Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Al Williamson Archive

This is a progression of cover designs for the new Al Williamson Archive book from Flesk Publications. This book will be the first in a series of books printing Al's preliminary sketches and visual brainstorms. John Fleskes and Mark Schultz spent several days at Al's house going through the stacks and stacks of original drawings and scanning them for this book. This will be the first time these images appear in print. This book and future volumes will be an amazing historical record of Al's work over a 55+ year period.

I have to admit this was a bit of a struggle for me. I wasn't sure what to do with the cover. I didn't want this to look like a traditional sketchbook that is seen in the comic book industry. It's always a challenge for me to design books for people who's work I cherish. It's a great honor and privilege to design packages that contain such inspiring work... I don't want to screw up.

After going through the hundreds of images, John and Mark had decided on the image they wanted for the cover, now came my turn. John told me I could do what I wanted with the image, I could crop it anyway I saw fit, or I could run the image full-bleed off the edges.

The first cover at the top, I tried re-using the "tag" idea from the Bama book. I thought it had the look of how you might label some kind of important document. I thought it fit with the archive idea. I added transparent colors to give the illusion the art was done on tracing paper. I also thought it would help lighten up all of the black areas. I wanted this to feel airy and sketch-like.

The second cover, I decided to frame the art, and not allow it to float. I tried adding a vertical title box to give the cover more sensation of height. I added the thin rules in the black area to give the feeling of movement to re-enforce the action in the drawing. I also created an asymmetrical balance to add to the dynamic tension.

The third cover, followed the initial direction of the second cover. Instead of a vertical title box I used the more traditional horizontal approach. I wanted this to have more of a 50's vibe, since that is when the majority of Al's work was done, so I used that refrigerator looking font. I used the diagonal color blocks to again, create movement.

John liked the first and second cover designs. He was concerned however, that with the second design, that Al's name didn't appear large enough. He then left it up to me to figure out which cover to go forward with, and how to solve some of the problems. The fourth cover, is taking into account all the suggestions, and mashing together the ideas that worked from the 3 designs, and creating a hybrid. And that folks, is how it works.


  1. Are you guys planning on keeping the same cover image (because I love that sketch)? Its really a beautiful and striking image. I hope there are more Mars sketches in the book!

    Are you going to be publishing these on the stock and format of the Schultz books? It's such a great format and really feels great to flip through. Not too heavy and cumbersome and they look great in the bookcase together!

    I can't wait to see your next pass on this cover. They all have their own strength, so it's tough to pick a favorite. At the same time, the fact that you have such reverence for the work speaks to why you're the right guy for the job.

    I'm sure you'll hit it out of the park!

  2. Shanth,

    The Williamson books will be the same paper and format as the Schultz sketchbooks. The fourth image, closest to the bottom, is the actual cover for volume 1, so, yes, it will be that Martian image.

    There are over 200 images that will be combined into 2 volumes. They represent everything from Al's 1950's Atlas westerns, to a story he started for Xenozoic Tales. Some of the illustrations were done as large as 11" x 17" so there will be some great variety of pieces in the 2 books. I hope you have enough room on your book shelves.

  3. Much like jello, there's always room for Williamson and Schultz books!

  4. I enjoyed this one very much. It's interesting to see how the creative process works, and how you got to the end piece. I especially liked the top one - I like the illusion of transparency, I think. Thanks for sharing how its done!

  5. Thanks for your kind words, Sarah!