Hi everyone! I’m chatting about the books I’ve illustrated over my 20-year career in publishing!
You can also watch on and subscribe to my YouTube channel. There are subtitles available, and the transcript is below if you need to read as well as watch. I’d love to hear what you think, so leave a comment here or on youtube, or email me. Sign up to my email list as well for more at www.aratidevasher.com
00:36 The First Cover I Ever Designed!
01:15 Bride at Ten, Mother at Fifteen
01:57 The Rod in India / Brown Morning
02:23 Chaya and the Spider Gem
03:51 Harper Collins Books / No Direction Rome
05:32 The Sibius Knot
07:03 Babies & Bylines
08:10 An illustrated endpaper
08:34 Dickens anniversary editions
09:54 A fully illustrated book including the cover
I am not sponsored by any of these publishers and other than the fee I was paid to create the book covers, I do not earn anything from the books, or the links to the books. Just ask any questions you might have in the comments! I’ll do my best to help you out.
Books I mentioned:
Roli Books Ltd (India)
– Har Dayal: The Great Revolutionary by E. Jaiwant Paul (couldn’t find it on the Roli Books site)
– Bride at Ten, Mother at Fifteen by Sethu Ramaswamy (couldn’t find it on the Roli Books site)
White & Maclean Publishing
– Chaya and the Spider Gem by H.L. Rankin
Hi everyone. I’m Arati Devasher, welcome to my studio.
If you’ve been watching my vlogs recently you’ll know that after a very lean year of work I finally got some book design projects to work on. It’s a client whom I’ve worked with a couple of times before, and he lives quite close by so he decided to come over – we’re both fully vaccinated – and take a look at some of my previous designs, in my quite tall bookshelf. Now that was pretty untidy, so I took the chance while I was pulling out some books for him to look at, to tidy it up and while I did I found a couple of things.
This is the first book cover that I ever designed. It was on the basis of this that I got my job at Roli Books in New Delhi back in… I think it was 2002 or 2003. That was my first foray into publishing design. I had moved from advertising, which I hated, and I have never left publishing since. It’s my ideal job. I read nearly every book that I design and I get to keep a copy. I mean, I’m a bookworm, what could be better, right?
So, without further ado, I’ve got this stack of books out and let me show you what I’ve been illustrating over the past few years.
So, the first book cover I’d like to show you was based on this illustration. It is highly influenced by Jamini Roy, who is an indian folk artist and painter, and it features very stylized women… um… which was particularly appropriate to the book title. So here’s the book cover. I only have the printed proof of this. I didn’t actually get a copy of the book, but as you can see it’s a fairly… um… simplistic illustration. These were the days when we just had G5 Macs, I think, and I’d never heard of a drawing tablet. This was done on Photoshop just using a mouse and it’s pretty simple. It’s… it’s quite flat and plain but it worked for the book at the time.
During this period there were also these two covers that I designed for Natraj Publishers. They’re a small publisher based in Dehra Dun in India and I was working for them freelance. Now, they didn’t have a big budget for illustration, obviously, which is why this is all I could do for them. I couldn’t actually do a physical drawing, but I think they were pretty pleased with the results of The Rod in India and Brown Morning.
Now, for many years after that no books really came along for me to illustrate at Roli. We also had other designers so they illustrated most of the fiction books while I was designing many non-fiction books which already had photographs that needed to be used on the covers. But fast-forward like maybe 10 or 15 years later (actually it was only 5 or so, not a decade!) and I was freelancing and designed this book. As you can see, it’s also a digital illustration, but far advanced from the first one. This is Chaya and the Spider Gem by H.L. Rankin, published by White & MacLean Publishing, which is a small publisher based in Belgium, and it has not only this illustration on the front cover, but it also has a little illustration on the back cover, and both were done using a Wacom Bamboo tablet and pen. And I had finally learned about tablets… drawing tablets, by this time. But the Bamboo did not have a screen so it was a little difficult to draw looking at the computer screen and drawing on the tablet, but I figured it out and this was the result. Now, to do a book cover like this takes a long time so I did do a layout before I handed over to… I went over to a final… a final drawing, and here’s what the client actually approved. It was just a pen and ink drawing and this is what they looked at and said okay, fine, go ahead, and then that’s what I came up with after that.
The next few books are actually all for Harper Collins Publishers, India. I was working for them from here in London and they’d send me… uh… the book to read – they’re mostly fiction – they’d send me the book manuscript to read and I would go through it and then send them a few options. They’d pick the final one and here are the results.
