My first foray into the murky world of Kickstarter is a collaboration with Rock Paper books to produce new editions of Shakespeare classics.

Starting off with arguably the most famous play – Hamlet – I came up with a look and feel for the whole set. I had an instinct for what I wanted to avoid – I didn’t want to produce faux Elizabethan or naive covers which seem to be common around Shakespeare productions, so it was out with woodcuts and block printing. I also rejected the use of modern objects – let’s say for instance a heart and dagger tattoo for Romeo and Juliet, or a handgun for Macbeth. It’s an approach that can be useful but in this case would be misleading as the text is the original play, not a modern retelling.

Also on the reject pile was any explicit representation of the characters. I think they work as a barrier to the imagination, the characters should live in your head.

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With that list of things to avoid, I started to look at some alternative ideas for Hamlet. I soon realised that not using a skull would be perverse (if you were drawing Hamlet in a game of pictionary what would you draw?). It’s an excellent visual shorthand. In my initial thumbnails I had the thought of transposing Hamlet and Yorick’s heads, to imply that Hamlet was always in the grip of death. This thought made it through various iterations to the final art, with the skull being held from behind almost in the pose of a breakdown.

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I hand painted the lettering outside during a windy day, most of it ending up strewn around the garden and chose a vibrant colour (the star of the show is the title, not my drawing)

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I hope it’s not too much. I’m looking forward to less sturm and drang on other covers, though the next play is Macbeth – the bloodiest of the lot!

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Have a look at the Kickstarter campaign here






One thought on “Hamlet

  1. Thank you for sharing your thought process. It was fascinating to see how you reached the final design. I love the concept and your execution. Although I already own at least four collections of Shakespeare’s plays, I’m very tempted to click that link and that’s largely because your artwork appeals so much.


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