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Picturing a World

Bascove

One of the first jacket illustrators that I became aware of was Carol Bascove—though I didn't know she was a she. The attribution was always simply to Bascove. What I knew was that Robertson Davies' new novels were always immediately identifiable because of the jackets. The Lyre of Orpheus is on my shelf. And now, just as I've become interested in illustrative jacket design, the Norman Rockwell Museum is devoting an entire show to her work. You can catch BASCOVE: The Time We Spend with Words any time between now and June 5, 2022. Yea!

 

CORRECTION: The artist's name is ANNE (not Carol) BASCOVE!!!!!!!!!!

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Artists' dust jackets

While I was Buchaning around the web recently, Rockwell Kent's art for Mountain Meadow landed me in The Illustrated Dust Jacket, 1920–1970 by Martin Salisbury. I borrowed a copy from the library. As soon as I opened it, I was bowled over by the feel of its paper, the beauty of its page design, the clarity of its reproductions—not to mention the quality of the jacket designs it reproduces.

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Deep Secret

Charles Vess, cover sketch, Deep Secret (ca. 2001)

I have just reread Diana Wynne Jones's Deep Secret in the 2002 paperback edition with Charles Vess's perfect cover (a favorite author, favorite illustrator). What fun, then, to find this preliminary sketch with Vess's notation, "Irene—I like this idea: the hotel lobby w/ s/f con people (as well as our principle [sic] characters) checking in as Rob the centaur bursts from air. This is a pure white background w/ design elements a la Saturday Evening Post. Charles"

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Socar Myles

Blog post alert: For an insider's look at commercial art, ghostwriting, and publishers, the always interesting Kathleen Jennings has a long interview—"Ghoulish but sentimental"—with fellow artist and writer, Socar Myles. Myles's startling artwork is gorgeous. I've never read any of her fiction, whether ghostwritten or published in her own name; but I was fascinated by everything she had to say.

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Diaries of Sarah Gooll Putnam

Yesterday, I attended an absorbing webinar on Boston artist Sarah Gooll Putnam. Every aspect of the topic interested me (see below), and I hope it will be posted to YouTube as planned. For this blog, it introduces one more excellent, little-known woman artist. Putnam was a successful portraitist in Boston elite circles, painting in a style reminiscent of John Singer Sargent and Cecilia Beaux.

 

An even bigger Wow! for the historical novelist are her voluminous diaries now digitized at the Massachusetts Historical Society. In them, she recorded daily events, illustrated her entries with drawings, and supplemented them with clippings and other memorabilia. If you have a hankering to undertake a story set in Boston in the latter quarter of the 19th C or early 20th, don't miss these.

 

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And The Ocean Was Our Sky

"Call me Bathsheba." Thus opens Patrick Ness's novel, The Ocean Was Our Sky. (I giggled, remembering the opening to James Thurber's The Wonderful O: "Call me Littlejack,' he roared. And the taverners called him Littlejack.") An obsessed captain hunting a villainous Toby Wick? Surely this must be a joke, a parody of Moby Dick. It works by inversion: ocean for sky, whales who hunt whalers. A female narrator, Bathsheba, against Melville's Ishmael. But the book isn't funny: it's heartbreaking and weird, and Rovina Cai's illustrations are as important as the text.

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Jacket design

Website alert: I'm a sucker for Philip Pullman's fiction and Chris Wormell's art, so I was tickled by a Pullman tweet on a 25th Anniversary edition of Northern Lights. But what really interested me as I poked around from there was an earlier website piece on How Tom Sanderson designed Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage. Authors and illustrators get a lot of attention. Jacket designers don't, but their craft is essential to an attractive book. If you're interested in how it's all done, read the article!

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Jennings’ Undine Love

Kathleen Jennings, 2020 illus. for "Undine Love"

A post, Undine Love: Reprint, new art, at Kathleen Jennings' blog took me to the reprint of her story, "Undine Love," in full at Tor. What a treat—both the story and the silhouettes! They are a reminder that updating a fairy tale or folkloric motif can be a great way to begin a story of your own. The backbone of plot comes essentially ready-made, leaving you free to work on other aspects of composition—setting, character, dialogue, incidents (as opposed to the underlying structure). The talent to illustrate would be a big bonus—and might just affect the tone and finished piece. Wish I had the talent and the training!

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Disparities

Good news! Bookstores are reopening in Massachusetts. Shopping in one of my favorites, the Bookloft, requires an appointment; but the store has a good website. For summer reading, I have just ordered a Martin Walker mystery and a boxed set of N. K. Jemisin's Broken Earth Trilogy.
 
Bad news: I have also just read an article about disparities in pay between white and black authors. Good grief. Jemisin, who is black, was given advances of just $25,000 for each volume of the trilogy—each one of which won the Hugo Award for Fiction (the third also won the Nebula Award).

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Book and Illustration (6): Little, Big

Sixteen years in the making and still counting. An Incunabula Press project to publish a fine edition of John Crowley's fantasy novel, Little Big was officially launched in February 2004. It is to be illustrated—or decorated—with details from artist Peter Milton's surrealistic etchings.  Hopes for publication in 2010 led to the design of the title page. The Little, Big website allows you to read a sample chapter on line.

 

What interests me for this series of blog posts is the idea of combining an existing novel with totally unrelated existing artwork. People ask, would I like to see an illustrated edition of Where the Light Falls? Well, of course! I began this blog to show readers the paintings, sketches, and photographs that influenced me while writing the novel. An e-book with links to such works would be one method of illustrating it.

 

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