Mother Thorn: The Special Edition

The special edition of Juliet Marillier’s Mother Thorn and other tales of courage and kindness is available!

It has a linen-texture cover and the silhouette illustration is printed all in gold.

And in this edition, the illustrations inside have details in metallic ink!

The special edition is available from Serenity Press at this link: Special Edition Linen Hardcover.

The other, matte edition (paper and hardback) is also available here: Matte editions.

There are four stories in the collection, each with a full-page silhouette illustration and various incidental images and ornaments. I will be putting up a process post soon…

The Tallow-Wife arrives!

Cardboard box with bubble-wrapped parce.

Look what’s arrived from Tartarus!

Spread of three copies of The Tallow-Wife, on top of bubble wrap. The first is open to the story "Embers and Ash", with a drawing of a ship half-sunk in a cliff. The second has its dust jacket on. The third shows the foil-and-purple cover design on the boards under the cover.

It’s Angela Slatter‘s extremely beautiful The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales, which is now available to buy in a limited edition.

The spines of The Tallow-Wife, with hand-lettered title printed in foil on a purple ground.
(Photo from Tartarus Press)

It is illustrated throughout with vignettes and spot illustrations in the same style as The Bitterwood Bible.

Hand holding two pens and several folded sections of drawing paper, on the top page of which is written "The Tallow-Wife & Other Tales by Angela Slatter", with drawn ornaments of candles, branches, and moths.
A Staedtler Pigment Liner 0.05, and a Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen Warm Grey 272, on Canson Illustration paper.

It’s a loose, conversational, first-impressions style that I love working in. It’s so first-impressions that the label for my sketchbook notes for the project became not only the title page, but the spine lettering and the basis for some of the cover ornaments.

Title page of the book with sketches of candles, floral flourishes, and moths.

First impressions isn’t the same as easy. Here, more than any other style, is where I can feel all the work of observing (the world, how I work, how other people solve problems) and sketching pay off.

I particularly enjoy working this way because it catches that first response of an early reader, the images that intrigue and charm me, the conversation I wanted to have with the stories when I was first exposed to them. And also because, while there’s a lightness to the style, there’s also a lovely weight of quantity — spooling out wavering lines in response to the stories as they unfold, questioning and reacting and correcting.

More commonly, illustrating a book involves reading through, responding, making thumbnail sketches, having those approved, refining pencils, having those approved, and then working on the finals (subject to approval). For The Tallow-Wife, the selection process was simply the appeal of the text (and the limits of my abilities!), and the taste of the author and publisher as they select and place the final collection of drawings.

Page of black and white line sketches of wine, a boy bowing, ghostly dogs at a cathedral, etc.

The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales is a companion book to Sourdough and Other Stories and the World Fantasy Award-winning Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings. The limited edition is now available to buy from Tartarus (while the print-run lasts).

If you need reasons to buy this, apart from the obvious (Slatter, Tartarus, enchantments), I have posted An Incomplete List of Reasons I Have Bought Illustrated Books, in case any of those excuses resonate with you.

The Tallow-Wife: pre-orders open

The cover of The Tallow-Wife, cream with a small purple rectangle with an illustration of a pale crowned woman

The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales, the third mosaic collection in Angela Slatter‘s Sourdough world, is now available for preorder from Tartarus Press, in a limited edition hardback.

As with most Tartarus hardbacks, it pays to look under the dust jacket…

Close up of a head crowned with branches, a candle, and moths, printed on purple boards in gold and bronze foil

And look at the lettering on the spine! I now wish to have all my handwriting printed in foil.

Book spines in purple with the title in gold and bronze foil.

(I wasn’t expecting that part.)

Previous Tallow-Wife art posts:

A hand holding a fan of folded pages, with a pen drawing of candles and moths and the title of the book.

Mother Thorn — book trailer

From A Licence to Quill comes this book trailer for Juliet Marillier’s Mother Thorn, and other tales of courage and kindness, illustrated by me.

The Serenity Press hardcover special edition is out now, and the trade release of the linen cover is in April 2021. More on that as the date approaches!

Observation Journal: Project review and the brightness of sky in water

This observation journal entry is a further development of post-project reviews, pursuing a set of questions that work for me.

