confident that somewhere out there was an artist who was capable of capturing my vision.  And after viewing—literally—thousands of pieces of art, I came across the gallery of albino-Z.

His style of gritty realism, mixed with ethereal fantasy was perfect for what I wanted to convey.  I contacted him for a quote and quickly hired him to do the artwork.  For the next several weeks we traded numerous emails, working out the visual details of the world I was creating for this new series, and how to capture that on a book cover.  At the time, I was inspired by some of the artwork that can be found on video games in the military genre.  Naturally, I steered the project in the direction of portraying my main character—Sariel.  Somewhere along the line, I received some brilliant objective input about the cover concept, which led me to think very carefully about the scope of what I was trying to capture with the cover artwork.

One of the most surprising things to me about the success of the Awakened novels has been their acceptance among a wide demographic.  Despite the fact that I intended to write something for males, age 20 to 40, I’ve received many encouraging notes from readers ranging from middle-schoolers to retirees…of both genders.  With this in mind, I took another look at the artwork for the Awakened and I realized that its symbolic approach is probably more appealing to a wider audience than a literal perspective.

…which brought me back to Incarnation.

Although the quality of artwork was incredible, and the piece was turning out just as I wanted—visually stunning—I realized my overall concept would only capture a narrow snapshot of the story.  I had some decisions to make…and fast!  I notified albino-Z that I might need to go another direction.  Then, my amazing wife coordinated a brainstorming session with a group of friends who are artists, photographers, and creative thinkers for the purpose of developing a higher-level art concept that would apply to the entire Wandering Stars series.  It was awesome and turned out to be really successful.  In the end, what we came up with was a rough, symbolic concept that would capture the look-and-feel of the whole series as I saw it in my mind.  At the same time, each book cover would be a unique piece of art that had a place among the overall collection.

With this new direction identified, I asked albino-Z to finish the original piece so that I could perhaps use it in another way (as concept art, or for a graphic novel?).  At the very least, I wanted to frame it and hang it in my office.

Before I move on with the rest of the story, here’s the amazing completed piece from an artist with talent way beyond my own!

I would encourage anyone looking for an artist to provide cover artwork, either character or landscape-based, to visit albino-Z’s gallery on deviantART and visit his page on Facebook.  It was truly a pleasure working with him and I hope that I have the opportunity to do so again!

On with the story…

After identifying a new concept for Incarnation, I started working with one of the artists from the group brain-storming session who specializes in photo-illustration and motion graphics.  Mike Heath, owner of Magnus Creative, walked me through a few iterations of sketches to arrive at just the right symbolic imagery that would capture the human and angelic cultures involved in Incarnation.  After creating something we were both happy with, Mike proceeded with modeling the artwork using a 3D rendering process.

The results were breathtaking and I instantly knew that I’d made the right choice for this novel, as well as the series.

While there still may be some adjustments on the text elements (title, series name, and author’s name), I’m pleased to present the cover artwork for Incarnation: Wandering Stars Volume One.

I’m so pleased with the artwork that I now hope to achieve the same level of quality with my writing that Mike was able to achieve with the art.  My experience with Magnus Creative was awesome and I’m looking forward to the projects that we will be able to collaborate on in the future.  Please visit Magnus Creative online and contact Mike if you, or anyone you know, has needs in the areas of photo-illustration, motion-graphics, or 3D rendering.


laura m said...

Salivating........ :) Waiting , waiting, waiting! :)

Alicia Landosca said...

It really is a pleasure to see how the whole creative process comes together in this tech age. When you come from the age group of getting a book from a library and dreaming of talking to the author about the storyline, here we are watching it unfold step by step. As for the demographic, I as a 40 year old female agree that you underestimated your talent at drawing in people from all demographics. The common thread for most humans (and I assume angelics as well) is ....Validation. To have purpose. That's what I get from your series and I am estatic on the future of your series. Can't wait

Jason Tesar said...

Hi Alicia,

Thanks for coming along with me on this journey!


Jo Edwards said...

Firstly to agree with your previous commentees, I can't wait for the next book to become available.

I am also a 38 year old woman and have really enjoyed the Awakened Series. My 40 year old husband originally downloaded it and he seems to have taken longer to get into the story than I who devoured all 3 books in under 3 weeks reading just at bedtime.

I think bot artworks are awesome but the second version is defintely the best to go with to be open to a wider audience. Living near Hadrian's wall in the UK, I really felt the Roman-esque setting come to life as could imagine some of the towns based on the fort ruins we have near home. This has never happened to me before until your book

I really enjoyed the blog post as it's so interesting to learn what it takes to put a book on the shelf. Even though the kindle takes me automatically to the first page of story text, I always start a book at the cover as I know a lot of hard work went into it.

So all there is left for me to say (witha smile on my face) is HURRY UP AND PUBLISH PLEASE :-)

Jason Tesar said...

Hi Jo,

Hadrian's wall was actually the inspiration for the wall in my story that separated the Orudan Empire from the Korgan territory, so I'm pleased that it came to life for you. So far, I've only seen pictures and illustrations of Hadrian's wall, but I'd love to see it in person someday.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I've just started on the first wandering stars book, after finished the three awakened in under two weeks. And it's great, i like the image of sariel that was done, (I was interested to see what he would look like) and would love to see more stuff like it.
So, thanks for writing the great books :) and i look forward to more!
Oh, and you was talking about your target audience origianally being 20-eerm 40? i cant remember, well im a fair bit younger than 20 haha:D

Jason Tesar said...

The artwork of Sariel was done by a very talented artist who goes by the name Albino-Z. You should check out his gallery on

It's always interesting and exciting to hear that my stories are being read by people outside of my target audience.

Thanks so much for supporting my work!