Book. Cover. Club. Yes?

Yes. Philip Cheaney, one of the cleanest-working and exciting illustrators I personally know, recently invited me to participate in something that has already grown near and dear to my heart—like that baby squirrel you tried to save when you were a kid, but without the life-and-death issues—and it resides here.

The Book Cover Club is a venue for illustrators to test themselves in areas of narrative clarity (or deliberate, mysterious obscurity), design, speed—all of those things we're doing every day but are more fun to do together.

You might have seen selections from the project featured on Flavorpill NYC, in an article titled "20 Amazing Reimagined Book Covers."

My first submission, based on Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain (first published in German in 1924 and published in English in 1927) is below, with a few digital process images to show how tweaking color all day gets you nowhere.

The final image:

The initial drawing was set quickly. I knew I wanted to show the main character smoking his thoughtful cigar, but also, perhaps, questioning the components of time and space, as he so often does throughout the book. Much of the narrative occurs through his extremely inward perspective. The mountain itself is merely the setting for the sanatorium where he is staying with his cousin, filled with yellowing, tubercular patients. The magic occurs inside his own mind. So I decided to let his outline mimic the profile of the mountain. It's not super obvious, but it's there.

I really liked the coloring at left, and in hindsight maybe I should have kept it, but it didn't really say what I wanted it to say at the time, which was that here is a man whose inward mind and separation from the world, insulated childhood, etc., are about to be shattered by outside forces that he can't daydream away.

Here, at near left, is a failed attempt to address his fascination with the passage of time in the cigar smoke. Once I decided to not try quite so hard to convey specific things and prioritized atmosphere instead, I had my final.

The first of many, hopefully improved, similar exercises.