The first book cover I ever did was for Greer Gilman’s Tiptree Award-winning Cloud and Ashes (my mother had the dustjacket for that book framed). So when Small Beer Press asked me if I could do a cover for a new chapbook by Greer Gilman, I agreed at once.

The novella is Cry Murder! in a Small Voice, and I am very much looking forward to reading the whole thing (the timing of manuscripts and cover art did not permit). It features Ben Jonson, murders, Jacobean theatre, child-players and puppets cut from the woodcuts in old ballad sheets – the description of that last formed the basis of the illustration for the cover:

Cry Murder! - final cover

I enjoyed researching the woodcuts used to illustrate ballad sheets of the era (used and frequently re-used!), and contemporary depictions of, for example, witches and Proserpina (Persephone). I wound up basing Proserpina on the Vincenzo de Rossi sculpture (in which Pluto appears to be engaged in some Olympian goddess-tossing competition) – I imagined that when she was cut out to make a puppet, Pluto was omitted but his arm remains around her hips. The King is drawn from the nobility of playing cards and this cheerful fellow in the sunniest of Shakespeare’s plays. The lady with a fan is a nod to a lively lady appearing on many ballad sheets, the put-upon-sun is a staple of astrological pamphlets, and so on – trying to capture the styles of another medium and era while using my own style and medium. I like the boldness of the ink lines which I could use to echo rough woodcuts.

The strings were left out deliberately.

Below is the original ink work (with a glimpse of some sketches), a colour version and then below that the colour and texture layer of the final design.

Cry Murder! - art process

(You can see this larger on Flickr here)

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