Tag Archives: ECW Press

The Ends of the Earth

A poetic guide for the apocalypse. Jacqueline Turner’s work touches on technological disasters, environmental nightmares, and broken relationships.

She sent along some photos, taken with her phone, of an earth as seen through an urban grid. (This particular globe is in the lobby of the Fairmont hotel in Vancouver.) I tried to conceptualize this using a fish eye lens, a topographical map, and some grid paper, but wasn’t happy with the result which felt really flat despite the curvature.

My next turn played up the technology theme with unravelling loops of wire. Still wasn’t thrilled at this point.

Because the collection juxtaposes urban settings with deserted islands, I set out looking for a windswept, double exposed photo for use on the cover. Here is one of the passages from the “Castaway Series” in the collection that influenced the look and feel of the cover:

“dear sailor every night the stars speak of you. the north star seems particularly infatuated with your image and whispers adagio as salty spray hits your worn back. a moment here is eternity light folds into waves and this world is rebuilt second by second, an ephemeral mirage. the tissue of our connection floats on the wind, a lost kite that may some day be returned to its flyer. i have cast out many strands, dear sailor, i have told the stars this story.”


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Letter From Brooklyn

The cover of Jacob Scheier’s last collection, More to Keep Us Warm, featured an illustration by Jason Kieffer. He generously provided some great sketches for consideration and I jumped in with some concepts of my own as well.

Instead of a Brooklyn street scene, I thought a view from the street, looking up, might be less conventional and better matched to the author’s voice. I was inspired by the line “how Brooklyn makes me nostalgic for the moment I am walking inside of” and the way Scheier contrasts the bridge on the skyline and tree branches bent over the streets. A busy scene with lots of traffic wouldn’t achieve the same sense of loneliness.

I was trying to veer away from imagery of the Brooklyn bridge, but I think it becomes quite interesting when abstracted as a pattern. When turned on its side, the bridge cables look like telephone wires, connecting people on the left and right.

Then there’s my “letterhead” idea, which I don’t believe anyone liked.


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The Miracles of Ordinary Men

This is a spiritually complex novel about a man named Sam growing wings and a woman named Lilah finding meaning in violence and pain.

Sam periodically sheds feathers, which crumple and turn into black dust as they fall to the ground. I combined feather and dust imagery on the cover to show this disintegration, but also to imply creation (like a phoenix rising from the ashes) so that the cover references the transformation of both characters, not just Sam. (The ash in this case is graphite powder shaved onto my scanner bed.)

My other draft focuses on only one of the story lines. Sam is forced to rip holes in all his shirts to accommodate the wings, which is exactly what I’ve done in order to show, in a simplified way, how his metamorphosis has produced “a great gaping hole where his life used to be.”


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A Guide to Growing Marijuana Indoors

Originally we thought the best solution for the cover of this handbook might be to avoid grow-op, basement, and marijuana plant imagery entirely. However, the sales folks laid down the verdict: my designs look like they belong with fiction rather than a non-fiction gardening book. Plus, it’s not at all evident that we’re splurging on a 4-colour interior. I was hoping the market differentiation would be viewed as a positive thing, but not so. Comparable titles have photo-based covers, so that’s the direction we went in, using a foliage snapshot the author supplied.

I just don’t think anyone appreciated my artificial grow-light mise en scène.


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Animal Husbandry Today

I recently traveled to Toronto to network heckle Chip Kidd and frequent the Umbra store. Somewhere between this and this, I convinced ECW Press to give me a shot at a book cover.

Next thing I know, a brief arrives in my inbox and the author, Jamie Sharpe, is listing Julie Morstad as inspiration for imagery. Her aesthetic oozes the same anachronistic yet slightly sinister feel as the book. I quickly realize the bar is set high and start to panic.

The following Saturday night, after a few inadequate mockups involving aprons (“husbandry”) and antlers (“animal”) have materialized, I’m out socializing drinking scotch on a pal’s living room floor and I realize there’s a framed print hanging on her wall that seems to have been crafted specifically for one of the poems in the collection. So I deciphered a few initials in the illegible signature and set out to stalk the recent ACAD grad who made it.

Just short of Facebooking a total stranger and/or going to the mall to surprise him at his part-time retail job, I found Reagan Cole McLean.

Here is the aforementioned stanza, from the poem entitled The Dundreary-Arts:

“What is the parable of the whale?  He floats wall-less,
Without history, secure in his girth like a slumbering god.
Awake: for we have a silver dollar with your name.”

The second runner-up uses artwork from the interior. I was drawn to the graphic nature of the piece and the obscure assortment of imagery: a dead bird, a hammer, a timepiece, a torso, and a screaming mouth. Good mix.

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