Done and dusted.

Linocut and title lettering: Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Design: Simon Hicks

The Stages of a Book Cover

Preliminary Drawings


Above: discarded three-colour version

Above: discarded three-colour decoration


Block with paper stencil in place to check registration. For this project the stencil was deliberately misaligned in the final print in order to create a more primitive appearance. I was also sparing in cutting back the blank areas of the block, so that there would be flashes of  black around the marmoset to energise the image. Too much cleaning-up can de-nature a relief-print.

Lino-cut print with stencilled red ground. The technique of adding colour to a print by means of stencilling is called ‘Pochoir’


Finally, I made the lettering for the cover using acrylic-worked paper-cuts

In the finished design the stark white of the original paper has been replaced with a soft, neutral grey.

30 thoughts on “witch

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  4. Just catching up, I missed this post, my loss. Very helpful to see the step by step process; in addition to being such a fine artist you are gifted at spreading the gospel as can be seen by your many acolytes, myself included. You are a generous man and it is appreciated.
    The cover is beautiful, as are the discards . After you explained that the tale is somber discarding the pretty tulips made great sense but they are of great charm. I’m sure you will make use of them.
    I of course will not be able to attend the reading, a pity, but I will want to order the book, not just for its handsome jacket, it seems interesting. The power of an effective cover illustration, kudos to the designer/artist.
    As per Kindle/I-pad, we have several, I never pick them up, can’t bear them, i miss the mustiness of the real deal. The beloved is keen on all that is latest, we seem to have it all, he thinks I am a Luddite, I may be.
    again, thanks,

  5. The cover looks fantastic! Great work, as always, and thanks for sharing the process. Interesting and inspiring, BC!

  6. This artlog sets me on another quest. I bought some lino and cutters 2 years ago and they are still sitting unused in my studio. Although I love the single colour on the title page, I would be interested to know why the 2 colours were rejected. The surreal blue light is very effective.

    I see the debate on the kindle continues. Interesting that artists and writers are not drawn to them. I don’t think the book form will ever disappear as predicted (and hoped for) by the kindle makers. There is room for both.

    • Liz, if you’re going to work with lino-blocks, bear the following SAFETY RULES in mind.

      Always use the best wood-handled, steel-bladed wood/lino-cutting tools you can afford. The cheap craft-shop lino-cutting kits with interchangeable blades are not the way to go. They blunt quickly and are basically made of something more like tin than steel. Moreover a wooden handle in the hand will not cause blisters nearly as quickly as a rubber or plastic-handled tool.

      Never allow your tools to get blunt. You’ll better avoid mishaps if your blades cut the lino with minimum resistance. All my worst injuries have occurred when I’ve been pushing too hard to get a blunt tool to cut.

      Invest in an Arkansas stone and keep it near you when you work, regularly honing the blades of your cutting-tools.

      Lino-cutting can be quite hard-going on the joints of fingers and wrist, so don’t overdo the sessions. A little and often.

      Always mount your lino securely onto a base-board with PVA before you start working on it. I use MDF.

      Don’t work on a slippery surface.

      However you secure the block with your free hand as you work, never NEVER have the free hand forward of the direction you’re pushing the tool. ALWAYS keep the securing hand on the near-side of the block, and only ever cut with the tool facing away from you. Lino has a smooth, slippery surface. Sometimes a tool will skid on that surface and the weight you’re putting behind it will drive it deeply into any hand that gets in the way. OUCH!!!!

      You could consider getting Graham to make you a heavy base to work on, with a low L-shaped batten screwed in place along an edge to support one corner of whatever block you were working on. That way you’d just turn the lino-block whenever needed as you worked, and it would be securely held without you having to hold it with your hand at all. Much safer.

      Don’t work when you’re tired. That’s when you forget about safety. Accidents are far more likely to happen if your concentration has lapsed.

      Re the book cover. The tone of Witch is dark and ominous. Bad things happen in it. The three-colour version I made… black, red and blue… while attractive, was really too jaunty for the subject matter. It also detracted from the title. The more sombre black and red is a better choice for this book.

      A while back I posted a brief lino-cutting and printing tutorial on the Artlog, and you can find it in the comment section underneath THIS post.

