Flames of The Dark Crystal is the fourth and final novel the official prequel series of The Dark Crystal.

I’ve had to chance to tag along with these books all the way from the beginning and, truly, they’ve just been a dream to illustrate. Each once has presented challenges and questions. Each time I’ve done my dead level best to meet those challenges and questions and deliver a cover and collection of interior illustrations worthy of the title.

In short, they’ve been a lot of fun and it’s bittersweet to see the series conclude.

It seems fitting to wrap up these books and take one more dive into the creation of the cover.

So! About like usual, a set of almost illegible scribbles I call thumbnails.

For this cover the art request gave me some colors to think about and certain figures (chiefly, Naia, the main gelfling). They also wanted to reference the cover of the first book done by Brian Froud.

Those little scribbles aren’t what I send to a client though. I’ll put together some loose digital roughs and mock up a couple options for the cover.


With the approval to proceed with the third idea, the next steps are the drawings.

As is usual for me, everything begins traditionally. I’m working with 500 series Bristol and a mix of Generals Kimberley pencils. Most often 2B and 4B. For some detail work I’ll switch over to a regular ol’ Bic mechanical pencil. 0.5 or 0.7 size.


As I’ve done in the past, I’ll draw each figure separately and work in layers digitally. Here’s one of the main characters, Naia, for example.

After all the figures are done it’s a mix of traditional and digital work. All the background elements are watercolor, including those lighting bolt looking cracks. The foreground and “effects” are a mix, some watercolor spattering with work in Photoshop to enhance the fiery glow and lend a swirling feel.


And that does it! The last one these covers is in the bag.

Like I said above, it’s bittersweet to bring these books to a close. They’ve been a part of my life for several years now.

You know, I remember probably 10 years ago now hearing that the Jim Henson Co. was going to be pursuing new stories and books set in the world of The Dark Crystal and I just remember thinking, “I want in.” I didn’t know exactly how to chase that down but I wanted it. I suppose there’s a story for another time.

One silver lining (that’s pretty exciting, in fact!) the Netflix series that’s releasing this year is based on the books. I think they’ve got something special on their hands. Can’t wait to see it.

Also, here’s to J. M. Lee, one of the best writers out there. And to the entire team at Penguin Random House, it’s been a dream!