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The Evolution of Lord John

JUNE 25, 2007
I recently was asked to illustrate three book covers for the Lord John series by Diane Gabaldon. The stories are 18th century mysteries set in London. I was asked to depict the protagonist, Lord John Grey, in portraits that would convey three distinct moods. Art director Yook Louie explained that the challenge would be to convey the mood and period of the stories by depicting Lord John while only showing his eyes.
My first sketch, made without reference
My first idea was to create Lord John out of my head, without reference. Although I liked this direction, the client felt the covers needed to seem more classical, and so I changed direction for the next sketches
second sketch, pretty much just for myself to work out technique
The four mood studies of Lord John. I was not sure at this point if only the eyes or the whole portrait might be used. Either way, it helps to see Lord John in costume...
The next sketch was to do sketches to show the client for approval. I am finding more and more that it makes sense to paint my sketches rather than to draw them in pencil, as it is harder for clients these days to make the bridge between a pencil sketch and a final. And more and more often, I work out all the technical painting problems in the sketch, and the finish art takes very little time. And sometimes the sketch winds up being the finished art...
the final paintings
In the end, the decision was to only focus on the eyes, which would be in a panel across the cover. Although it was a little disapointing to not be able to show the entire portrait, it is probably more powerful psychologically this way...