In conversation with Kerry Hyndman, Book Cover Award winner 2022

November 28, 2022

This year’s Book Cover Award winner, Kerry Hyndman, used her love of landscape to create intriguing digital illustrations for her cover of Stella Gibbons’ The Rich House

Based in Oban, Scotland, Kerry has worked across a variety of areas within illustration including commercial, editorial, and even mapmaking. 

We spoke with Kerry to gain insight into her process, inspirations, and the commission, as well as advice she has for aspiring illustrators.

Kerry Hyndman, cover for The Rich House by Stella Gibbons, published by Vintage Penguin. © Kerry Hyndman

For this book cover you worked with Penguin books. Penguin have a long and varied history of pioneering book cover design by working with illustrators and designers. Can you tell us how you got involved in the project and what the process was like working the publisher?

I was super chuffed when Penguin got in touch via my agent (Central Illustration Agency) for this project. Just one Penguin Vintage cover would have been an amazing opportunity, but the brief was to create five covers! The designer at Penguin was able to give me a great breakdown of the stories and some sections of text which might be good inspiration for cover images. I went away and researched the time periods, clothes, and landscapes and from this I created a number of roughs for each book. Then the most successful of these were selected to work up to the final artwork.

Speaking of process, your work incorporates textures to create beautiful digital illustrations, can you tell us more about how you develop your illustrations and what led you to this style of working?

My illustrations start out VERY rough and are small thumbnail scribbles in a sketchbook. These help me figure out the ideas and composition before I draw digitally into Adobe Illustrator. I love the flexibility I have with this software. I’m able to scale elements and play around with blocks of shapes and colours until I’m happy with the overall look of a picture. Once I’ve worked up the sketch in Illustrator, I’ll move it over to Photoshop to add hand drawn textures and details. This feels like the fun messy bit to me as laying over different textures can totally change the feel of an image.

I studied fine art and oil painting at university before switching to digital illustration. So although they’re obviously very different ways of image making I think the layers and textures I build up digitally probably hark back to my oil painting days! And I still like my artwork to have a handmade aesthetic to them so it’s not clear exactly how they’re constructed.

Kerry Hyndman, rough digital sketches for the Vintage Gibbons collection by Vintage Penguin. © Kerry Hyndman

A good book cover must combine the themes of the book into one single image. As you were illustrating a series of five novels by Stella Gibbons, it was also important that there be a coherent style that ties the covers together. How did you tackle this conundrum?

I think colour and tone were important for me with tying all the books together. They are set in different eras and locations so needed to use elements of the same colour palette that complement each other. I used similar textures with all of them too and made sure to keep looking back at them as a full collection whilst creating each cover.

Kerry Hyndman, covers for The Rich House, Bassett, and Enbury Heath by Stella Gibbons. © Kerry Hyndman 

It is clear from your work how inspired you are by the landscape around you. Can you talk a little more about your inspirations and how they influenced your illustrations for the Stella Gibbons novels?

Yes, the great thing about these books was that I got to draw some lovely landscapes – and in particular windy beaches! I’m lucky enough to live on the west coast of Scotland between the mountains and the sea which provide constant inspiration. I try to get out as often as I can (when it’s not raining) to sketch and record the beautiful landscapes around me. Even though I primarily work digitally I find it’s really important to try and do as much observational drawing as I can do as it all feeds back into my work.

Kerry Hyndman, plein air sketches. © Kerry Hyndman

Having worked across many genres of illustration, from editorial, to books, to maps, to packaging designs, you have a vast amount of experience in the industry. What advice would you give to anyone looking to become a professional illustrator?

I think the one piece of advice I still have to keep reminding myself is to create the work you want to be commissioned for. It’s often tough to take a step back and think about what you love doing when you need to earn money and get noticed. But it’s so important to do projects for yourself, create artwork and projects that you care about as it’ll shape the direction your professional artwork will go. 

And also, hang in there! It took me a long, long time and a lot of rejections and ups and downs to get this far and I’m lucky I’ve managed to hang on but it can be an arduous journey to get to a point where you feel like you have something like a stable career!

Find out more about Kerry Hyndman’s illustrations: Website | Instagram
Find out more about the V&A Illustration Awards

About the author

November 28, 2022

I'm a Cataloguer in the Word and Image department, working on making our vast collection more accessible to the public. I love the variety of objects that I come across...

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