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Category: Art and Photography

String of Stardust Cover Evolution

Earlier I was looking through my old Twitter archives, and noticed something a bit surprising: there were two String of Stardust: Volume One covers I made ages ago that I entirely forgot about, in addition to those I remember... I always find it so fascinating to look at my progress over the years: during my teenage years my art was largely rather stagnant, yet inconsistent; once I hit my 20s, it started evolving fairly rapidly.

This is the oldest cover I know of, and I'm pretty certain it's the oldest that exists—this is from mid-2015 or so, when I was 17. It's a little interesting, to me at least, how much the core concept for what I wanted the cover to be like was already solidified even at this young age. It's called simply Beloved because this was just before it became a series, and certainly long before I had the title String of Stardust. There was an author name here, but it was a dumb name I used to go by online as a teen that will hopefully die with me.

As far as I'm aware, this cover is the first in my batch of "modern" covers; this is from late October, 2018. The art still wasn't...great, but I'm glad the colors were so much better! This one is also surprisingly like what ended up being the first edition cover; although I guess it's not that surprising, as they both have the same basis: the cover of an old shoujo short story collection from the 1930s.

This one is from spring 2019, with a similar pose and such as the latter, but eschewing the framing around the main image. This one is pretty significant for being the first introduction of what would become the Beloved Chronicles font for a long time! This was made about the same time I created my website, so I was starting to have something like consistent "branding." This is also probably one of my favorite of my old covers, as it has a softer color scheme that would become more characteristic of my work later.

This one is from mid-2019 or so, when I was in a phase of trying to make my work super saturated and sparkly; more in the vein of more "mainline" vintage shoujo styles I suppose, rather than the more down to earth, muted work I take most of my inspiration from now (like the work of Yoshimi Uchida). While I'm glad I didn't make this my default style, I do really like this one and would love to make something like it again! I especially love how Hikaru's hair turned out...I'm still not entirely sure how I made it look so truly shiny, but damn I adore it, even now. Also, it's probably notable to note this is the same pose I ultimately used for the first printing of String of Stardust!

This one is from late 2019—and at last! This is when my art style really began to solidify for the very first time, and become something mostly consistent and cohesive. A lot of elements that would become a staple of my style—the slightly sketchy outlines with a painterly coloring style, the mountain bangs, the perpetual little blush marks, it's all here. And the layout is, again, quite similar to what would be the first printing of String of Stardust. It's also when Suzette started to look like she does now!

This cover is sort of cheating, but I'll count it anyways. This cover is from January 2020, from a short stint where I released String of Stardust as an ebook. I'm not sure I'll do that again, since I put it online, and I'm bad at formatting ebooks...that said, if I ever do release an ebook again, I think I'll give it a cover in this vein. I love that Junichi Nakahara-esque silhouette style, and think it fits better as a thumbnail than the cover for the print edition, which is...well, certainly more appropriate for a physical book.

This is from April-May 2020, I believe, and you can really see how my style came into its own here! It still looks, ah, pretty wonky...something about this one is a bit uncanny to my in a way that's hard to place; perhaps because it resembles my modern art in many ways, but the proportions are all wrong? I'm not sure. I also tried to make this cover match what the Beloved Chronicles website looked like at the time, but I don't think that really fit the style of a book very well.

This is from summer of fall of 2020, and at least we've arrived...the cover used for the first printing! I'm a little baffled at the quality jump here; it still looks a little bit off (why is Hikaru so...triangle shaped?); but, on the whole, I'm still pretty happy with it. While it doesn't quite hold up to my current, more discerning tastes, which is why I am changing it...I think I did the best I knew how at the time. I'll never forget opening the box, and bringing this out, my life's dream held in my hand...for that, this will always be special to me.

And now we've arrived to the hopefully last cover, the new cover for December, finished just a month (or two? I don't know time...) ago! As you can see, I've decided to go a rather different direction here: the cover layout is based on an Victorian/Edwardian book cover I found, and I made the somewhat difficult decision to just have Suzette alone on the cover. As much as I would like to have Hikaru and Suzette both, it's hard to have them together and have it be a decent size. In addition, having two figures highers the chance the cover will age poorly...on the plus side, it makes the question of "who should be on the second volume cover?" a complete no-brainer.

I've also come to enjoy more abstract representations of characters and story, which I've incorporated a little bit here—the cakes and deserts on the left side representing Suzette's desire to become a baker (and perhaps even her personality, her delicate and sweet nature), and the scenery on the right side representing the dominate setting of String of Stardust, and the feeling of longing and wonder you get when looking on the horizon (at least, I do). Suzette is holding a lily for a number of reasons: the most obvious, of course, being that her name literally means "little lily." Then of course, there's the common meanings associated with lilies—purity, devotion, rebirth...and lastly, there's the fact of the common motif of Suzette being associated with, and compared to, wildflowers.

I also, at last, changed the old Beloved Chronicles much as I do like that font, it was just too harsh and angular, not fitting the rounder, gentler aesthetic I actually want; I also changed the body font, to find something more befitting of the vintage, old-fashioned vibe I want to have. The old fonts I used were based on older fonts, attempting to be evocative of older styles, but the new fonts I found are actually digitized versions of much older fonts—the display font is from the Victorian era, and the body font was revived in the Victorian era, but created in the 1600s!

Obviously, I'm really happy with how it's turned last, I think, I've found that balance I've been looking for: detailed and intricate to an extent, but not so much where it's near impossible for me to make; some of the simplicity and streamlined quality of modernity, but with a more old-fashioned sensibility. Cute and light, but still a bit more elegant, not too childish...clearly it's taken a lot of work to get to this point, but I'm glad I've stuck with it. I'm really excited to see this one in print.

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