James Cawthorn: The Man and His Art

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The past year would have been busier than usual with the amount of illustration work I had to deal with, but it was made even busier with my having to design this book at the same time. James Cawthorn: The Man and His Art was originally intended to be a modest memorial by Maureen Cawthorn Bell for her artist brother following his death in 2008, but the book grew into a heavyweight volume of 448 pages containing over 800 individual pieces of art: book covers, illustrations for magazines and fanzines, private pieces for friends and relatives, and many sketches or preliminary works, most of which have never seen print before.

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Given Jim Cawthorn’s long association with Michael Moorcock, as both friend and collaborator, the task of collating the artwork and editing the book went to Moorcock bibliographer John Davey, who also serves as the book’s publisher. John spent three years locating over 3000 pieces of artwork, large and small. Some of these pieces are now lodged with the Moorcock archives in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, while others may only be found in the pages of the many science fiction and fantasy fanzines that Jim illustrated, copies of which are stored at the British Library. From this body of material Maureen and John selected a core of representative work from Jim’s private as well as public life, although no-one at the outset of the project was expecting the final picture tally to be so high.

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My task as the book’s designer involved making the text presentable (easy) and corralling the artwork (not so easy, and I also had to either clean or colour-adjust every single piece). Maureen had divided the book into several sections, beginning with a lengthy biographical reminiscence. Following this was “Jim by Jim”, a selection of interviews, magazine pieces, some fiction, essays and book reviews. There was also a lengthy extract from Fantasy: 100 Best Novels (1988), a book credited to Jim and Michael Moorcock but, by Moorcock’s admission, mostly Jim’s work. Jim Cawthorn was very well-read, especially in the genres—he was old enough and interested enough to have read The Lord of the Rings when it was first published—and could also present his erudition engagingly for a reader, so the text section of Maureen’s book is far from indulgent.

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The book design isn’t as elaborate as some I’ve worked on but it didn’t need to be when the pictorial material is rich with what Moorcock calls “wizardry and wild romance”. Maureen wanted a particular picture of Moorcock’s Elric character on the cover so I took details and motifs from some of Jim’s many Elric illustrations to give the book a thematic thread and internal consistency. Cawthorn was present at the creation of Elric in the early 1960s; he not only provided Moorcock’s characters with their first illustrations but even helped plot one of the earliest stories, Kings in Darkness.

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Page numbers are framed by the swords from the Elric stories.

Using motifs such as the sword silhouette and Elric head is something I frequently do with book designs but for this book I also went to the trouble of creating a one-off font for the drop capitals based on Jim’s hand-drawn lettering. Jim drew titles and other lettering throughout his career, so again this was a decision warranted by the book’s contents. The few times we met I never asked him about this but I’ve always thought his lettering designs were derived from the stylised titles that J. Allen St. John created for many of the early Edgar Rice Burroughs books. Jim spent most of his life drawing Burroughs’ characters, and was very familiar with the work of Burroughs’ original illustrators. I was hoping to find a title design of Jim’s that I could rework for the book’s title but none of the examples worked as well as I hoped. For this reason the title lettering is based on different styles from the John Carter novels that were Jim’s favourites among Burroughs’ works.

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Other features include a foreword by Alan Moore, an afterword by Michael Moorcock, a gallery of Jim’s Lord of the Rings drawings and character sketches from the early 1960s (which predate all others bar those by Tolkien himself), artwork for Hawkwind (including Dave Brock’s “Meliadus” T-shirt), and even a handful of photos from the set of The Land that Time Forgot (1975), the ER Burroughs-derived feature film scripted by Jim with Michael Moorcock. The page samples here are necessarily few given the size of the book.

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For the moment James Cawthorn: The Man and His Art is available exclusively from publishers Jayde Design at a special pre-publication price of £20. After publication on 6th August the price will rise to £35. Further page samples follow.

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Ten titles and a cover

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The Very Best of Charles de Lint. Art by Charles Vess.

