DUNE #6 - Illustrating Dune

By Katya Thomas

Dune has been an inspiration to artists for years, but in some ways that makes it harder to come up with your own artistic vision. I wanted a style to that could do the mysterious and wondrous world justice, which led to a lot of experimentation to find the right look for our Dune. I finally landed on an atmospheric, somewhat moody, speed-painted style as we found the movement of the brushstrokes yet heavy focus on light and shadow would lend itself perfectly.

We were also lucky enough to have the unique opportunity to take inspiration from the visuals of the upcoming movie from Legendary Pictures. These incredible images gave us a base to work from yet also let us put our own twist on things to separate the two. So where we have been inspired by the movie, Dune: Adventures in the Imperium has its own look.

It's been interesting to go back to the source and focus on Frank Herbert's original descriptions. With so many other amazing designs from fans and artists over the years, the original look can often get buried. So it has been great to be able to research the original elements of the world before putting our own spin on them.  Classic meets nouveau.

While all the work from our artists has been outstanding, working on the cover with Bastien Lecouffe Deharme has been especially interesting. After all, the cover is going to be most people's first encounter with the art of the game, so it needed to be incredible. We decided early on to focus on a simple and striking image that still gave nods to previous editions. I wanted to do something different to the usual sandworm in a desert, which although classical didn’t feel as though it would fit the setting of our core rulebook.

However, we felt we had to feature a sandworm somewhere, given how iconic they are. So I decided to include a stained glass window with the sandworm design to still tie into the world thematically. This allowed us to focus on the political aspect of the Dune universe and inter-House relationships.

I wanted to show the complexities of those in power actually being controlled by others behind the scenes or indirectly. To show this compositionally we went for a ‘V’ shape of characters with the very influential Mentat and Bene Gesserit Sister looking over the noble's shoulder. This also draws the eye into the centre of the image and to the stained glass window which we placed directly behind the main character to evoke an almost halo-like sense.

We also wanted to feature the planet Arrakis, not just because it is the centre of the action but to show the clash between the Houses so it wasn’t exclusively Atreides based. The holographic grid makes it look like a strategic display and gives the piece more of a sci-fi twist. The weapons being stabbed into the planet may seem a little brutal but I felt it was very evocative in representing the ancient conflicts that have been going on for millennia.

Having discussed all of the political reasons behind the cover I didn’t want to ignore the vast expanse of the main feature of Arrakis - the desert. I asked myself “How can we incorporate this element into the scene?” Then Bastien had an incredible idea to have a fog of golden sand flying in from the back cover and wrapping around the front. This also gave us enough detail for the back cover without making it too cluttered as the product detail has to go there.

So, thats our cover, a mixture of the old and new, sandworms and feudal power but with a sci-fi twist. I hope you enjoy the result as much as we have creating it.