Production: Judging a Book by its Cover Art

Yes, we’re all told not to judge a book by its cover, but so many people buy a book by its cover, or at least its cover art. (Please forgive that play on words.)

The cover art for Tin-Can Canucks was very important to me.  Part of it was certainly wanting something that would have some impact on the prospective reader, hopefully causing them to pick up the book.  More than that however, I wanted something that represented the driving focus of the book–of Canadian sailors and their ships braving hazards to do their duty and serve their nation.

Some time back I saw a sketch (later a painting) by Arthur Lismer, a war artist who would later be a member of the Group of Seven.  This sketch was drawn from Lismer’s time on HMCS Grilse (I) during the Great War, and I was intrigued by its vision of a convoy as seen from the deck of the torpedo boat. (This sketch later became the painting Convoy at Sea).  It was this sort of visualization of the first in a line of ships and sailors who would protect Canada that I wanted for the book.

Gerard Campbell in his studio.

An artist I am not, so I was very luck to have at hand a very good artist, Gerard Campbell (my father).  Visual art has always been a significant part of his life, even professionally as an Architectural Designer.  Having worked on several famous architectural projects and being able to visualise a project beyond its drawings has allowed him to successfully branch out into commercial art and later into fine art.

His recent art has been mostly acrylics on canvas, and cover a range of topics, but all driven by the visualization of a particular message or theme.  His series of painting on social justice themes all have a subtle but powerful impact–they appear typical a simple at first until you take in all the detail and recognise what Campbell is saying.

For Tin-Can Canucks, we discussed the various things I wanted to see in the cover art, as well as several different concepts on how best to display them.  Fundamentally however, I wanted Grilse on the cover and Gerard was able to take my basic (if vague) descriptions and draw on one of Grilse‘s stories–that of her harrowing transit through a gale in December 1916 which nearly sunk her–to provide an image that is simple at first, but evocative of the ship and her crew (and indeed the whole Canadian Naval Service) preparing for the dangers and challenges coming their way–the looming storm so to speak.

Grilse before the Gale

Grilse before the Gale speaks to the hardships and triumphs Canadian destroyers would face in the years to com–and Grilse‘s survival during the 1916 gale is the perfect metaphor for the Canadian destroyer.  Always facing challenges, our ships and their crews sail through them and do their duty with confidence, pride and courage.

I couldn’t be happier to have this painting as the cover art for the book–nor to have the pleasure of having the original on my wall.  While the book’s cover art was cropped slightly to better fit the cover dimensions, it is the hope of Kay Cee Publications that future editions will display more of the piece on their covers and that a giclée can be made available for purchase in the near future.  If you’re interested in learning more about Gerard Campbell, his artwork and his company Design Ink, or if you would like to be notified when the giclée becomes available, please sign-up for the Tin-Can Canucks mailing list.