Making a Dream Project Come True: Birds in a Book by Rachel Grant

Just over a year ago a little dream of mine came true when I was asked by Abrams Noterie to illustrate not only a bird book, but a pop up bird book! Birds are one of my very favourite things to paint, I’ve always felt a certain connection with them, perhaps it’s something about their (comparatively) quiet, peaceful existence, where curiosity and nesting seem to be their primary goals! 

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When Abrams approached me to produce this book as part of their “Uplifting Editions” range, it was described as a “Bouquet of Birds” and I just loved this concept. The dust jacket comes off, revealing a hard cover reminiscent of antique bird books, then each branch and its bird lifts up above the book forming a bouquet shape that can then be displayed on a desk or a shelf. 

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My art director and editor began the design process with me by sharing a copy of a previous, floral version of the book that had been created in collaboration with Molly Hatch. This really helped me to see the way that I needed to engineer the illustrations in order to make them work within the confines of the page space. For example each pop up branch had to be carefully considered to check that its ‘turning circle’ was within the frame of the page when the book was closed and that the branch was wide enough to be sturdy and to take the rivet at its base. Then of course the overall ‘bouquet’ shape had to be considered, with the scale of the different bird species needing to be taken into account. 

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With each spread I worked on came new facts about the birds. The text was written by Lesley Earle and I loved the way she brought the bird’s character to life, describing their quirky little habits and rituals. These kind of facts helped me to tell a little visual story on each page. For example, the male Regent Bowerbird builds an “impressive amphitheater” called a Bower to attract his prospective female and to provide them with a vantage point to watch his courtship display!

I created each page spread as a fully layered digital file in order to give maximum flexibility in the design process. To do this each element was painted individually with a mixture of acrylic, arcyla gouache and designer’s gouache on loose, watercolour paper. I then scanned these into the computer, removed the background white and digitally composed them onto the page. The text was added later by the lovely folks at Abrams. 

When my advance copy of the book arrived and I held it in my hands for the first time I was completely over the moon. To lift up each little bird and see the bouquet come to life, working just the way I designed it to, was the most rewarding thing in the world. After looking at it constantly for about a week, I then took great pleasure in taking it to my bookshelf and finding it a perfect spot amongst my collection of antique bird and botanical books. The completion of a dream come true. 

“Birds in a Book” can be purchased from Barnes&Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound, Powells, !ndigo and from Amazon worldwide. 

Our newest artist draws inspiration from quiet, still moments in an otherwise chaotic world.

Jennifer Nelson Artists is proud to present Rachel Grant! Please join me in welcoming our latest artist to the fold. 

Take one look at Rachel’s art and you can imagine her working in an old terraced house in the north of England somewhere… listening to music as she paints… knitting, gardening, baking bread, sewing clothes or snuggled under blankets watching great films in her spare time. And you’d be right!

Rachel is based in North Staffordshire where she draws inspiration from time-worn surfaces and the consistency of the natural world around them. As she says, “Quiet, still moments in an otherwise chaotic world."

Incorporating a range of media in her artwork, include drawing, painting, collage and print, Rachel brings them together digitally at the end. Her portfolio of evocative images embodies her love of a slow, peaceful life. “My overall aim is to capture an atmosphere of peace and harmony,” she says.

If you would like to see a custom gallery of Rachel's work, just ask! We have loads of her utterly charming work and I really do love to share! —Jennifer