The Lion Inside is my first collaboration with the hugely talented Rachel Bright, publishing with Orchard books this September.
It’s the story about a tiny brown mouse who’s ignored and forgotten amongst the huge animals of the African plains. So Mouse sets off on journey to find his roar, he discovers even that even the smallest creature can have the heart of a lion. The cover for this book I started working on as I was completing the interior artwork, which is always a good idea because you feel very familiar with the characters and the world they inhibit by then. Here’s the process from concept to final artwork.
This was the very first concept I made for this project, I was trying out a looser brush style and although the style became much more refined there was something about this little mouse I wanted to keep in the final character.
After lots of sketchbook character designs I worked up the concept cover image of Mouse, slightly terrified setting off on his journey to the unknown. I was playing about with the rock formations suggesting a shape of a lion, although its pretty crude here. This was also the basis of the colour palette I wanted for the whole book, the opening line of the story is ‘A dry dusty place where the sand sparkled gold’ I wanted the colours of the backgrounds to be dry, arid and sun soaked.
These are a couple of pages from my sketchbook showing designs of Mouse and my initial thumbnail ideas for the cover. At this stage I note down all thoughts that pop into my head even if they’re a bit rubbish.
I was trying to play with suggestion of the lion being present through rock shapes, shadows, lighting etc.
I wanted to avoid revealing the Lion fully on the cover to keep a bit of mystery.
After several pages of sketches I scan these in and whittled them down to 12 different cover ideas in this case. They’re not all hugely different ideas, often slight variations on the same idea. I sent these onto my Art Director Grahame Lyus and we both agreed concept 6 was working quite nicely, it was a good balance of the timid Mouse and the slightly sinister looking Lion.
I worked the thumbnail concept up into a rough. Even though I had many poses of the mouse through the book this profile of him walking from the early concept image
still really captured his uncertainty and character and I wanted to use this pose for the cover. The Lion was cast into shadow and his sinister eyes in lime green then stood out.
I personally liked the cleanness of the white but it was an overall decision by the Team to go for the cadmium yellow. Cover’s are always a very difficult stage in making a picture book, it can be difficult trying to satisfy lots of people opinions and still have a clear concept because they are so important for the sale of the book.
The final book cover
The final artwork was created using pencils and coloured digitally in photoshop. The last stage was trying out a few variations for the title, all of these I hand drew except 3rd. I revisited the artwork of the initial concept for the back cover.