The Spinster Club

Sarah J Coleman
Feb 28 · 4 min read

Re-designing Holly Bourne’s book covers using marker pens, stabby pencils and white knuckles.

After designing the cover of best-selling YA author Holly Bourne’s latest novel ‘Are We All Lemmings + Snowflakes?’, I was asked by long-term client Will Steele at Usborne Books UK to re-design the covers of The Spinster Club books, including the series branding.

Felt tips, Sharpies, assorted markers and really sharp, very soft pencils were employed to create a dialled-down, doodly look for the covers of this incredibly popular series. For the first, ‘Lemmings’, I’d wanted to really emphasise the thread of mental health that runs thought Holly’s books, and which has made them so incredibly popular among young readers, by employing some of the habits I know I have when I’m anxious, tense, upset or stressed.

These filter through into my work like this:

- gripping my pencil till my hand really hurts and my knuckles have gone white

- clenching my non-drawing hand into a tight ball till it’s painful

- going over and over a line till the paper’s gone through

- pressing really hard into the paper

- snapping pencil leads

- losing fine motor control over what I’m doing, resulting in clumsy or overbearing marks, lines gone over, smudges and ink blots (usually I want these, but then there are times when I don’t)

- thinking everything I’ve produced is rubbish

- then thinking I’m a giant fraud who can’t believe she’s managed to kid everyone for this many years.

(This last one is another blog altogether!)

The results were exactly what I wanted, with emotionally-driven marks forming the roughs as I pieced together the elements to make the various options. The inclusion of school paper — lines and grids — felt important, to communicate the setting

The angry-scrawl made it into the final cover, but with the addition of some more confident looking lettering (less of the Goth) and a neat, hand drawn Holly Bourne which has become Holly’s new logo. I was sad this paper scar, didn’t make it, as this felt like it summed up a lot about what happens when I’m trying to work and I’m not feeling good about it (it’s either this, nor nothing at all, as I just can’t work if my brain’s feeling seriously knocked off kilter by something):

The rest of the covers were kind of plain sailing once the tone had been set — and in this case, the flavour had been established with previous versions, so it was a case of refreshing and injecting some energy into them, with the same tool: meaning big marker pens and paper! And having cast off all my tension and frustration with the first one, these ones didn’t need me to clench my teeth at all.

Look out for the rest of the series making its way onto shelves throughout 2019.

I‘ve sonehow illustrated over 700 books. To see some of this giant archive, go to inkymole.combook covers

Sarah J Coleman

Written by

Artist + Illustrator of over 600 books and owner of over 700 pens. Enough to write you a picture AND paint you a story. /

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