First, a bit of background. I've been working off and on to write a novel about a character called Maring Darkberry, who belongs to a culture called the Reindeer Herders (or just Herders)--a genetically mixed people who live on the barrens of my imaginary island/continent of Frisland (also the setting for many of my short stories, and for the Aeryn Daring stories I write as Calliope Strange).
The story started out as a short story called "White Foxes, Full Moon," but I soon realized there was a lot more to Maring's tale. But for some reason I never got farther than perhaps two-thirds finished.
So recently, I saw a call for submissions from a place called JukePop Serials which had an interesting business model. And I thought maybe by serializing the thing, so there were people waiting for the next chapter, I might actually finish it. And the editors at JukePop liked it. So now the title is Reindeer Girl, and it'll be serialized starting in September. And it needs a cover.
First I needed a reference for Maring. It didn't have to look like her, exactly, as long as the pose was right. So digging through a box of old pictures, I found this one of my beautiful mother with my sister and me (I'm the chubby one on the left) in her lap.
I did a sketch I was pleased with, changing her features to make her look less like my mom and more like the character in my story. Though in the story Maring has fair skin and blue eyes to go with her black hair, I wanted it to be clear from looking at her that not all her ancestry is European. Her people have intermarried all over the place, and they currently live quite close to a people they refer to as the Snow People (who are, of course, Inuit). So I wanted Maring to look like some of her recent ancestors were Inuit or perhaps Siberian or even Mongolian.
I could already tell that I probably hadn't really left enough room for the rest of the picture, but I was thinking about scanning the inked drawing and colouring digitally, so I went ahead and inked the drawing on the sketchbook paper, rather than transferring it to watercolour paper.
I spent a long time looking at type, and found what I thought was the perfect typeface for the title. It was Celtic, but rough-looking; calligraphic but loose. Unfortunately, none of the links on the designer's website worked. So I kept looking and eventually decided that what I really wanted to do was hand-letter, a la Walter Crane, or more recently, Charles Vess.
Of course, I then decided I also wanted to hand-colour, so I had to figure out a way to squeeze everything onto the page.
I had in mind a particular photograph, taken on the barrens of the southern Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, which just happened to have caribou in the shot (for the curious, caribou and reindeer are the same animal, Rangifer tarandus, the first usually used in North America and the second in Europe). Alas, there must be another box of my photographs still in storage at my mother's house in BC, because I couldn't find it. So instead I used this one, taken somewhere between Cape Ray and Gros Morne, Newfoundland.
I started with a blue wash, and quickly began to wish I'd taken the time to transfer the drawing to watercolour paper before inking.
Then I added green and yellow. You can see the paper getting more and more wrinkled with each colour I add.
Then some brown and grey, and a little red and purple.
Finally, I brightened up some of the colours and added a few details with pencil crayon.
Then I had to flatten the thing so I could get a good scan. I did this by thoroughly spritzing it with water from the back, until the paper relaxed and it lay flat. Then I put it between sheets of printmaking rag (I used some old proofs) and newsprint, and put it under a goodly amount of weight to dry. And the next day it was perfectly flat.
I had to scan it in two pieces, because it's too big for my scanner--thanks to Photoshop's "photomerge" function, putting the two pieces together was a snap.
And if anyone's interested, I've made it available as a print through Zazzle (if you order, make sure to let the preview load for the size you select--some sizes will cut off the top and bottom of the image). I may do my own prints at some point, on my very nice super-deluxe photo inkjet printer on digital photo rag paper. If enough people ask, that is.