Over the weekend I found the time to finally update the book design section of the site, adding new pages for most of the titles I’ve been working on recently. There’s still a couple of things missing but I’ll add those in due course. Many of these design jobs have been for the interiors only so what follows is a comparison of title spreads from books I’ve worked on that have been published this year. Lest it seem that I have an army of clones at my service it should be emphasised that I was working on several of these last year (and Engelbrecht was completed in 2008) but the nature of release schedules means they all carry 2010 publication dates.

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Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer.

I invariably make a feature of title pages, usually creating them as a spread in order to heighten their impact. The title page is a kind of gateway to the rest of the book which gives you an opportunity to establish a mood for what follows. It’s also the area where you can be most lavish with your graphic treatment and, where necessary, add illustrative material without worrying too much about intruding on the content. With a number of these designs I was following typographic choices from pre-designed covers so the challenge was to find something that would match the cover and connect to the rest of the interior. The Charles de Lint book was a variation on this process in that the author had chosen a Charles Vess drawing for the cover art. I designed a cover to accommodate the drawing then carried the design inside. The colours were chosen to match Vess’s artwork while the general Art Nouveau style came from an Alphonse Mucha poster he’d placed on the wall. With a different cover picture the entire book would have had a very different design.

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The Search for Philip K Dick by Anne R Dick.

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Into the Media Web by Michael Moorcock

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Here at last is the book I spent a good part of last year designing. Into the Media Web is a huge volume as befits a huge talent, 720 pages of Michael Moorcock’s non-fiction spanning fifty years of his career from his days writing for sf and fantasy fanzines, through to journalism, reviews and articles for major newspapers and magazines. Moorcock expert John Davey did an amazingly thorough job of compiling, editing and annotating it all, and it’s been a considerable pleasure to design such an important collection. Alan Moore provided the substantial introduction. Savoy Books haven’t announced a price yet but it’s going to be about £45 since it’s another limited edition and weighs a ton. Into the Media Web makes a fine companion to last year’s The Best of Michael Moorcock from Tachyon, also edited by John Davey (with Ann & Jeff VanderMeer) and whose interior I also designed. Details about Into the Media Web‘s design follow below.

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The dust jacket is matt white with a spot UV layer which picks out the titles and lines in gloss.

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The Best of Michael Moorcock

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The first of the books I’ve been designing for Tachyon Publications appears this month. Two more are due to follow and I’m working on another at the moment; more about those titles later.

The Best of Michael Moorcock was a pleasure to be involved with not only because I’ve been reading Moorcock’s fiction for a very long time but I’ve also been fortunate during that time to get to know the writer and Linda Moorcock, his wife. Mike likes the work I’ve done in the past for Savoy Books and we did have an anthology of his favourite pieces by other writers planned for Constable & Robinson back in 2005. That book didn’t work out so this makes up for its cancellation. This is an excellent anthology, put together initially as a private enterprise by editor John Davey who managed the difficult task of compiling a collection which ranges over forty years of writing. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer came aboard as co-editors for the Tachyon edition.

I’ve been working mainly on the interior design of the Tachyon volumes (although I’ve also done the cover for Jeff VanderMeer’s forthcoming Booklife) and for this title I took a cue from Ann Morn’s cover design which features a pair of gates emblazoned with large letter Ms. The title spread above takes the letter M from the typeface used for the author’s name and multiplies that to create an equivalent set of gates for the reader to pass through. I try to play down the pyrotechnics for fiction—the words are the important thing, not the graphic design—but since this was a story collection I thought I’d try illustrating each piece using the title typography alone. Most of these are done by using a suitable typeface but for a few pieces I managed to create an arrangement that reflected the story. Behold the Man (below) is the Nebula Award-winning story of a journey back in time to find the historical Jesus. The cross shape not only relates to the Biblical theme but also implies the crossed time streams and Moorcock’s layered, cross-cut narrative.

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The Best of Michael Moorcock is available now from the usual sources and received a glowing review in the Guardian. Later this month, and other work permitting, I’m hoping to make a start on what will effectively be a companion volume, Savoy’s long-delayed Into the Media Web, another collection by John Davey which this time collects the best of Moorcock’s copious essays, reviews and other non-fiction.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Designing Booklife
The Sonic Assassins
Revenant volumes: Bob Haberfield, New Worlds and others
An announcement redux