Friday, July 10, 2015

Go Set A Watchman

I am really delighted to be able to share my cover for Harper Lee's new novel, 'Go Set A Watchman', published worldwide on Tuesday 14th July.

When I illustrated the cover for the 50th Anniversary Edition of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' in 2010 (published 2010 - my blog on that written five years to the day of Watchman's publication), I like the rest of the world did not foresee a second novel from its author, so when news of its discovery, I was beside myself with excitement and secretly hurled out cosmic wishes to be given a chance at its cover.

I'd predicted that having done 'the' existing Harper Lee cover, I'd be out of the running, but it's strange how things turn out. The Heinemann/Random House UK and US covers were both done in-house - you will thus find only two versions of the cover online - but one independent publisher asked me to create an illustration for their hardcover edition, Open Books, in Korea.

A publisher of beautiful, high production value contemporary European and American books and novels, these fellas built their own Guggenheim-like office HQ and Museum in Paju Book City (such a place exists) to house their Mimesis imprint of art, illustration, architecture and photography books, and had a backlist of stylish and carefully designed books. 

Suitably impressed by their reputation, and the fact they'd been granted a license to publish the novel, we had an incredibly short space of time in which to do it, and no...I wasn't allowed to read it! With a global embargo on the manuscript except for a handful of people deep inside the publishing houses, I had to set to work with a keen but firm art director, Gregory, and only a couple of elements of the storyline.

I began with frantic sketching out of ideas, since I had quite a few and wanted to get them all out on paper. Since I have a habit of sending the client too many choices, I felt a bit bad hitting Gregory up with nine choices from the outset:

The other bit of the story I did know was that Scut, now Jean-Louise (her real name), has travelled home from New York to meet her father, Atticus, to find a change in both him and his outlook; a change in hers is also hinted at. In the middle of the civil rights movement in the small southern American town she grew up in, she is forced to grapple with political and personal issues as she tries to understand her father's attitude to society.

Since this book was to be published as a pair with a fresh edition of To Kill A Mockingbird, the brief was to create something which was connected, but visually distinct, so the silhouettes of the Mockingbird cover were to feature. I set about trying to capture both people having that meeting:

I started drawing Atticus in earnest, too - trying not to get too focussed on the beautiful Gregory Peck version forever engraved into memory:

Clothing references were careful, with the book being set in the 1950s - I also thought about what I knew about the young Scout, now twenty years older and 'Jean-Louise' - would she really be into dresses, skirts? How could I make it clear that the grown-up Scout (that bit I did know of the story) was a Woman now, and living in what were still very conservative times?

A version was picked out after working up three of my ideas to almost-print standard, then developed tightly. I was aiming to communicate the notion of a meeting of strong minds, of two adults with differing views, and the tension of one waiting for the other's arrival - the fence being a clear suggester of division but also of 'letting in' and changing attitudes to segregation. I made many hand-painted backgrounds, suggesting night-time and scorched earth, even one hinting at the stars and stripes, before settling on the dark blue.

Of course Jean-Louise is walking back into her childhood home, so memories of her 6-year-old self would be waiting inside the gate as she came in - here she is in a rough ink sketch holding her flower from Mockingbird, before turning her into Jean-Louise's shadow:

The cover was honed and refined with Korean type and an English subtitle added, together with the author's name in Korean. I think the Korean characters look beautiful - and they were sensitively given the same treatment on the Open Books edition of Mockingbird too:

Both can be bought from Open Books website, but I've ordered myself a UK edition - I'm working away the day it comes out so I've had it delivered on location, because honestly, I can't wait!

It was a challenging process, but possibly the best job ever, for many reasons: a monumental book, a hard brief, a great art director, and an impressive publishing house.

More on the book itself, and the UK/US covers:


Related Posts with Thumbnails