The making of: The Harriet Club

Today I am happy to share with you some of the process in creating the cover for Kathe Maguire’s new young adult book, The Harriet Club!

As this book was self-published, I worked with direct feedback from Kathe.  Although she has a strong visual aesthetic, she also granted much creative freedom and this provided a wonderful working environment for me. Our first conversations focused on creating a contemporary cover that was inspired by Louise Fitzhugh’s classic young adult novel, Harriet The Spy. We talked about a few important landmarks and story points that should be included in the illustration. We also discussed keeping it black and white.



The research stage is always my favorite and I must admit that sometimes I’m having so much fun gathering reference material, I don’t start drawing as fast as I should. My first doodles were influenced by Ms. Fitzhugh, Miroslav Sasek, (husband & wife illustrators) Alice and Martin Provenson (obsessed!), and Edward Gorey. Additionally, I looked at the work of contemporary illustrators like Lizzy Stewart, and many others.



Kathe and I agreed that the last thumbnail (above) was best. We discussed doing a wrap-around cover illustration to give enough space to show all of the individual elements (four girls, treehouse, golden gate bridge, 43 bus, Goldsworthy’s spire, a few mysterious characters, etc). Below is a rough mockup.


THC_LucyInitially, Kathe asked if I could draw the four main female characters as silhouettes, but after I finished reading the novel,  I was having a hard time (as an illustrator at heart) not drawing out their personalities. Kathe mentioned the idea of too much detail stealing from the imagination of the reader. Yes, good point. But I still convinced her to consider the idea. Once we started adding detail Kathe got on board. For instance: the style of Nikki’s mohawk and how short Dahlia’s skirt was. I loved it. Another note: I used pics of my elegant dog, Lucy (who passed almost 2 years ago), as reference for Casey’s dog, Nigel.


Combining hand drawing and digital, I pulled together a rough sketch, printed it out big, traced it with brush pens for line work and digitally painted it for the final, tight sketch below.


I then printed out the final sketch, transferred it to Illustration board and hand painted it with brush and ink. I really enjoyed the mark-making, loose washes and focus on value (since there was no color).


I painted the girls on a separate layer so that I could make them bigger then I was painting the background. I had trouble with poor Harriet (girl on far left) — I couldn’t get a handle on her dreadlocks. Even after a 2nd try, I wasn’t happy with her.


I ended up redrawing/painting her digitally. I also did more finishing details and color correcting to all of the girls in photoshop. Better!



At the same time, I started to work on type and design. Here’s an early version (below). It wasn’t quite right so I set out to find another typeface for the title that resembled a teenager’s handwriting – hopefully something scratchy and uncomfortable.


I found the typeface Saissant which gave the perfect angst-y script that reflected the mood of the book. The final cover spread is below. Thanks to Kathe Maguire for a great collaboration!



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