Tuesday, April 24, 2018


This book by Jennifer Sommersby is published today in the USA by Skyhorse Books and has the honour of having the only one of my covers ever had turned into a cake!

(I've done a cake before as an exhibition piece, but this was something different...)

But before we get to the iced version, here's the inked one. First, the blurb:

"Growing up in the Cinzio Traveling Players Company, Genevieve Flannery is accustomed to a life most teenagers could never imagine: daily workouts of extravagant acrobatics; an extended family of clowns; wild animals for pets; and her mother, Delia, whose mind has always been tortured by visions—but whose love Geni never questions. In a world of performers who astonish and amaze on a daily basis, Delia’s ghostly hallucinations never seemed all that strange . . . until the evening Geni and her mother are performing an aerial routine they’ve done hundreds of times, and Delia falls to her death.

That night, a dark curtain in Geni’s life opens. Everything has changed..."

Now I'm better at drawing animals these days, having got over my early phase of 'everything looks like a poorly gerbil', but this brief came with a request for elephants and lions - so I had some trepidation. The story is a dark one - actually quite a grown-up read, and since it landed in the middle of a lot of middle-grade and YA books, this one required a swerve of brain.

Although the layout came to me immediately, it took some time to get the feel right - colours were too bright, the lettering was too friendly, then too sinister - and the lion originally took centre stage:

- being replaced buy the big magic book that features in the novel:

and once approved, the artwork was inked in a bit at a time, with iPhone shots from the desktop sent to Kate to keep her updated:

As I Art Director Kate Gartner and I worked together we arrived at a satisfying balance of menace and energetic line and colour - with plenty of colour and mood tweaks along the way (I loved this really dark version). The stabby points from the title were removed too:
with the finished version looking like this:

The original art is now in the collection of the author Jennifer herself, who was delighted to receive some real ink-on-paper. I often talk to my authors about whether they'd like to acquire their original art - most do. But they're often surprised to receive paper with ink and pencil on it. My way of working is by no means unusual, but so many covers are handled entirely digitally, I think they appreciate the tangible, hands-on feel of slightly crusty, thick black ink applied with a very sharp nib!

Thank you to Jennifer and Skyhorse Publishing for the opportunity to do this cover.

Here's that cake, baked for Jennifer's Publishing Day Party!
Baked by Jenn's friend Jane in Vancouver.

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