Friday, March 4, 2011

Elegance of the Hedgehog - Book Cover

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery has a firm spot in the list of best books I've ever read, it might just be the very best one. It is the second book to have ever made me cry (the first one was East of Eden by John Steinbeck) and when just the words on a page have the power to do that then you definitely know you've struck upon something great.

So for portfolio class, I decided to make my own cover for it and here it is!
For the sake of brevity, here's the story in a nutshell: Renee Michel, is the concierge of a posh apartment building in Paris. She is an autodidact with beautifully deep thoughts yet she shows others the image of an ignorant, stereotypical concierge who owns a fat lazy cat and who can do nothing but watch T.V. all day.

So I wanted to portray the existence of the her two identities through the space that she inhabits. The front cover is her true self (the inside of her apartment that nobody sees) and the back cover is the image of herself that she shows to others (the entrance to the apartment, which the tenants get to see periodically). So the front and the back are just different sides of the same room.

I am very, very pleased with the result. I consider this piece to be the culmination of everything I've learned about art and design here at SCAD. It has everything I have been working towards in terms of style and technique. I got the linework, the mark-making, the values, the colours, the textures, the shapes, the perspective, the composition and the type JUST how I wanted them. And that just feels great, to finally have figured it all out. 

And since I enjoy reading so much, I was happy to make a book cover that I would enjoy seeing at the store. See the cat on the ISBN bar? I LOVE it when publishers incorporate the cover design with the bar. They should do it more often!

Here's some of my process work:

This was the initial thumbnail. I had a very clear image in my mind of what I wanted and the final piece changed very little from this original thumbnail, it is not often that this fact, I think it's the very first time this has ever happened to me in the illu department haha. The only big suggestion I got was to move the cat and then I got all excited when I realized I could put him on the ISBN bar!

This was the comp, I drew all the elements out in individual pieces of paper so that I could play around with the composition more freely.

This is the value comp, as you can see, the values didn't turn out exactly like this in the end but having the comp is useful to give yourself an idea of where you want to go.

This is the colour comp and yes, it's quite sloppy but it's not always essential for it to be perfectly neat since all I needed to know was what colours worked well together. I tend to prefer colour comps that way because then I can concentrate ONLY on the colours without getting distracted by little drawing details. A problem I had is I was too influenced by the colours of the original cover from Europa Editions, so I was determined to stray away from that and make it my own. I did decide to keep the border from the original cover though because that adds a touch of elegance.

And then when all of the above was tweaked, critiqued, decided upon, I drew all the elements, this time around quite neatly, scanned them in, and the rest all happened in Photoshop.