Hand-written double spread of observation journal. On the left page, five things seen/heard/done and a drawing. On the right, densely handwritten notes.

Left page: Butterflies, balloons, the arrival of a giant mixer for the new pie shop. Until the weather grew briefly chilly, I was playing the guitar in the evenings, and will probably return to it in about 7 years (the urge seems to correlate to natural disasters).

Right page:

One of the things the observation journal has been very useful for is reviewing finished projects.

Some previous observation journal post-mortem posts:

On this page, the process is starting to look more like what I do now, superficially at least. (The project is the cover art for The Spellcoats, which needed to be in a style that isn’t quite my usual one, to fit a set of existing covers.)

I started with broad associations: “left too late/delay”, “HUGE file” and “took SO LONG”. Not exactly novel and not particularly helpful (except for the useful reminder that working heavily digitally and needing to match someone else’s existing style take a lot longer than some other approaches).

But then I incorporated the patterns/suprises/likes/dislikes/steal approach (adapted from Todd Henry and Austin Kleon) that I use for note-taking. This was useful because it:

  • gave a loose structure (beyond my various worries and self-criticism)
  • brought balance — one of the things I most like about that set of questions is that “disliked” comes so late in the series.
Right-hand page of observation journal. Densely hand-written chart. Post-job review of cover art for The Spellcoats.

Highlighting the things that felt most significant is very useful for reviews. I need to remember to do it more often. In particular, two elements that have kept cropping up since then are:

  • subtle communications via textiles
  • the importance of surface ornament

Another interesting realisation, however, was that the process of working on a book that has had several covers before is extremely illuminating about why those artists and art directors made the choices they did.

Tiny pen drawing of a boy about to hit a water depth post with a stick.
Boy fights post

Art/writing review exercise

If you want to try this out, consider a project you finished within memory. Then make a few notes (I like to try for a minimum of three) on each of the following points. You can interpret them broadly:

  • Patterns you’ve noticed (in what you do, and what you made, and how you did it, and between this and other things you’ve seen lately)
  • Things that surprised you (in the outcome, the source material, the media you worked in, a response)
  • Things you liked (the pleasures, the things that went well, the reactions you had or received, the feeling of a keyboard or supplies)
  • Things you disliked (in the finished project, the process, the surrounding circumstances)
  • Things you’d like to try (in consequence of the above, or again, differently, for another purpose, prompted by the project)

Mother Thorn — pre-orders!

I am delighted to announce that Juliet Marillier’s new collection Mother Thorn, with silhouette illustrations by me, is now available for pre-orders from Serenity Press.

Walk into a fairy tale world that’s not quite what you might expect.

Lara’s life of lonely drudgery changes when she gains an unlikely friend and learns that acts of kindness can bring their own rewards. High-born Niamh knows the kennel boy is her soulmate, but when she seeks help from the Otherworld, her future takes a surprising turn. Bella runs away from home on a stormy night and finds shelter in a strange old house, where she meets a shy kitchen hand, his autocratic mother, and a mouse. Young soldier Katrin makes her weary way homeward after a terrible defeat. A chance encounter with an old woman plunges Katrin into an adventure involving dogs, treasure and a lost tinder box.

These four tales celebrate courage and kindness. They are about being to true to yourself and recognising the good in others.

Mother Thorn is for readers aged 12+. Adults who love fairy tales should also enjoy this book.

Cover Reveal: Mother Thorn

I’m very excited to share this new cover with you! It’s for Juliet Marillier‘s collection Mother Thorn, which should come out from Serenity Press in November this year. I will share preorder links as they become available — and also some process detail.

Although this cover began as a physical cut-paper silhouette, I was trying something different with colours and textures — it was an educational experience, but I’m very happy with how it turned out, and I’m looking forward to continuing to experiment with the possibilities.

Update: Juliet has posted more about the book (and the stories in it) at her website — Cover Reveal: Mother Thorn.

Flyaway: The cake!

This was a seven-cake birthday, somehow (thank you to all responsible!), but I particularly wanted to show you this cake my older sister organised from Sugar Art by Zoe Byers.

Cake and photos by Zoe Byers https://zoebyres.com/

My sister gave her the link to my website, and Zoe chose the Flyaway cover!

