“…Katyuli Lloyd’s work had hints of Matisse and was beautifully executed…” – Rafi Romaya, Art Director at Canongate Books
‘Flush’ tells the story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel and is told, for the most part, from the point of view of the dog. The novel is in six chapters and contains much contrast between environments: landscapes, cityscapes, social classes, cultures and countries.
© Katyuli Lloyd, 2015
I first read the novel when I had taken my own spaniel from London to Greece. I was inspired by my experiences mirroring those of someone 170 years ago: the timelessness in the relationship between an owner and their dog, as well as the love of travel.
I wanted my work to illustrate the freedom of the countryside versus the enclosure of the Victorian bedroom, dull England versus sunny Italy.
Lithography has been key to my final artwork. Since our inductions to the print room, I have found myself inclined towards print processes, in particular lithography. I like the detail and delicacy that can be achieved through this medium, as well as how my observational sketches can be reproduced exactly. I also like how the print process and colour blocking helps me simplify my illustrations to create bold, graphic shapes. I was keen for my finished artwork to have a hand-printed quality. I liked the grainy, faded lithograph prints of the 1920s and 1930s, including those of Vanessa Bell for Hogarth Press, and I wanted my artwork to nod to Woolf’s hand-printed books.
I was keen to have a ‘reportage’ feel to my illustrations and interspersed the four-colour lithographs with black ink sketches to achieve this. I think this is appropriate since Flush is a biography of an historical dog, and although Woolf was speculating as to Flush’s thoughts and reactions, it is nevertheless a work based in reality: in the observations, letters and writings of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
One of the main difficulties when illustrating Flush was to convey a Victorian world to a modern reader. I knew that my choice of colours would be key to bringing the book to life. The added challenge was to find a colour scheme that could work for contrasting environments: a dark Victorian interior and the outdoor light of Italy.
Brown features a lot in the book, from Flush “the little brown dog” (Ch. I) with “hazel eyes”, to the “carved mahogany” (Ch. I) of Wimpole Street, to “Mr. Browning!” (Ch. III) and the “brown paper parcel” (Ch. IV) of Whitechapel; even Florence’s cityscape is sepia brown. However, colours feature just as equally: Flush is also described as a “red cocker spaniel”, there are “pools of blue water” (Ch. I), shops “heaped with gleaming mounds of pink, purple, yellow, rose” (Ch. II), Mr. Browning “Twisting his yellow gloves in his hands” (Ch. III), and “the violet intricacies of dark cathedrals” (Ch. V) and “purple jars” (Ch. II). I was therefore keen to use colours that could stand alone, as well as be combined to create others colours including brown.
During the MA, I was inspired by a lecture we had had on the Neo-Romantics, and in particular by John Minton’s Corsican series of illustrations for Time Was Away – A Journey Through Corsica (1948). I really responded to his use of colours: the Naples or maize yellow, the light coral or salmon red, the powdery blue and black. I think his colours perfectly convey the strong Mediterranean sun and the cool areas of shade, and I wanted to apply this palette to Flush too. When I looked through Vanessa Bell’s lithographs from the 1930s and 1940s including her book covers for Hogarth Press, I saw a similarity between Minton’s and her colours; Girl Reading (1945) and the book cover for All Passion Spent (1931) depicted interior scenes in a similar palette. I realised, of course, that red, yellow and blue could each stand independently as well as be combined to create a brown tone. Encouraged by this, I began to apply colour digitally in layers to my observational drawings in order to bring the illustrations to life. In some illustrations, I layered the colours twice, for example in the Wimpole Street Interior where I layered the light-coral red twice in order to give it added depth.
‘Flush’ is one of Woolf’s lesser known works and traditionally Woolf’s readership is considered more suitable for adults. However, I think an illustrated version of the novel could open up the author to a younger generation.
Text and illustrations © Katyuli Lloyd, 2015