The Chicken and the Egg

Saturday, 5th March 2005
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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garden book rough

Which comes first . . . the book or the cover? I'm in a 'chicken and egg' situation with my garden book: until I've sorted out the content I won't know exactly what the cover should look like but, equally, I could do with some idea of the cover so that I can set about telling the story it suggests. There are so many possibilities from all the material I have in my sketchbooks.

Moonlight ChroniclesThis morning a blank 96 page dummy of the book arrives and by the time Barbara gets home at lunchtime I've drawn this design (left) on its cover. It's only a rough but Barbara says: 'I like that; if it was me I'd leave it just as it is.'

This design is inspired by the cover of Dan Price's The Moonlight Chronicles colour paperback compilation. He uses curved freehand outline lettering coloured in red and, as it happens, he has a green humpy object on the cover: a Volkswagen Beetle.

But Price omits the chicken.

Back Cover Blurb

I'd like my book to be irresistible to pick up in a book shop and Price's cover would definitely encourage me to pick it up.

When I was mulling over the content of the book in this diary the other day I came up with a paragraph which I thought could serve as a mission statement for the book. I've written it, from memory, on the back cover of the dummy: I can elaborate on this later; it's not intended to be word perfect. I want to give readers an instant impression of the contents so I sketch in a few of the creatures and plants that make the garden a delightful place to draw in.

Colour Spreads

I decide that I'll try and go through the 48 double-page spreads of the entire dummy book indicating pages in this rough way. I'm keen to see how the 16 double-page colour spreads will fit into the flow of the book. I think it's going to work out just right; it will have the feel of one of my sketchbooks.

It's good to be able to handle this rough version: a book is a tactile as well as a visual thing. It's not like this online diary; you don't see it behind a sheet of glass as an electronic glow. It's good to have a real object in my hands.

back cover

The Trowels of Life


Traditional garden tools are good to handle too. This one, designed for young gardeners by Joseph Bentley of Wimslow, Cheshire, is a beautifully made object, with a solid ash handle (and, to give it a certain cachet, it's wearing a leather thong). It's costs less that we often pay for a coffee and a cake.

Bentley's point out:

In prolonged dry conditions the handle may shrink slightly and the head become loose. This is not a defect and is perfectly natural. The tool can be restored to its original tightness very easily by immersing in water overnight.

Inky Fingers

trowelWhen I took out my new Rapidoliner pen to draw the cover artwork this morning it had leaked slightly. As I was in the studio, I was able to grab a tissue and clean it up then wash the ink off my fingers but it puts me off using it on location. I need something that is 100% reliable. To give it a chance I need to try it with a new refill.

Anyway, because of that, I decided that for this trowel I'd try drawing in dip pen and ink, which I haven't done for ages. I like the quality of the line. As it's been so long since I've done much drawing with a dip pen I found the way it moved about the page unfamiliar and the trowel ended up out of proportion.

A Boon and a Blessing

I liked the way it scritched springily across the page, giving an wiry energy to the line that I don't think you get with fibre tip pen. I used black FW Acrylic Artists Ink and a Waverley nib:

They come as a boon and a blessing to men
The Pickwick, the Owl and the Waverley Pen

Was the Victorian advertising slogan. 'The Waverley pen had a turned up point rather than a convex point,' explains the The Birmingham Pen Trade Heritage Association website (see link below), 'This took the extreme point of the pen off the paper and made writing smoother.' Glad I've got one, sounds perfect for drawing. I wonder if they're still available. Next Page

Related Links

The Birmingham Pen Trade Heritage Association

Richard Bell,

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