      • Clive, thanks SO much for the lino-cutting tips. I know you must be knee deep in maquette editing! Once again you have inspired me to take up something new. You are such a generous person. Also thanks for the explanation re decision to keep to one colour. It’s always fascinating to know the reasons for a choice, especially for a person who finds it difficult to decide…….-

        • I love lino-printing, and the technique means that I have to keep the ideas bold and not bogged down in too much detail. If you set yourself up with the proper kit when you start out, you’ll get great results quite quickly. I like too the way the quality of an image can change. A light printing on fine Japanese tissue paper can render a bold image delicate, or a more heavily-inked relief plate printing onto weighty paper can lend character and robustness to something quite simple.

  7. Absolutely terrific, Clive, and I’m impressed with how the lettering and print are all-of-a-piece. Thanks for the production notes, too.

    • Wasn’t sure how that would work. I’d intended to produce the lettering as lino-print, but ran out of time. At that point I began to see that there’d be a better sense of the present nodding to the past if I used collage rather than relief-print for the lettering. Collage definitely speaks of the twentieth century, and I like that in conjunction with the earlier quality of the relief-print marmoset, which references the printing techniques available in the seventeenth century, when the story is set.

      • A quick follow-up technical question, Clive: when printing a two-color image such as this, do you find it’s better to use pochoir than to print a first block for the background, and then a second for the foreground (complex) image, and if so, why? And do you use printing ink for the stenciled color? Thanks much…

        • Pochoir was simpler and faster. If I’d cut a block for the red, then it would have been a lot of work chipping away all the lino. And I only needed one good copy. This is not intended as an editioned print. The stencil was done in ten minutes. The oil-based printing ink can take days to dry. Had I printed the red element in oil it would have needed a week of drying before I could print in black over the top of it. Instead I used red acrylic stippled through the stencil, and it was dry and ready to be printed over in an hour. The red acrylic has a drier look that the lustrous oil-based black, but that doesn’t matter in a reproduction.

          Pochoir is generally used to make coloured editions of images faster and cheaper than printing from multiple blocks. Especially good for limited edition books. It has a charm particular to the technique, though is dependent on a good team of stencillers.

          • Thank you, Clive! The drying time is an issue. I’ve also had some trouble printing (by hand) over the second color on thin Japanese papers when using ink because the second color couldn’t absorb; there was a dimpling effect instead of a nice flat finish. A thinner base for the background helped, but didn’t create the dense color I was after. Will try again, and pochoir as well.

  8. the cover is wonderful! perfect! and what an interesting process..i like the paper-masked block–i think the block itself is such a cool thing 🙂
    i think you chose exactly the right thing for the cover, but the tricolor painting is beautiful! the cool blue areas really draw me in…i’m glad you showed us that one, as well.
    and i agree with liz–these types of books are the reason to keep buying real books.

    • Zoe, I hope that people will always buy corporeal books as well as the ones that come on a kindle. Living as we do surrounded by shelves of books here at Ty Isaf, I’ve noticed it’s the fact that the books are on view at all times that often leads to me picking one up as I pass by. Books have a presence in the house. Titles, authors and yes, even design, catch the eye as we go about our daily business, and so many times I’ve picked up a book I’d long forgotten quite simply because it was there to remind me that I’d enjoyed it the first time. That doesn’t happen with a list on a kindle. At some point it becomes a list that you no longer look at. That can’t happen with well-loved books on shelves. They simply demand your attention, demand to be picked up and read. They are constant reminders to me of the worlds to be discovered within their pages.

      When I first wrote a list for my Facebook page of books close to my heart, it was a very short list indeed because I couldn’t recall the details of all the ones that I loved most. So I went around the shelves with a pencil and paper, and very soon had a list of more than a hundred. I gave up with the Facebook list, because any list of mine would be so long that no-one would ever read it. I don’t have a kindle. They look shiny and beautifully designed and I’m sure having one would make me feel more up-to-date. But my backpack always has a couple of books in it, and well-worn paperbacks get rammed into my jacket pockets with no fear that their batteries will go flat. I don’t think I’m going to change now.

      • The only thing that appeals to me so far is the idea that a book might glow in the dark! That appeals to my kid-under-the-covers-with-flashlight past…

        Clive, splendiferous! I’m sure DW is infinitely pleased.

