Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Fangs to Amelia!

Over the last 18 months I've been redesigning the books in the Amelia Fang range - the best-selling children's stories about little vampire Amelia, written by Laura Ellen Anderson.

Delacorte Press (part of PenguinRandomHouse) couldn't have chosen a better pairing; pumpkin-loving Laura and her little goth characters in their Halloween-all-the-time world, and me with my scratchy pens, love of ink and my leaning towards the murkier side of things. I would have DEVOURED these books as a 10 year old - well, I love them now!

Laura's books are already well known so this was a slightly unusual job for me; normally, I'm illustrating the entire cover, and even the insides of a book. Amelia Fang has a wide and very eager following, so it felt like something of a responsibility to create her 'new clothes'.

Aside from Laura's characters, everything on the covers needed a re-design. The first job was to create from scratch the logo for the book range. This came very naturally; all spikes and jaunty angles, I drew up seven different options in my sketchbook, and transferred those to my iPad Pro where I could put some meat on their bones with my Apple Pencil. Normally, this would be done with ink on paper, but since I was working in Edinburgh at the time, it had to be done in my hotel room and on lunch breaks, so the iPad was my heroic little chum. As it turned out, it was the perfect choice of hardware, allowing for fast changes-of-mind and quick erasing on the go with no need to fret about leaky ink in the suitcase.

Once I was back in the studio, art director Katrina picked out a few for further development and we placed these in situ with some of Laura's characters. MANY ideas for the cover were generated:

The final chosen was my favourite - always a satisfying outcome - the one where the ends of the letters hint at bones, pointing jauntily upward while warning us off with the twin pointy spikes of the As, held together at the top by a tiny bat. We worked on it and fine-tuned until it was just...imperfectly perfect!

Curly bits here? Or there? how many thorns or no thorns? Ink splat or bat? What sort of Es?

The books titles needed hand-rendering too, along with a new identity for Laura's name: all had to sit together comfortably in Laura's gently spooky world. We decided the whole thing needed tying together with some ink-soaked, dramatic fantasy skies...which DID require litres of ink on acres of paper! (And back to multi-coloured fingertips) - here are just some of them:

The final touch was the moon. Initially created with ink, bleach and collage, the enormous glowing moon was placed behind Laura's characters to anchor them under the new series title, the inky skies studded with bleachy stars:

...add some spider's webs to the corners, and there it was!

The final covers consist of millions of layers consisting of scans of multiple ink-made skies and stars, - the moon along is 5 layers deep! - along with he little shadows and details in the characters. If ever a job required Extreme Layer Discipline - labelling, colouring and folding layers - this was it!|

'The Barbaric Ball' and 'The Unicorns of Glitteropolis' were published on 30th July 2019, with the next two - 'The Rainbow Rangers' and 'The Memory Thief' (with RIOTOUS colours on the cover!) being published in March 2020.

Thank you Laura for trusting me with your colours and Katrina at Delacorte for having the vision to put us together! And Laura - hurry up and write some more, will you? :D

Buy the Amelia Fang books HERE

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