Saturday, 25 July 2015

Cover creation - Forbidden Alliance

The cover art for Katrina Mountfort's début novel, Future Perfect had already caught my eye, being my sort of thing – so when the email came through from Elsewhen Press asking me if I'd be interested in illustrating the cover to Forbidden Alliance, the second book in Mountfort's Blueprint trilogy, I said 'yes' before I'd even finished reading the email.

Anybody who has read Future Perfect will be familiar with this particular vision of the future, where a highly regulated society with a culture based on external appearances, are made to live inside huge Citidomes, following a bio-terrorist attack. There's a clear nod towards Logan's Run in the storyline, which evolves around the discovery of the world beyond the confines of the Citidomes and what kind of people have chosen to remain in the outside world.

Elsewhen Press' own artwork for Future Perfect focused on the divide between life inside and outside of the Citidomes. So having established a variety of environments in the first book, the challenge for the cover of Forbidden Alliance was to expand upon this and somehow incorporate elements of the different environments, from a prison camp to a rural village, the Citidome and a narrowboat on a river.

This artwork also had to be in mono to match that of the first book, so another challenge for me was how to approach the scene without having my usual vibrant colour palette to fall back on.

So I worked up several rough concept sketches, trying out different perspectives and angles, but I found that trying to incorporate all the elements was just too much for a cover – yet they were all vital things to include, so what do you do?

Then it came to me – why not create the scene as viewed from within a prison camp? The simple inclusion of the barbed wire told the viewer everything they needed to know about the viewpoint of the scene, without trying to squeeze in security fences and prison buildings.

As for the other background elements... part of the first book was set in a village in rural Derbyshire called Ashford-in-the-Water, which happens to be a place I know well and have even photographed. So I had my own photos to hand for reference, and the church being the tallest building in the village (also featuring in the book), it was the obvious choice.

I've always had a fascination with the idea of a city encased under a glass dome – ever since watching the BBC's wonderful adaptation of The Tripods in the 1980s. I guess you could call that a benchmark, along with Arthur C. Clarke's Diaspar in The City and the Stars. This is therefore a concept I have previously explored in my work – most recently with Last City, inspired by Clarke's novel, and an earlier piece of retro-futurism, Escape.

However for this cover, the Citidome didn't want to completely dominate the cover, yet it does dominate the landscape. So I was faced with the additional challenge of getting that balance of elements just right.

There is no clear divide as there was on the Future Perfect cover, but the river and the narrowboat instead provide a central focal point for the scene.

Here is the final digital draft, before I started work on the actual artwork.

This was the first time I've read a story which has been partly set in a place I know, so it became all the more real. Having been immersed in Katrina's world with a knowledge of the real location, the process for the creation of this cover felt very natural and comfortable.

And here is the final cover art:

And here is all of the above - in one minute!


  1. Interesting image. I love the lit windows in the city. For some reason that really grounds the image for me.

  2. I like the almost monochromatic coloring of the image. You managed to incorporate 4 of the novels elements into one image and it didn't come out cluttered. It's very good.

  3. Thank you. Getting all of those things into the cover and keeping it tidy was the main challenge. I'm glad you like it.