Cake and photos by Zoe Byers https://zoebyres.com/

Zoe wrote:

The cut out was made by joining two pieces of wafer paper (to add strength for it to stand up). I then traced your gorgeous image, hand cut it out and painted it with edible paint. I am so thrilled you like it.

Cake and photos by Zoe Byers https://zoebyres.com/

And here is the final cake — a wonderful cake and a marvellous surprise!

Cake and photos by Zoe Byers https://zoebyres.com/

On silhouettes and further points of connection

This follows on from yesterday’s post about the structural role of triangles in editing and silhouettes. It’s about the points that connect and strengthen fragile pieces of a design (or, if you wish to extend the metaphor in yesterday’s post, of a piece of writing).

This image is my cover design for Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins‘ Aurealis-Award-winning collection of linked stories, The Silver Well (Ticonderoga Publications, 2017).

The Silver Well

It’s originally a cut paper silhouette that I then used to make a cyanotype print.

2020-05-15-KJennings-SilverWellBase

The physical silhouette is delicate (see yesterday’s post for some examples of scale). While structural requirements of cut-paper silhouettes don’t technically matter for a printed cover, they do for the original art (and I enjoy the constraints it gives me to push against, and the physical possibilities and effects they open up for the illustration).

In this case, there were competing requirements. The silhouette needed to look open, airy, and leafy — not like a complete net. But it also needed to be robust enough to (a) withstand the cutting-out of neighbouring tiny pieces, (b) tolerate being picked up, turned over, scanned, printed with, etc, and (c) hold up when framed, and not tear or sag under its own slight but not insignificant weight.

I dealt with this by tiny overlaps and glancing tangents. These can be a problem in some styles of art, but they’re largely invisible in silhouettes — and need to be, to help with the illusion of twigs and leaves waving free in the wind.

2020-05-15-KJennings-SilverWellAnchors

Red circles showing points of connection

These points mean that the tiny twigs support each other in space. They lock together to create a larger rigid areas. I’ve highlighted those areas below.

2020-05-15-KJennings-SilverWellAreas

Green areas are the strongest, red areas are more isolated

The strongest areas are the ones in green  — roughly triangular, they’re joined to the larger design along one whole edge, which makes them very stable. The red areas are stable in themselves, but they only connect to the larger design at one point, which means they can still shift about, and that all their weight pulls on that one narrow connection.

In that case, I’d usually at least pay some extra attention to that one point — flaring or thickening it slightly. But I could also have locked the design down further by joining it at least at the yellow circles shown below.

2020-05-15-KJennings-SilverWellCorrections

Yellow circles show likely connection points that would add physical strength

Joining it there would have created a much larger rigid area, as shaded in yellow below. But it might also have made the design that bit too dense and self-enclosed for an illustrated branch, more suited to, e.g., a lace edging.  But it is an illustration, and some parts have to be given their freedom.

2020-05-15-KJennings-SilverWellAlternative

The extra connection points would have created this larger area

When I begin a silhouette design, I don’t sit down and count up the connections. The process itself, born of experience and accident and a bit of lacemaking at one point — feels more organic.

2017-05-29-Silver-Well-Thumbnails

Thumbnail sketches for the cover of The Silver Well

The designs starts with looping scribbles and works its way towards a final arrangement that pleases me. And yet the points where those sketched loops cross over each other have power, and by the final stage those points of connection come into play, tying it all together.

To link it back to writing and editing: those points of connection are often the ones that need to be tightened during editing — little clarifying comments, ambiguous foreshadowing, word choices that resonate across apparently unrelated sections.

Here, by the way, is the final cover — the Aurealis-Award-winning book (which is lovely, and has internal illustrations too) is available from Ticonderoga Publications.

The Silver Well

Cover reveal: The Spellcoats

2020-05-09-Spellcoats

A new cover! This one is for the Utz Books edition of Diana Wynne Jones’ novel The Spellcoats (part of the Dalemark Quartet).

The style is to match that of my previous cover for Utz Books’ The Power of Three (which in turn was to match the style of other Utz covers for Jones’s books). The process post for that is here: The Power of Three.

Gili Bar Hillel (of Utz Books) gave a fascinating presentation at the Bristol conference about the process of translating Jones’ novels — you can read that in the published conference proceedings (more information in this post: Howl’s Moving Contracts).