Although this was the first painted cover I produced after moving from Utah back to my hometown in Alaska in the early summer of 1987, it had its origins two years earlier, and even then it was as confused as this final cover painting was.
The plan all along was to have a two book supplement for the Orions supplement but the budget wouldn’t allow for two cover illustrations. The compromise concept was to start with common background for both books that would depict the bridge with all of the sensors, read-outs and controls, then I’d paint a separate foreground pertinent to each book using acrylic paint on clear Mylar film. The in-house production staff would then create the two covers by photographing one overlay over the background, then swapping out overlays to get the second book cover.
I produced sketches showing the two over lays and backgrounds but I was never sold on the process. The only way I could paint the background painting and two overlays for less than the price of two regular covers was to work for just under minimum wage but then the manuscript got put on back-burner and I forgot about it.
June of 1987 and the project pops back up – for some reason with a very short deadline as well. The editors still were tweaking the manuscript but wanted the book done in time for the major summer conventions looming ahead. The decision was made to use one cover which I handled easily enough, but when my finished painting arrived in Chicago panic ensued.
Panic over skin color.
Orion slave girls in the original series were green, but Orion pirates in the animated series were blue. In the first round of sketches I instructed to follow that pallete: blue for men and green for women. While the manuscript had been “on the back burner” there had been discussion about multi-colored Orions beyond blue and green but when I got the call to do the cover I was told to go with a grey skin color for the pirate captain. After the painting arrived I got a frantic telephone call demanding the reason why I hadn’t made him orange! Evidently the discussion had been resolved after I got the assignment – but no one had called to let me know. In fairness this was during the time period that Jordan Weismann was easing out of art direction and into what would become his Virtual World Enterprise project so communication was getting pretty garbled in general.
That overlay idea from 1985 was revived and used by in-house staff member – he laid the Mylar over the painting and airbrushed orange paint over the exposed grey skin areas so the cover art would match the text. I’ll leave you to your own judgment ,,,,but The Orions book never made it into my portfolio.