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Lucy Davey Illustrations and Book Covers from Bristol

June 16, 2014

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Lucy Davey has been a freelance illustrator since 2005 when she graduated from UWE Bristol. In that time she has created illustrations and lettering for over ninety book covers ! Quite an achievement.

She is represented in the UK by The Artworks illustration agency and lives and works in Bristol. I asked Lucy a few questions.

When you’re designing a book cover, do you always read the book first or work from an synopsis ?
I don’t always get the book to read, but I prefer it when I do. It’s useful for picking up on the tone and atmosphere of a novel. An ideal brief is when someone says ‘read the book and do what you like’ but most of the time the publishers have quite a clear idea of what they want on the cover.

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How did you decide upon the style of your work, we’re there any other illustrators or designers work that has influenced you ?
After trying out various different mediums and styles at university my style seemed to come about quite naturally in the end. Of course it’s changed quite a bit in the nine years I’ve been freelancing. I’m influenced by old transport posters, I love the work of McKnight Kauffer and Edward Bawden particularly, and Japanese prints. Also mid-century artists like Mary Blair and M. Sasek.

How did you formulate your slightly characteristic ‘muted’ palette ?

I suppose it’s a result of my influences coming from the earlier part of the 20th Century. I actually often think my work is quite bright until I see it alongside other images !

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Such beautiful colours in this piece above. A wonderful feeling of tranquility too.

What aspects of the process of creating an illustration do you like the most / least ?

I like the bit right at the start when I’m just sketching out ideas and there’s still so much potential! Sometimes my roughs are quite finished so finessing the details for the final artwork can be a little dull – mechanical rather than creative.
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Here’s a taster of Lucy’s editorial work.

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 Do your illustrations start life as sketches or photos of places from real life ? Can you talk us through how you might compile an new piece of artwork ?

Most of my work doesn’t come directly from a photo unless I’m being asked to draw a specific place or building. I will look at photography to spark off ideas and compositions though. I start with thumbnail pencil sketches, when I’m happy with something I’ll enlarge it and roughly trace the different elements from the sketch. I’ll scan these and layer up the image digitally. The finished art is produced in the same way but the drawings are neater. I add colour and texture from printed and painted textures I have stored on my computer.

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What materials do you enjoy working with and why ( i.e. computer v screen-printing ) ?
I like finishing my work digitally because being able to ‘undo’ and save different versions of an image frees me from worrying about mistakes. Also clients expect you to be able to make changes to an image fairly quickly. I always start with drawing though because I want to keep that hand drawn and printerly feel. Screen printing is kind of a separate thing, I wouldn’t use it for commissioned work but it’s great to get messy with paints once in a while. 
Are there any companies or books you would still love to work with, or create a cover for ?
If I read a book I find inspiring I often do a cover for it just as a personal piece, My Family and Other Animals for example. Anything by a Durrell would be great to illustrate !

Maps, magazine covers and repeat patterns.

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Plans for the future ? 
I’ve always got a list of future projects in my head it’s just a case of finding time between commissions. I’m into making patterns right now!
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Some of her personal illustrations.

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Her Clients include Orion, Penguin, Hodder, Macmillan, Transworld, John Murray, Quercus, Egmont, Harper Colllins, Faber, RadioTimes, Waitrose, Woman and Home, Financial Times, Starbucks, Colonial Williamsburg and Royal Mail. Here’s a sneaky look at her work space and a fresh recent commission by Waitrose for their Summer Eating Range. Look fab and I love the colours too.

Who’s modern day work do you admire and why ?
There’s so many great illustrators now, mostly I try and ignore them otherwise I get too depressed! Ryo Takemasa‘s work is great and I’ve got a couple of lovely prints by Ping Zhu, to name but two. 

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There’s a great interview from the end of last year, with Lucy who’s busy screenprinting over on the Drawn in Bristol site and much more information on Lucy’s own Blog. I must say the thought of a summer picnic hamper on your bike, filled with these beautifully packaged quiches, is making my mouth water ! Many thanks Lucy for taking part and keep up the great work too.

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