The first one is No Direction Rome. Now technically this is not an illustration because it is a… um… I don’t remember if it was a stock image that they sent me or… they sent me an image and I basically turned it into this cover. It’s just very simple, it’s reflected both vertically and horizontally and that’s how it turned out. I did get a copy of this book so it is actually the book, and then you can see that I’ve also designed the flaps and the back is pretty plain, so there’s that.
Then there is Panther by Chhimi Tenduf-La. This is also a Harper Collins India book but the difference with this one is it’s not completely illustrated… it is literally just the island of Sri Lanka and here it is… the illustration. It’s watercolours and then I scanned it in, cut out the image of the boy playing cricket and I also did the Panther text in watercolour but I actually don’t know where that illustration has gone. So I do get… I did get a copy of this one as well. Again, I did a little cutout of the cricketer for the spine because that’s what the book is about. I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out.
Now this next book was quite difficult for me to illustrate, because it required me to go back to a time in my life when I was extremely unhappy, and I used to do pen and ink drawings in order for the catharsis of that unhappiness to come out onto paper and help me feel better. But the art director, Bonita of Harper Collins India, was pretty insistent that she only wanted one of my pen-and-inks for this cover and it turned out she was right. But it did take a lot of soul searching and a lot of difficult days before I could finally finish the illustration for this piece. Now here’s the book… it is The Sibius Knot and as you can see it’s all illustrated in ballpoint pen. And here is the actual illustration that I did. You can see that they are fairly different because I did do some Photoshop-ing of colour… I blended the text / title in and there were a few changes that obviously the art director wanted. Now it turned out that she was quite right to push me to design this book in pen and ink because it ended up winning Book Cover of the Year for Publishing Next in India. Now that is probably… that is I think one of two or three awards that I’ve won for book design and unexpected. And, obviously, it had to be the pen and inks that I don’t do anymore, but I’m glad she pushed me to do it and it turned out, I think, quite nice.
Babies and bylines is the… I think the final book that I have to show you from Harper Collins India. This was also illustrated by me and I created not only the illustration for it but also the text that’s used… the font that’s used on the spine and on the front cover. Now I have found the watercolour illustration for this piece and here it is. Ao you can see again that illustrations change from when I do them to when they actually end up on the cover, because editors and and art directors have different ideas about things. So you can see that they didn’t like the pink bag… they wanted a few things added and the overall colour became darker than it was in the original illustration. Now, here are a few sketchbook pages where I have actually done the text, the original drawing and this is what I sent to them as a mock-up before I did the final watercolour painting.
This book was done for the London Iron and Steel Exchange Golfing Society and it’s a fairly simple book. I just did the typesetting and added a few images in, but what I actually want to show you is the endpaper. Now, I illustrated these on Procreate on the iPad and I’m quite pleased with the way they turned out. It just adds a little bit of interest to an otherwise pretty plain book.
Now, for the (Charles) Dickens anniversary year, a whole bunch of publishers were hurrying up to to do a gift set of Dickens’ novels and one of my clients was no less keen on that. These were actually published… um… both in the UK and I think (Chapters) Indigo stocked them in Canada as well, if I’m not mistaken. So here’s the first one… Great Expectations… it was… they all had gold or silver tops and they were cloth bound with a different color on each. So this one was red and gold and I created the pattern for this based on various stock images that I was provided with. The second one is A Tale of Two Cities in this lovely lavender color with silver foil.
The third is Oliver Twist, obviously, a classic, with blue and gold and the last one is David Copperfield – because how can you not?! – with green and silver, and they all have beautiful spines, which when stacked together look absolutely lovely on a bookshelf. And as you can see, the back… on the back I put a little oval with a nice quote.
Now, the last book I’m going to show you is In Search of Happiness and this was a book published by the same publishers of the Dickens gift set. I was designing the interiors for this book, laying out the text and… um… doing the cover as well, and they asked me if I would do a few illustrations for the interiors. Now these are not my usual style of illustrations, but I agreed because it was simpler for me to just do the illustrations and do the whole book in total and there would be possibly another sequel or something like that later on, but then obviously the pandemic came in the way. But, in the end, I was quite pleased with how the illustrations for this came out, particularly some of the ones where it’s the start and end page, and it was it was a challenge to think of symbols that could represent all these different ways of finding happiness. I really rather think this this is a pretty self-help book and I’m quite pleased to have been involved in the illustration of this.
So that’s that. I hope you enjoyed looking at the few books that I’ve illustrated over the past few years and I hope to maybe do another version of this video in another few years time and show you what I’ve designed since 2021.
Thank you so much for watching, and I will see you in my next video. Bye!