Pixel Glade

Fantasy Cover Art Appreciation Part 01

27 January 2023

Unexpected Finds at Second-Hand Bookstores

I went to a yearly second hand book sale called Bookfest by the charity Lifeline. This year I took photos of books whose covers appealed to me. This was partially to get ideas for eBooks to read but also so I can look up the cover artists later (sorry for the light reflections, I don't like them either).

In this first post, I will share a couple of the book series whose art I happened to like and I got photos of. They are from the 1980s-1990s.

Click each cover to visit their edition metadata on the speculative fiction database when available (this edition of Sunrunner's Fire cover isn't documented!). The main difference between editions is usually the typography for the book titles.

Melanie Rawn

These covers for the Dragon Prince and Dragon Star (1980s-1990s) series by the author Melanie Rawn were illustrated by Michael Whelon, one of my favorite fantasy artists.

Cover of Stronghold by Melanie Rawn. Book one in the Dragon Star series. A red dragon blows fire into the air before a castle.
Cover of Star Scroll by Melanie Rawn. Book two in the Dragon Prince series. A woman in a purple headdress approaches a tranquil red dragon by some boulders and a river.
Cover of Skybowl by Melanie Rawn. Book three in the Dragon Star series. A knight holds a sword in both hands with a yellow dragon behind him. They are standing on a cliff with an water view behind them and buildings across the waterfront visible in a hazy background.
Cover of Sunrunner's Fire by Melanie Rawn. Book three in the Dragon Prince series. Wizard shoots bolts of lightning from his hands into the sky while an aggressive dragon approaches with claws and fangs beared from his left. Fire smoulders in the background with pink hues.

Louise Cooper

The Indigo Saga and Master Series by Louise Cooper had a few different illustrators. Nemesis was illustrated by Mike Posen while Nocturne and The Master were illustrated by Robert Gould.

Cover of Nemesis by Louise Cooper. Book one in the Indigo Saga. The text is before a azure blue background with a painting between them. A gnarled tree is in the foreground beside some darkened ruins, with a sunset moving over hills in the background.
Cover of Nocturne by Louise Cooper, Book Four in the Indigo Series. Illustrative cover with lineart, a woman's face illustrated in amber and gold is surrounded by a black triangle. Grey rocks and thorny tree branches surround the triangle.
An illustrative cover of The Master by Louise Cooper, Book 3 of the Time Master Trilogy. A sage in long white robes with red and gold cuffs raises their arms toward a chasm and looming grey mountain. A rectangle encloses the book subtitle and an image of a man with long white hair, with an eclipse behind his head. He wears long white robes with a gold lining and a ruby-decorated circlet around his forehead.

What appeals to me about these artworks

Besides the technical skill involved, I think one thing in common between each of these covers is the colours look very vivid and harmonious.

Lighting is almost impressionist in instances and leads to harmonious colour palettes influenced by sunsets and sunrises. The rendering by Michael Whelon is realistic and most use a complementary yellow-blue colour palette. These editions of the Melanie Rawn books use a gold metalic embellishment on the text which is very eye-catching, earlier editions had no metalics and had thinner fonts. The thick metalic fonts are better balanced with the artwork.

The artwork by Mike Posen (Nemesis) has no obvious fantasy elements beyond a fantastical-looking gnarled tree but the sunset casting a purple-yellow hue leaves a mystical impression. Robert Gould's illustrations use an unrealistic colour palette, a lot of muted colours like white and grey are used with saturated yellows or amber. The composition by Robert Gould's covers are more geometric with decorative nature elements which is reminescent of an art nouveau style.

The resurgence of fantasy books (and so art covers) following pulp magazine era is credited to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit in Fantasy of the 20th Century: an illustrated history (Randy Broecker). The public was consuming fantasy through books instead of magazines which lead to larger budgets and authors to dream bigger.

Next Time

In the next post on this topic, I'll share some covers for series by Julian May and David Eddings, followed by an additional post for covers that didn't fit neatly into a series or author category.

Leave a Comment

Please note that comments are moderated and may take 24-48 hours to appear on the website.

Your message is not yet submitted.


There are no comments yet!

The Glade is written by pixelglade and built with Zonelets.