Pursued by a (small) bear!

I’ve mentioned before how nice it is when someone takes away a drawing and brings it back as something shiny. Well, yesterday, when I was expecting an electrician to carry a sheet of melamine back through the open front door, Sue of Tiny Owl Workshop walked in, bearing treasure!


Back in 2014, I illustrated a cover for Greer Gilman‘s wonderful Ben Jonson novella Exit, Pursued by a Bear for Small Beer Press:


(Gilman’s 2009 Cloud & Ashes was my very first book cover.)

And Sue made the bear!


Look at his little face! His nose! His paws!


I love it so much. I keep stroking the bridge of its nose.



See more Tiny Owl work at:

Illustration Friday: Cracked

Illustration Friday: Cracked

A photoshop sketch of one perspective of the debate on book-as-vessel vs book-as-object.

And in related news – look what I found at Pulp Fiction bookstore today!

A cloud in the hand

Roughing out of thumbnails: Cloud & Ashes cover

I scribbled lots of ideas on scrap paper, edges of phone notes and in my writing notebook, and tried out a possible technique with this image.

Illustration Friday: Celebrate - colour

The first definite concrete step I took, however, was to draw up the dimensions in a vector program (Inkscape, open source and free), reduce them and print out a few pages with the proportionate diagram on them. The brief was for a design to wrap around the book but not extend onto the inside flaps of the cover.

I did my thumbnails in pencil on those diagrams and eventually found a few I thought worked best.

Cloud & Ashes: Roughs 1

I then put paper (some plain typing paper, some drawing paper) over the thumbnails on top of my lightbox (one of my most-used Christmas presents) and drew roughs of the designs with sepia ink and a dip pen.

Cloud & Ashes: Roughs 2

I did the same with the font Small Beer Press had provided, printing it out at several sizes and going over it with pen and ink. I also did a bit of scribbling on some scratchboard. Then I scanned the drawings in and messed around with them in Photoshop. It wasn’t quite as much work as it sounds like, but I was having a great time and getting very inky.

Work in progress

Previous: Falling off of chairs
Next: Anything as much fun as simply messing about in Photoshop?

Falling off of chairs: More about the Cloud & Ashes cover


I have mentioned Kelly Link before now. As well as being a wonderful author (I have plans for a costume based on one of her stories), she and Gavin Grant are the editors of Small Beer Press. Kelly and Gavin were meant to come to Australia to tutor at this year’s Clarion South workshop but circumstances conspired against them.

In February (days after the first of the posts alluded to above) I received an email from Kelly. In spite of being able to sit fairly calmly (I think) in a pub after realising we had unintentionally sat down at the next table to Neil Gaiman, I can be a fangirl when the occasion demands. I had checked the email while standing up, and I nearly missed my chair when I sat down again (this is pretty excitable for me).

Kelly asked whether I would be interested in doing a book cover for Greer Gilman’s new book Cloud & Ashes. I was quickly convinced, especially once I realised it heavily references one of my favourite poems, Hopkins’ ‘Spring and Fall’. So I accepted.

The book, by the way, is dense and beautiful and very redolent of the poem, which is impressive given that it runs to about 400 times as many pages.

Kelly sent through details of what they had in mind, the dimensions and extracts from the book as well as some reference images. Some of these were Samuel Palmer’s art, and others were works of mine that had liked (there were some surprises there, but I often cannot figure out other people’s tastes). She also sent through the font they were thinking of for the cover.

I had a few ideas and techniques I wanted to try running through my mind, so I rummaged around to find some references, printed the pictures and stuck them up around my desk.

Cloud & Ashes: Reference 2

Cloud & Ashes: Reference 1

Next: Roughing out of thumbnails

Cloud & Ashes

First Sighting: Cloud & Ashes

First sighting of the cover of Greer Gilman’s Cloud & Ashes (on http://www.cbsd.com/inventory.aspx?id=1655532) the immediate relevance of which will be expanded on in due course, with extra material. Also, a bit of my desktop background, which may give a hint…

Oh, found another one on Library Thing: http://www.librarything.com/work/6989001.

It is being published by the excellent Small Beer Press.