Designing ‘Saving Winslow,’ by illustrator, Sarah Horne.

I recently reviewed ‘Saving Winslow,’ by Sharon Creech. This heart-warming book is all about Louie. He had been hoping for a puppy to care for but instead his father brought home a sickly newborn donkey from his uncle’s farm. Louie didn’t have a great track record when it came to nurturing small creatures, with worms drying up and stray kittens escaping at the first opportunity.  But something about this little donkey spoke to him. Louie was determined that he could care for this tiny creature and he WILL survive. (For my full review, click HERE.)

This post is all about the wonderful cover and interior illustrations created by Sarah Horne, so enough from me! Let’s hear from Sarah:

How I made a seriously cute book cover about a donkey.

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech, was a real treat to work on. The book is already published in the US, but now comes to the UK bookshops by the power of Guppy Books.

I love working on book covers. I am a huge fan of hand-drawn typography, so I always welcome these types of jobs.

The brief felt to me like a slight departure from the usual raucous fiction I do (which I completely love) to something a little quieter and subtle. Still warm, still funny, with that hint of beautiful realism. Saving Winslow is a poignant story of survival and the changing seasons— Winslow a seriously cute donkey meets Louis, who helps to raise him.

For me, there is a wonderful process in illustrating for any book project– it’s a combination of skill, you have to be able to draw, but also be sensitive to context and tone of the voice in the writing.

After many sketches and different directions, it was clear the key focus for this book cover was the connection between Louis and Winslow. Always with characters, 97% of the personality and expression is found in the eyes. I am not sure why this is, but one day, when I have time on my hands, I will investigate and let you know!

Here are a few early versions of the cover I tried out at a rough stage. The great thing about roughs is that there is room to try new directions and play. There were many versions of this cover, eventually we landed on Winslow in a basket of laundry carried by Louis.

I work in pencil at a rough stage, and then ink everything by hand with indian ink and a dip pen (I know, I am totally old-school). I then scan the artwork at high-res and clean it all up, getting rid of ink splotches that shouldn’t be there, and any spillages or mistakes. I then play digital ping-pong between Photoshop and Procreate, until finally there is the right balance of colour and texture.

And here is the final artwork in its finished state:

And the finished book!


Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech with illustrations by me, Sarah Horne, is out now from Guppy Books and available from all good bookshops. I really recommend Tales On Moonlane, Moonlane books and Bookseller Crow.

Follow me on Twitter: @sarahhorne9

Follow Guppy Books on Twitter: @guppybooks

Thanks so much for that fascinating insight, Sarah. I hope all you readers enjoyed it too!

Library Girl.

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