There is something fabulous (and enviable for this writer) at the fertile co-creative spirit between an author and a book illustrator. Over the years, author Marly Youmans has worked with artist Clive Hicks Jenkins to create stunning books -- old school style with beautiful original color artwork for the covers, and lovely black and white smaller pieces for the interior. It is such a pleasure to hold those books and read them for Marly's wonderful prose and story telling, and to linger over Clive's remarkable art -- not so much straight illustrations of the narrative, but highly evocative images that add a whole other layer to understanding the internal emotions of the tale.
Most recently, I reviewed Marly's lastest novel Maze of Blood (forthcoming from Mercer University Press this fall). It's a haunted story of its own -- a man who lives almost entirely in the interior world of his imagination while inhabiting a less than receptive world in a backwater Texas town. But I want to celebrate Clive Hicks Jenkins' part in creating gorgeous and powerful art to illustrate the book.
Clive chose to focus his work on multiple portraits of the protagonist Conall in various moments throughout the narrative, each portrait visually conveying Conall's state of mind. He is still working on the final interior pieces, which unlike the brilliant colors of the book's cover jacket, these drawings are rendered in soft grays and velvet textures. I strongly recommend stopping by his art blog and enjoying watching him work -- as he posts more photos of the art in process, and as he develops his ideas from sketch to finished piece. How lucky we are to be able to observe that journey.
“In the end, he thought, a neat labyrinth or an untidy maze was a place that was simple. You reached its heart and were devoured by the beast, or you reached its heart and the spot was absolutely bare and pulseless. Maybe the beast and the blankness were the same. Maybe it was the emptiness that had teeth and hollowed you out.” from Marly Youmans Maze of Blood.