David Howe graduated in 2015 from the BA (Hons) Illustration with Animation programme at Manchester School of Art and as part of his end of year show took part in the New Designers Graduate Showcase in London. Whilst exhibiting at the event he was picked out by art directors from The Folio Society as an illustrator they might be interested in working with when the right project came along…
Later that summer David received a call from the team at Folio and was commissioned to provide a series of illustrations for a reissue of Barry Hines classic text ‘A Kestrel For A Knave’ better known to many perhaps as ‘Kes’ following the release in 1969 of the film adaptation by Ken Loach.
The resulting rather subtle and beautifully designed book was published in May 2017 and is only available direct from The Folio Society: The Folio Society: A Kestrel For A Knave
We interviewed David to find out more about how this process worked:
David Howe – timeline to publication:
In the July of 2015 I was exhibiting at New Designers in London on the course stand and after the first day received a business card left by the Folio Society. The contact was made by one of the art directors who asked me to get in touch.
After arriving back to Liverpool, I followed this up by sending a package with a hand written note and a few A4 prints of my work down to The Folio Society in London addressed to the art director. The next day I received an email from saying they were delighted that I got in touch and how much they liked the ‘Berlin’ drawing that I had on display on the New Designers stand. Folio also gave me initial details about the commission they had in mind and that they were going to present my work at a forthcoming planning meeting, to confirm whether I would be the best candidate for the work and subsequently receive the commission.
Three weeks passed and I received an email saying ‘Good News, we have a commission for you!’ The book was ‘A Kestrel for a Knave’ and they wanted twelve drawings (eleven black and white text integrated illustrations and one colour image for the title page), in addition I was asked to create a binding design, and several motifs for the inside of the book. I accepted the commission and they sent me a copy of the text to read as reference.
After accepting the commission, we met in London for a more detailed design briefing so that I could get a better idea of the kind of projects they commission at The Folio Society and more importantly to get a better idea of what they were expecting from me as the illustrator. We talked in detail about the potential illustrations and how they could integrate effectively with the text. We discussed the binding design details and the idea of the translucent outer dust jacket that would come with the final publication, and which my artwork would be printed on to. We also discussed deadlines, roughs and contracts at the same meeting.
After returning from London, I first started by working on the roughs for the binding. I presented five ideas in total, all of which had a full wrap around drawing design for the cloth back and some smaller drawings on the paper jacket. During this time I was also working on the texts and thumbnails for the illustrations. I was sending in images and receiving feedback on which ones were suitable until after a number of weeks I was left with the agreed 12 drawings they wanted me to produce and the agreed binding design.
Work began on the binding first and it was a huge challenge to try and get the tightness that the ‘Berlin’ drawing had. I made a series of fully rendered attempts to get this drawing correct and when It finally came together and I had the OK it was a huge relief. During this time I had been drawing constantly, beyond anything I had experienced before, producing two – three illustrations each day. Some inevitably taking longer than others but I kept that momentum going until I had all of them completed.
The final drawings were presented alongside the original roughs so that I could demonstrate how the ideas had evolved. When all the work was signed off I hand delivered the drawings to London (I confess two weeks longer than the original deadline!) and showed them to the design team at Folio – I am pleased to say they were all really happy with the results. They were then sent to production to be scanned and over coming weeks turned into the final book itself.
Thank you David – a great insight into the commissioning process.
The book was published in May 2017. Folio Society: A Kestrel For A Knave
Digital Arts Magazine feature A recent article on The Folio Society featuring David’s work alongside some other Folio commissioned illustrators
All images Courtesy of The Folio Society.