        (Side question: remember that catalog of glass you received in May? Whose was that? I wanted to look at some but could not dredge up my little moleskin and find the name.)

        • D W is pleased. Cock-a-hoop, actually. He sends e-mails in which I expect his ear-to-ear smile to materialise on the screen, like a digital Cheshire Cat.

          My brains are addled re ‘catalogue of glass’. Last May? Crikey! What are you recalling here? Give me more clues as I can’t get even close without some nudging.

            • I’ll ask Peter. This is ringing no bells. We get endless catalogues from the Goldmark Gallery, one every two weeks or so. Sometimes substantial tomes. We’ve requested they stop… we have never purchased from them… but still the catalogues come. We’re clearly embedded deep in their mailing-list system.

              Hold on. A very faint bell begins to ring here regarding work in stained-glass. Ahhh, wait… YES, got it!. Patrick Reyntiens. Whew! I thought that would never come back, but it did, and quite suddenly. What a relief!

  9. A beautiful result Clive and Damian, both fascinating and inspiring to see the work-in-progress. Do you realise that this form of art will be the saving of the old book form as we know it? I have treated myself to a kindle which is eagerly awaited… ah, a new toy… but books such as this and Marly’s come top of my wish list for possessing ‘real’ books. The kindle will not be able to compete!

    • That’s sweet of you to say, Liz. I’ve always been an aficionado of paperback covers, particularly ‘European’ design and graphics, at which for me the Czechs are unbeatable. So there is unabashed nostalgia at work here, as I print and snip and hark back to the kinds of things I loved when discovering book-design in my teens. With Damian’s and Marly’s new books I’m in the fortunate position of working as an artist with authors known to me and who I greatly admire. Moreover, for the first time with commercial books, I’m making images specifically for the covers, as opposed to having my paintings chosen and adapted to book cover design. This has been a really enjoyable project, though time-consuming. I don’t think I’d make a very successful commercial illustrator! I spend too long fiddling to get things just right. On the other hand I do admire that British breed of artists/artisans epitomised by Ravilious and Bawden, virtuosic across the board, standing with one foot in art and the other in design. They brought integrity and imagination to the arts of graphic design, without compromising the seriousness of their work as artists.

  10. Thanks for giving us the step by step guide Clive. I’ve done mono prints with the children at school using thick polystyrene sheets but I’ve never done lino prints do you need to use a lot of pressure to cut the lino? J

    • You have to keep your graving tools sharp with an Arkansaw stone, and I’d always recommend purchasing good tools rather than the ones with disposable blades that seem to be made out of tin.

      Lino-cutting is heavy work, though not as hard-going as cutting a wood block. However there are vinyl, as opposed to linoleum blocks available now, and those are very soft and can be cut easily with the disposable gravers. The result is not as crisp as a block cut from lino. The material is simply not as characterful. However it’s probably a safer place to start from with children. Professional-grade gravers are extremely sharp, and speaking as a man who has buried one an inch into that very soft flap of skin twixt thumb and forefinger, I wouldn’t recommend them to the inexperienced.

      • Ouch! My sympathy, having done a wood carving course many years ago and the chisels were just lethal though hands are further away of course mostly, still as you say if the tools get dull they’re such hard work. Took me 13 weeks to produce a life size green pepper!! I love it though. I didn’t sand it too much and kept all the small faceted pieces but Peter made a pear and sanded his smooth, I will dig them out and photograph one day – very tactile both of them. One day I will get the oil and stone out to sharpen those tools and create something from the lime I have squirreled away in the loft. I have to agree about books – don’t own a Kindle either – I haven’t found one that smells the same as a book yet! My latest aquisition is a creative textile book which when it arrived was such a lovely surprise. It’s hardback but has a printed fabric cover. I keep telling friends to feel the cover and get the same response of wondrous surprise every time, now you wouldn’t get that with a Kindle.

        • Lime! A lovely wood. Yes, you must definitely sharpen your tools and make something special from that.

          How come the faceted green pepper and the sanded-smooth pear aren’t out on display where you can enjoy the artistry?

          • They used to be out all the time then I used them in worship displays and they got put away with other bits and pieces then children and work got in the way of them but I have been handed 6 and a half days off with the school closed for polling day on Thursday and a bank holiday next week so I’m going to be unearthing lots of items I’d put away.

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