I was excited to see it . . . as the cover illustration is a woodcut by me!
Here's a confession - I dread working on book covers and usually go out of my way to avoid doing so. It's a hangover from my previous life working for educational publishers, the book covers were the result of endless meetings and emails and the opinions of Uncle Tom Cobley and all. But that's all in the past and this time it wasn't me that was pulling the whole thing together, I 'just' had to come up with a picture. And the subject was right up my street . . . I couldn't refuse.
I'd do a woodcut, after all it's about wood so an illustration created by carving wood seems apt.
Great! They said, here's a list of what Ben would like include in the scene . . . it was a very long list!
I looked at the piles of reference photographs of Ben working and the tools he uses and the items he makes from wood harvested near his house, then I sketched them all in a scene. It was getting a bit crowded. I really loved the textures of the twigs and woven baskets so I played with the scale and brought them to the fore. On the back cover I put two frisky squirrels like the ones I see from my studio window.
There was a long pause . . . comments came from the publishers and from Ben. The Squirrels had to go (not welcome in Ben's wood!) the Rooks also got the chop, but the Long Tailed Tits could stay. A Blackbird and wood pile replaced the Squirrels on the back cover. The chair, besum and basket got moved back so they were fully visible.
At this point I paced around and sighed a lot. The composition was OK but something was missing, it needed a spark of something.
I ploughed on . . . to get all the detail in I'd need to work big. Very big! The birch plywood block is about 1 metre wide by 80 cm (3 x 2 feet). I started carving the design for the back, there are a lot of twigs!
Here's the block on my desk . . .
. . . nearly finished!
This is the finished block. I inked and hand burnished separate prints for the front and back. These where down onto thin Japanese paper that had visible fibres in it.
Here are the prints, scanned and positioned in Photoshop. I knocked back the paper texture but didn't clean it out entirely.
The publisher wanted me to add a second colour, or maybe a third and fourth? Doing this as a multi block print seemed risky (especially if last minute tweaks to the design were requested!)
I decided to add the colours digitally using textured 'brushes' and merging the colours with the scanned print. I settled on a retro palette or apple green, yellow ochre and grey . . . it was at this point that things started to fall into place (Phew!) and I knew I could make this work. Which was a huge relief as I was almost - but not quite - regretting taking this on.
So, here's the finished cover . . .
. . . and here's the back
The book has a paper dust jacket, underneath is a nice binding with a linen spine. You might have noticed the dust jacket looks a slightly darker colour from the book inside . . . because, well, it is. The brighter colour was all settled on and printed, then after some thought the publisher decided darker more woodland tones would be nicer - so they tweaked the colours and printed the dust jacket.
I actually like both versions. The brighter version has the retro-look of my original artwork. But the dust jacket version looks great too.
It really is a lovely book, with lots of photos and beautiful illustrations describing traditional woodland craft projects. I'm sure it will find it's way under many Christmas trees this year.
PS: I've put this together on my iPad so will have to add the links later - now added x