Cover Story

This story begins a few years back and I was reminded of it today as I have just finished reading a brilliant book. ( This time the book in question is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, but more of that later. Then it was Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.) I felt bereft and mentioned this, on facebook, or on my blog. Anyway someone got in touch and suggested that I read The Liveships Trilogy if I wanted something good to read. I bought the first book and fell head over heels with the writing.

Meanwhile I had an email from a woman who wanted to buy a print because her friend had sent her a card for Christmas and she loved it. The card was from the Musicians Benevolent Fund, the Cavalcade. The sender was Jo Fletcher, then editor at Orion and the recipient was Jane Johnson, editor at Voyageur, Harper Collins.

Musicians Benevolent Fund Christmas CardWhat happened next had an air of magic about it. Jane emailed to say the print had arrived and she loved it. She said that she was working on the repackaging of some books and would I be interested. They were fantasy fiction. I was so busy I wasn’t sure which way was up and very glibly said, ‘only if they’re by Robin Hobb.’ How astonished was I when it turned out that the books in question were indeed the three trilogies and how wonderful has it been to work on these and subsequent books by Robin. Well, imagine getting paid to read the books that you most enjoy in all the world and that will come close. Hard to put it in words, so here is a journey through pictures, starting with sketches and finishing with the sketch for Blood of Dragons, next on the list, out next year.

First sketches for the Assassin books

The first thing I had to do was really hard. I was half way through the second Liveships book and I had to stop and leave Althea and Brashen and meet Fitz. Then it was a matter of trying to find a key, a way in that would work over all of the books. Not easy when you have the glorious art of John Howe shaping how you see the characters and places in the book.

sketches of ideas for Robin Hobb coversJane and Emma from Voyageur sent me a box of books. All the Hobb’s and some other writer, huge book, George RR Martin, something about a Game of Thrones. This was another writer and series on their list, huge books, very classy covers. This was the kind of look they were aiming for she said, with a single image and a watercolour wash.

Nighteyessketchbook page with liveship ideasSometimes the ideas came easy, other times it was harder, and now and again I just had to think of something else. It was thought that my picture of Icefire and Tintaglia might not be quite suitable. I painted it anyway, although a different image was used.

Sketch of Icefire and Tintagliawhen dragons embraceSo, in sequence, here are the covers so far, beginning with the Assassin series.

Assassin's ApprenticeThe Royal Assassin ( my hero, Nighteyes, maybe my favorite of Robin's characters.)Assassin's Quest

Then I could get back to the Liveships, but it is different when you read and have to search for a cover. So often when reading Robin’s books I forget that it is work.

Ship of Magic by Robin HobbThe Mad Ship by Robin HobbShip of Destiny by Robin HobbWithin these pages dwells one of the most outstanding pirates in literature. One thing that a friend said after I had introduced her to Robin’s books was that reading them reminded her of that all encompassing pleasure you get when reading when you are a child, when everything is just washed away by the words and all that is left is you washed away in the pages of your book. I think that just about sums it up. And yet her books are more, so much more. The language, characters, character development, plot. Perfect.

Fool's Errand by Robin HobbThe Golden Fool by Robin HobbFool's Fate by Robin HobbWhile I was working on the first nine books Robin was writing the next trilogy, The Soldier Son.

Shaman's CrossingForest MageRenegade's Magic by Robin HobbNext was a return to The Rainwilds, with the Rainwild Chronicles. Such an amazing place. I read The Dragon Keeper far too quickly, then Dragon’s Haven. Next City of Dragons and still to be published the astonishing Blood of Dragons.

The Dragon Keeper by Robin HobbDragon Haven by Robin HobbCity of Dragons by Robin HobbI have yet to do the art for Blood of Dragons. I have a sketch, and also the art for the US version. The art is next but one on the list.

Rapskal and Heeby for Blood of DragonsBlood of Dragons with Rapskal and HeebyThere are more pieces of art for Robin’s books, and also for books by Megan Lindholm, the wonderful Rheindeer People and Wolf’s Brother, as well as The inheritance, which brings her two selves together in one book. She is an astonishing writer who continues to spin the most marvelous tales.

There is talk of her coming over next year and I have my fingers crossed that this may happen. Also talk of an exhibition of some of the artwork and I am looking in to the possibility of producing prints with some kind of metallic ink overlay to recreate the gold leaf look. Early days yet, but keep an eye out here and at The House of Golden Dreams for more on this.

I have exhibited the work before. There is something quite good about seeing them all together.

The Inheritance by Robin Hobb/Megan LindholmThe Inheritance by Megan Lindholm/Robin HobbThe Rheindeer People by Megan LindholmWolf's Brother by Megan LindholmTo see what they look like without type take a look at the photographs from Tenby Museum. I began working on these in 2006, and hope to continue for a very very long time. Blood of Dragons is everything you could ever hope for f you are a fan of Robin’s books. More than that I can’t say. And as for what she is working on now, well…… even if I did know I wouldn’t be telling…… whatever it is it will be brilliant.

In 2014 the story begins all over again. Fool’s Assassin will be launched in August, and so all the covers are being refreshed. Read more about this here:

Postcards of some of the designs are now available from Solva Woollen Mill

Robin Hobb’s website

‘Words like Coins’ ebook

on kindle

on Nook

About Jackie

I am an artist and writer. I live in a small house by the sea in Wales where I write, paint, walk and watch and dream of bears and whales. I love to read, have a wish for wings and prefer the company of animals to that of humans, though at times I can be quite friendly. I am learning how to work with wood engraving tools and hoping to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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33 Responses to Cover Story

  1. How this made me smile, I have just seen most of these on the table and face out in our local Waterstones. The SciFi, Fantasy buyer is either a fan of Robin or you or both. Whichever it is, they do look utterly magnificent on the shelf.

