The Making of “Exile of the Prince”

Wraparound book cover for 'Exile of the Prince,' by Jesse Sterling Harrison, with F.W. Fife Books, an imprint of The Zharmae Publishing Press.

Wraparound book cover for ‘Exile of the Prince,’ by Jesse Sterling Harrison, with F.W. Fife Books, an imprint of The Zharmae Publishing Press.

I was recently notified by an editor that I work with that a book cover that I illustrated earlier this year has been released, titled “Exile of the Prince,” by Jesse Sterling Harrison. Painting this cover was a very positive experience for me- somehow, the various elements in the image just came together easier with this assignment. As many illustrators know, a lot of this work involves a cobbling together of various reference imagery into a cohesive painting. It’s a lot harder than it sounds!

As always, the process starts with sketches that are selected by the client. From the excerpt I received, it became clear that this novel was set in a post apocalyptic world- but without the overly dark overtones many readers expect of that genre. Two characters, Lucky and Lauren, needed to be portrayed in a somewhat ambiguous fashion that would entice the reader. As this cover was a wraparound illustration, it was key that the main action be placed on the right half of the image- that area is essentially the cover. After some back and forth, we eventually settled on an image of one of the main characters in the book, Lauren looking wistfully out at her environment, while the other main character Lucky is in the background in a more mysterious role.

After receiving approval on the final sketch, I hired one of my favorite models to pose for Lauren. From the outset, I decided to go with natural, afternoon light for all the reference imagery. I knew that it would look the most convincing this way and give the novel an air of realism. I ended up posing for Lucky, the other protagonist in the background. Lastly, the environment was inspired by some landscape shots I took of forests in my hometown of Penryn, CA. I often collect “general” imagery like this- I even had some shots of a railroad, which was also called for by the excerpt I received.

The approved final sketch. The gray line in the middle denotes the wraparound- this is actually very useful as it’s easy to forget that this image will essentially be folded in half.


I often end up being the pinch hitter for male characters. He’s fairly small in the overall composition, so likeness was not a huge priority.


Progress, from start to finish!

From there, I proceeded to make a final sketch from the reference materials and then lay in paint on my canvas. Shooting all the reference in natural light during the same time of day seemed to make a big difference. I wasn’t wrestling as much with attempting to make disparate elements meld together. I can honestly say that this is one of the covers I’m most satisfied with thus far in my career!

For more information about “Exile of the Prince,” check out the publisher, F.W. Fife Books. The book will be available in print and e-book format this coming June!

The final cover, sans type.

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