Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day 186 - The Spaceship Has Arrived, But... Lights ON or Lights OFF?

Well, the cover is really close to done (maybe even today!). I have spaceships now, and they are so flippin’ cool. It took a while to hammer out the right look, but Cris Ortega is a master and a professional, and she put up with my picky B.S. and kept at it till she captured just the right look to match my descriptions.  Talk about having to create images from nothing. Cris Ortega has such skill when it comes to bringing out totally original imagery, making real, with little or nothing to refer to or serve as guide, amazingly detailed images that become tangible objects at the tip of her pen. It’s like magic.

You have to think about that for a minute… she has to take my words, which I write down trying to describe what I see in MY head and turn them into images of actual things. Then, she has to send those images back to me and hope that what she created looks like what I saw in MY head. She’s never seen the images or the things they depict. She has to hope I describe them well enough, and that she, who is not a native English speaker, mind you, has interpreted them in the way I hope she interprets them, and then, with all those complications in play, she has to put in  her time to create the image, then send it to me, knowing full well that I might go, “WTF? This isn’t want I wanted at all.”

So, all that said, with incomparable skill, she crafted from thin air, exactly what I wanted. Here’s my (well, Orli’s) ship (light issue aside; I’ll get to that shortly):

The Aspect - From The Galactic Mage

Freaking amazing, yes? I think so. I’m totally stoked.  And here’s the kicker. Check out how this started. This is the first sketch she sent, way back in the beginning of this project when she only had my first crude attempt at trying to describe the ships to guide her.

It’s actually pretty cool, but it doesn’t have the length or feel of the ships in the book.  At that time, we didn’t need to worry too much about it, because that was an initial layout for the whole deal. So, after that initial sketch, we were working on the characters (Orli, Altin and Taot), and then dealing with the sky and castle walls. When we got back to the ship, this next one was the first sketch Cris sent back, after my explaining the ship was sort of pointed at the characters, and hovering relatively close.

This one, while also a nice design, looks more like a shuttle or something. Much too small of a ship type. This would carry five or ten people, not a few hundred. So we had to go back to the drawing board (literally).  I knew I wasn’t explaining my ship very well, so I went through my book and copied out the scene where the ships first appear and sent that to her. I also, very quickly, using the mouse to draw, made a really gross picture for her to use to get a sense of shape and perspective.  This is what I sent:

Pretty terrible, eh?  Hah. But, look what she came back with:

As you can see, that’s essentially the ship we have now, with a few minor changes (I didn’t like the jet engine looking thing as an example).  And this is where the lights conversations began.  From that original, we’ve played with lots of color schemes and lighting. In the version at the top of the stack below, you see where we started. Below it are the iterations of thruster colors and external lighting variations that we went through as we tried to capture the right look. In the first, you’ll see the bright yellow lighting at the thruster end. I felt it was too bright and made it look like the ship was moving (which it’s not in the way the cover is intended). Plus, frankly—and I even told Cris this—it made the thrusters look like flashlights. So, the colors that follow, well, followed, with the last one being the one I chose (front window lighting still in question, and sort of the long-winded point of this whole blog post). Here they are; some you might have to look at to figure out what changed (which is fun):

In the end, we both agreed that the blue thruster color was the best. It’s subtle. It shows there’s some sort of energy going on back there, but it doesn’t overwhelm the image. It helps establish perspective and orientation of the ship, and, well, it’s just freaking sweet looking.

The only thing remaining is to decide: lights on or lights off.  I've put in a short video below that shows the two flipping on and off, which makes a cool comparison, and I tossed in a static side-by-side for those who don't want to watch the cool light-switch effect.

I keep going back and forth between the ominous look of the lights off. It’s dark, imposing and intimidating with those black windows. They strike me as being that way to repel radiation and intense light from stars and stuff. But then, with the lights on, it looks like someone is in there, looking out. It’s seems more alive.  I kind of have a preference after staring at this for two days, but I’m curious what other people think. Alive or ominous… on or off?

Tell me in a comment, or go to my Facebook page and vote in the poll. Or both.  (Here's a link to my Facebook Page for the poll).


  1. It looks awesome. Excellent detail and really cool looking. Congrats on a job well done, to both of you. :)

  2. Thanks, Ray. It's really fun going through this process. She's such a pro to work with too.

  3. Okay, I voted in the poll. Lights OFF. Better representation of the void of space that Orli hates so very much. In my opinion, of course. :D

  4. Now you pipe in, lol. You and Candace were the only voices of darkness! lol.

    I liked dark too, but in the end, it came down to the fact that the Earth people aren't the "bad guys" in this. Well, not yet anyway. lol. So dark was too sinister.

  5. Sorry for the It's certainly amazing either way - and I can get behind your reasoning for leaving the lights on. :D I'll pipe in a little earlier next time.

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