  2. Mo Crow says:

    wow! wow! wow! Jackie are absolutely amazing, your paintings are magic, so good to see all these covers in one post & loved the link to the Tenby Museum, do you ever sleep?? and wondering if you have any idea of how many paintings you have completed in this lifetime?

    • Jackie says:

      I do sleep. I do paint a lot. What eats my time these days is blogging and facebook but both make so many connections that they are worthwhile and creative in themselves.
      I do, however, need to spend more time just walking and thinking. Or even just not really doing anything. This is sometimes the most creative time. I always tell children when I go in to schools that I used to get told off in school for drawing and dreaming and now I get paid to do both.

  3. Carrie says:

    Well there you go… I have just finished the Farseer trilogy and getting stuck into the Tawny Man trilogy, I love her writing and look forward to working my way through the rest of her work! The covers look great all together… I especially like your painting of Nighteyes and of the hunting cat on Fools Errand which I’m reading now…

  4. Carrie says:

    Oh… I’ve just gone to look at your link to the Tenby exhibition… We went to see that at the time and loved it! That was the first time I saw any of your paintings up close in person as it were. I remember being astounded by the intricate detail of the climbing plants in ‘Guardians’…. that was a real treat! A beautiful show…

  5. ruthkeys says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us. It is an amazing tale indeed!

  6. chloe heuch says:

    Amazing images as always! Which is the best Robin Hobb book to get me started?

    • Jackie says:

      Start at the beginning, Chloe. Fall in love first with Fitz and then Nighteyes, so Assassin’s Apprentice then the one with the wol on the cover. But be prepared to give up a great deal of your time. If people are grabbed, and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been, they tend to work their way through all of them. I envy you, coming to them for the first time.

  7. Fiona says:

    Jackie, are you going to be doing the covers for Megan Lindholm’s Ki and Vandien quartet, due to be reissued by Harper Voyager in the not-too distant (I hope!) future. I would love to see what you make of them.

    • Jackie says:

      I was going to. Will have to ask Megan’s editor. I have Blood of Dragons UK cover on my ‘to do’ list and we had talked about this. And one day I hope to do The Wizard of the Pigeons. Other covers I would love to do are any of Angela Carter’s books and Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea.

  8. Brenda says:

    I have been thoroughly enjoying and feeling in awe of the immense amount of work you accomplish Jackie.
    I plan to read the series you describe here – I also enjoy really good fantasy books such as Inkheart, and as well Philip Pullman’s series.
    I intend to order your book, which you’ve finished, it looks truly wonderful.
    BTW, I am enjoying In One Person, by John Irving, one of his best I think. 🙂

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  11. Fantastic blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost
    on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many choices out there that I’m completely overwhelmed ..
    Any recommendations? Appreciate it!

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  14. You need to take part in a contest for one of the highest quality blogs online.
    I am going to recommend this website!

  15. Hi,
    I really love your work and those covers are for me the best ones! I just wanted to know if all the books exist in hardback format with “shiny” covers? I’m sure for The Inheritance and two of The Rain Wilds Chronicles books but never saw the others.
    Best regards,

  16. Jennifer Hinckley says:

    You’re going to make me go broke. 🙂

  17. how nice that i randomly stumbled across your blog–and especially this post–today.
    i came here from pinterest where i’d seen one of your beautiful prints of the girl feeding the bear with cherries, and then randomly picked this post to read..
    i’d been looking at these robin hobbs books very recently and adding them to my to-read list, and had been particularly impressed with the cover illustrations.. but amazon didn’t say who they were by.
    so, how nice to stumble across your work like this!
    and what amazing luck and coincidence to be asked to illustrate for your favourite author!

  18. Pingback: Cover Art for Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb - A Dribble of Ink

  19. Candace says:

    Oh, I am in the middle of Assassin’s Quest, having discovered Robin Hobb just this year. The pairing of your wonderful art and hers–perfection! Now I want to collect the UK editions rather than the US.

    The magical serendipity of your story made my day.

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  23. Jessica says:

    I just found your blog by chance, googling for a picture of Ship of Magic’s cover and I am so glad that I did!
    Since I enjoy looking at sketches and drafts, finding these for your covers was a real treat. As if that was enough, now I also find out that you are a fan of Hobb’s books yourself and enjoyed working on this? This makes me smile so much, it sounds like living the dream.
    I already felt lucky that favourite books happened to have my favourite book cover arts, but this is just the cherry on top.

    One day I hope to fill my bookshelf with a copy of each of Hobb’s books with your covers! Hunting them down has become a bit difficult by now so I only have seven of them by now, but I’ll keep looking. They’re just that gorgeous.

    Thank you for your wonderful work and sharing this!

  24. Ley says:

    Lovely work, Some of them remind e of the doodles in the margins of illuminated manuscripts.

  25. I just finished Robins last “Fitz ” book and it was AWESOME! She is my favorite fantasy author and I was surprised to find that you had painted all the above covers of her books, as I love your work as well. I was first introduced to your art while working with volunteers at the Concord Museum, in Massachusetts. Your book The cat and the Fiddle was one of the books chosen for their annual exhibit “Family Trees”. I was so taken by your beautiful colors, playful and magical view of each rhyme. I chose your book to decorate my tree. Thanks for the inspiration!! Betsi

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