How There Is created this beautiful book cover art

To create the cover of CJ Redwine's latest novel, Sean Freeman and Eve Steben carved letters in real apples before compositing them in Photoshop.

Sean Freeman and Eve Steben have cooked up a juicy cover for The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine.

Sean and Eve – who work in East London under the moniker of There Is – were commissioned by Harper Collins to create a cover menacing and mystical enough to fit a fairytale: CJ Redwine's novel tells of crowned princesses, wicked queens and, of course, poisoned apples. Well, we would say Sean's cover art looks good enough to eat. 

The hardback is being released on 16 Febuary.

We chatted to Sean for the magic reveal of how exactly they did it. 

Mimi Launder: Where did the original concept come from?

Sean Freeman: “The original idea actually came from the publisher’s art director and the author. They felt a dark and poisonous looking apple was the concept encapsulating best the story. As we have somewhat of a soft spot for type treatments involving food, we immediately jumped into the project.

“For the Shadow Queen artwork, I think it was essential to make the piece by hand: the little imperfections you get by actually carving an apple can only be achieved by actually doing the real thing.

“That way, you also get total control on every element: the grain texture, the depth, the slightly rounded edges, the peel finish, the oxidation colouring... The appetite appeal you get through photography is really key to the realism of the artwork when you play with food – and this is very hard to achieve through other media.”

ML: How did you decide on the type?

SF: “To fit with the story – and the look and feel the client had in mind for this piece– we went for a classic sans-serif font style, with a mystical twist through the addition of a few swirly bits.

"The surface space and the dimensionality of the apple were also important decision factors, to get a good balance in the composition and a maximum of realism – taking advantage of the nice spherical distortion without compromising legibility.”

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ML: How was the final image created?

SF: “The hero fruit was created with shots from several apples, which we then assembled 'in post' – selecting the perfect bits for everything: top, tip, shape, grove, skin texture, etc. Even the leaf was specially hand-picked from a tree to match, while the ink drop was model-made. The idea was to end up with a fruit that the viewer wouldn’t feel the digital work in the piece, and basically just feel like picking and giving a big bite into it – hyper-realistic, round, beautiful, super-fresh and juicy-looking.

“We then tested several paints and finishes for the fruit skin in-camera: [using] different types of condensations [and] formulas to play with the pulp colour, and several tools for the carving – a lengthy, experimental styling process that led us to what we felt was the magic combo in terms of look and feel."

SF: “From there, we established the best ratios for the type to fit onto our apple in a harmonious composition, worked out the optimal scale to maximise the realism and organic details of the lettering – such as the grain of the flesh in the carving. Finally, I designed the type itself, which was then hand-carved, gently sprayed and shot, letter by letter.

“The post-production phase included stitching up the different apple parts together as well as integrating the lettering and the poison drop, a bit of retouching, and a touch of colour grading. Although this sounds quite straightforward, the digital side of things was an overall pretty labour intensive part of the project; which the addition of water droplets made slightly more complex, in the other hand it also filled the fruit with beautiful details which made the piece look much more natural in the end.”

ML: What were the challenges of the project? 

SF: "Things can sometimes get tricky, but it's overall for me the most exciting part of the work. Its particular challenge though would definitely be to have everything done in-house: design, food styling, still life photography and post-production. A labour of love, of which I’m particularly happy."

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