Monday, 24 August 2009

Iconograpy from Home: An Interview with Roxanna Bikadoroff

Last year I displayed some of the intriguing and eye-catching covers which Canadian illustrator and designer Roxanna Bikadoroff had done for the books of Angela Carter.

Since then I've discovered she was responsible for the beautifully bold and simple covers for the US editions of Flannery O'Connor's work, created with silk-screening, as well as much else.

Roxanna was kind enough to agree to be interviewed about how she does her magic.

CAUSTIC COVER CRITIC: What media do you use to create your illustrations? I'm guessing at ink and watercolour, but I'm really not sure.

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: You guessed right. But I'm using more mixed media now - one has to keep oneself entertained.

CCC: For many of your covers, you include the author and title type as part of the illustration. Does this make the job harder, in that the client may love one element, but want to change the other? And do you actually include them together in the artwork, or is the type added later?

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: I always do it on a separate layer, in case of a spelling mistake or ink blob, or some last-minute change.

CCC: The Angela Carter covers especially interest me, as everything from the type to the publisher logo is hand-drawn (and they let you mess with their logo, too). How did this come about, as it's very unusual in cover design?

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: Actually, I think Penguin had been doing the logo thing with other illustrators at the time (the early ‘90s were more fun in that respect). Some vague recollection of a Gary Panter Penguin logo comes to mind, but I could be imagining it.

Both the logo and hand-lettering were the inspiration of one art director, Michael Ian Kaye, who I worked with early on at Penguin and FSG. I'd sent him some samples with hand-written envelope (pre-computer days!) and he just ran with it. Or maybe it was inspired by a cookbook cover I did with hand-lettering... I forget now. In any case, it seemed to start some sort of trend.

CCC: You have done a lot of editorial illustration, and I see that you have a background in animation work as well. Is book cover design your main love, or is there something you prefer more?

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: I've always veered toward art that communicates/tells a story/accompanies a story, so editorial and book jacket illustration came almost naturally. It seemed a decent way to make a living doing art while staying home and keeping my own hours, too.

But outside my paying work, I've always been more of an iconographer. I love using symbolism, mythology, psychology, astrology, archetypes, etc, to tell visual stories and I try to apply this to my commercial work whenever possible. If I have to draw a likeness, for example (not my forte!), I might look up the subject's birth chart to get more insight into their personality/spirit. Especially if its a dead person. Or sometimes a myth or mythological subject can be used to illustrate to a current topic.

CCC: What are you working on now? And what covers should we look out for in the near future?

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: Tarot cards, tapestries, an anthology of my best editorial/book work, Russian fairy tales...and whatever interesting illo gigs come my way, for starters. I'd like to get out in the world more, both physically and art-wise.

CCC: Is there early work out there in the world that you'd suppress if you could?

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: Any pieces that were way over-art directed/edited and ended up looking too tight and just wrong. But I've long since stopped having personal attachment to every job, they can't all be gems!

CCC: What would be your dream book to do the cover design and internal artwork for?

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: My anthology, number one! Some lesser-known fairy tales. It would be nice to eventually not have to do piecework.

CCC: Finally, is there a great book that nobody seems to know about that you'd like to see shouted from the rooftops?

ROXANNA BIKADOROFF: Hmmmm... Well, if you haven't seen the children’s book illustration of Anne and Janet Grahame Johnstone, they're worth a look. Very frilly stuff... especially the Cowboys! My 'bible' is The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara Walker, which is not so unknown, yet perhaps not known enough.

CCC: Thank you, Ms Bikadoroff!


Derek said...

Good stuff. It's refreshing to see these hand-drawn, hand-lettered covers.

Word verification: senop (a sysop nearing retirement age).

BookieMonster said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful interview and all the accompanying illustrations. Her covers are absolutely gorgeous.

Kao said...

Great interview, thanks CCC! Congrats Rox. Did anyone mention your lovely web site at where people can see more of your work and the amusing captions that go with some of the pics.

JRSM said...

Hi, Kao: There's a link to the website in there, but not well labelled, I must admit. Roxanna does have tonnes of great stuff there.