Since October 2006, Enrico Valenza (EnV) has been really busy working as a cover illustrator for Mondadori. Using mainly a mix of 2D and 3D (of course, Blender and the GIMP) the results are fantastic!
Here are the cover illustrations, recreated by Enrico, for a popular children's book series called Astrosaurs.
Enrico was kind enough to provide us with some details:
How did you get the opportunity to work on such an exciting project?
In 2006, I made a conference about Blender at a Linux User Group in Italy, a couple of publishers were present. Some time later, the editor of the Italian version of Computer Arts published a four-page article about me and Blender (in issue 96). A graphic editor at Mondadori read the article, went to see my website and then contacted me to offer a freelance collaboration job.
...Arnoldo Mondadori Editore is one of the oldest and biggest Italian publishers, almost every Italian illustrator wishes to work for them (no kidding); the possibility to say "at the moment I'm collaborating with Mondadori" is considered a personal honor.
When creating the artwork, what kind of source materials were you given? Were there any liberties allowed in the recreation of the original covers?
The source materials you are given often depend on the book: in the case of the "Astrosaurs" I had the original covers of the English edition as reference and the publisher asked me to follow them as close as possible so, at least for the first four covers, very little freedom were allowed; in the case of "Stone Heart" I just had a short brief and basically they asked me to simply paint a dragon. Or, for "Ink Heart", they gave me the book to read to find inspiration: I made a bunch of different proposals as sketches and then they decided for the best one! For "The death collector" they asked me to paint a steampunk dinosaur skeleton and that was all, so I had a lot of freedom in that case.
Of course, it also depends a lot on the deadline you have for the job.
What skills and practices turned out to be real assets for you while working on this project?
Definitely the fact that I'm good at drawing (well, it's my job, after all) and my experience as illustrator. And the fact that I know quite well Blender and its possibilities as a whole.
What pros and cons did you encounter while using Blender for this project?
To be honest, no cons. I found Blender perfect for my goals (more, it's really fast as scanline renderer, and this is good when you have to do big renders for quality printing at 300 dpi).
What's the most outstanding thing that you learned from working on this project?
Not exactly from this project, but from my job in general I learned one simple thing:
you can be very good at drawing, at painting and at Blender, you can make the best image, the best composition, the best textures in the world but, if you don't catch the "essence" of the story you are going to illustrate, if you don't give the "feeling" of it in the artwork, your wonderful cover is going to be rejected as inadequate from the publisher. The more difficult part is to be really aware of this, especially in the planning phase of the job.
Will you be doing more of these in the future?
Hopefully yes! The Astrosaurs series is up to nearly 12 titles so, in the future I should be asked to make the other covers too. And, in any case, there are always many other books to be published (btw, I work as freelance illustrator since almost 20 years: I just started with traditional media and switched to CG five or six years ago).
Visit the blenderartists thread.
Check out Enrico's website for more great modeling and animations.