Designing the Cover for the "Lyrics by Lennon & McCartney" Coloring Songbook by Crayola
Covers are very important. And in the long line of books about The Beatles, you really want to stand out. The first draft for the cover of the Lyrics by Lennon & McCartney Coloring Songbook was an internal mock-up by the Crayola Design Department using a rough sketch of my Good Day Sunshine illustration. Later, this sketch was taken to a full finish for the inside of the book. It's typical for publishers to get the general look of the books ready in order to present the proof of concept to potential resellers; that, being a coloring book of Beatles lyrics. Much like toy packaging box art, I don't always work on the cover for the books I illustrate. This cover became much more of a collaborative effort between me and the designers at Crayola. Sometimes these first or second drafts make their way as sales samples or as online images prior to the completion of the book. In this case, the cover went through several revisions, ultimately becoming a collage of images from selected coloring pages.
The first cover I worked on prominently featured Prudence (from the song Dear Prudence). It was the last part of the book I had worked on, having completed the 40 interior pages. You can see that much of the art on this early cover was rough sketches, but it was enough to get the ball rolling. The next several covers became more and more complex — just to see how much we could fit in and still make it look really nice. Lots of back and forth with the art director at Crayola, it got pulled together into design with a strong focal point. I sent the final artwork to Crayola with all the Photoshop layers intact, knowing they would need to adjust the art in case of any production changes... the biggest change being the hierarchy of logos and titles. The primary name of the book became The Crayola Signature Coloring Songbook in order to accommodate future books in the series, whether it be Lennon & McCartney or other musical acts.
The cover and the back of the book were completed in-house at Crayola. When I got my first copy of the book, I was so happy to see the great job they did adding hand coloring to the cover. I don't think I would have done it any better!
1964 - The Beatles Official Coloring Book by The Saalfield Publishing Company
The first licensed Beatles coloring book came out in 1964 by Saalfield Publishing and was intended for an American audience. The coloring pages focus on the Beatles' first visit to America, the products kids could buy, and promoting the American versions of their albums. Some of the pages are actual photographs of the Fab Four. The book is very straightforward in its design, with simplistic but well done inkings meant for very young kids. I love the cover — the colors, the fonts... it really stands out. Printed before I was born, and I finally got my own copy a month ago. A few pages in the book were beautifully colored by some young Beatles fans back in 1964.
1969 - The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics by Alan Aldridge
This book was and is a major influence on me. Alan Aldridge was an amazing artist who illustrated and designed rock posters, magazines, books, and record album covers for or about The Beatles, Elton john, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan to name a few. The way he interprets the lyrics is a uniquely psychedelic approach that is his alone. I was about twelve years old when I got a copy of this book. If my mom had any idea how truly "adult" most of this book is, she would have probably taken it away from me. I'm glad she didn't. In high school, I tried to paint a copy of the cover. I failed miserably. Alan Aldridge is a tough act to follow.
Besides being influenced by Alan Aldridge, I had other images in mind for the Crayola book. The first Beatles record I ever bought was an UK import called A Collection of Beatles Oldies. I was in seventh grade. I bought it mainly for the cover art. The sixties borrowed heavily from themes and images from the 1890 (often giving them a "groovy" feel) as well as surrealistic artists like Magritte and Dali. Yellow Submarine was, of course, something to keep in mind as well. How do you top that?! You don't. You can only add to it. By the way, Crayola also has two licensed Yellow Submarine coloring books available that are very cool. Then add all the fun television shows like Laugh-In, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Get Smart that defined the look of the mid to late 60s, there was a lot to get excited about. With everything that had come before, I went out of my way to make my interpretations of The Lyrics by Lennon & McCartney as unique as possible. It was quite the challenge!
To see pages from the Lyrics by Lennon & McCartney Coloring Songbook, click here.
To purchase the book, go to Crayola.com
Early in my career, I did some editorial illustrations for magazines. This one was for Yankee Magazine which devoted it's pages to life in New England. The art director had seen my work on a series of Halloween illustrations and wanted three black flies that resembled vampires. Cool!
As a kid living near Upstate New York, I was more than familiar with the nuisance of little black gnats that would swarm around everyone's heads. Summer happiness was dictated by the outbreak or lack thereof of these horrible little monsters. Kids pretty much wore baseball caps all summer. The best solution, besides spraying yourself with insect repellent, was to burn punks. Punks were basically incense on long thin sticks that resembled pond water cattails. I used to light two or three of them and stick them on top of my baseball cap where they would burn and encircle my head with a fine smoky mist that created an impenetrable barrier against the flying gnat armies! I thought I looked pretty darn cool! But, then, I was just a dopey little kid. The only time I have ever seen them mentioned in print was in the autobiography Moe Howard & The Three Stooges. Moe talks about "burning punk" to keep away the gnats. Moe knew what he was doing.
Well, finally onto the art! It was commissioned as three small spot illustrations for a side article called "New England By The Numbers". The article listed numeric facts about the black fly population in New England. Seems they have a problem with gnats, too. Maybe they just need to burn some punk?
I produce illustrations and creative idea solutions for toys, packaging, publishing and advertising. I'm also a painter and educator with an MFA from Syracuse university.