Middlemarch illustration, for Litographs!

Middlemarch sketches

George Eliot’s Middlemarch is a very large book. I know this because I speed-read it last month, and that isn’t actually possible. It is also a very wonderful book: all the summaries, while strictly accurate, make it sound depressing but it isn’t – once you commit to the 1000 pages of it, everything becomes inevitable and deserved and in character. It’s a very tender, human novel. I like it so much.

I am not the only person to feel this way! Due to the machinations of master-conspirator Ellen Kushner, I met Danny Fein and Benjy Brooke of Litographs, and was commissioned to illustrate Middlemarch.

Middlemarch roughs for Litographs

A lot happens in 1000 pages, and the novel has an ensemble-cast, so the process of finding an iconic image was complex. In the end, I simmered the ideas down to a focus on Dorothea’s story (since she begins and ends the novel), and the idea of how the choices we make, the context in which we live and the passage of time all limit the options available to us (I’ve been told that sounds depressing, but spread over 1000 pages it’s almost reassuring). So the sketches featured Dorothea, her husband the elderly, academic Casaubon, Highly Symbolic Trees (TM), and passionate, unsettled Will Ladislaw.

Who lost out in the final design. I listened to many episodes of 99% Invisible in the process of cutting out the final illustration.

Middlemarch - Original cut paper illustration

 

The 1830s did not have the best sleeves.

I then scanned the silhouette in and moved a few elements around – detached the bird, extended the line of hills, and so forth – before adding colour, converting it to an appropriate vectorised image and sending it off to Litographs, to be overlaid on text and printed (here is a video of their process).

Middlemarch

 

It can be produced in black and white or other colourways, on posters, wall-clings, tote bags and t-shirts – all through the Litographs website. They also have lots of other books, and are reprinting Alice in Wonderland on people using temporary tattoos, so have a look around while you’re there!

KJennings LItographs t-shirt

Illustration Friday: Pet

Illustration Friday: Pet

Queen of Thorns: yet another in the playing card series, to (as usual) warm up for this week’s illustration projects and try out some techniques. This is a very light sepia pen and ink drawing, with colour and texture added in Photoshop Elements.

The shape of this one is taken from some 15th century playing cards from Holland (you can see them on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website). Old playing cards are generally amazing – have a 15th century Stuttgart set as well.

I have been asked whether the cards will coalesce into a single project. Maybe? They began as a prop for a story, and then turned into illustrations for other stories, as well as a testing ground for other ideas.

In other news: oh, stacks of stuff, some of which I hope to be able to talk about soon. I’ve been waiting on a few illustration projects to come back to my desk (they’ve all arrived this weekend), so I’ve been pushing ahead with the first read-through and edits on my Large Amorphous Manuscript. 8.3% to go!

Illustration Friday: Wiggle

Illustration Friday: Wiggle
Even mermaids start small…

Another in the ongoing, desultory playing card series. Pen and ink drawing, with colour and texture added digitally.