Jillian Tamaki on illustrating the A List

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The A List is a curated selection of titles from Anansi’s backlist featuring handsome new covers and introductions by well-known Canadian writers. This fall we released a series of five new A List titles lovingly decorated by Skim illustrator Jillian Tamaki. We sat down with Jillian to talk about her experience working on these Canadian classics.

selfportraitnewAnansi: Your illustrations for the new A List covers have such beautiful, subtle links to the books. How did you find inspiration when you were working on them?

Jillian: I just try to find the inspiration within the books themselves. The best part about any project is reading the material, researching the topic, and whatnot. At that point, the whole thing is very open and brimming with possibility. Once you have to sit down and actually make the idea materialize is much more difficult.

Anansi: Which book was your favourite read?

Jillian: My favourite book was La Guerre, Yes Sir! I had never read any of Roch Carrier’s work before; like most people I had only seen the NFB short film of The Hockey SweaterLa Guerre was very bracing and funny and almost surreal. That cover is the simplest of the batch but the symbol of the closed fist was too powerful to ignore.

Anansi: Which cover did you find the easiest to illustrate? Which was the most difficult?

Jillian: The easiest was the Roch Carrier book, because that book was packed with a lot of compelling imagery. The toughest, maybe This All Happened? That cover depicts the harbour and Signal Hill in St. John’s, Newfoundland. So it’s a real place, but I didn’t want to make it too detailed or realistic. So I suppose there was a bit of research in terms of collecting reference to work from. Funnily enough, I went on vacation to Newfoundland a few months after finishing this cover, so I did end up seeing this view in real life.

What might have been

Here are some unused concept sketches by Jillian Tamaki. Can you guess which books they would have belonged to? Click through to see.

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