I was over the moon to find out that the fantastic Bookworm by Lucy Mangan has been shortlisted for the Books are My Bag ‘Beautiful Book’ award. The cover features my illustration, with art direction and design from the wonderful Julia Connolly at Vintage Books. I thought I’d share a behind-the- scenes of how the cover came together!
The book is ‘A Memoir of Childhood Reading’ so I was commissioned to create a book cover that featured a large, decorative tree with interspersing imagery from classic children’s literature- examples were given such as Charlotte’s Web, George’s Marvellous Medicine, The Worst Witch, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to name but a few. There was the option to include a child reading underneath the branches.
I tend to start any project with lists and words rather than images but this commission already had such a strong list of iconic imagery to inspire, from the books featured within the memoir. It was simply a case of working out the most visual and striking way of fitting small icons within the overall tree. I’m not very disciplined at keeping a sketchbook so often end up working on loose sheets and tracing paper.
Here are some of my first sketches (excuse the fountain pen scribbles from photo 3- I had to revive my pen!)
I tend to draw straight into Illustrator, using a Wacom tablet- drawing some things freehand and other things directly from my sketches. I then play around with the placement of everything, almost like moving objects, scenery and characters around in a theatre set. I draw quite roughly at first, as I find just placing elements where they work the best is half of the challenge. I went with oak leaves to suggest the perrenial nature of the children’s books. I had a blast revisiting my own childhood reads and discovering some I’d not read!
I came up with a few options to send to Julia who then shared them with the editorial team and author. The first option was a clear winner to move on to the next stage.
Getting to final artwork:
Once it was decided to go with a crop of the tree, we decided to extend this across the back cover and it was simply a case of refining and adding detail. Here are a few images as the cover came together.
And here’s the final design. I was so pleased with the way Julia used my illustration, and the use of foiling, not to mention really happy with how well- received the cover was!