There has been a resurgence in the last several years of new books and stories set within the worlds of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.


While both films are now in their 30s, they continue to inspire, delighting and terrifying fans of all ages. It’s no small wonder (or accident) that we’re still reveling in a world like Thra from The Dark Crystal. Joy and mystery. Courage and sacrifice. These films carry the core pieces of elemental storytelling. Truly, the themes are timeless which speaks to their enduring qualities.

From novels, to storybooks, to comics, to a Netflix series, there are seemingly no edges to the maps created by Jim Henson. You can follow the paths right up to the borders but the trails continue, ready to be charted by subsequent generations of dreamers.

Needless to say, these worlds are pure magic for an illustrator. Over the years it’s been a singular delight of mine to walk some of these paths and spend time in these gardens. Because that is how I see it; it’s like a garden. I didn’t plant it but I have been given a chance to tend a corner of it for a time.

My most recent “planting” is the art for next novel in The Dark Crystal prequel series from Penguin Random House. Beginning with Shadows of the Dark Crystal and followed by Song of the Dark Crystal, we’ve arrived at book three, Tides of the Dark Crystal.

Here follows a look at the creation of the cover.

Tides! Literal and figurative. Actual oceans and changing tides. One of my notes was to incorporate nautical elements into the cover. Also! There’s a pirate Skeksis.

Once settled on a direction, I set about drawing the figures. This wasn’t too much trouble, as there were only two of them!

From there it was a simple matter of painting the figures and then arranging them on the cover. In fact, I used the very same method I demo-ed for Muddy Colors a while back.

Oddly enough, it was the color palette that gave me the most trouble. The dominant color of the Shadows cover was purple. Song was green. Both deep and cool colors. I wanted something to indicate this book is a major turning point in the Gelfling story and opted for a more vibrant direction.

The splashes are actual watercolor that I painted and scanned.

And there you have it! All in all, a simple and really enjoyable cover.

Tides of the Dark Crystal by J. M. Lee will be released this December.