Tuesday 19 March 2013

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A Novel Cover Up: Richard Collingridge on Keras by Simon Rae

A Novel Cover Up

A Novel Cover Up is a semi-regular feature that looks at how covers are made. I have been fortunate enough to interview author and Book Cover Illustrator, Richard Collingridge about how he designed the cover for Keras by Simon Rae - and talks about a few other covers he's designed, too! All images in this post are copyrighted to Richard Collingridge and used with permission. They can be clicked to enlarge.

Keras by Simon RaeCan you tell us about the cover for Keras? What do you hope it tells readers about the story?

I always try and narrate a point in the story with my cover designs.
Sometimes I'll use the title font (101) as the point of interest for the image (an example being the hardcover of 'Trash'  by Andy Mulligan) and the illustration will just be a decoration around that. Other times I'll use the characters as the point of interest and mainly rely on the feeling created by the lighting, composition and artwork style.

Full jacket of Trash by Andy Mulligan

The point of interest for the Keras cover art is the main characters (especially the unicorn).
Above displaying the majesty of the unicorn I want the readers to be filled with a sense of wonder and know they are in a magical place. Not a shiny, colourful magical place like my little pony (for example), but a grounded, cold England (between summer and winter so autumn/spring) where you discover (against your better judgement), that a spark of magic does exist, if only you are in the right place at the right time to be able to catch it!

How did you come up with the idea for the cover?

Sometimes covers can be hard to illustrate depending on the title, i.e. 'Trash' again or 'The Last Minute' by Eleanor Updale (all DFB titles!), where you can't illustrate them literally, because drawing a rubbish bin would probably look rubbish & drawing a clock with one minute left on it probably wouldn't be the most exiting (though there is a clock on the cover of the 'The Last Minute').

Full jacket of A Last Minute by Eleanor Updale

So Keras was quite easy, because the title was the main character, so I just had to draw Keras looking cool (hopefully turned out cool in the end!).

From a technical & design point of view, what's important with book covers is to make sure they stand out from a distance in amongst hundreds of other books. So I tend to go for iconic poses with harsh lighting, which creates silhouettes. Which, hopefully, will mean the customer should be able to pick it out from 10 feet away even if it is in amongst a mass of other book covers - well that's the theory anyway!

What were you given to base your ideas on? Did you have a manuscript, or were you given an outline?

With DFB I always get given the manuscript. This makes it slightly more work, because you have to go through the whole novel, but I think it generally enables me to produce better ideas and makes sure final artworks that have a better feeling of the book and in turn the final artwork is better for it.

What went into creating the Keras cover? Can you tell us about the process? Who else was involved?

1st stage: Art director gives brief with suggestions from editor, author and publisher. I try and listen to the author as much as possible because it is their vision (though in some cases its best not to listen to them at all!)

2nd stage: Read the manuscript. Make notes, do really rough, roughs.

3rd stage: Do colour roughs, send them off, wait for feedback.

Keras early images

Keras early images

4th stage: Once one of your ideas has been chosen, work it up…try and keep the art director in the loop as you do, just incase you go off tangent.

5th stage: Show the final cover art (and hope it gets approved!)

6th stage: Once approved, work on wrap around art .

7th stage: Make sure your final art is well presented (either physical or digital).
I did Keras digitally, so that means to organise all of the layers so they are not complicated.
Then send off to the art director and wait for advances!

What do you like most about this cover?

It was an opportunity to do something very fantasy in a Tolkien-esque way that I hadn't had the opportunity to do before. So just the feeling and style of the artwork is probably what I like most about it.
P.S. I also really like the red end pages (though I didn't do them so not sure I can claim credit!)

full jacket of Keras by Simon Rae

Were there any other early ideas for the cover? Why didn’t they make it?

There's one idea I really liked that we didn't go with in the end, which was Keras facing towards the sun and bathed in its light, glowing white with other animals rushing out of the forest behind him.
It wasn't used because one of my other ideas was liked better (quite normal!).

(If you notice the hooves on the some of the roughs don't look like horses hooves, its because Keras was supposed to have goat hooves...)

Keras early image

Thank you, Richard, for such a fantastic a fanastic insight into the creation of Keras' cover, and a look at some of your other covers! I do think Keras has one of the best covers I have ever seen! And Richard is kind enough to also share the Artwork for the up and coming US Edition to When it Snows:

When It Snows by  Richard Collingridge

Beautiful! (I actually reviewed the UK edition of When It Snows, you can see my review here.)

Richard Collingridge studied Illustration at the University of the West of England, graduating in 2008. He has always enjoyed creating different worlds and universes for his non-stick people, and after illustrating book covers and other people's stories, he decided to put some words next to his own drawings. This seemed to work quite well - Debut novel ‘When it Snows’ is out now & his second ‘Lionheart’ will be out in a while.

His clients include David Fickling Books, Walker Books, Albin Michel, Feiwel & Friends, Frances Lincoln, Hodder Children's, Aschehoug & Co, The Phoenix Comic, Red Fox, Gottmar, WSOY and Random House Childrens Books.

Be sure to check out Richard Collingridge’s website and look at all the other stunning covers, and Keras, which was released on 7th February!

Enjoyed this post? Then check out the previous A Novel Cover Up posts.


  1. This is so interesting and I think these posts are a really good idea; I've learnt so much!
    I really love the cover of Keras and I'm definitely going to check out the book now. :)

    1. I'm so glad you like these posts! I really enjoy them, too, they're so fascinating! :)