The third Wheel of Time ebook, The Dragon Reborn, will be available December 15th. If you are jumping in new: We are commissioning fourteen artists to create new covers for this series, each taking on one of the fourteen Wheel of Time books with their own interpretation of Robert Jordan’s world. (Previous posts here. You can purchase the first two ebooks here.)
Of course, no fantasy art series can be complete without Donato Giancola. Donato is great at, well, just about any kind of picture making, but among them he is particularly good at creating compelling quiet moments that get into the psychology of the characters. With plenty of battle sequences to come (*ahem* Dumai’s Wells *coughcough*) Donato decided to take on a contemplative emblematic moment rather than a literal page from the book. I asked him how he came to the scene he painted:
The character of Rand al'Thor is a reluctant player in the destiny foretold for him within the complexities of the Wheel of Time. Rather than focusing on the conflicts, battles, and web of political maneuverings Robert Jordan brings to life within these novels, I wanted to portray the character grappling with an internal struggle the common reader can more easily relate to through their own experiences. The choices (or lack there of) Rand had before him provided us with a glimpse into this figure's past as an average, down to earth person.
The choice between the sword and the flute for me, exemplifies the issues Rand has engaged on the path in becoming the Dragon Reborn. He must turn is back on the simple life he had previously known, and embrace his destiny. It was this transformation I found most interesting as a challenge to illustrate, forsaking all the wonderful magical moments and epic conquests which could easily have produced a striking image. But this personal dilemma simply seemed more human, representing a difficult psychological change in the character and reflected the basic theme within the novel.
This was the thumbnail sketch Donato handed in. A very lyrical moment and I knew Donato was chomping at the bit to paint that dappled light. His thumbnails are always very loose, with all the elements drawn from his head, they often start out as scribbles that start to form shapes. He keeps a sketchbook of these and if you ever see him carrying it at a convention, ask him if you can take a look. It’s a great experience to see these spontaneous unfiltered thoughts.
Despite the loose beginning, Donato, like most artists, utilize photo reference to accomplish the final painting. Here he used a young illustrator, Grant Newton, for the model. Illustrators often find that fellow artists are the best models. Professional models are trained to “look good” and often unconsciously fight against letting themselves get too hidden away or are unable to sacrifice “pretty” for the more emotive expression.
At this point we can start seeing the details. I started to worry that Rand looked a bit to wistful here, more like a young man in love than a young man with some heavy decisions to make. (“Thank yous” to Leigh Butler and and Jason Denzel for letting me know the sword needed to be a katana.)
This one seem to have over compensated bit. Like, “Look. At. This. Flute!” (insert your best William Shatner impersonation.) The flute is a great symbol but it shouldn't take over the story from Rand. I asked Donato to turn his head the other way in a kind of thoughtful daze.
And here we are. All we had to do now was debate how red red hair is. (I have since made a chart of red haired men that I will now send to any future artists... Yes, it was actually my job to google “red-haired men” for about 20 minutes.)
Irene Gallo is the art director for Tor, Forge, and Starscape books, and Tor.com.