Thursday, July 15, 2010

If I could illustrate any book cover...

Earlier this year Diane Luger at Grand Central Publishing asked me to illustrate a cover for the 50th anniversary edition of To Kill A Mockingbird, one of my favourite books ever.

Leaving aside the nerves at taking on such a responsibility, this meant an immediate phone call to my friend Jules who is also a life-long fan and who can still, years after our O levels ended, quote whole sections of the book. She lent me the DVD of the film and had on standby her copy of the book and, together with my friend Drew, provided ideas and thoughts and, later in the process, very objective feedback on what I was putting together, helping keep some of the 'less confident' ideas from the art directors' eyes!

For me the most poignant moments are those when the feared Boo Radley leaves his little gifts for Scout and Jem hidden in the tree, especially the tiny figurines of the children. That needed to be central to the image and in the end, it literally does form 'the spine' of the book. The other elements were Scout's tomboy clothing and the trees (forming play areas and hiding places), and, since I've been working with silhouettes a lot recently, a nod to the work of American artist Kara Walker, whose work frames themes relevant to the book such as race, history, narrative, power and shame.

Ink drawings of Scout and Jem:


An early sketched cover idea:
To my relief the end result was approved of by both Jules and Drew, art director and author. I get quite excited when I think about Harper Lee's eyes on my artwork. Not known for her sociability, it is rumoured she keeps a very low profile in the town of Monroeville where she lives, and where Mockingbird is alleged to have been set. But it seems she liked it. In an enlightening coincidence, a recent BBC documentary on the 50th anniversary of the book led the presenter to Morris Dees, founder of The Southern Poverty Law Centre in Alabama, also a client, and one I'm proud to work for. You can read his narrative on 'What To Kill A Mockingbird Means To Me'.

'The small-town life that Harper Lee wrote about in Mockingbird may be fading away, but many of the attitudes about race live on. Just as importantly, the deep, underlying structures of racism in our country have not been eliminated. On the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee’s classic, we must dedicate ourselves to the work that remains to be done.'


Now, the OTHER one I'd love to do is Wuthering Heights, but for I'll have to wait until 2047 for the next anniversary...

Links:

About the book.
Harper Lee.
Southern Poverty Law Centre.
Buy a copy of the book (US only, sorry).

8 comments:

Strictly Kev said...

WOW! Amazing Sarah, that is so cool. I saw the documentary the other day and found out that Alice had never read it. I'm going to buy her a copy of the one with your cover now. Congratulations, must be like a dream come true. We must hook up sometime

Debs...x said...

Sarah, you truly are a talented woman... I still have a copy of Mount Grace High Schools book. Maybe I can return it and replace it with your beautifully executed copy...x Muchos love Debs...x

Mary said...

It's beautiful, I don't have a copy of my own, think I might treat myself to a copy with your gorgous cover design.
Keep up the amazing work.

Sarah J Coleman, aka Inkymole said...

Cheers Kev, yes we certainly do need to meet up! Those boys...oh wait, I've made the university joke before!Thanks. The book is only available in the US unfortunately, the UK cover I had nowt to do with. I think it might have a bit of gold foil on it though - blimey!!x

Sarah J Coleman, aka Inkymole said...

Thanks Debs. See Mr Pascale's never ending patience was worth it. I think you should keep the Mount Grace copy, I've got a fair few of their books! BWAHAHAHAHAAAA!

Sarah J Coleman, aka Inkymole said...

Mary it's well worth reading, highly recommend it! I really enjoyed doing this one though it was hard work. x

Sarah J Coleman, aka Inkymole said...

Cheers Kev, yes we certainly do need to meet up! Those boys...oh wait, I've made the university joke before!Thanks. The book is only available in the US unfortunately, the UK cover I had nowt to do with. I think it might have a bit of gold foil on it though - blimey!!x

Rebecca and Lori said...

I'm late to the party on this post, but I think this is my favorite cover for this book. Your work here is absolutely stunning- it evokes the feeling of the book so well. Beautifully done!
~Lori

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