So finally, after another trying New York adventure presenting portfolios to publishers, I got a book cover commission. The editor/art director drew a quick sketch on a piece of yellow lined paper and gave it to me. This was the composition I was to follow. There were two little spaceships looking like wine corks, floating above a big red planet. No slam-bang action, no slick Art Center College of Design tricks, just this simple minimal image.
If the art director gives you a design, that's what you do. So I worked up that design into the image you see here. It was for a science fiction book by a Canadian author, Teresa Plowright. Not only had I not read the book, but it was not even finished at the time of painting. (This is not unusual for book cover art.) The basic story was that a group of Earth explorers land on a planet that looks Earth-like but once they land, the planet turns (literally) hostile with violent weather and corrosive chemicals, because the whole planet is one living thing and it is treating the explorers as if they were an invasive infection that must be destroyed.
The painting was done in May of 1986 and published in December of 1986. It was later re-published in paperback with another cover, not mine. Teresa Plowright is still active as a writer, but she's doing travel writing now.
"Dreams of an Unseen Planet" is 17" x 19", acrylic on illustration board. Here's what the finished cover looked like.