When I first published Sounds of Soldiers, as a print on demand book available through Lulu.com, I created a cover for it that I just wasn’t happy with. I’m not sure why. I did do some planning, which I then went and threw away when I did the artwork. A couple of days ago I found some of the sketches I did when casting about for ideas.
Take note of the fourth image on the top row, we’ll be returning to it.
This idea appealed enough for me to get the coloured pens and do some shading.
So when I decided I was going to do a Kindle version I vowed to create a new cover for it. The image of death after a battle appealed, and knowing I couldn’t possibly do the idea justice in a drawing or painting I fell upon the idea of building a diorama to depict the scene. Initially I was thinking of the tank graveyard or post ambush sequences in the book, but the gun as a grave marker came back as an idea after a while. After a bit of Googling, but no more sketching, I had a good idea of what I wanted to do. I ordered 1:6th scale action figure accessories from EBay (a quick shout out to cbtoycollectables and qqmodels, the two merchants I used), ordered a display case from Hobby’s and picked up most of the other stuff I needed from my local model shop.
The wooden stake was weathered by hitting it with a hammer and then holding it over one of the rings on the cooker (it’s good to be on gas). The ground was roughed out using polystyrene packaging from the ever growing pile in the corner of the room. With stake and base glued down I set about building up the ground. The first layer was Woodland Scenics flex paste, which I painted with first their earth undercoat and then Tamiya’s diorama texture paint. Ground cover is real leaves. I spotted a load of these tiny leaves on the ground one day and just scooped them up. I don’t know what they’re from, but they work. Much careful fixing with wood glue later I had a good looking earth mound covered with autumn leaves. Further detail was added using more Woodland Scenics stuff.
I painted some bare metal onto the gun, and weathered it, the boots and the helmet, but the photos I took of that are all quite blurry. The only one that came out is of the smashed lens I put into the lamp on the gun. I lost the lens which came with the gun, so I cut out bits of clear plastic and glued them into the lamp.
Put everything together and, after a bit more weathering, I had this-
After a little resizing, and with another shot of blue sky to put on the back cover, I dropped the image into the template I’d used for the original cover. I failed to do any images of the various steps I took in Photoshop, so straight to the finished cover image-
I put more effort into the lettering than I have in the past, and I’m much happier with the result. The title and my name on the front cover have an aluminium pole texture under them courtesy of photoshoptextures.com.
Sounds of Soldiers will be available for the Kindle, and with its new cover from Lulu, from next week. I shall be running a competition to win the model used in the original cover artwork. Check out spinneyhead.co.uk/books for details in the next few days.
My gun as grave marker idea puts me in very good company.
This is Peace and War, the omnibus collection of Joe Haldeman’s Forever War, Forever Peace and Forever Free. I haven’t read Free and Peace, but I have read War. It’s a very good book, using relativist effects as a metaphor for soldiers in a distant war become ever more alienated from the people they are supposedly fighting for.