CLAXTON by Mark Cocker: Natural history, location, environmental subjects, conservation

Jonathan Gibbs (Illustrator)

Research output: Other contribution


Editor: Dan Franklin; Senior art editor: Suzanne Dean

Co-ordinated by the Central Illustration Agency, London

Sixteen wood engravings for cover-art, chapter headings and spine illustrations.

Two-colour cover-art, and black & white full-page illustrations

The conceptual approach to this series of illustrations was based upon the spirit of nature and landscape, as well as the actual appearance of animals, birds, insects, and plants. This was not to be a realistic representation of particular species, although detailed field-work, visual and literary exploration were necessary during the research process. All twelve subjects required to be immediately recognisable, whether abstracted, fragmented, or distorted.

Conversations with the author enhanced the appropriate visual interpretation of his text.
Having illustrated two previous books by Mark Cocker, (Tiger in the Sand and Crow Country), as well as his journalism for BBC Wildlife Magazine, there was an established affinity between author and illustrator. A short walk on the Claxton marshes, and the search for a bush cricket gave insight into the subject.

Also, this was a prime example of the four-way collaboration that personifies book illustration, at least in some quarters. Throughout the genesis of the illustrations, there was an essential connection between author, artist, designer and editor.

All four need to be in agreement within the timescale of the brief, towards resolving the work. This was enhanced by the constraints of print deadlines and the final publishing date.
A series of rough visuals in pencil showed my intended compositions, at which stage all decisions were made about the final illustrations.

This is an entirely creative process, depending upon direct conversation, email correspondence, and the exchange of imagery between all parties, and their associated comments. Thus an illustrator must maintain his or her integrity and vision, whilst responding in a positive manner to advice and criticism from those who have commissioned the work.

In this kind of project, there is a unity of purpose between the four collaborators which gives the work its momentum and focus.
Original languageEnglish
TypePublished book illustrations
Media of outputHard-back book
PublisherJonathan Cape Ltd
Number of pages256
ISBN (Print) 9780224099653
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2014


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