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A.Richard Allen
Brat Farrar
posted:
In November I had a call from Sheri Gee, Art Director at the Folio Society offering me the chance to illustrate the cover and eight interior plates for a book by the name of Brat Farrar. Brat Farrar? As a title, it does have a certain cryptic appeal. Is it an anagram? (Arab fart rr!), an onomatoepoeia? (trouser rip followed by an embarrassed sinking back into one's chair). Before I get lost in this Call My Bluff riff, I'll just tell you- it's the name of the mysterious protagonist in Josephine Tey's 1949 thriller- a tale of intrigue and identity theft amongst the horsey set.
First I had to prove my mettle with an audition piece- if it didn't pass muster the project was off. I got hold of a copy of the book from the local library (a large print edition with a hideous photographic front cover). I read it and started making plenty of thumbnails and notes.
First batch of thumbnails
Tightened-up roughs once we'd decided on a strong image representative of the tone of the book

So keen was I on impressing at this stage that I happily worked up two alternative versions.

Thankfully the (right hand) image shown above was approved without a hitch and we moved on to selecting other images.
At this stage the technicalities of book binding came into play and I had to be mindful of selecting scenes at fairly regular intervals and picking captions to accompany them. I can be a rather slapdash reader: deathly-dull financial copy has turned me into an inveterate skimmer- but I impressed myself with my command of detail and my ability to answer the editor's queries over the minutiae of character and setting .
next set of roughs
marginally tighter roughs

Tight roughs for the eight remaining images (well, six, a frontispiece and the cover)

Initial roughs for the cover

tighter roughs with foil, fabric and blocking in mind

More polished roughs. My colour palette changed between this stage and the finals as the fabrics for binding, foils and blocking ink colours are limited and Sheri advised me on which colour combinations worked.

The whole process was both absorbing and painless with Sheri (and her editor) proving to be adept and sympathetic. I had between November and March to complete everything but was so involved with the work that I finished everything by January.
I've not yet received a sample copy of the book so can't post photos but here are the final images- the cover (minus type and spine adornments) and eight interior pieces.
The final cover image (screen version)
...and here it is in the flesh.

The final frontispiece and seven interior images. One of the best parts of the project for me was the way in which it's rekindled my interest in sequential narrative.

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