Archive for the ‘I Capture the Castle’ Category

The brief allowed us to create a book jacket using one of three options and I chose the following:

“Hardback jacketed cover -intended customer: gift buying grandmother / auntie”

Following my research into the book, the time period and after looking at the characters and researching previous book jacket illustrations, I decided to feature Cassandra as the main focus of my illustration. I wanted to give the illustration a modern update by producing the illustration graphically, and hopefully giving the book an overall image that would appeal to the young females of today, plus create something that would be attractive and feminine, and also eye-catching. This would attract the gift buying grandmother / aunt. From my own experience with my grandmother buying gifts, she would always opt for something feminine and pretty when buying a book for her grand-daughters, and that is what I hoped to achieve with this design.

I wanted to create a simple yet eye-catching book jacket, as a group of the same books are often displayed together in promotional sale displays, and I wanted the book cover to appear attractiive and uncluttered if many books were displayed together.


I produced an initial sketch of Cassandra, sitting among the flowers and writing in her journal, the flowers being incorporated to represent the romantic essence of the story, and also to create an impression of the countryside. I considered adding a castle in the background but felt that it would make the overall image appear too crowded and messy, and I also wanted to steer away from the obvious.
I added the title and the author’s name freehand using romantic swirly lettering.

I uploaded my sketch on to PhotoShop and coloured the image in graphically.

The colours I chose for this illustration were pastel colours which would appeal to the target young female audience, and also their gift buying older relatives.

I produced a similar sketch for the back cover which I initially planned to feature Cassandra’s sister reading a Jane Austen novel, as featured in the book.

However, after feedback from my tutor, I decided to change the image on the back cover to feature the dog from the story. Although my experience with drawing animals is limited, I was quite pleased with the way the dog turned out.

I added a typed book summary to the back cover and a photo of Dodi Smith with details of her career to the inside of the front cover.

Overall I was happy with the way the illustration turned out, although given more time I would have like to have included more detailed shading. I do feel that this book jacket would appeal to the gift buying grandmothers and aunts, aswell as the young female audience of today.

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When researching the book “I Capture the Castle” before commencing the design of the book jacket I felt that it was important to look at previous book jackets, to enabe me to get a feel for the book and the way the story was interpreted by other artist’s when producing jackets and covers for the book. I was actually quite amazed by the amount of different book jackets and book cover designs.

The British first edition of the book  shows a country landscape with a castle at the centre of the cover. There is a small figure shown on the cover which may well be the central character Cassandra. While the cover depicts quite a pleasant scenic view, I feel it is boring and doesn’t really convey much about what the book is about.

Again this is rather a dull cover, but likely in keeping with the type of book covers around at the time. The cover is mainly typographic but has one small picture of a castle as the central focus.

This cover features as a background a repetitive design of a girl among leaves, with the main focus again being the title, author and a recommendation by JK Rowling.

Some of the covers have featured a girl, representing the narrator of the book, such as the following:

I paticularly like this one as the girl has a wistful expression on her face and because the book focuses on the journaling of the main character Cassandra, I like the way this picture features her holding a pen.

This is a particularly interesting illustration as it features the castle predominantly but also a small figure of the girl sitting and writing by the side. I find this to be both simplistic and striking. More modern covers have featured photographic images, such as the ones below:

I do not feel that these photographic book covers are particularly inspiring, and they do not convey very much about the content of the book.

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The main features of the book appear to be the fact that it is a story told from the point of view of young English girl writing in her journal, growing up in an unconventional family in the English countryside, her relationships with those around her and her first experiences of romance. To understand more about the main character I felt it was important to read the reviews of others in relation to her character, and I found an interesting summary of her character:

“Cassandra is one of fiction’s most enchanting characters. She combines innocence with a quick wit, sometimes coming over as a little pretentious, but never dull. She is an aspiring novelist with a wonderful eye for detail, and reading the novel really does feel like peeking over her shoulder as she sits speed-writing in her journal in the most unlikely places. She spins enchanting tales that lift the plot from poverty and desperation and turn everything she sees to magic. Whether it is ruined stones, the first signs of Spring, or a trip to London, Cassandra can make anything she turns her attention to come to vivid life. But, like Jane Austen’s Emma, she is so caught up in the lives of those around her that her own emotions take her by surprise.”

I felt that as Cassandra is the pivotal character in the book, it was important to feature her on the book jacket. I wanted to depict her in such a way as to capture her essence as a writer, and her habit of just spontaneously sitting and writing in her journal, lost in the moment.

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One of our illustration briefs this year was to produce an illustrated book jacket for the novel ” I Capture the Castle” by Dodie Smith, which was published in 1948. Prior to developing my idea for the book jacket it was important to understand what the book was actually about. The novel relates the adventures of an eccentric family, the Mortmains, struggling to live in a decaying English castle during the 1930s. The first person narrator is Cassandra Mortmain, an intelligent teenager who tells the story via her personal journal.

The Mortmain family is both poor and interesting. Cassandra’s father is a writer suffering from writer’s block. Ten years before the story begins, he took out a forty-year lease on a dilapidated but beautiful castle, hoping to find either inspiration or isolation there; now, his family is selling off the furniture to buy food. Cassandra, the younger daughter and the story’s narrator, has literary ambitions and spends a lot of time developing her writing talent by “capturing” everything around her in her journal. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle’s walls, and her own first descent into love.

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