The Hill of the Red Fox cover design

Or ‘Sgurr a Mhadaidh Ruadh’ to give it it’s Gaelic name!

I’ve been working on this book cover for a few weeks, having craved something narrative to sink my teeth into for a while.    Scottish publisher Floris books set this brief for their illustration contest, but being half Scottish & ginger aren’t really enough to make up for not being actually Scottish, so I couldn’t enter it.  It was good fun anyway.  The book is an adventure, written in 1956, about a boy who gets tangled up in a murky Soviet plot on the Isle of Skye.


Agreeing with the publisher’s feeling that the book is worthy of a new audience, I wanted my cover to sit next to modern titles & not look it’s age.  I don’t think it’s a secret I love colours any day of the week, but for this I wanted to do something especially bold with my scheme…like making Alasdair blue!  It was a really yummy challenge to take colour cues from both the title & the nocturnal scene at the cliff edge, too.  I looked to other adventure-genre books around at the moment, which inspired my choice to put the main character on the front, plus I wanted to draw a Alasdair.  He’s so tough & clever & vulnerable & young he deserved the good end of my pencil, I felt.  I’m working on developing my style at the moment & reading a huge amount of comics, so I consciously squeezed a little nubbins of comicy feel into there, too.


Here’s just the front for you!  I super enjoyed working on it, & I hope that shows!  I do love a good adventure, but really the main attraction for me was Skye.  The book conjures up such an strong sense of the highlands wilderness, it’s completely intoxicating if you swoon at dramatic landscapes like I do;

We travelled on and on over featureless moors, scarred here and there with the fresh black face of newly cut peat banks.  The cut peats were stacked in small cone-shaped heaps along the top of the banks.  Small, black-faced sheep grazed in the heather by the side of the road, sometimes scampering hastily across the road when the bus suddenly rounded a bend.

We passed a long narrow loch, leaden and gray under the drizzling rain, and the water lapped the banking of the road.  There was a house by the side of the road, built out on piles over the loch, and a boat was moored under the gable window…The road wound around the cliff face, and I caught a brief glimpse of the sea hundreds of feet below.  A low turf bank was all that separated the road from the cliff face, but the driver seemed unconcerned.  He kept glancing over his shoulder and carried on a conversation in Gaelic with the man sitting  behind him.

I know more people obsessed with Scotland than any other place in the world.  This might be a reflection of the kind of weirdos I hang out with, but I think it’s more likely a reflection of the magnetisism & rarity of a place like that.  Before we go any farther, I’d like to point out I’ve not been to much of Scotland; I took a short trip to Edinburgh a few years ago & thought it was beautiful, but I came away hungry & feeling  like I’d not had enough time there.  I thought this brief would be a nice marriage of my desire to draw an environment & my desire to learn/daydream about Scotland a while.  I’m a bit of a train aficionado, too, & in the early parts of the book Alasdair takes the Jacobite steam train up to Mallaig, which is definitely inspiring some new itches on my feet while I’m in sunny Texas!

Also, false advertising, but the featured photo for this entry isn’t Scotland…it’s Cornwall.  It’s not quite right, but it evoked the atmosphere I was looking for.  Sorry loves ;D



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