Soon after I had started work on the drawings for my ‘amateur naturalist’s specimen collection’ print series I was approached by Chômu Press about creating a book cover illustration for one of their new releases (Nick Jackson’s ‘The Secret Life of the Panda’). The brief I received from Chômu contained phrases like “There’s a scholar studying tiny creatures under a microscope in sixteenth century Holland” and “There are repeated animal references… (birds of various kinds, an ermine, a cockroach, a water flea, vipers, rabbits, fish, river dolphins and so on). Often these have a scientific quality – like the study of biology and anatomy, or the collecting of specimens” – Um… yes please! I’d like to work on that!

concept sketch & drawings for the book cover illustration

I presented several different concept sketches to Chômu, but it was the rough sketch of a collection of specimens laid out in a grid (intended to simply represent a specimen display cabinet as though viewed from above) that they wished to pursue… and so the early work I had done on my ‘specimen collection’ project inspired and informed the creation of the book cover illustration, and work on the book cover illustration fed back into my growing series of specimens. A very happy bit of synchronicity!

some of the drawings made for ‘The Secret Life of the Panda’ book cover

The author and the publisher made the bold (and exciting!) decision to leave the cover entirely, mysteriously free of text (apart from the ISBN on the back and the Chômu Press logo on the spine).

‘The Secret Life of the Panda’ book cover

I had the opportunity to read the book in its entirety earlier this year… it’s a hauntingly memorable “fusion of realism and dream-like fantasy”, an always intriguing, at times disturbing, collection of finely-crafted stories. But I am no skilled literary reviewer – you can read reviews and find out more about ‘The Secret Life of the Panda’ on the Chomu Press website >

* apparently not a valid Scrabble word… but I like it!