The Art of A Changed World – revised edition

My free digital publication chronicling the creation of Alice Sabo’s cover art has been updated.

The newly revised edition of The Art of A Changed World, and now includes the artwork for Alice’s recent books, Shattered Landing, Willow’s Run and Entangled, alongside the creative process behind each cover.

Click the cover image below to download The Art of A Changed World (revised edition) in PDF format.

Cover art: Gardens of Earth

Gardens of Earth by Mark Iles is the first book of The Sundering Chronicles, coming soon from Elsewhen Press. 

Elsewhen contacted me to illustrate the cover, as they knew it would be a good match for my style, having worked together on several previous occasions. Gardens of Earth literally spans several genres – the story tackles alien war, a future that may be considered either dystopian or utopian, a protagonist dealing with personal demons, the remnants of Earth’s inhabitants now living in a sparse society under the watchful eye of the strange plant-like Spooks, and returning human colonists intent on reclaiming the Earth.

While you might primarily consider Gardens of Earth to be a science fiction novel, elements of myth and magic fantasy are also present. So how do you represent all this in a single cover image?

You don’t even try! A cluttered book cover with too many elements fighting for attention never looks good. We knew this of course, so the challenge for this cover was to come up with an image that would set an overall tone for the book and draw the reader in via a single snapshot.

An email conversation between myself, Mark and Elsewhen resulted in a couple of concepts being discussed. The first was the view of a greener Earth with some of the Spooks closing in. We also looked at the idea of our protagonist and female humanoid companion staring out over a vista of forestry and simple human settlements, again with the Spooks looming on the horizon.

Initial concept sketches for Gardens of Earth

I worked up rough sketches for both, and we agreed the version showing the two figures was the right approach – however Mark wanted to see a city backdrop rather than forestry. Cityscapes have long been a recurring theme in my artwork, so it was a concept I was immediately comfortable with. 

Mark had also gone over some specific, minor details – such as the insigia we see on the female’s left shoulder or the pilot’s commando knife at thigh level. Their coveralls were also to be dark green, which for me, set the colour palette for the overall scene. I wanted some atmospheric, hazy light that could be either sunset or sunrise, and chose a palette of turquoise through to yellow – the green tones in between also linked back to the greener world featured in parts of the story.

The team at Elsewhen had already chosen a typeface for the series, so we worked together to agree on the most effective layout. I suggested having the title in a dark blue to contrast the illustration but also match the darkest colours present – this little touch glued it all together. My original illustration extended beyond the cover format, so we were able to extend it around the spine and on to the back of the book.

Gardens of Earth is available to pre-order as an eBook on 6th August, and will be out in paperback in October. Keep an eye on the Elsewhen Press website or social media pages for further details!

Talking cover design

I’m pleased to have a guest blog interview over on the Just Write Right website, about cover art and design, my creative process and working with self-publishing authors.

https://justwriteright.co.uk/2021/07/26/talking-cover-design/

Chiaroscuro: track by track

It is now over a month since the release of Chiaroscuro, and in that time, Here and Now and Berlin Stratum have had radio airplay, and Comfort Zone is included on the recent free compilation album, A Journey to a Time or Place.

However back to the album itself, here is a brief insight into my thoughts and inspirations behind each track.

Berlin Stratum 
Everywhere you look in Berlin, there are layers of history, and you can feel that in the atmosphere of the city. But there’s also a modernism and sense of progression. I wanted to capture these contrasting moods in the music. There’s also the city’s musical heritage – my particular interest being Bowie’s time there in the late 70s. This all came together in a nostalgic and melancholic, yet dynamic track. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/berlin-stratum

Comfort Zone
After a reflective opening track, I wanted something more upbeat and optimistic. I entered a musical comfort zone… played my favourite chords, and fired up my favourite classic 80s/90s synth – the Korg M1. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/comfort-zone

Silver Screen
More nostalgia from a time gone by… inspired by images of 1940s and 50s cinemas and the golden age of the big screen – monochromatic romanticism. The saxophone really brings the track to life and was a big departure from my usual style. This development would shape the rest of the album.

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/silver-screen

Afterimage 
The first of three more abstract pieces. The title came first. I love the haunting description of “an image that continues to appear in the eyes after a period of exposure to the original image.”

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/afterimage

Aberration 
“A departure from what is normal, usual, or expected…” This track was originally a much longer piece, based on multiple layers of gradually building loops. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/aberration

There and Then
A more experimental piece; slow and evolving with more of a chill out feel, though reflective in mood. This track leads into the second part of the album. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/there-and-then

Neon Twilight 
A change in pace. Evening descents and the city comes alive; its streets illuminated in a frenzy of colour. An upbeat track drenched in cool 1980s vibes. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/neon-twilight

Evanescent
We move deeper into the night with a darker, heavier piece of electronica. Evanescent evolves mid-point, going from an atmospheric, pensive piece to a dynamic, driving conclusion. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/evanescent

Here and Now
The rockiest track on the album was partly inspired by one of my favourite albums, Bryan Ferry’s, Mamouna (1994). I really wanted to channel a similar mood and sound of the instrumentation as a kind of homage to Ferry’s masterwork. You’ll hear more Korg M1 and late night atmosphere. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/here-and-now

Nightowls
A track that transports you straight into one of Edward Hopper’s various night paintings, the album closes with a saxophone-led solitary piece. This was actually one of the first pieces I composed for the project, and I knew right away that it would be the final track. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/nightowls

Cover art: The Call of the Aïdin Planet

I’m delighted to reveal my cover art for The Call of the Aïdin Planet, by L.Z.Dàin – book one of The Legacy Saga from Seattle-based publisher, Tales of the Horizon.

The_Call_of_The_Aïdin_Planet_cover.png

“Nine-hundred thousand years ago, seven Galactic Humans discover a mysterious Time singularity on planet Earth. But, obscure powers beyond the many worlds of the Galactic Union will not stop until they control it. Thus, the seven must make a choice, a choice that will not only affect their evolutionary future but the destiny of Earth itself.”

As much as I love the opportunity to come up with initial ideas for a cover, I really like it when the author or publisher have a clear vision of what they’d like on the cover. It is their book after all! Sometimes this process can be flexible, depending on what ideas I may have or that I feel could add impact, and on other occasions, simply my own interpretation of the initial brief does the job. It is important to me that the finished work is typical of my style and approach to a distinctive cover but more importantly, what I come up with has to match their vision – and good collaboration and communication is key to that. The cover for this book is a fine example of a project perfectly coming together, despite us being on opposite sides of the globe!

Even when there’s a clear brief, I’ll always work up a quick black & white sketch, to make sure the composition and my interpretation are correct.

The Call of The Aïdin Planet cover sketch

Finally, I took the various elements of the illustration and created an animated reveal for the cover art:

The Call of the Aïdin Planet is available in paperback and ebook via Amazon. Further details about Tales of the Horizon can be found on their website.

Shoreline of Infinity’s Soundwave Podcast – Episode Two

Edinburgh-based science fiction magazine Shoreline of Infinity‘s recently launched podcast, Soundwave (to which I lent my music!).

Last summer I recorded an extensive interview with the Soundwave host RJ Bayley, discussing all aspects of my work and interest in science fiction and beyond. A genuinely great fun hour of conversation! We conducted the interview via Skype, which accounts for my echoey room… but echoes aside, we discussed so many things, including synaesthesia, artistic influences and creative processes.

But it’s not all about me – you’ll also hear narrative from other Shoreline contributors. Episode two is available to stream and download now.

https://shorelineofinfinity.podbean.com