Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nine months.

Well. There are some things that take nine months that I swear would be less exhausting than what we've just been through. And which probably keep you awake at night less, in the long run.

On January 9th, with the snowflakes flurrying down around his t-shirt, Mark (the builder) dug his spade into the land next to our house. In the time since then, we've lived in a rented flat for four months, watched a digger being driven around the kitchen, made friends with the concrete mixer installed in the living room, watched a corner of the house demolished, lived at my parents' house for month, slept on various floors, worked on a cardboard-box-desk, baked a hundred cakes, and driven the length and breadth of the country in pursuit of the right bits for our majestic new space.

A fulsome report will follow. But here are some details in the meantime. We're exhausted, but we're in, and it feels good. Watch space.

The Prince Of Mist

For some reason I never got around to blogging this, though I was extremely pleased with the result.

This is the first fiction book I've ever done internal illustrations for. I've done recipe, diet and childcare books with internal illos, but not fiction. And this one's a goodie - not only is Carlos Ruiz Zafon Spain's biggest-selling children's author, his writing is excellent and is widely read by his growing adult audience. This was his first book published in the UK - the children's version is shown left, the adult version on the right.

There was a giant list of these images, which were drawn at twice the scale using a very fine steel nib, a Nikko G from Japan, of which I have a stack brought back for me from my friend Dick. They were intricate and very specific, and required a fair few re-draws (especially the cat, whom we just couldn't get looking mean enough) but the end result I was pleased with, as they straddle the line between dark and sinister and childish intrique.

The story itself however is satisfyingly too close to the macabre - there is a malevolent clown, and shapeshifter, a murderous magician, and terrible things happen which you won't find in your typical Disney-esque story. I loved it, and can't wait to read whatever he writes next. I do a lot of chick-lit and beach-read covers, which are fun to do but definitely aren't my choice of read, so it's very satisfying to illustrate for something I could get my teeth (and claws) into.

What do you think of them?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

'I'm afraid we love your work but we've decided to...'

I like to post these occasionally - those pieces you're pleased with but are strangled at birth, forever to languish in the archive! Most I can't show - client or agency protocol prevents me from doing so (which is why you'll never see the campaign I did for Tiffany the jewellers!)

Book covers however, of which I've now done over 120, are subject to so many layers of approval that even Time Team would sometimes have trouble excavating to the bottom. Covers are affected by the supermarket buyers, the editor, the art director, publisher and, on occasion, the author. I've done as many as 33 versions of a single cover. I've even done whole lectures based on this very subject! Here are a few juicy examples rescued from the dusty shelves, together with their individual Death Sentences.

'We've Gone For A Font':
This one we worked on for weeks only to have the whole thing swapped for a font and a figure of a girl. Nice colours but...shame eh?

In fact the font line is one I hear depressingly often. Oh, if I had a's a classic example. This is a new book due out sometime next year in the US - and these were my offerings based very tightly on their brief. They're a bit 'old-school Mole', but I enjoyed them nonetheless:

'We're Going In A Totally Different Direction'
Debbie Holt's series is currently being repackaged. Her covers are currently very womanly and gentle, so this was an important update for her. Let's see how the final books look - you never can predict! They won't, however, look like this:

Under the category 'We're Going In A Photographic Direction', are these. The Lonely Hearts Club was written by the publisher of the original Twilight books, and I was pleased with this cover for her, one of four versions. Below that is the actual cover they went with.

And finally for today's batch, this one went on for months and there are 33 versions of this cover, done in three sessions over about four months. I like a lot of these - and it must be said the brief metamorphosised throughout - but it was with regret that the patient art director (usually the diplomatic go-between!) finally rang and said...'we're going for a...' - you guessed it!

Shown are three of the 33, and the published cover.

Books can be one of the most satisfying things to do, but also the most disheartening. The trick is to not take it personally and think of it as fresh art for the folio. Except when Sainsbury's declare they won't sell a book if it goes to press with your cover on it, and decide to suggest 'their own ideas'...but that's for another blog!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Inkymole Is Running For Cash, Part Two: Runner No. 14749

It's been two months since I put up Part One of this blog. And in that time, there's been a large amount of running of course (this month I hit two 'highests': longest run and most amount of miles in a month), but what's been really fascinating is all the psychological wrangling.

You see I knew this would be hard work on the legs. Obviously. But I'm surprised that it's been relatively easy to raise my distances from where I was in June (about 5 miles for an average run) to 'nearly-there'. What I should have predicted though, but didn't, was the BRAIN's role in gearing up for the 13.1 miles in October.

I go to the gym for weight training and have done since I was 23. Many times over those years I've slacked off, made no progress for weeks, then been reminded that your body will more or less do what you need it to - but only if the brain allows. I've been tricked into lifting 20 extra pounds, or accidentally put 5kg on extra by accident, and still lifted the weight: because the brain thinks nothing is different, it just gets on with the job. And that's how I've had to look at it: it's a job I've got to get on with like any other. But training has been tricky to maintain in a zen-like flow because it only takes a pressured workload, a headache, or something that's really worrying me, and the Control Centre sends out 'woah! this is hard!' messages.

Remember this little fella? The tiny alien that sat inside the big alien's head was in charge of everything, and when he got tired or injured, the big fella struggled. That's what happens to me. Look at his tired little eyeballs. So the focus lately has been on looking after this chap, and making sure he's calm and ready in his tiny cockpit.

Rather apt then that I'm running for Mind. The brain is just so powerful, yet staggeringly fragile too. At the start, my aim for the half marathon was merely to survive it; now I'd like to do it with some style - not fast, since that's another issue and another blog! - but with a certain amount of confidence and dignity.

We're up to £544 - but I've promised to raise a grand. Thank you hugely for all the dosh so far; people have been embarrassingly generous. Go here to tuck some of your own cash into the waistband of my slightly worn-out running shorts:

Or here to read about what Mind is, and what they do:


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