EDITOR’S NOTE: The making of THE WAY OF KINGS was originally featured as part of the cover reveal on This is an expanded look behind the scenes at the making of a classic cover with some never before seen images added to Michael’s words.

When I received the manuscript from TOR, I was somewhat dismayed that it was 1400 pages. Given the mood I was in, I felt that it would be tough sledding to work my way through such a massive fantasy epic.

As it turned out, I was soon lost in the world Mr. Sanderson so skillfully realized. It helped that the writing had a rich cinematic quality that brought images of scenes, characters and creatures to my mind as if I were watching a movie or immersed in a Myst-style virtual reality adventure.

The manuscript was fun to read, but it made my work for the cover art difficult. How can one successfully distill enough of this novel to one picture and possibly do justice to the book ? It was a steep challenge.

One thing I found very helpful was to have the manuscript delivered to me in a digital format. It was only the second time that I’ve done that, but it was a godsend. To be able to flag and highlight character and scene references, then to search them out and collate information and details, is an invaluable time saver for me.

I was shown layouts for the front cover based on my preliminary sketches. But the book was so large in scope that I couldn’t restrain myself from widening the field of view in attempt to capture some of the vast scale of the world described so well in the book.

While reading TWOK it becomes clear that the planet of the story is itself a character—perhaps the prime character—of the narrative…so I felt it was essential to portray one of the massive storms described in the book. I could only do that using a horizontal format with a panoramic view.

Below are a few photos I took of the work as the painting progressed.

The first thing I did was draw out some of the larger landscape shapes and work out the placement of the various elements.  After transferring the landscape masses to the panel, I “painted” in the cloud shapes using pastels which I then fixed by spraying down with clear acrylic gesso.

The panel is cradled in a bed of foam board, which has registration marks so I can accurately fix my drawings on tracing paper if I need to check on the painting’s fidelity to the original composition.

Usually I work from background to foreground and from shadows to light, but in this case I needed the foremost figure to guide my handling of the elements of sky framing the figure. Also, from fairly early on I had the glow of the veiled sun indicated to guide my color and values in that part of the sky.

By this time the sky is pretty well laid in and I’ve started to render the shadows of the landscape masses. As often happens, I decided I had incorrectly visualized the shadows and structure of some of the landscape shapes so I had to fix those as I painted them in.

I often do a study or two of the main characters which then become my “models” while I am doing the actual painting. The study on the left is a painted sketch of the figures and some tentative plant forms.



Signed prints of THE WAY OF KINGS are available in our shop.

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