This fall, I had the chance to work with Othy Morris from TNM Publishing, LLC on the cover art for The New Ezra Files written by Lee Wayne. The story begins in a peaceful and nearly perfect society but that’s about to change when a gruesome crime is discovered. The premise of the book caught my attention with it’s underlying dystopian theme, which if you’ve been following my recent works, it’s the kind of thing I’m into.
Today is the official release date for The New Ezra Files and you can visit the publisher’s Facebook page for more information.
Now if you’re curious to see the creative decisions that lead to the final cover art, read on 🙂
1. The Concept
When Othy approached me for the project, the author already had a clear concept in mind: to create a city skyline that looked refined and dignified but the reflection of the city in a lake beneath is a dystopia. The setting for the story has a futuristic, sci-fi noir vibe with a hint of art deco. However, t’s not a future where flying cars exist. Instead, we have a modern style city with familiar objects, such as mirror-like barriers, that are used to hide dark truths.
2. Research & Thumbnails
For reference, I looked at movie posters for Metropolis as well as art deco architecture. I then developed four interpretations of the city with its inverse reflection. How abstract should the reflection be? Is the viewer arriving to the city during the day or at night? And how do these design choices affect the reader’s first impression of New Ezra?
At this stage I’m quickly jotting down my ideas and eyeballing the perspective. I’m not too concerned about details or accuracy but focusing on the overall composition to see which one is most striking at first glance.
Both Othy and Lee gravitated towards the perfect symmetry of No. 3. The building designs are based on modern aesthetics (ie. art deco buildings, Boardwalk Empire-esque sign) and the odd composition of the buildings suggests the story is set in another time and place.
3. Line Art
After I received everyone’s feedback, I cropped the thumbnail and worked directly over it to refine the concept, perspective and line weight. At this point, it’s about focusing on all the little things, even referring back to the novel to gather more details (ie. the trees, adding dimension, the cracks in the buildings below etc.).
After the line art was approved, I proceeded with the colour mockups. The first version uses a dark, cyan palette, typically seen in depictions of sci-fi/dystopian worlds. In the second version, I experimented with a neon red to suggest there’s a sunset as well as create an otherworldly atmosphere.
The other unique feature of the cover is that there’s no title text. Instead, the ‘Welcome to the New Ezra’ sign is apart of the artwork. This was specified to me by Othy in the initial concept and I really like this approach as it adds a layer of immersion for the viewer. The tagline was added later to give new readers a little more context to the cover and novel. From a composition standpoint there was only one place for that tagline.
I was really glad that there was a unanimous decision to go with the red version. Not only does it stand out as the more unconventional choice, the colours make the top city more inviting and better portrays the utopian image of New Ezra in the beginning.
The last stage involves fine tuning the lighting, colours and texture details. I knew the image will also be printed on posters so I ensured the illustration had a consistent level of polish throughout.
Based on the feedback from the earlier pages, it was important to differentiate the city from its reflection. The final touch was finding the right balance between adding water effects and making the inverse city visible enough. Towards the end, I felt the details became overwhelming, so the clouds were blurred subtly to bring out the skyline.
In my view, the final image captures the excitement of arriving in a new city with hopes of a better life. However, as you gaze beyond the electric lights illuminating the buildings below, you’ll discover a very different picture.
I hope you enjoyed this peak behind the cover art as much as I enjoyed creating it. If The New Ezra Files is a novel that would appeal to you or someone you know, a soft and hard copy of the book can be purchased at TNM Publishing’s online store. (Psst, they’re having a sale at the time of publishing this blog).
Thanks for reading! 🙂
Until next time,