Categories // April 2017 -  Books -  Calligraphy -  Feminism -  Illustration -  My Work - 

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - Illustrated Book Cover

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - Illustrated Book Cover by illustrator Karen Murray of A Rose Cast

We're only a few days away from the premier of the new adaption of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, and as I have only finished the book a month or so ago, I thought this was the perfect time to create a illustration devoted to this important feminist piece of literature.

I've been wanting to try my hand at a little bit of book cover design, and as I already focus quite heavily on feminist goodies and portraits of strong women, I felt that The Handmaid's Tale was the perfect candidate for this self-motivated learning project.

While in New York back in 2014, I took a trip to the famous Strand Bookstore and, along with a number pieces of merchandise, bought a few books. Wanting to have something iconic purchased from this wonderful store, I picked up a copy of The Handmaid's Tale, and, to my embarrassment, it sat unread on my book shelves for over two years. Mostly I had simply got caught up reading other books, but partially I had a little hesitation over picking it up; a little while back, my book club had read Alias Grace, another of Margaret Atwood's novels, and while I really enjoyed it, it wasn't an easy book to get through.

A Lettering Detail - The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - Illustrated Book Cover by illustrator Karen Murray of A Rose Cast

But with the recent political climate and a new assault on women's rights, I knew it needed to be bumped up my to-read list. I also wanted to make sure I had the book finished before the TV adaption begun (I try to always complete the book version before sitting down to enjoy the TV or movie adaption).

Of course, I loved it, despite that fact it is a pretty terrifying read, more so in 2017 than it has been for probably a few decades. I found it captivating and powered through the book much quicker than I had expected. If you are looking for something both meaningful and entertaining to read, please do yourself a favour and grab a copy.

When it came to creating my own book cover for the novel, I knew there were a few elements I wanted to include; a portrait of the book's main character, Offred, and some calligraphy lettering.

When it comes to my work, at the moment I feel most confident about my portraits of women. To challenge myself here, I drew Offred at an angle I've never attempted before. I felt there had to be some kind of distant look to the portrait, as if she was searching for hope somewhere in the distance but still apprehensive, so this pose of her with her chin tilted upwards and her eyes cast at something above felt right.

Close up of Offred - The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - Illustrated Book Cover by illustrator Karen Murray of A Rose Cast

A lot of my products incorporate a bit of calligraphy lettering, and it's a part of my work that I think needs a little work. I want to be able to create more pieces that feature an illustrated element (like the portrait here) surrounded by calligraphy and Art Nouveau influenced flourishes, so I took this as an opportunity to practice. The flourishes aren't just there to balance the lettering; they represent some of the motifs present throughout the book, from feathers and hooks, to a wall and an eye. The author name has been written in Scrabble tiles. Anyone who's read the novel will remember the importance of these elements.

I'm pretty happy with how it has turned out. With a bit more practice on lettering and flourishes, and some more work on composition, I think my book cover designs, and other pieces heavy on both illustration and lettering, will really come together.

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Karen Murray of A Rose Cast

Hello, I'm Karen

I'm an illustrator & designer from the UK, producing my own products as well as custom illustration for clients, both big and small.

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