Part 4: Children’s Book Cover

Exercise details and first reflections

I’m a little perplexed and a fraction worried by this exercise.  My worry centres around the term “coloured client visual”.  A quick search of the course document shows that this term appears for the first time in the exercise text.  In part 3, client visual referred to line visuals (without colour).  I could interpret the term in a literal and sensible way, i.e. pretty much like the line visual from part 3 but with added element of colour.  Therefore I could approach this exercise with visuals that are simple, quite rough, showing the form and structure I would take if I were to develop it to the final illustration (plus the colour I add in will indicate how the final colours will be rendered).   In essence I see a ‘colour visual’ as a rough mock-up.

However, a major BUT is coming:  I’ve looked at other students blogs and this is not what others have done.  They’ve produced final artwork, typically complete with mock-ups of the book cover.  Also, something curious: it does seem that other student work for this exercise seems somewhat weaker than their other exercise work.  Why I wonder?  Perhaps something for me to watch out for in my own work?

Overall I’m going to be guided by these aims:  enjoy the exercise, push my skills, and have a challenge for this particular target audience of children.    I’m not going to get too hung up on the perfect interpretation of the exercise.     Nor am I going to focus in on a particular age group.  E.g. the cover for a child of 4 is going to be very different from a child of 11 or 12.


Visual research and exploring ideas

I produced a moodboard on the theme of “Animals of the World”:

And I immediately went on to sketchbook brainstorming plus producing thumbnail sketches to explore thoughts, ideas and concepts:

After exploring ideas I felt certain that the “various animals shown circling a globe” is not a very original premise.  It is too literal, stereotypical and unimaginative.   I felt keen to avoid that approach/idea for all three visuals.   I like the idea of focusing on one animal for the cover. Just because the book is about animals of the world, isn’t it too literal an interpretation to try to cram lots of animals onto an illustration?  I like the focus of a single animal to draw attention to the book.

A further reflection: I think that the sea has wonderful abundance of life (including mammals) and I think that children should think more about the sea as being full of wonderful animal life as well as on the land.  Therefore at this early stage I felt certain I wanted to do something with whale(s) or dolphin(s).

My initial research/sketching was leading me to a number of different ideas

  • The sea:- a pod of dolphins or whales.
  • As I was brainstorming and sketching out thumbnail ideas I started to form an idea of a multicoloured elephant (in a colourful zentangle style) on a multicoloured background.  I thought that this concept would be interesting if I combined a cut out printout of my elephant artwork arranged on a collage of colours made up of torn up bits of paper.  Something different and more a tactile experiment perhaps?


Visual 1

I decided on dolphins rather than whales. Perhaps because dolphins are charming and just about every child loves Dolphins.  I really looked forward to drawing this one too.  The media I chose was digital painting (using Autodesk Sketchbook) and I used a still from a National Geographic programme as my source.

I adored the doing this visual.  I loved the expressiveness and looseness of the digital paint and ink; I wasn’t at all concerned about getting my work “neat” or “right”.  I was just happy – like a kid playing with paints.  Perhaps this comes out in the light spirit of the piece.  I’d consider it be quite reductionist, loose and fairly energetic, and I feel I’ve captured the movement and personality of dolphins.  I’m happy with it as a visual.   Also it was produced surprisingly quickly.  Perhaps all client visuals shouldn’t take a disproportionate amount of time?

This artwork would be positioned on a landscape (side bound) hardback.  I’d intend the graphic designer to set the type horizontally above or below the illustration.   Perhaps even as some form of subtle embossed/raised style text.   I see this kind of illustration as being suitable for a younger child’s book that explores the magic of the animal world.


Visual 2

I like foxes and the wildness of them.  And seeing as though they are more commonly seen – perhaps an interesting animal for children to look at.  I produced a pencil drawing with the idea of using it as the cover.  And perhaps it still could (if set in the right kind of graphic design for the cover)?

However, a graphite drawing wasn’t feeling like the right mood/feel for a children’s book cover.  So I decided to keep with the fox, but instead, it would interesting to switch to some vector art.   I was also mindful of my tutor comment from part 3 about being “reductionist”… I decided to take a picture of a fox and reduce it down into simple colour blocks.   Create something contemporary, fresh and stylish; perhaps something a little different from the usual covers for children:

The image I produced was created solely in Illustrator.  I took a picture of a fox as my reference and tried to see it in zagged blocks of colour, and in a limited colour palette.  I think the use of a limited colour palette makes it more interesting and somehow gives the fox more “life” than any attempt at a pseudo photo-realistic vector art with more colours.

I’d probably say that the graphic designer should place the artwork fairly much retained as it is.  I’d visualise the composition and the typography to be something clean and simple.  The artwork would suit a book cover for an older child.  As a mock-up…


Visual 3

I was looking forward to this one.  A collage of cut out paper as the base of my artwork. A little more tactile after the 100% computer based artwork of the last two visuals.  The first stage was to produce a rough collage, and then I took it digital for drawing and enhancement in Photoshop and Sketchbook.

I visualised my artwork showing through a “cut-away” panel (on a roughly textured book cover).   Here is my colour visual:

Final thoughts on this exercise

This exercise has caused a wide range of emotions.  I’m genuinely unsure of my outcomes, and at heart is my nervousness on the interpretation of “colour visual”.

What in commercial work is expected from a colour visual?  How rough and loose should the concept artwork be? And a colour visual; isn’t the idea of a visual to simplify as much as possible.  If so, how can adding colour be achieved without an ugly block-colour outcome?   I think these questions have rumbled through this exercise.  Even a review of literature and online sources, provided me with no answers of any substance.   I’ve kept with what other students have done, i.e. more fully formed images in colour.

Overall, I’ve quite enjoyed this exercise.  It has been quite playful, experimental and varied.  I have been single minded in avoiding the stereotype of collections/montages of animals (especially arranged around the globe, as in my discounted sketch in my sketchbook).  Again, the use of digital media in this exercise has given me new ways of expressing myself.


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