Shallow Enough to Walk Through
The narrative of Marissa Reaume’s forthcoming novel incorporates some typographic styling: the main character, an aspiring writer, uses
strikethroughs to eliminate events and parts of her life that she doesn’t like. I wanted to work with this same idea on a type-dominant cover.
During my read-through, I found the perpetual grey skies and struggling characters to be pretty bleak, and was having trouble reconciling my interpretation with the colourful chick-lit presentation the publisher requested. So, stubbornly, I failed with my first three attempts, which were deemed too drab and muted. I was asked to try again, to incorporate a photographic image of a woman somehow, and to shoot for something more arresting, urban, and whimsical. So I re-read the MS and focused less on the puddles and more on the lively, energetic scenes: dancing and hot pink toe nails are featured prominently in the plot.
A fun fact: when you paint letters on paper with nail polish, it basically never dries. Seriously, 5 days and counting, and it’s still tacky.
The Shore Girl
The Shore Girl follows Rebee from her toddler to her teen years as she grapples with her mother’s fears and addictions, and her own desire for a normal life. Through a series of narrators — family, friends, teachers, strangers, and Rebee herself — her family’s dark past, and the core of her mother’s despair, are slowly revealed.
Rebee and her mother usually escape their problems at night, ricocheting around rural Alberta in a busted white van.
Another concept I presented was derived from the preliminary title “The Shore Girl Clippings” which refers to the nail trimmings that Rebee saves in a jar and carries around from place to place. She also has a slightly mangled hand from when her mother refused treatment for a broken finger. These character traits were just begging for a collage of some sort.
Dance, Gladys, Dance
Five Steps to an Ordinary Life:
1. Get a real job.
2. Stop seeing the world as a series of potential paintings.
3. Learn how to talk about the weather.
4. Do the things that normal people do.
5. Figure out what normal people actually do.
The synopsis for the 2012 NeWest Press release: 27-year-old Frieda Zweig is at an impasse. Behind her is a string of failed relationships and half-forgotten ambitions of being a painter; in front of her lies the dreary task of finding a real job and figuring out what “normal” people do with their lives. Then, a classified ad for a ’78 phonograph in the local paper introduces Frieda to Gladys, an elderly woman who long ago gave up on her dreams of being a dancer.
Don’t ask how, but I convinced the amazing Dan Estabrook to let me use one of his pieces on the cover of Myrna Dey’s first novel. Dan is based out of Brooklyn and exhibits in real cities like New York, Chicago and… Atlanta. He uses nineteenth-century photographic techniques to make contemporary art, working with hand-altered calotypes and salt prints. The piece I’ve absconded with is a mounted toned silver print called “Untitled Twins, 1992”.
Extensions tells the story of a woman who is uncovering information about her ancestors, and the impact that these bits of lost history have on her life. She makes the chance discovery of a sepia photograph of her grandmother and twin sister, in the hands of a stranger. So she decides to find out how a picture taken in 1914 in the mining town of Extension, BC ended up at a garage sale in small-town Saskatchewan almost 100 years later.
This artwork resonates perfectly with Myrna’s words, from the scissors right down to the teardrop stains on the green matte board.
I continued the scissor motif from Dan’s image throughout the book on the chapter title pages, losing count after about chapter 30:
I was originally hoping to employ an image by local photographer Eleanor Lazare, from her series My Aunt Molly’s Shoes. She projected old photos of her mother and grandmother on the wall, and then took a photo of herself standing in front of the screen. The construction of the series compliments the concept of the book perfectly by showing three generations of women and — quite literally — a reflection of the past onto the present:
Both artists are using historic photos in a contemporary way. Unfortunately, Eleanor’s images don’t accurately represent the genre. They suggest memoir or non-fiction by fixing the people in photos as characters in the book. The author requested that readers be free to invent their own visions of the characters. (I’m hoping to find a better literary fit for Eleanor’s work because I’m just in love with the series.)
Blazers & Boleros:
another phase in my ongoing mission to make the backs of books more interesting. Bookstore frequenters should be drawn to the back side as much as the front side because while a nice smile is great, a nice backside closes the deal. A slightly inappropriate analogy, but you get the point. (Click for jacket for detail.)
The artwork is by Canadian photographer Nathalie Daoust (very envious that she gets to spell her name with an ‘h’). It’s called “Pilatus” and is part of her “Frozen in Time, Switzerland” series. Amazing work. The photo captures the themes of nostalgia, landscape and absurdity that are apparent in Robert’s magic realist-ish tales.
The off-kilter title amplifies the sense of awkwardness and absurdity in the cover image and Gray’s stories. I continued this shifted-baseline motif throughout the interior.
Seal Intestine Raincoat
My cover illustration for a cautionary tale with a bleak portrayal of socio-economic collapse resulting from an unsustainable way of life.