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.
This cover was very much 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 (that's why you often see discrepancies between online images and the final product you hold in your hand. This 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). The first layout for the cover was started prior to completing all 40 interior pages and again, was used as a sales sample. You can see that much of the art on the first cover was rough sketches. Once all the interior pages were completed, I went back to work on the refining the cover. The designs became more and more complex — just to see how much I could fit in and still make it look nice. There was a lot of back and forth with the art director at Crayola and it finally got pulled together into design with a strong focal point.
I think I did about four or five cover variations before we landed on the one you see today. 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 layout and the back of the book were completed in-house at Crayola. When I got my first copy, I was very happy to see what a great job they did adding hand coloring. I don't think I would have done it any better!
The First Beatles Coloring Book - 1964
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.
Illustrated Lyrics by Alan Aldridge
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.
And in the end...
Besides being influenced by Alan Aldridge, I had other images in mind for the Crayola book.
With everything that had come before and in addition to not being able to use any existing Beatles likenesses or imagery — I went out of my way to make my interpretations of The Lyrics by Lennon & McCartney as unique as possible.
You can read more about my work for The Crayola Coloring Songbook: Lyrics by Lennon and McCartney here.
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?
by Joe Lacey