Every book project presents unique design challenges. As the poems began to arrive for Annunciation, I quickly realized that a major issue would be finding the right balance of illustrations to poems. The project had begun with a large, almost-square image, and I planned to do others in a similar format, each taking up a page on its own.
These new images developed as I read and thought about the poems: the one above arose because several of the poets referred to Renaissance paintings that depict Mary reading a book.
Once I had completed half a dozen prints and laid them out with the poems on the pages, spacing them out through the book, this number seemed about right: the six large, full-page relief prints were graphic, with strong solid black areas. They needed to contrast with the more delicate typography and generous white space on the facing pages, but not overpower the words.
An early "test" layout, above -- this image ended up paired with a different poem.
But there were further considerations. Some poets would be represented by a single poem, others by as many as four, and the poems were of varying lengths, but every author had taken the project seriously and put their minds and hearts into it. It was very important to me for each poet to have some art on their pages. It was already September, and I was running out of time: I couldn't complete sixteen full-page illustrations, one for each poet, and I felt that would be too many pages of art in any case. I had already done a few smaller illustrations. It seemed to me that these "occasional" or "spot" illustrations would augment the text, extend the art onto more pages, and complement the words and their meaning.
The first small illustrations I had created were fairly realistic and representational, like this white rose:
But as the project progressed, the illustrations had becoming more graphic and abstract, and this direction pleased me. Now I wondered what motifs would lend themselves to the subject, but also allow some abstraction? Leaves? Berries?
These blocks yielded illustrations in several sizes, and by scanning the prints I was able to flip them horizontally and vertically, or to rotate and scale them to extend their usefulness.
Then I thought of olives, and their long, thin leaves. I played around with that subject, doing a minimum of preliminary drawing, and just carving freely. I had liked the "dotty" areas in the previous attempts, and went for that more intentionally:
One of these olive images became the basis for the book's endpapers, a crash design effort that was necessary for a last-minute technical reason.
Those endpapers ended up being one of my favorite parts of the whole design -- I'll talk about that in another post.
(I'm giving away an original 8"x8" print (at left) to one of the Annunciation buyers, chosen at random: if you'd like to enter, please put your name in the "December Giveaway" box on the order form. If you've already bought a book, you will be automatically entered. Here's the link for more information on the book and ordering.)