It has always been a deep-seated desire of mine to one day have a Whelan painting on one of my works. Without this man’s skill and vision, I might never have discovered the fantasy genre, and I might not be writing novels today.

I’ve been lucky to have some…incredible artists paint covers for my books. But I’ve rarely felt as much excitement, wonder, and awe as I did when I got to open an email and see the cover for The Way of Kings.

Brandon Sanderson
#1 New York Times Best Selling Author

Since my earliest days, I’ve been drawn to the idea of “other worlds” and couldn’t read enough fantasy and science fiction stories. Seeking transport to strange new realms of the imagination has remained a constant throughout my life.

Lately that overriding impulse has seen its greatest evocation in the works of Brandon Sanderson. I haven’t experienced such a sense of living in a complete and wholly integrated other universe as I have in the Stormlight books!

Michael Whelan


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

As it turned out, though, I was soon hooked and 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 immersed in a Myst-style virtual reality adventure, or watching a movie.

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

Acrylic – 24″ x 40″

THE WAY OF KINGS - 15 Additional Images

Don’t miss the feature gallery SHAPING ROSHAR: THE MAKING OF THE WAY OF KINGS


I was honored to paint the cover image for the final book in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, but it was a daunting prospect given the massive backstory of 14 books written over a span of 20+ years.

Each volume, illustrated by the late Darrell K. Sweet, had a similar look and feel. I decided the last cover should retain a sense of continuation while bringing the epic to a close.

I usually insist on reading the manuscript, but it wasn’t possible this time. The author and publisher selected the cover scene in advance. My compositional ideas were limited to depicting—in the best way I could—the brief episode provided. Many websites and blogs devoted to the Wheel of Time books provided details of character appearances that the scene lacked.

After studying the covers of the earlier volumes, I elected to bring the protagonist Rand forward to dominate the front book jacket. I was torn whether to show Rand and his companions outside or inside the cave; I attempted to visualize both. Eventually, the “powers that be” selected the approach and I was on my way.

Acrylic – 24″ x 36″

A MEMORY OF LIGHT - 21 Additional Images

Don’t miss the feature gallery INTO SHAYOL GHUL: THE MAKING OF A MEMORY OF LIGHT


Roshar is a world rich with strange flora and fauna, and Brandon Sanderson’s narrative features a diverse cast woven through multiple story threads, all complex and interesting. How to choose what to present on the cover for WORDS OF RADIANCE?

Fortunately, Irene Gallo and the editorial staff at Tor Books provided key scenes for me to consider.

Once ideas started to gel, I separated background from foreground and worked on each independently. I’m not convinced this is the best approach ordinarily, but for these books I think it works. Because of the importance of weather in The Stormlight Archive, it felt appropriate to build the storm first then construct the scene within it.

Acrylic – 24″ x 36″

WORDS OF RADIANCE - 31 Additional Images


Many fans were dismayed when Tor revealed the art for WORDS OF RADIANCE. Brandon had mentioned that Shallan would be the focus of the book, but the cover featured Kaladin and Szeth.

What fans didn’t know was the publisher had already approached me about a second illustration. Shallan would be featured on the endpapers of the book–I just couldn’t tell anyone!

SHALLAN (2013)
Acrylic – 18″ x 24″

SHALLAN - 24 Additional Images

Don’t miss the feature gallery LIGHTWEAVER: THE MAKING OF SHALLAN


The forces of Odium descend on Thaylen City and the new order of Knights Radiant converge to defend against invasion. It’s a visual sequence in which I saw a lot of possibilities for the cover.

Brandon doesn’t elaborate on the formation of metal conjured to shore up the stone wall, but in my mind I saw Jasnah’s soulcasting as an organic process. Though metallic in texture, it would have the appearance of “growing” in to fill the breach, like a stop-motion film of a mold growing or a flower opening. That lead me to thinking of using fractal patterns to define the growing shape of the metallic wall.

Acrylic – 24″ x 36″

OATHBRINGER - 23 Additional Images

Don’t miss the feature gallery KNIGHT RADIANT: THE MAKING OF OATHBRINGER


It was both a dream assignment as well as a monumental challenge to attempt to visualize Shadesmar for the cover of Rhythm of War. Choosing an approach to focus on wasn’t easy because of the myriad possibilities beckoning me in Brandon’s wonderful story—but I hope I captured a glimpse of the strangeness of the place in my illustration.

Acrylic – 24″ x 36″

RHYTHM OF WAR - 40 Additional Images



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