My name is Heidi Bolton, but I use my initials for my writing name, H.B. Bolton. I’m the author of the middle-grade fantasy series, Relics of Mysticus. The Dragon’s Egg (Book Three) is in the final stages of development and is almost ready for its May release date. Today I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share my newest book cover with you.
Cover artist, Elisabeth Alba, offered an inside peek of her work’s progression through her photographs and commentary. I’m extremely fortunate to know this Scholastic Book illustrator and have had the privilege to benefit from her talents for all three of my covers. In fact, we’ve already started talking about The Mummy’s Amulet (Book Four).
I met Elisabeth about 14 years ago through one of my drawing classes. From her high school freshman year through senior year, she was one of my students (a favorite one, at that). I taught advanced-placement art, which was before having children of my own and creating worlds with unlikely heroes for my mythical stories.
Thank you, Elisabeth, for helping to bring my characters to life!
~H.B. Bolton (Author)
Progression of a Book Cover Illustrator by Elisabeth Alba
This is a progression of The Dragon’s Egg book cover from sketch to final drawing. Truth be told, I haven’t illustrated many multi-figure images before, and then add a ton of stuff happening around them, so I was in for a challenging composition — a fun challenge! You can see how I gradually worked out and tightened the image. In the beginning, I had planned to make the background darker but then realized if the glowing fog was everywhere, then it wouldn’t be so dark. It framed the floating castle better as well.
Once I figured out the drawing, which I did digitally, I worked on a color composition to figure out how I would paint it. This was an important step — especially since watercolor is really hard to fix if you make a mistake.
At this stage, I printed the line drawing onto watercolor paper and got to work. I painted with Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus fine-art liquid watercolors to start. I painted the base color first, which in this case was greenish.
After painting more of the base colors, I decided to do some line work with pen and ink to solidify the shapes.
Once the base colors were done, I sealed the image with matte medium. The Hydrus watercolors can be difficult because they are not like normal watercolor. Once they’re down on paper, you can’t wipe them away, but sealing with matte medium helps them not to smear — which is nice! You can also see how my desk lamp caused some glare over the castle when I took the photo.
On top of the matte medium, I painted with acryla gouache to darken and saturate the colors, and to do any highlights like the edge lighting around the figures. Finally, once the painting was done, I sealed the entire image with Kamar varnish. It brought out the colors even more, because once the acryla gouache dried, it became matte and the colors faded some.
Once I scanned the image, I worked on any digital touch-ups (some things are hard to do in watercolor, like getting colors really dark, and also the colors sometimes don’t scan well). This was how it looked once scanned, before any touch-ups. It was a more faded and less vibrant version of the original painting. I also lost the highlights.
Finally, after all of the digital work was complete, the cover was ready for text.
For the typography, I added a dark-blue gradient around the edges to frame the image and help the text stand out. I’ve used the same font for all three books, but in this one, I replaced the “O” in “Dragon’s” with the actual Dragon’s Egg relic.
The Dragon’s Egg (Book Three)
Sure, the glass castle floating over Evan’s head makes him uneasy, but that’s the least of his worries. With each step inside the Dungeon of Dreadful Dreams, he must battle against his worst nightmares. One after the other, wispy smoke-filled bull sharks come at him — he must remember they’re only illusions pulled from his imagination by those dreaded shadowlike hands. If only the vengeful dragon circling above was also an illusion and didn’t have his mind set on destroying the one person who can control him: Emrys.
Inside the castle’s glass tower, Emrys sleeps in an eternal slumber, and Evan’s uncertain whether he can save the great wizard. Especially now that Emrys’ former student, the Lady of the Lake, has joined forces with the cunning immortal Alamaz. Together they have already stolen the Dragon’s Egg, but their greed doesn’t end there. The Siren’s Pearl calls to them, and that means only one thing … Atlantis is in trouble.
Join Evan, Claire, and Dunkle — along with a few other unlikely heroes — as they travel across the realm of Medieval Legends, float through the Ancient Isle of Avalon, plunge inside the Dungeon of Dreadful Dreams, and be there when Atlantis rises once again.
You can see more artwork by Elisabeth Alba and keep up with her future creations through her sites:
Elisabeth is a Queens-based illustrator whose work focuses on fairy tales, fantasy, and historical subjects. She earned her MFA in illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Her clients include Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, and Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. Elisabeth wants to thank Heidi for being the best high school art teacher ever, and setting her on the path to becoming an illustrator!