Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Blog Frogs, Now in Living Color

Everything old is new again, including these frogs, some of whom have shown up on these pages before. But now they’ve been burnished a bit and tinted green.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tudor Tuxedo and Tabby Cats

Here are my two cats, Buzz (the tuxedo) and Pistachio (the tabby), eschewing their usual nakedness for Tudoresque garb. I painted them this winter.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Twistrose Key’s Winter Jacket

Looking through an old notebook, I see that I made my first sketches for the jacket of Tone Almhjell’s The Twistrose Key on February 4, 2012 - a good 20 months before the novel was published. At first, the jacket was to be winter-themed, with a snowy landscape surrounded by a border printed in blue, silver, and black, and evocative of late 19th Century publishers’ bindings.

Part of what excited me about the blue and silver border was that it harkened back to the packaging of a childhood favorite: Drake’s Yodels, which used to come individually - and magically - wrapped in blue and silver foil. (Years and years ago I dug this wrapper fragment out from under the backseat of my parents’ 1965 Dodge Dart and I’ve saved it as a precious relic ever since.)

Anyway, I started sketching, incorporating as many chilly elements as possible, and playing around with hand-lettered type.

Eventually, I introduced a “key” motif into my sketches - but either I’d misread the manuscript or didn’t yet have an accurate description of the twistrose key itself. According to the text:
It was large, as large as the length of [Lin’s] hand, and blackened, as if someone had tried to burn it. Its head was fashioned as a petal, and the stem was that of a rose, with three tiny, but sharp thorns. Across the petal, there was a name engraved: “Twistrose”.

Next, I placed snowflakes within the (erroneous) bows of the keys - and animals (a fox, a vole, an owl, and a wolf) began to emerge in the four corners.

After filling up many scribbly pages with blue and black ballpoint pen, I did a tighter pencil rendition of the jacket. As you can see, I abandoned the key motif entirely - and went with a lock motif instead (but that didn’t last very long, either).

A variant color version followed - now with display type provided by designer Kristin Smith at Puffin, who spearheaded the project. I think, too, I had more descriptions from the manuscript to guide me by then.

Not long after all this, however, the snow-laden plan melted away to something more silhouetted and starry and less “season specific.”

Later still, the silver foil was replaced with gold, the mountains grew back, “The Wanderer” (the Northern-lights-looking smudge in the sky) went away, and so on. But maybe I can recycle my wintry ideas and pay homage to Yodels on the cover of some future book.

Lost Jackets: The Peculiar

The jacket shown here was, in essence, an “audition” for Stefan Bachmann’s The Peculiar (Greenwillow Books, 2012). The publishers weren’t sure what approach would best suit the debut novel, so they asked a few illustrators to execute a bunch of different ideas.

If I remember rightly, for one of my three sketches I was asked to go in a deliberately Apothecary-like direction, i.e. moody, atmospheric, and featuring a bird (in this case a mechanical brass sparrow, instead of an American Robin) and the London skyline (Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, not the Tower of London and Tower Bridge).

I always liked the result, but it may have been too dark for their purposes, and ultimately they went with something more lighthearted.