Concept Art – "Western" Style

An artist friend told me that I should not mix Western and Eastern illustration styles as it’s confusing for branding.  But I had worked with different types of artists and quite frankly I loved many of the styles I had some across.  Since this is a self-publishing project with no one to shake a stick at me, I decided to go with both “Western” and “Eastern” styles.  It’s an East meet West book anyways!  It makes sense in my crazy brain!

Admittedly, to market this as a serious urban fantasy book, I had to focus more of my budget on a “Western” style that’s realistic in order to fit into the mainstream slew of books out there.  Also, it was important for me to find a style which could show facial details in order to distinguish between the ethnicity of people.  While commissioning art, I was also re-editing the book so seeing the characters come to life made me realize that having art was so important to helping draw people into this world I had created.

Eumir Carlo P. Fernandez, is a super amazing artist based in the Philippines.  Click here for a Q & A to find out more about him.  His amazing portfolio is on display at  Below are the pieces I asked him to help out with and some details about them.

Happy Human Family

(James, Claire & Tamara)


Every picture has a story and so does every illustration.  The very first piece of artwork I commissioned for The International House of Vampires is this one, a “Happy Human Family.”

One of my friends commented on how boring this piece was and why was I throwing away money on this!  Initially I was going to do a kickstarter video using all illustrations and use the pan/zoom function to make things move.  However, I got complaints about not having HD quality video shots, which is why the final book trailer version uses more clip videos than illustrations.  But since I started commissioning, I thought I would finish having a complete concept art set for the first book anyways.

I wanted to make this illustration to serve as the beginning of the story.  This is a happy ever after shot, in which people have a family and are settled in and happy.  But what goes up must come down, so of course, things go downhill for this family.  The family consists of the main characters of The Undead Sorceress, Tamara (mother), James (husband) and Claire (child).

This artwork ended up to be a pivotal piece in helping me choose an artist as well because even though I gave specs to many artists, I ended up with: angry family, no facial expression family and sexy family.  It was a good litmus test – if the artist can’t draw relaxed people, how can they help me do future action shots?  Also, I was interested in ethnicity of the characters, so their bone structures had to look different.  At sketch stage, I knew Eumir was the man to help me finish off the other concept art pieces in the “Western” realistic style.

 East Versus West



Originally I had made a cover for The Undead Sorceress using of a Chinese opera mask with added fangs.  I thought it was super cute.  But it didn’t make the cut for my husband or many males I knew.  They just went, “Um, it looks…let’s talk about something else…”

For a Kickstarter campaign, it’s required that you make things to give away.  So I looked into making pillows or t-shirts with the image.  Then I decided to quickly check copyrights.  Turned out the image had different rules on it and one of them was limitation on promotional items.  Website use and book cover use was ok though.  You could obtain permission for using on promotional stuff, but at the price it was offered at, I might as well commission a new cover!  So, that’s what I did…

Trolling the internet, I discovered many fantasy art book covers featuring a sexy female heroine with a sword and her hips thrust out.  Or they had dragons, ships, knights and hooded men.  Did I mention hooded men?  Lots of covers out there with hoods.  The people in them seem posed, like they were on a quest for something important and just happened upon a photo shoot in the middle of the forest.  Actually, the covers are probably based on pictures of models which is why the people seem so perfect.  In general, not many of the poses were interesting to me.  If I wasn’t going to have a cute face on the cover, I wanted some action with swords!

The idea of East and West being in conflict came to me, so I thought, how about a picture with a woman in the traditional Chinese opera warrior outfit versus a European knight?  Is it a spoiler to say this is a fantasy sequence based on something that happens in The Undead Sorceress?

Eumir didn’t like my original idea of the girl with sleeves (I based in on removable sleeves in a Chinese opera costume picture), so he asked for creative freedom to make her look more cool based on his experience with trading card games and fantasy art.  So really, the artwork looks great because he was able to translate a muddy vision I had in my head into this awesome scene!

