Gulliver's Travels Cover Art

How is it possible to find meaning in a finite world given my waist and shirt size?
Woody Allen

Lately, I’ve been busy working on a fantastic job, illustrating a new, young reader’s edition, of Gulliver’s Travels. The first part of the project involved painting the cover art, posted here.

The novel by Jonathan Swift was written as a piece of satire and political commentary, but since its publication in 1726, the story has been adapted numerous times and has morphed into a classic of children’s literature. This is mainly due to the most remembered first section of the book, which details Gulliver’s trip to Lilliput, the land where everything is one twelfth normal size. It’s not hard to see why kids would be attracted to the idea of a parallel, miniature world.

The cover assignment was to depict a scene in which Gulliver steps over the protective front gate into the city of Lilliput. I needed to show enough of the town and its people to establish the setting and show the size disparity between Gulliver and the Lilliputian people. I first submitted a series of roughs, using a template that described the cover’s live area along with the proposed title and credit, type placement. In these thumbnail sketches I had a chance to explore various points of view, from high and distant, to the worm’s eye vantage point of one of the townspeople.

Eventually, a scenario was imagined, in which we see Gulliver stepping over the inconsequential city wall, only to be confronted by the brave King of Lilliput. This seemed to me a great way to reveal something of the character’s personalities. Gulliver, a potentially lethal giant, respectfully tips his hat as he bounds into the city, amused by the sight of the tiny King who stands in ramrod straight defiance. The people of Lilliput are gathered around, watching with a mix of tentative curiosity and awe. The composition was designed so that I could wrap the village around and frame the confrontation, while employing a quick perspective from foreground to background. In this way, I could suggest a large space in a very limited amount of workable area.

Although it doesn’t show up in my pencil roughs, from the very beginning, I always imagined the scene taking place under an early day Lilliputian sun. This gave me the chance to further highlight the center of interest by creating a dramatic, raking light with a resulting shadow pattern that would draw the viewer’s eye into the scene.

Final art was blocked in using Painter and finished in Photoshop.