Working with talented illustrators at Barefoot is pretty much my favourite part of making books. I’ve always loved and admired Miss Clara’s artwork — her unique, quirky imagination and the magical and evocative scenes she creates. So it was pretty exciting to discover that we would be designing three beautiful, gifty Miss Clara picture books.

Our starting point was the stunning original French editions of these three books. It would be a tough job to make our editions equally enchanting and collectable. There were many art and design decisions to be made: how to adapt Miss Clara’s images into a larger format; how to place the text; which colours to pick for the drop caps, what effects to use on the covers… Art Director Vic Tyler, designer Louise Millar and I knew we would have to raise our perfectionist Barefoot design standards as high as they would go.

Seeing Miss Clara’s working files was a revelation. Each image is a multi-layered digital Photoshop file which starts with photos of the little paper maquettes and scenes she has built, then has delicate additional devices and designs added in front of the scene, and finally clever effects are added to build the atmosphere. These all combine to create the ethereal and evocative final images you see on the page. Every aspect of every scene has been considered, down to the tiniest details. From the work I did on our editions of these books, these are the details and images I especially love:

The Snow Queen

  • The ‘This book belongs to’ device on the front endpapers. (We liked this so much we designed nameplate devices for The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Princess and the Pea, too).
  • The folios and chapter openers. Each chapter uses a different colour and has a motif that relates to the story. So subtle and beautiful. My favourite is the wolf and oak leaves in chapter 5, ‘The Outlaw Girl’.

  • Gerda in her pretty pink dress on page 23, surrounded by those beautiful roses. I love this image and the way it works around the text. The roses are cut out of printed paper with typed text on — you can see the French writing. Louise had the tricky job of working out how to adapt artwork, such as these roses, elsewhere in the book to illustrate new pages which we had inserted to accommodate the longer English text.
  • The Wise Woman’s hut on page 45 — it looks so organic. And reminds me of Mr and Mrs Beavers’ house in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

  • Miss Clara’s use of Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa (pages 48-49). So clever! Also the curled paper icicles and falling snow overlaid on the image.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

  • The twelve framed pictures on the front endpapers. Vic used Miss Clara’s images of the princesses and various frame devices we asked Miss Clara to send over to create this lovely spread. We thought readers would enjoy matching up the princesses here with the ones in the story.
  • The dresses! You can spend ages looking at the gorgeous details.

  • The black cat who appears on various pages. He later plays an even more prominent role in The Princess and the Pea and accompanies the prince on his quest. I wonder if he is one of Miss Clara’s cats?

The Princess and the Pea

We received the recently published French edition of the book just at the start of the project, and it was so exciting to pore over a new Miss Clara title!

  • Miss Clara illustrates each place the prince visits on his search with stunning changes of art and palette as you turn these pages. I have had a print out of the Japanese princess (pages 10-11) on my door at home all year — the way her hair under the parasol becomes an ink blot is magic. And I love the juxtaposition as you turn the page from this hot pink image to the icy cold white of the frozen north on the following spread.

  • I also pinned up the spread of the ‘real princess’ under her umbrella in the rain (pages 22-23), her bedraggled felt hair around her face. I like the strength of character and defiance in her attitude.

  • The different colours Louise picked for the drop caps in each image, cleverly tying to each palette
  • Miss Clara’s humour: the packet of peas on the back cover. “Extra dur” translates as “Extra strong”!

The Book Covers

We briefed Miss Clara to rework interior images from the books to create three new cover designs for us. She created three stunning covers using different palettes so the books look great displayed as a set.

We also asked her to set the title type for us using a different font for each book, and incorporating beautiful little ornaments (snowflakes, leaves and pea pods) around the letters. Typography like this is a real skill —her title designs for the covers are exquisite.

We had been discussing cover effects from the start of the project, and Vic came up with the idea of choosing a different foil colour for each book. Jenny, our production manager, had the tricky task of matching our colour choices and getting the effect we wanted at the Repro house and the printer. We even embossed all the type and splashed out on shiny Barefoot feet on the spines.

What are your favourite Miss Clara images or designs in the books? We’d love to hear! Tell us in the comments or share your thoughts in our forums!

You can see all our Miss Clara titles on our website: US Shoppers / UK Shoppers

Miss Clara is a French artist with a great following among readers of fairy tales. She lives in Bordeaux, France. Visit her blog, her website and like her on Facebook! Want to know more about Miss Clara? Check out her guest blog post! She shared her process and some behind-the-scenes photos of her work in-progress.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Join the conversation! Add your comments below.