Three Sisters

(Kiya, Zhi, Vincencia & Jiang Shi Russian Soldiers)


In Shakespeare’s Macbeth there are three witches and their chants of  the line, “Double double, toil and trouble” was stuck in my head when I started writing about potential villains in the book.  In the International House of Vampire series I use the “Three Sisters” as the names of the leaders of a magic user cult group called “The Children of Krakos”.  In Greek mythology, Kratos is a god of strength and power, which I thought was appropriate for women who aim to make a comeback in the world after being driven into isolation.

As mentioned in the character sketches, Kiya, Zhi and Vicencia are all based on historical people throughout history.  I didn’t want the characters to be just evil women; that seems so simple.  They all had reasons for joining the cult in the first place and some of them don’t even want to fight the vampires.  I had seen the Crucible recently and was struck by the fact that throughout history, it always seemed like women were accused of using magic more than men.  So I try to explain this a little bit in the book.  The concept of the women using jiang shi as soldiers seemed logical.  (Jiang shi = translates to stiff corpse or hopping Chinese zombie vampires)  If you knew magic and needed to go into battle, wouldn’t it be more practical to conjure up corpses using necropsy magic instead of risking the lives of real people?

The yellow costume Zhi is wearing is loosely based on what Taoist priests wear with a ying yang symbol.  If you watch any jiang shi movies, you will know that the priests always wear a hat too, but in this case, it would have covered the people behind her, so we didn’t put it on her.  The yellow pieces of paper and coin sword is suppose to be used against supernatural beings, although in this case they are used to control the soldiers behind her.  Their arms are stretched out and they hop to where they are suppose to go because their bodies have become stiff after death.  The concept of Chinese vampires is based on the fact of that many people used to work far from home and if they died at work, their relatives had problems transporting their bodies back.  Taoist priests would be hired to reanimate the corpse and make them hop home for burial.

 The Vampire Monarch Family

(Queen Yi, King Ragnar Lodbrok, Queen Nefertiti & Prince Eysteinn)


There is something fascinating about lives of royal people.  They seem to lead such mysterious lives which we all hope to be fascinating compared to our own boring, common ones.  These vampires don’t have fangs since they haven’t sucked blood out of people in many years.  I admit being selfish with the king character, as Ragnar’s personality and looks is based on my own Viking husband’s traits.  I sometimes joke that he should marry another wife so someone else can do the cooking and housework, but he just gives me a stern look in return.  Ragnar’s marriage to Nefertiti is due to duty, a concept more common in the past and is not based on love.  His marriage to Yi is based on love, a concept of the modern age.  In the Ragnar Lodbrok saga, Eysteinn was the king of Sweden and a good friend of Ragnar’s so it seemed appropriate that he would name his son after this person.  Generally, this family set up gives me a lot of conflict to play with – the son is a spoiled brat, the queens are all fighting for power and the king is trying to keep his sanity.  Almost sounds like a normal family, doesn’t it?!

Fortress Residents

(Fengyang, Wieska, Gaya, Rodolfo, Merlin, White Maiden, Regina, Nick, Kat, Mike)



When people go on dangerous quests, they usually don’t go on it alone.  That’s just suicide.  So there is always a team of people backing up the main character while they are struggling to fulfill their destiny.  In Tamara’s case, she has a gang of people supporting her at a Fortress where she does her training.

The main teachers are in the middle, Merlin and White Maiden.  To the right of Merlin are vampire students and to the left of the White Maiden are the hu-bot children.  The Fortress is a place of innovative technology, so I thought it would be fitting to have robots living there.  The intelligence is not artificial, as the hu-bots actually contain the souls of deceased people.  My interest in vampires and hu-bots stem from the fact that I am very scared of dying.  Heck, I joke and obsess about it a lot, but when life is over, that’s it!  A prof told me that people who think too much are the most cynical and depressed, so I am no exception.

All of the faces with the exception of the teachers were based on my real life friends.  There was a few debates about this piece as one girl thought the original version was too sexy.  If you ever look through superhero character drawings, it is true, girls tend to have less clothes on.  Based on feedback, the girls I here have on more armor and clothes than the men.  The guys were ok with their six packs I think, as I didn’t receive any complaints!




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