I’m thrilled to finally show off the cover for Arvia: Heart of the Sky. And once again, I’m super happy with the work done by Papaya-Style.
There was a lot of development work behind the cover, so I thought I’d share some of the drafts and concept art. I was delighted how the cover for Hazelhearth Hires Heroes turned out, but this would be the first time Papaya illustrated the two main characters in Tales of Arvia, Darin and Rinloh. I really wanted her to re-imagine them in her own style rather than try to replicate what had been done by my former cover artist. So I commissioned portraits and concept art to let her play with the characters a bit before starting in on the actual cover.
Darin, as a human, was less of an issue (though I was ecstatic how he turned out.) However there were a number of issues to work out about his outfit, and especially details of his wingsuit. I liked the portrait of him at his workshop on Arvia so much that I asked her to color it, and ended up using it as an avatar on a number of platforms.
Rinloh was a bit trickier. Not only is harpy anatomy quite difficult (avian wings and talons have some complicated joints), there was also the personality that should come through in the artwork. Rinloh is both ferocious and sweet. Those two things go together really easily, right? She did a bunch of poses to refine the character design, and I think in the final colored portrait, it really came together.
Great, we now have characters. What about the cover itself? My original composition idea was a scene in the book with a harpy carrying a “sky boat,” like a balloon basket. As a back-up, there was an ancient tower atop a cliff that I thought might make a dramatic impression. After several drafts, we both agreed that the tower made a stronger impression and dropped the sky boat idea. But it might resurface as an interior illustration one day.
Although the tower was from a specific scene in the book, I didn’t want to restrict Papaya to trying to duplicate that scene, but wanted to give her creative license to create an interesting artwork inspired by said scene. Again, there was concept art for the tower itself, with the final version being not quite true to the description in the book… but honestly more impressive for a cover.
Originally we thought about including the merman Leomaris on the cover, but his inclusion made the cover far too busy, so he was regrettably banished to the depths (you see a bit of his tail in the final version).
Two other factors made the cover a particular challenge. Not only do I have a distinctively non-human character as one of my two main characters, but Rinloh is gigantic, standing 10 meters tall. Not easy to pose her together with normal sized humans. Oh. One more thing. In story, she doesn’t wear clothes. Makes perfect sense in-world (wings aren’t exactly conducive to putting on clothes) but in the real world, we are plagued by strange creatures known as sensors who take a dim view of unclothed characters of any ilk. After several attempts to cover Rinloh with the proverbial fig leaf, we gave up and gave her clothes. She wasn’t happy about it, let me tell you.
We also tried a number of different color schemes– the idea being to evoke a sense of drama and danger without going too far and making it appear depressing and gloomy. After all that is the essence of Arvia—a dangerous, yet beautiful world. We took inspiration from color choices of the prior two covers—and the final color scheme perfectly captures the world’s dichotomy.
In closing, once again, a huge thank you to Papaya-Style for her skill in illustrating and for her patience in dealing with me and the challenges imposed by my world. You can learn more about Arvia: Heart of the Sky here.