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Look Of The Future: Wes Prewer on Cover Art

02-19-2008

Wes Prewer is familiar to many Iceberg readers as the author of The Campaign Equation: Retaliation, as well as the forthcoming Pathfinders and the upcoming Seas of Sand series. Few people realize, though, that Wes pulls double duty with Iceberg Publishing: he is the man behind the computer generated visuals that bring life to the ships of the Equations and Defense Command series.

“We’re hugely lucky to have Wes,” Iceberg partner Kenneth Tam explains. “I don’t think many publishing houses have access to the sort of support he offers… having him on board allows our science fiction series to have a consistent, high-quality graphic presence. You get to see ships in action, over and over again.”

Iceberg sci-fi readers will be familiar with Wes’ work. Beginning with the launch of the Equations Series pocket paperbacks in 2005, his designs and renders could be seen on every Iceberg book in that genre. When the Defense Command series launched in 2006, Wes’ renders were front and center, showing readers just what vessels like DCNS Wolf looked like.

The following is an interview with Wes, about his design work and the process of going from a ship described on a page to an image on a cover.

Thanks for chatting with us about this Wes. How did you get your start in this field?

Well, most of the training I had in this field began in high school. I liked Animation and Modeling, and shortly after I started tinkering , I ended up coming onboard with Iceberg.

You started working with Iceberg in 2005. What has that relationship been like?

Extraordinary! I still can’t believe the luck and timing. I had been friends with Ken Tam for a number of years beforehand, and when his Equations books started coming out. I had the idea to try and make the ships described in them. ENS Orion and ENS Cerberus were the first two Earther models made for Iceberg –– and I still have the images!

So what is the process for going from a ship described on a page to a rendered model?

First, I have to read the described ship, visualize what it in my mind, do some preliminary modeling (basic shapes and textures), send those images –– or renders as they’re usually called –– to Ken for additional feedback, more tinkering, better textures. When it’s close to the finished model, I usually start sending a flurry of renders to Ken for him to look over and get his input, because he knows what the model in question is really supposed to look like, then the last touches are put on it, extra detail, and the final render is sent and the model gets approved. The whole process takes anywhere from a couple hours to a week.

How much input do you have into the look of the ships that emerge?

A lot actually, if the model in question looks like a real life object, like a plane for instance, I can look up an image of the real plane and then using different tools in Cinema 4D I can almost sculpt the object from those images.

Is the process similar when you’re working on something like the bridge of DCNS Wolf?

Absolutely, it’s all the same tools, just used differently. Also for those spaces, Ken is again a goldmine of information. If he can get a rough outline of the space, I can fill in the rest.

What are the next steps –– how do you go from having a model of a ship to having a cover image for, say, a Defense Command novel?

Next I import the finished models into a new scene, add the lights (lighting is really important, can’t stress that enough), add the star field, position the ships, add any other objects in the scene (asteroids, mag fire, explosions, etc.). When I’m satisfied, I render an image to get Ken’s feedback. From there it’s just a matter of refining until the scene is finished. A last render at high resolution, and it’s done.

 You have art on the covers of 15 Iceberg books to date. How does that feel?

I’d honestly lost count! But it feels pretty good, not many people my age can say they’ve illustrated cover art for 15 novels.

When it comes to your own writing in The Campaign Equation or in developing Seas of Sand, does this experience help you visualize new things that you’re creating?

Well, most of the time it does. Other times the visuals in my head are just too big or too detailed to bother with. Most of the time I’ll tinker with ideas in Cinema 4D to see how they’d look, and then draw insight from that to pour into my writings. However there are some things that I absolutely have to model… case in point being the model for the cover of the first Seas of Sand book. And no, I’m not saying what it is –– that stays secret for a bit longer!

On the technical side of things, what software do you use to produce the images?

I use Cinema 4D –– Iceberg provides me with the latest, so I’m currently working with Release 10.

What has been your favorite model to work on?

Ah, that’s a tough one. ENS Venerable is up there, Wolf and Bonaventure (Bonnie) too. However, a lot of DC fans are probably going to be shocked when I say I really enjoy working on the Martian ships… specifically the Tharsis-class Battleship. That would be my favorite model to work on. You’ll see it on a DC cover in the coming year.

How about your favorite cover image?

Again, another hard one. The images for The Rogue Commodore and The Gallant Few are up there… but the one that will take the cake is still upcoming. When you see the cover image for The Forge Fires, you’ll agree with me. It’s my favorite.

Are there any plans for future developments that you can talk about?

I’ll see what I can come up with! We’re always kicking around ideas for videos showing ships in action, so that’s a possibility. In general, there’ll be more working on Defense Command and Equations ships… and I might whip up a teaser image for Seas of Sand… we’ll see!