The Big Reveal: Meet our Stroud Book Festival Illustration for 2021 by Louise Brice

Every year, when we step into Spring, we also step into an exciting period of planning for our annual Book Festival, held every November in Stroud (this year 3-7 November).

Alongside announcing the programme (which we’ll launch this summer) one of my favourite pieces of the Stroud Book Festival jigsaw is the illustration reveal, the bespoke design we’ll use to adorn our brochure, our posters, our social media channels. I love every aspect of this process: from asking the artist, to creating the brief, to the fizz of excitement when we see the illustration come to life!

We’ve been incredibly fortunate with all our past illustrators: Dennis Gould, Tom Percival, Clay Sinclair and Ery Burns. We are also indebted to the work of Steve Palmer, the graphic designer who puts everything together, as well as Paul Welch.

Joining this extremely talented list is Lucia Leyfield, artist, letterer and creative educator, and the 2021 Stroud Book Festival illustrator.

Lucia has hand-drawn some of the elements (specifically our wild-haired festival-goer, the bookshelf, the mug) but all the other bits are made up of old books, a collage of materials all painstakingly crafted together, to create a really unique and special piece of art.

Here’s what Lucia had to say about the design:

This illustration has been created with a combination of painted and collaged paper and is the way I am preferring to work these days as it’s very forgiving! By cutting out the illustrated elements I can chop, change and move around various parts of the layout before committing to sticking things down.

The painted elements are mixed media, drawn lightly and then painted with watercolour with another layer of pencil, paint or collage. I usually create multiple versions of the same element so I can test out colours and layouts. I know this sounds like it’s a very prehistoric version of Procreate or Photoshop but I really love the process of handling and having lots of bits of paper around me!

 I have a stack of old damaged books in my studio and this was the starting point for me for this illustration. I was inspired by the broken cover of one and felt that it would be appropriate for it to fulfil its bookish destiny as a canvas for illustration. I love the ragged edges of the broken spine and wondered who broke it…this book was a story in itself! I painted the bookshelf directly onto the book cover and then added small cuttings of book pages and old paper to represent the books. There are references to Stroud as the World’s first bee guardian town and in the map on the table. The book being read has ‘found’ words in it. On one page it reads ‘that charming Golden Valley’ and on the opposite page ‘down one of the steep streets of Stroud’.

Writing the brief this year felt more significant. Given the demands of the last 18 months, we all liked the idea of an illustration that is gently reassuring, comforting, nostalgic, familiar and with a big nod to Stroud.

We think Lucia has more than delivered on this brief. Her illustration is beguiling, inspiring, transporting and packed full of books!  Exactly how we intend our 2021 Book Festival to be.

Find out more about Lucia’s wonderful work here:

Our 2021 Programme will be announced later this summer.

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