Emma Russell

Emma Russell's illustration blog

Folio Society competition 2015

House of Illustration and The Folio Society are running their annual illustration competition.  This year’s book is a collection of ghost stories.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I steered away from the dense, scratchy and/or dark images that I would normally imagine with ghost stories.  I think it’s possible to be frightened even when surrounded by bright colour! I’ve used a strong palette, simplified graphic shapes, some linework.  Here are my entries:

abbot thomas emma russell

The Treasure of Abbot Thomas – Somerton and Brown head down an alley to the ruined abbey lit brightly by the full moon.

upper berth emma russell

The Upper Berth – Is it the watery creature that haunts the upper berth or is it the body of Brisbane’s cabin mate, tossed by the tide as the boat powers on.

empty house emma russell

The Empty House – Our hero is blithely unaware of the horrors to come and is revelling in the space, the birds calling and the sea lavender filling the marsh, having just got his boots back on after paddling through a creek.


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The binding, based on a scene in The Treasure of Abbot Thomas in which Somerton falls from a stair in the depths of a well with only a rope tied round his torso that might save him.

Folio Society competition binding indecision!

I found it very hard to choose between my two binding concepts for this year’s Folio Society/House of Illustration competition.  I wanted something very graphic in bright, strong colours (a nice challenge to the traditional scratchy line work/dark colours associated with ghost stories)

Both images come from The Treasure of Abbot Thomas by M R James.

Firstly, Gregory describes a grotesque carving as “more like a toad than anything” and I like the idea of a toad summing up mystery.

Secondly, poor Somerton is left dangling down a well at the end of a rope after being terrified by an unknown creature.

In the end, although I love the simplicity of the toad, I chose the rope. I thought that falling was a suitably scary sensation for some horror stories and the energetic angle and clear shapes suited the mid century palette I’ve chosen for the piece.  I hope I made the right choice!

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