Cover Story

Monday, 2nd August 2004
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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LangsettWith some of my Sushi Sketchbooks it's obvious which image should go on the cover - the mist on the moors for Langsett, the headland for Distant Northern Sea and the red shed for Normanton - but Saints and Serpents, my sketchbook from the rural east coast of Norfolk, has been a problem.

I didn't have one image that summed up the subject matter of cottage garden, coast and medieval church. I thought of using the 950 year old oak tree I'd drawn at Fairhaven but that didn't seem to work with my title, which comes from the serpentine forms and symbols I found in the landscape and in the church.

Snake and LadderSnakes and Ladders

Then I thought of the Snakes and Ladders board in a compendium of games in the cottage and I thought it would be fun to make a mock-up board with a selection of my illustrations arranged on the squares.

One of my favourite pages in the book is one of fragments of crab shell I picked up on the strandline on Mundersley beach. The page reminds me of the pleasures of beachcombing. I went into Photoshop on the computer and arranged a couple of these on the cover along with a gull and a couple of serpents. That was it; it summed up the subject matter and the holiday atmosphere and I decided not to bother with the device of the board itself.

crab and gull


I find working with images in Photoshop fascinating but, apart from the limited things I do with it, I'm no expert so I was glad when my artist/journalling pal Danny Gregory gave me a few tips when he was over here from New York in June. Without going into technical detail I'll just mention that when you're colouring a drawing, as I coloured the snake and ladder for this cover, use 'darken' as the blending mode when you fill the selected part of the drawing with colour.

That won't mean anything to you if you don't use Photoshop but that simple click in an options box has made a huge difference to the way I colour drawings. Can't wait to do the next one!

Hand-lettering versus Typesetting

eyedropper toolSo far, every word and title of each of the Sushi Sketchbooks has been hand-lettered. Working on the cover rough I quickly typed in the title and author just to show where the hand-lettering would go. I used a typeface called 'Papyrus' and selected the colour by using the eyedropper tool (left) in Photoshop to pick up a sample of colour from the drawings.

The trouble is the typeset version looks so suitable - the way it hints at the medieval elements in the sketchbook and the way those big Ss resemble serpents - that I found I couldn't then improve on it by using my own lettering.

serpentLooks like it will have to stay. And why not? I really should improvise and have fun with these sketchbooks. That's the whole point. Next Page

Related Links

Sketchbook Sushi

Danny Gregory

Richard Bell,

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