Alex has requested a “corgis by moonlight” calendar some month, and I’m not saying dogs aren’t fairy-tale standards, but even the usual suspects aren’t easy to draw in a way that look as poetic as they sound. There’s a lovely literal/metaphorical interplay in some fairy tales, and illustrations can sometimes pin that too clearly to one interpretation. (Eyes as big as saucers, I’m looking at you.)
In Juliet Marillier’s Mother Thorn, where “Copper, Silver, Gold” takes the story of “The Tinderbox” as its starting point, we kind of elided the specifics of the dogs’ eyes for the illustrations — that visual element of canine body horror was not what the story needed or was about.
And while interchangeable canids (like interchangeable equines) rely on generalities, corgis, like donkeys, require specifics (even if it’s just to suggest corgi-kind).
And of course, even among corgis, there are variations.
Let’s get back to the making things type of Observation Journal page. The first half of this post is about the approach to an exercise, the second half of it is the resulting list of some possibilities to use foil on book covers.
I’m a fan of the twenty things exercise, either starting with an object and working out twenty uses for it (my dad used to make us do this on long car trips); or starting with a question and listing twenty answers.
I think it’s fun, and it’s also interesting to watch the process of ideas being pushed through different barriers — for example:
with the “twenty uses” version there’s often a point where the obvious gives way to the interesting and then to the ludicrous and then circles back to the intriguing;
with the “twenty problems” variant it loosens my grip on the first/obvious choice I imprinted on (even if that turns out to be the final choice, it’s usually stronger for a bit of objectivity).
This is also why I’ve kept the self-reflection panels on the observation journal pages. Not just to do the exercise, but to step back and watch myself doing it, and learn. You’ll see here I noted on the side that “20 really is the magic number. 11 is where I had to look further/do more research.”
This page was also for a cover — in this case for Juliet Marillier’s Mother Thorn, for which we had the opportunity to use foil on the cover of the special edition (out in April). But I hadn’t designed specifically for foil combined with a silhouette before. So I made this list of 20 WAYS WITH FOIL TREATMENTS. (The activity is also great for tricking yourself into working on something.)
Here’s the list (excluding the running commentary to myself alongside). It’s project-specific and non-exhaustive:
GOLD on BLACK (or colour)
BLACK on GOLD
Gold-limned silhouette on coloured ground (almost calligraphic)
Gold base/border on coloured ground
Foil highlights in silhouette design
Above plus gold background (2)
5 plus flyaway bits in foils
Fine foil pattern supporting coloured silhouettes
Black on colour, gold lettering
Gold support/background for lettering
Colourised/textured silhouette with foil ornament bits
1 but with many cut-out details
Multi-silhouettes, different foils
Silhouette (black on colour) surrounded by drawn foil pattern
Gold effect on blue texture
Gold silhouettes, deeper-coloured shadow
Black on colour. Only important details picked out in foil (e.g. figures, coins, birds).
Border in one foil, title in another
Foil silhouette on coloured ground with overlapping white title square
Spot gloss blacks with foil lettering background
You’ll see that my terminology here is not particularly technical! That’s one reason for accompanying it with sketches. Ballpoint drawings aren’t hugely informative for foil/colour treatments but did help me to think through the practicalities, and whether an idea reminded me of something I’ve seen elsewhere, or made me feel (to quote) “ugh”, at least for this project.
The next step (square box on the side) was to do a test version, to run through a few of these.
The final cover used approach C, which was a combination of 11 and 5, although there was briefly a 19 in the running.
20 Things: Pick a handy object (or something you’ve seen today). Come up with twenty uses for it.
This could be as light-hearted as 20 Uses for a Plastic Fork.
It’s good for car trips and working out how your friends think, but it’s also good practice for just thinking sideways.
Afterwards, it can be useful to note where the ideas got more difficult, or sillier, or if you know where some of them came from. This is interesting, but you
It can also be useful for turning objects in a story into plot (or other things).
20 Ways: Think of an aspect of a project that you are stuck on, or something you’d like to play with but haven’t quite managed to, and list 20 Ways To Deal With It.
I find this more useful when the initial problem is narrower — 20 Ways to Tell A Short Story is fine, but I can get past 100 without breaking a sweat. 20 Ways to Tell A Short Story In An 8-Page Accordion Booklet forces more invention. (These examples are from current pages of the observation journal, and I’ll get to them in time!)
Like Ten Terrible Things, I find this lets me have fun exploring options without feeling like I have to commit to any of them, or abandon my early ideas. The list is the point.
Sometimes your first instinct will still have been right, but you’ll be more certain of it (and have stress-tested it, and maybe come up with some new ideas for future projects), and you’ll have released your stranglehold on it a little, too.
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.
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.