Creating the Dublin 2019 Souvenir cover

Finished artwork – Acrylic painting on 250 gsm art paper.

I was honoured to be asked to contribute the wraparound cover of the Souvenir Book. I’d been heavily involved in the con but doing the cover was by no means a given and was a huge vote of trust from the convention.

This was destined to be a prominent bit of artwork so I did an unusual number (for me!) of preparatory sketches to get approval for the concept.  Since these sketches were aimed at other people for approval, not just for my internal creative process, I did them in colour with annotations.  I don’t normally feel the need to do this (since I am lazy and avoid additional effort wherever possible.) We settled on a combination of two of the ideas with concentric circles, moving out from the CCD to Dublin, Ireland, the Earth and the Universe.

I then worked up a larger pencil prep sketch.  This is fairly close to the final version but there are a lot of different sections to the image so I’m still trying out ideas.  In hindsight I overstuffed it with detail, partly out of a fear that it would be too simple for the cover. Ultimately I decided to trust the concept and simplified it back down for the final painting.

Pencil sketch

The sketch version includes additional elements such as phases of the moon, connecting lines between the concentric circles, and additional animals of Ireland – a salmon, a bat, a hare (the crow survived intact to the final image). The woman’s face became a dragon in space in the final version, for no particular reason except that I was struggling to find something suitably iconic for the back cover, and who doesn’t love a dragon in space? It put me in mind of the Space Bat Angel Dragon from Ted Hughes’s The Iron Man.

The astounding library at Trinity College Dublin is a major part of the cover, along with the 5000 year old spiral carvings at Newgrange Passage Tomb in the Boyne Valley.  Selkies have been a repeated motifs in some of my Dublin art and I really wanted to include one here as well, diving into the ocean of the planet and making for a transition between front and back covers.

For the actual painting I started from the centre and worked outwards, because that’s how my brain works. And besides, isn’t that how you’d want someone to paint this picture?

Work in progress

Here’s an animation of the rest of the process:

Animation of the painting process

In the final stages I did a lot of what is technically known as “faffing” to darken and tidy up parts of the image. I added some red tones to parts of the image, including the CCD building, to harmonise the colour scheme across the cover.

A framed print of the finished artwork was presented to the Lord Mayor of Dublin by the Chair of Dublin 2019 James Bacon. Sadly I couldn’t be there for the event but I was hugely honoured.

The framed print
James Bacon presenting a print of the cover to the Lord Mayor of Dublin

The final Souvenir Book is below. I was delighted by the sympathetic design and placement of the text by Diana Thayer. I had been worried that the standard Dublin 2019 logo would clash with the artwork (bad planning on my part) but Diane’s curving design fits the artwork very harmoniously.

Final souvenir book

See my Etsy shop for prints and original artwork. You can find updates and Work in Progress pictures on my Facebook Artist page here

All artwork © Iain Clark 2019.

“Worldcon”, “Hugo Award”, and the Hugo Award Logo are registered service marks of Worldcon Intellectual Property, a California non-profit public benefit corporation. “World Science Fiction Society”, “WSFS”, “World Science Fiction Convention”, “NASFiC”, “Lodestar Award”, and the distinctive design of the Hugo Award Trophy Rocket are service marks of the World Science Fiction Society, an unincorporated literary society.