When we acquire a book the first thing to do is to read the story (or sometimes an outline of a story or snippet of the finished thing). The second is to think about what the finished book will look like and finding an appropriate illustrator or designer who can do the story and characters justice. With The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place we knew we wanted an illustrator to draw the girls for the front cover and we chose the delightful Nicola Kinnear (you can see some more of her work here and she’s on Twitter here). Nicola was even lovely enough to write us a blogpost about how she drew the Scandalous Sisterhood girls:
Bringing the girls to life
My first step in bringing the girls to life was to read the story. I was interested in both the descriptions of how they looked and their personalities, and wanted to convey both in the illustrations.
I find research crucial to the way I work and so I looked in detail at Victorian 1890s fashion and hairstyles to try and be as authentic as possible. I draw constantly throughout this research stage, getting a feel for how it will work with the characters.
My technique for finding the characters is quite thorough. I draw and keep re-drawing, trying different expressions, features and poses until something works, and then I draw some more!
It was important to get all the girls looking individual from each other, which was quite a challenge, as there are seven of them! Once the characters started to take shape I looked at the composition that was suggested, doing quick thumbnail sketches.
For the final cover illustration, I decided to keep a fluid sketched line, which I could then colour using Photoshop. Colouring digitally has its advantages, as it can easily be changed and manipulated. This allowed me to play around with different colours a great deal, trying to get a vibrant and fun colour palette that reflected the playfulness of the book. I always like to keep an essence of traditional media in my illustration, even if I do take it into Photoshop. I try to use Photoshop brushes that mimic gouache or other such paint to capture that traditional look
The final cover!
The girls’ portraits are shown inside the book, decorated with floral frames. I wanted to show more of each girl’s personality through the flowers used in her frame. Smaller delicate flowers for some girls, rustic practical herbs for others, and spikey looking plants for Elinor, the girl interested in more morbid and gothic themes. This was so much fun for me as I have a real interest in looking into different plants and flowers.
It’s been such a joy to work on the cover illustration for Julie Berry’s novel, with its historical setting and seven wonderful main characters.
Thank you so much to Nicola for taking the time to write such a wonderful piece. If you’d like to buy the book you can do so NOW! It’s on sale wherever scandalous books are sold.