The reaction to the final cover of The Enceladus Crisis has been really positive; I’m psyched folks seem to like it as much as I do. That image of HMS Fortitude, guns blazing as she sails through the Rocky Main, was brought to us by artist Lauren Saint Onge, who was kind enough to answer a few questions about her work.
In addition, she agreed to let me post some of her initial sketches and drafts for the cover below so that you can see how it evolved into the final, awesome image.
MJM: My nine-year-old is a budding artist, already taking classes and learning Flash animation (and taking my author photos). Did you start early as well? How did you come to know that art was your calling?
LSO: I’ve been fond of drawing since I was a little kid. It was the thing I always found myself doing after school, but it wasn’t until high school that I discovered that people actually create careers around this thing that I just enjoyed every day. So I made the leap to go to art school for college, keeping my fingers crossed.
MJM: One of the things that drew us to your work was the combination of historical and fantasy subjects you did previously. There are literally dragons and British redcoats in your portfolio! What drew you to those subjects?
LSO: That does sound weird, now that you mention it! I really love narrative, no matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction. The historical work is challenging, which I like, because you have to work within very specific restrictions, while maintaining as much truth and interest as possible. These were real people, places, and events that had a dramatic impact on so many people’s lives and where we are today. It’s incredible to gather the details and reconstruct an era that has long since passed.
In fantasy, you have almost the opposite situation. There are very few limits, and that’s where you can get really creative. It’s where artists get to invent a reality, and if that’s not enticing, I don’t know what is.
MJM: Night Shade editor Cory Allyn calls you up and says, “We want to have an image of an 18th century naval battle in an asteroid field.” First reaction?
It was a combination of my two favorite things. I paint a lot of historical work in my free time, and there are so many rules and restrictions to what you’re painting. This was a really nice opportunity to fuse that discipline with a world that is rule-breaking, liberating, and fresh. It was pure fun.
MJM: The cover looks like it’s been hand-painted, and yet I understand that you work digitally. Can you describe how you work for those of us less computer literate?
LSO: I think half the fun of making an image is actually the process. It’s easy to keep your work tight and flawless when working digitally, but part of the charm in traditional painting is seeing the layered brush strokes and direct, physical energy that went into a painting. Keeping that visual build-up, to me, makes an image more charming and alive.
MJM: What other projects do you have lined up?
LSO: Right now, most of my time goes into being a full-time concept artist at the video game developer Harmonix, working on a project called Chroma, which was recently announced publicly. The downtime I do have, I try to put into my freelance work. I have also been working on a pet project that has me making a collection of illustrations revolving around the lesser known events of the American Revolution.
As for the sketches, I think it’s pretty cool to see how it all evolved. Cory and Lauren did the bulk of the back-and-forth on color and lighting and such, while I chimed in on things like the sails and rigging, the guns and the asteroids. After the final image was in, the Night Shade graphics folks did their magic.
To see more of Lauren’s excellent work, check out her website and her blog. Thank you, Lauren, for the interview and, far more importantly, the great cover art! You can own this fine cover, and the story inside (bonus!), when The Enceladus Crisis is released May 6!