Though we know the old adage not to judge a book by its cover, we all do. I love the cover of The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle. It tells a potential reader so much about the book before they’ve read a single word. Anyone picking it up knows they can expect magic, adventure, mystery and atmosphere, and they would be right! I’m absolutely delighted that Xavier Bonet, the incredible illustrator of the Avery Buckle cover, agreed to answering a few questions for me…
First of all, I have to tell you that I was absolutely bowled over by the cover artwork for Avery Buckle. It is perfect, full of atmosphere and magic! I have had so many people telling me how much they love the cover. Could you tell us a bit about your process for illustrating a book cover?
Thank you so much, it was an incredible privilege being part of this project. I’m so excited about this book, I can’t wait to see it!
Well, answering your first question, normally I receive a template with the available space for the illustration, and some art directions by the publisher. Sometimes, I don’t have the manuscript so, with these few details, I need to move my imagination. Fortunately, both characters have a lot of personality and special features, so it was really easy, thanks to you.
After few character sketches and one color study about the palette, I start with the composition of the cover. This part is so important to distribute all the objects and text. Finally, I send the publisher the final sketches, and after their revision, I can continue with the final art.
One of the things which I think is particularly special about your work is your ability to convey character. I especially love the fantastical creatures you draw, such as the witches and trolls. How do you go about developing characters in your work?
I try to put emphasis on the look of the characters, and the expressions. It’s true that I feel really comfortable with the magical characters. For me, it’s easier because this kind of character doesn’t have limits, and this is liberating. On the other hand, for me, illustration is another language to express emotions, like novels, music, or poetry, so I always try to draw like all creators, with soul. This is basic.
Could you tell us a bit about your working day? When and where do you work?
Well, I have two incredible boys, they are my true inspiration, so I start the day like a father, going to school, and after, I come back home, where my little studio is, my mini refuge. I’ve been working from home for years, but a few days a week I need to get out of my studio to connect with nature, so I take my iPad and I try to work outside when it’s possible. In any case, I have a strict schedule table to complete all the work. So I divide my day into three parts, drawing at first because this is when I feel best able to concentrate. Before lunch, I try to complete administrative tasks. And in the afternoon, I continue with drawing time. Sometimes this order is changed, or exchanged, one block for another, like social media.
Could you tell us how you came to be an illustrator?
It was an incredible rollercoaster – I started working years ago at a little studio as a cartoonist of animation backgrounds. But at this time, this kind of industry in Spain was on the decline. So I spent a long time working in different jobs as an IT specialist. In the mean time, I didn’t stop drawing and improving my skills as an illustrator. One day, after my second son was born, I felt that I couldn’t run away anymore, so I started to create a portfolio, and began to show my work to several publishers. Finally, a great opportunity came up at a fair – showing my portfolio, I met my agency, Plum Pudding, when I work currently. They are an extension of my hands and my legs, so I can thank them for the incredible projects I get to work on. This was seven years ago now. So, I’m really happy to finally achieve my dream and have this opportunity to grow personally and professionally.
What are you working on at the moment? And what should we be watching for which will be coming out soon?
Nowadays, I’m working on an incredible series for Branches Publishing by Tracy West – Pixie Tricks, about fairies and mysteries. It will be 8 novels and the first book is already available. A graphic novel version of the classic The Wind in the Willows for Usborne, based on the story by Kenneth Grahame, with text by Russel Punter, was published on 4th March 2021. Another graphic novel, one of the famous series The Last Kids On Earth by Max Brallier comes out on 12th April 2021. And obviously the amazing story of The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle by Hannah Foley (18 Mar 2021). Hope you like them!