-By Dan dos Santos

A little while ago I was commissioned to do the cover to an Urban Fantasy anthology called ‘The Wild Side’. One of the great things about anthologies is that you tend to have a lot more freedom with the subject matter, since you need to capture the flavor of multiple stories. In this case, the Art Director gave me an unprecedented amount freedom, and let me do whatever I wanted, provided that the image screamed of ‘urban fantasy’ and had a strong sex appeal.

I actually struggled with the concept way more than I thought I would, most likely because I had TOO much freedom… I just didn’t know where to start. I am definitely one of those people that comes up with more creative solutions when I have a few restrictions to push against. Eventually I just started drawing every UF cliche I could think of; tattoos, guns, breasts, vampires, alleyways, etc. Before I knew it, this was what came of it.

At the time, I was drooling over Petar Meseldzija’s colors, and thought I would try out his process on this piece. He had mentioned to me at IlluXcon that he starts his pieces with a reddish-umber underpainting. Since this was before he had started his blog, I had no idea what color he really meant, so I guessed… It turns out I was WAY off. My underpainting was really saturated, and caused a lot of problems for me, but it also provided me with some unpredictable (and pretty cool) results.

I was able to throw absolute mud on top of the orange underpainting, and it created a very weird sense of depth. The cool/warm contrast made the upper layer absolutely vibrate off the surface. It doesn’t come through very well in this photo, but in real life, it almost hurt my eyes.

It took a few coats to finally cool down the faces to where they needed to be. But ultimately, the orange underpainting served me well. I managed to get a really intense sense of light by just letting the underpainting show through.

I knew my composition was going to require some unusual type placement, so I included some sample type in my sketch. The client actually liked it enough, that they decided to let me do the final type as well. That gave me the opportunity to really cater the image to the suit the design, like leaving the forearm area really simple and dropped into shadow so that the type would pop more. It is really rare that I am given this much freedom for a commercial commission.