Katherine Soutar has created many of the covers for History Press’s Folk Tales and Ghost Tales books. Painting the Tales gives you (by my reckoning) 83 book covers plus commentary. It’s a hefty volume, which is great because the art is far bigger than any book cover versions you may have seen. The images themselves are beautiful.
Katherine uses watercolours, pencils and inks in her work and because she works on paper, you can see the effect of the materials in the finished piece. As a colourist working on paper (but nothing like as good) I’m fascinated by how she harnesses the idiosyncrasies of her tools. So much illustration seems to be digital now, and there’s a smooth, clean unrealness to it, often. I like the more substantial and unpredictable qualities of a more physical process.
In her images, Katherine mixes realism with stylisation and symbolism. There’s a sense of constant flow and experimentation here, and an urge to find the precise mix that conveys the story, rather than adherence to a specific way of working. I like that too. I’ll be staring at these book covers a lot, trying to learn things.
I was fascinated by the commentaries as well. With each image comes a page of text – which may be about the folklore, or the process of finding the image, or method used to create the image, or combinations thereof. I picked up a lot of folklore fragments reading this book, and for someone who wanted a folklore taster, it would be an excellent place to start. Folk tales and ghost tales alike are mostly sorted by county – although a few aren’t. Here you can get a flavour for the books beneath the covers that might help you decide what else to pick up.
This is a book to dip in and out of – I read it fairly quickly because I got a review copy, and months of dreaming over a book can be frustrating for author and publisher alike. But ideally, you want to leave this somewhere and dip in and out of it. An ideal read for someone who enjoys folklore. Also idea if, for whatever reason, you have limited time and attention. You can read a single page, gaze at an image, and that be a complete experience in itself. It doesn’t matter how long passes before you come back for the next one.
More about the book here – https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/publication/painting-the-tales/9780750986014/