Saturday, July 28, 2018

Exactly A Quarter Of A Century Later...Part Two.

A few months later, art director Louise sent me an email containing one line:

"I'm enclosing a brief that I think will make you very happy."

She wasn't wrong.

Finally the opportunity to illustrate the cover of this book that had been such a part of my DNA since the age of 11 was here, and I was excited. A special 200th Anniversary Edition of Wuthering Heights in hardback, to mark two hundred years since Emily Brontë's birth, was indeed a brief that made me very happy.

I expected to feel intimidated and a bit daunted by the responsibility, as I had with To Kill A Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman, but in fact, I just remember feeling calm and mega-keen. I didn't have long to do it - I prescribe a sharp deadline to cure all procrastination ills - and all of the material was still there, stuffed away inside my head, after all; I just needed to draw on it.

Rather than plough through the piles of work I'd done for my degree, when I produced a stage version of WH set in the modern day, I decided to approach it afresh, as the reader I am now, and at the age I am now. There were to be no clichés on MY watch - no wailing Heathcliff, no bodices or moody/sexy Catherine. Instead, the landscape to the story - the moors, heather, sky, graveyard, stone buildings and the flora and fauna, not to mention the weather - is really the most important character in it, since it dictates and controls the livelihoods, personalities and actions of everyone living in it, so I let that be my guide.

And after all - every fan of this book has his or her 'own' Catherine and Heathcliff, so it was not for me to try to portray these people, who are different every time.

So actually, in an opposing path to the one taken in the creation of 'Ill Will' (in the last blog), one of the very first ideas I put together ended up being the final, pretty much un-messed with.

There were developments along the way, which looked like this - the first two inspired by cooooooooold snowy Japanese landscapes, together with my memories of the Ryuichi Sakamoto's soundtrack to Peter Kosminsky's 1992 version:

(OK, I thought maybe I might let myself explore a ghost or two.)

I thought the house needed to be in the picture, and this house is very much based on the shape of Top Withens - which is not the 'real' WH as there is no 'real' one, but its location was correct.

I confess to loving the lettering on this one, and praying that they'd go for it.

One of the very first ideas was this one, using strips of hand-inked work representing the different textures found on the moors - heather, grass, gorse, stone, threatening sky, clouds, gravestones, the moon. I'd have been extremely happy if they'd gone for this one, too - especially with that bold lettering!

In the end, it was the movement and colour of this one-take piece, combined with a little paper collage, that was the winner. The lettering was replaced with a font so that the background became the main focus, and away it went.

I could not believe it was done, and so quickly.

Printed on cotton wrapped around the meatiest of hardbacks, it's an incredibly satisfying book to hold:

And that, dear reader, is how it went.

A bucket list job, completed in just a couple of weeks. What's next, I wonder?

Buy your copy here 

Thank you to Louise at Harpercollins UK for asking me to do this project.

(If you'd asked anyone else, there'd be a curse upon you forever. But you already knew that.)

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