The client [northwest poet Leah Stenson] came to me for a cover design for a book of poetry. The title, The Turquoise Bee, is a reference to a colorful figure in Tibetan history. The author lived for many years in Japan, so we started with these aesthetic references.
What you see here are the roughs and aren't meant to be actual cover layouts, but serve to illustrate the atmosphere we are trying to capture with art, color, typography, and relationships between the elements. They are a platform for visualization and will generate discussion. You can watch the image evolve through the iterations.
This multi-layered design combines intriguing classical icons, both oriental [the eternal knot] and occidental [calligraphic brackets]. The eye is strongly directed to the title, and there is a sense of the mystical.
A wonderful Japanese seaside landscape I located, with faded, pastel hues and great depth of field. The eye is naturally drawn toward the sunset and the author's name. I might have stopped right here if the client hadn't encouraged me to to keep at it.
The poems themselves have subtle erotic imagery throughout. The Japanese printmaker Goyo Hashiguchi painted a few nudes in the western style [this from 1920]. That, and scale, create an interesting tension, I think, next to the macro photo of the honeycomb, mirroring the textile beneath the figure.
Round II: the client requested I explore more playful, less serious, imagery. I like the determined expression on the cupid. It is a very small part of an exquisite tiny marble plaque by John Deere, circa 1795. I converted it to duotone and added contrast to bring out the relief. The blue freshens the image. He is aiming at Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. The original resides in The Getty Center in Los Angeles and is part of their open content program.
I loved the cherry allusion, and the way the shape mirrors the derriere of the little putto. I was trying to postpone the inevitable bee image because the title refers to the nickname given an unconventionally amorous monastic figure, not the insect itself.
This was a favorite of mine. I love the almost lurid, over-ripe fruits and their frankly carnal appearance contrasting with the ethereal, smooth marble above. The color harmony between the blue and the gold tones was especially pleasing to my eye.
The client asked for more contemporary or edgy font options. This is playful and considerably updates the classical atmosphere.
I was pleased when my research turned up this high-resolution version of a circa 1560 Flemish painting with extraordinary detail. It features Pamona, Roman goddess of orchards and gardens, being tempted by a satyr, here depicted as Pan. A nipple can really help sell a book.
I love the almost modern, skeptical look on her face! She seems to be saying, "You've got to be kidding!" Since the poems deal with the duality of physical and spiritual longing, it seemed apt. It was too big a leap for the client, but it makes an unforgettable cover image.
Round III: the client suggested we move away from classical references and try some fruit and flowers with more saturated color. I thought these apples were very droll, considering the content. Too much so perhaps.
This font brought a light-hearted, whimsical feeling to the design, something poetry can generally use more of. The pristine macro photo of the Japanese anemone was a great find. By offsetting the elements, the result becomes more engaging to the eye. The chartreuse green behind the type is effective, and I love this "Q". The pollen anthers certainly mimic male seed.
In the end the client wanted to try a bee illustration. Not surprising. Everyone loves bees! I had previously designed a chapbook of poetry with many bee images for Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen titled Shimmer and Drone. I was resisting the bee for that reason, I think, not wanting to do something similar.
Another gorgeous Hashiguchi print. This was hands-down my favorite of all the cover layouts. The strong sans serif font intersecting the edges is arresting; the earthy, serene colors, and intimate visage constitute a clear and appealing invitation to open this book. Contemporary, clean, romantic, placid and robust, all at the same time!
Published in the summer of 2014 by Finishing Line Press.
Thank you Leah for this fun project!