In September 2018, I was approached by Hachette Children's Group to create the cover for an upcoming YA novel-in-verse, The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta. The brief was to showcase the protagonist/narrator in a way that felt true to the story and to the concept of feeling at peace with one's identity.
Working alongside the in-house book designer and art director, I submitted multiple initial drafts based on the provided brief. The protagonist at this point was the author himself, so I created a few iterations of Dean both in and out of his drag persona for approval, with a background of monstera leaves to reflect the swamps and tropical settings flamingos often favour. The other key elements I brainstormed for the cover included a chorus of flamingos protecting the central figure, who himself was protectively cradling a black flamingo; a representation of the literal black flamingo but also a metaphorical signifier for the central figure/protagonist nurturing himself and his budding identity.
A version of Dean without a wig but in makeup, with a closed-mouth smile was decided on, and I proceeded to the colouring stage for this iteration.
At the same time as finalising the cover, I had also been working on the endpapers for the book, and designed a single pink feather that could be replicated to create a pattern for this purpose, as well as used as part of the interior illustrations if required.
The feather design was well-received and so it was decided that the cover itself should feature a slightly simpler background consisting of this feather, replicated in two shades of pink, in place of the leaves whose complexity might obscure the lettering that was to go on top. Meanwhile, the manuscript itself was evolving, which meant the brief evolved too; The Black Flamingo now featured a reimagined titular character named Michael who became the new narrator of the story. Consequently, I redesigned the central figure to portray this change in protagonist, and put together the new background.
With a few minor tweaks, and lettering added in-house at Hachette UK, the final iteration of the cover of The Black Flamingo was born.
I also put together the illustrated elements of the full jacket for the hardcover version of the book.
The interior illustrations came to life in parallel with the work on the cover, and were completed in batches based on the evolution of the manuscript. Some of the initial motifs were key elements from specific poems that were definitely going to be part of the story- such as the triple row of chairs in a classroom, a selection of flamingos at rest in water, and the drag society poster featuring a photograph of various drag performers. We were also aware going in that the interior illustrations would be in grayscale, so they needed to be in a more simplistic style while still aligning with the mood of the overall narrative and feel of the book. With various rounds of revisions, I constructed a cohesive set of interior illustrations that could be used, replicated and manipulated throughout the pages of the book to be used as required alongside various poems. Below is a selection of these illustrations.