"For cover art I do a sketch first of figures and layout, then the classic, rough acrylic underpainting. Then, either with real oils or a *digital program I add dry brush colors and details added to the central or important elements. To me, leaving some areas crude and unfinished, is as important as the details in other parts - giving that dreamlike surreal environment that draws the viewer's eye.
I can't praise the digital programs enough - which really do look and feel real - although a grounding in actual painting is very important to an artist who aspires to that old school feel.
Being able to rework entire layouts though, or backtrack through misadventures on the piece, means better final results too. The only thing missing is that smell of turpentine I love - so I do enough real painting to keep the smell around! That's important to me.
Like with music, sometimes you gotta go analog!"
Above all I try to keep the entire thing a product of my imagination. That's what makes all the difference! I may look at photos of subject matter, to learn about a certain thing, but the end result is completed in my imagination. That's what's fun too! If you just paint, while imagining the thing you are representing, then even a mistaken brush stroke can guide you and show you a better result, which you can learn from and incorporate. Copying reality, or a photograph is very limiting."