Scroll through my process blog

Grayling Cross

The best way to describe the challenge associated with this project is to quote the knowledgeable Paul Buckley from Penguin’s latest stunning, narcissistic book design endeavour: Penguin 75 Designers, Authors, Commentary (the good, the bad…). Buckley observes that “multiple parties wanting different things often lead to covers with rather literal visual interpretations… a scene from the story – this is not always a bad thing, but can lead to imagery that is a bit predictable.”

Which is what my first attempt at a paranormal mystery cover was. Unfamiliar genre territory. I made a mess first, just to get it out of my system.

Then I set out to make an eerie image that suggests a supernatural presence without employing any of the usual SPACE channel platitudes. The Press expressed an interest in taking a different direction from Froese’s first novel on the same theme, which has an off-puttingly dark and murky cover. The drawback of this quirky, light approach is that it doesn’t convey the genre with sufficient clarity.

I ended up photographing a jar of bath salts by request of the author, basically re-creating one particular unnerving scene from the book. I abstracted the object as much as possible with the camera angle, framing, and focus, in an attempt to gain fictitious approval from Buckley at Penguin.

At the very least, I think it successfully avoids pushing the fantasy element too explicitly. (Oddly enough, this is the second photo shoot that I’ve coordinated in my bathtub in the last year.)

My favourite detail in all three sketches is the title block. I nudged a printout of the title on a scanner bed as the bulb passed over, creating a slight blur in the text.