jonathanbartlett Alex Bledose, "Shall We Gather"

A new moody illustration Alex Bledsoe’s short story, “Shall We Gather”, published on First off, I always love working with Tor. The content is exciting, challenging, and definitely different from my average assignments (but that seems to be changing too!).  This story was fun as it let me embrace the darkness in my work. Set in present day Appalachia,  the story has a shadowy mysticism to it that involves an openminded reverend, a shape shifting fairy, and an elder man on his death bed. The fairy has a question for the old man and needs the reverend to ask it. What’s the question? What’s the answer? Guess you will have to read it to find out. It’s surprising, I can promise that!

Ex-Patriots, by Peter Clines, illustration, Jonathan Bartlett

Back with more zombies! More apocalypse! More heroes! Peter Clines’s, Ex-Patriots. With book two my insecurities gave way to confidence and excitement for the subject matter and it’s challenges. As you can see, the general design of the series is to put the spot light on one main character per cover. With Ex-Patriots we have Cerberus.

Probably my favorite part, love this guy just getting totally decimated under Cerberus’s hammer of a foot.

I Wanted to share some of the brainstorming process this time around. These images are heavily reliant on accurate character design so I find myself doing some general studies to work out the build of each hero. I understand that’s totally common practice, but I never had the need for it before. Pro tip: Zombie battle reference? Photos of MMA fighters! SUPER helpful. Also, as I worked, I couldn’t help but think back on a vivid memory from my art education. When I was still an undergrad student an University of The Arts I made an illustration that featured battling robots. My teacher slayed me with his critique of the image. I’ll never forget the chastising, but also his words, “If you are going to make something up, it still has to feel like it could actually work! How would that arm bend? How does that head connect to that body?!”. That’s a little vague without visual context, but the point is, when drawing from make believe, in this case a fictional machine, to make people believe it’s power and authenticity, they need to believe it could actually exist. That’s not to say you have to draw up blue prints, but, you know, do enough to fool the eye. This rang through my head the whole time I was working on the cover.

The series is progressing quickly, stay tuned for book three in the coming months!

Ex-Heroes Cover illustration

Cover Illustration by Jonathan Bartlett, Ex Heroes, written by Peter Clines

If I’m being honest, I was a small bit skeptical of this project before signing on. How was I going to make these zombies different, how would I approach the conceptualizing of a super hero?

Truthfully I was simply over thinking the whole thing and once I shook it off and embraced the challenge and the fun of it all, it was nothing but enjoyable.

Also, a shout out to my super hero guru, Clay Rodery, for keeping any idea from feeling too redundant.

Ex-Heroes is the first book in a long series of novels by Peter Clines, in which he takes the readers on an epic journey through a zombie infested post apocalyptic world.

With each cover the editors wants to preserve a small sense of narrative from the story, but more importantly feature the character that that particular book focuses on.

For this first one, we have St. George, whose hero name is The Mighty Dragon. In the passage I was sent, it’s clear the mood is a bit more somber and the burden of his role as hero is weighing on him, maybe even a bit of failure. This was the emotion I wanted to capture for you on the cover.

Album art, Joachim Horsley "Combinations"

Earlier this year Joachim Horsley reached out with an exciting project to illustrate the packaging for his forthcoming album, Combinations. Jo is an accomplished musician and composer working on countless film scores and orchestrating for the likes of Ben Folds. He also has a successful career as a solo artist and as part of the band Little Horse. Funny thing, I didn’t know any of that when he contacted me.

Typically when independent artists or entrepreneurs are looking for illustration the situation is never ideal because of budget reasons, micro managing the life out of the art, or any number of other things. I’m sure many of you can relate.

I bring this up because Jo was nothing like that at all. From the first conversation it was obvious he knew what he wanted, but respected the creative process and was totally comfortable putting his trust into my own interpretation of the music. The back and forth was completely organic and, truthfully, I think that’s reflected in the resulting illustration.

The music really paints a beautiful visual metaphor of a man going on a journey (see songs: Cosmic Love Affair and Time Machine) to find/win back the he once had. The music is not dark, per say, but rather a little mysterious and, for me, a bit surreal. On the cover we are seeing our passionate traveler loaded into the hull of his time machine/space ship (you decide…), gazing out of the window to the unknown. I didn’t think it should be a straight up astronaut and space shuttle, but rather this combination of classic romance mixed with a bit of surreal time travel. Like combining the interior of a space ship with the interior of a 1940’s classic automobile.

The hull door is open so the viewer (listener) feels they are invited on the journey with the main character. An optimistic scene with a touch of sadness.