Mr Sandman

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The last cover reveal of the year isn’t my last cover of the year, two more will follow this one but they won’t be made public until next year. As before, I’ve only done the illustration this time, PS Publishing having an in-house designer who does the rest. Mr Sandman by SJI Holliday is another hardback novella, a horror tale with a sense of humour and a Monkey’s Paw-like warning about careless wishes:

Sophie is bored with her perfectly nice but deathly dull boyfriend Matthew. Sensing he’s about to lose her, Matthew takes her on a last-ditch attempt trip to the seaside, hoping to rekindle their dying flames. But things take a dark turn when Sophie visits Mr Sandman, a Haitian priest, who claims that he can change Matthew into the boyfriend that she wants. But does Sophie really know what she wants? Never has the phrase “be careful what you wish for” been more apt. Because Matthew does change…just not in the way that anyone could’ve predicted.

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Worthing is a seaside town on the south coast of England that’s generally regarded as a poor relation of nearby Brighton. Despite this status the town does possess an award-winning pier which is the main focus of SJI Holliday’s story, so this seemed an inevitable focus for the cover as well. My idea was for something in the manner of Tom Adams, an artist who specialised in arrangements of carefully-painted objects on vague or sketchy backgrounds, with the backgrounds often depicting the location of the story. Having grown up in another seaside town blessed with three piers I’m well aware that all these structures aren’t the same so the pier details have been properly researched. The Tarot cards are an example of artistic licence, however, since the novella doesn’t mention Tarot divination. But with a narrative that concerns a visit to a fortune-teller’s booth this didn’t seem like too much of a stretch, as well as being a convenient way of depicting the main characters. Pamela Colman Smith’s cards were the model for these; the two main characters look a little stiff but that’s the way the figures are represented on her Lovers card, and the awkwardness of the relationship is a dominant theme. As for the cupcakes, these are all very relevant to the story but you’ll have to read the book to find out why.

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Endpaper illustration.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Tom Adams Uncovered
Out of season

Double weird

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Two of the books whose covers I was working on late last year have been announced so here they are. This is more work for PS Publishing where wraparound covers are the standard, so once again I was able to work in a pictorial, landscape format. (PS also do their design in-house so I only did the art this time. Click on the pictures below for larger views.)

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Apostles of the Weird is a collection of contemporary weird fiction edited by ST Joshi:

Weird fiction is an incredibly rich and varied genre, running the gamut from supernatural horror to imaginary-world fantasy to psychological terror. This anthology seeks to exhibit the wide range of themes, motifs, and imagery that weird fiction allows, as embodied in the work of some of the leading contemporary writers in the field. (more)

“Weird” is indeed a very broad category so rather than try and create something that represented a single genre I opted for a weird view instead. The idea was to do something like Borges’s Library of Babel in a space that was a hybrid of Piranesi and MC Escher. I was hoping originally to make this more Escher-like, with a number of gravity-defying staircases, but the underlying drawing took so long that I didn’t have time.

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His Own Most Fantastic Creation: Stories About HP Lovecraft is also edited by ST Joshi:

HP Lovecraft (1890–1937), the pioneering writer of weird fiction, has himself become an icon in popular culture. Stories, novels, and other works featuring the gaunt, lantern-jawed gentleman from Providence, Rhode Island, have proliferated. These works have been triggered by the incredible amount of knowledge we have on the writer—his family, his friends, his idiosyncrasies and eccentricities—as found in his thousands of surviving letters. (more)

This was much easier to achieve since HP Lovecraft is familiar territory. The idea here was to do a portrait of Lovecraft situated in a Lovecraftian zone, a colossal idol of a type that might be found in some of his Cyclopean ruins. Lovecraft and his Weird Tales colleagues had a habit of referring to each other in their stories and letters as though they were ancient priests or sorcerers so portraying Lovecraft in this manner is fitting. The combination of perspective and lighting worked against creating an accurate likeness, however—it doesn’t help that Lovecraft’s features are weird in themselves—so the “HPL” icon is there to affirm the identity.

Both books will be published next month if Great Cthulhu hasn’t risen from the depths by then.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Something from Below

Something from Below

My first encounter with author, editor and Lovecraft biographer ST Joshi was in the form of an artwork request that arrived out of the blue in the late 1980s. My comic-strip adaptation of The Haunter of the Dark had just been published in a large-format edition by Caermaen Press, a small imprint run by Roger Dobson and Mark Valentine, and this prompted a flurry of interest among weird-fiction enthusiasts in Britain and the USA. Joshi was editing Lovecraft Studies for Necronomicon Press at the time, and asked if I’d be willing to contribute illustrations, something I ended up not doing for a variety of reasons. I always felt bad about this, and admitted as much when we eventually met at the Providence NecronomiCon in 2015, so my cover art for his new cosmic-horror novella may be regarded as a kind of recompense.

Something from Below is horror with an industrial setting and a Lovecraftian slant, hence the sinister coal mine dominating the artwork:

When 22-year-old Alison Mannering returns to her home in northeastern Pennsylvania after college, she finds a troubling situation. Her father, Guy Mannering, a longtime coal miner, has died recently under suspicious circumstances, and her mother refuses to provide any details of his passing. Alison feels she has no option but to investigate the matter herself, enlisting her high school sweetheart, Randy Kroeber, as well as Randy’s twin sister, Andrea called Andy, to assist her… (more)

The brief for this one was to create a wraparound cover without showing anything overtly monstrous, something I was happy to do since I dislike horror covers that reveal too much. In addition to the wrap I also produced a black-and-white piece for the inner boards. As is evident from the pictures above, the artwork was flipped around in the design but that’s okay, it works both ways. The coal mine is the central location, however.

Something from Below is published this month by PS Publishing in signed and unsigned hardcovers.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Leather Cthulhu unleashed
A Mountain Walked
H.P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction
Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown DVD