The Road to Colour


Recently, Marlene Lee’s novella ‘Rebecca’s Road’ was the subject of an article by Amy Wilder in the Columbia Tribune (Ovation).  Amy also wanted to include some aspects of the illustration process and asked illustrator B ‘the Bustle’ Lloyd for her perspective on the whole process from which to quote for the article.

The following is the full version:

“Firstly, both author and publisher had very clear ideas from the start of the kind of look, style and feel they wanted for the illustrations and the book as a whole; this simplified and speeded up the whole process .

In this particular case, the author sent through a watercolour illustration from another source which she  had chosen for its simplicity of line and colour – almost naïf yet with, as the publisher pointed out, a certain imbalance or juxtaposition of elements that slightly skews  or cuts the composition, hinting at some disquiet.

This image set the feel and colours for the whole book.

From reading the book, I came away with a set of recurring images and themes to feed into the illustrations, the strongest being peaches. We did not include these in every illustration; restrained use at salient points would make more  impact.

Another idea I came away with was that we should not show Rebecca’s face. This became a conscious choice, once we established that we wanted the reader to visualize through her eyes, so to speak.

Working from all this as a starting point, I prepared a series of rough pen and ink sketches; the selection was then narrowed down to one concept/idea, which I then colour filled in Photoshop until we had established the basic palette. I then prepared the watercolours themselves, which I uploaded to check for modifications, additions, final approval. Because of the fairly extensive background work there was rarely need for any drastic changes in the original version,

The cover was perhaps the most challenging part; it certainly took the most revisions, test runs and stimulating discussion generally! This is where design software like Photoshop is exceptionally handy for combining elements quickly and effectively before proceeding to paint (as well as testing out fonts, another aspect that took up even more time to decide on than the actual illustrations!)

The basic challenge was naturally, developing images from each story; probably ‘Most Strange’ was the most problematic – after various testers, Marlene suggested  the slot machine; I suggested peaches, to bring in the underlying themes I mentioned earlier.

These then were the basic pointers: themes, concepts, styles (or language) via these channels the author’s work is filtered, through line and colour to achieve (one hopes!) the ultimate goal of effectively conveying the author’s  intentions.

The approach: whether writing or illustrating/painting, I have found similarities – you have a language, a voice, with tools (grammar/ paint brushes, syntax/colour , structure/composition) and while coming to a written work as an outsider might have its abstract value, I can’t help feeling that a fellow writer can bring perception, understanding  and analysis; interpretation needs to be there in any case, but the added richness of working with words, loving words, living words is surely an added bonus to the business of illustrating them.


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  1)Preliminary sketch. The idea was approved so I moved onto simple colour fill.

2)The sketch, with simple colour fill applied in with Photoshop. A couple of modifications were suggested, i.e.: spikier tree outlines, to suggest more threatening elements, and a different hairstyle for the male figure seated on the bench.

  3) The design is transferred to cotton pressed paper and watercolour applied, following the general colour scheme proposed earlier.

The cover proved a lengthier process: from a range of initial ideas, we(publisher, author and artist) narrowed down to a workable starting point:

Starting from the solitary figure of Rebecca, we next tried a landscape on the horizon, with Rebecca before and after looking at it

The landscape failed to suggest the theme and feel of the book; while the cadillac and peach trees were retained as key images

The dove, prepared for the limited edition, was suggested – from back cover, it was shifted over to the front, to complement the peaches, while the campus illustration minus the building offered the image of a more pivotal scene; less invading than the complete illustration, and again, offering key components of the story line

The idea of the path or road was retained on the spine.

The Cadillac was ‘spookified’ as in the original book illustration.


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