You hope in your career that you get the chance to be part of something special every now and then. You also hope that you can be part of something greater than your individual efforts and be part of something truly grand. I feel like that whenever I have had the chance to step into Brandon Sanderson’s universe, better known as the Cosmere. I’ve been lucky to do work for his Mistborn series, the covers for a couple of his short stories, and also work on his high fantasy epic series, The Stormlight Archive.
Just launching this week is Sanderson’s 4th installment in the series titled Rhythm of War. It is an incredible series. If you like fantasy books, reading, or even just a fan of ink on lots of sheets of paper you should get a copy.
The cover is by the always magnificent Michael Whelan!
My involvement this time around was a little unique. For Oathbringer (book three in the series), I was commissioned to paint a couple of the Heralds (a group of epic characters in the series). Donato Giancola, Dan Dos Santos, Miranda Meeks, Karla Ortiz, and Magali Villeneuve were also commissioned to paint different heralds. Dan and I had ours in book 3, Karla and Magali are in book 4, and Donato and Miranda’s will likely be in book 5 at this point (that’s my assumption). Brandon has been building a gallery of the original paintings of the heralds. Magali Villeneuve (whose work is incredible) works primarily in digital media. This lead to Isaac Stewart (Brandon’s most excellent Art Director) asking me if I would be willing to work with Magali and translate her original digital paintings into oils. I jumped at the chance to work with Magali and also to put my brush to two more herald paintings!
All the image below are copyright of Dragonsteel Entertainment and used with permission
Here is Magali’s beautiful original:
And here is my oil version of her work:
I tried to stay as true as possible to Magali’s vision for the herald. I thought she did an amazing job and I didn’t want to drift from it if possible. It’s challenging taking pixels and making an exact copy in pigment. It is also a great experience to do a “master copy” of a contemporary and learn from them. While Magali’s work and mine bear some similarities, there are enough stylistic differences that I found myself taking notes of little things in the way she renders, chooses colors, and creates shapes that I found beautiful and absent in my own work. In short, I learned a lot!
I made a time-lapse of the oil painting process:
One of the things that is quite special about Brandon’s books is the amount of art that is included in them. The cover and end pages usually have beautiful work, but the interiors are filled with art! I love how many artists are called upon to bring about Brandon’s vision. At the head of the effort is Isaac Stewart. He is wonderful to work with and a great person. He is also committed to treating artists well and creating agreements that are fair for both parties. A wonderful (and somewhat rare) thing these days!
Here is another herald from Magali Villeneuve:
And two from Karla Ortiz!
Plus a huge number of diagrams, maps, schematics and “field notes” to help flesh out the world. I love looking through the book just to see the art and imaginative concepts!
Look at this beautiful page from the book, drawn by Kelley Harris:
And this diagram by Ben McSweeny:
Plus beautiful maps by Isaac Stewart!
The result of all the art and imagery created for the book is that you feel like you are holding a found artifact, a journal of sorts that contains an epic story. You get to be part of the discovery of this new world, it’s magic systems, political intrigues, the flora and fauna as well as all the characters that Sanderson has created for it.
Did I say it was a wonderful project to be part of? My words are inadequate to express how special I think it is. I am just grateful that there are 6 more books to come in the series, as well as the limited edition versions and who knows what other spin-offs and other products will come about as this wonderful Cosmere grows and takes on a life of its own! Thank you, Brandon and Isaac, for letting me add a spot of color to the brilliant Cosmere universe!
The pixels-to-oils rendition is absolutely gob-smacking! It is like looking at the same scene but through the eyes of 2 different people standing in the exact same spot. Both are masterful!