‘Flush’ by Virginia Woolf (Prosymne Press, 2018)

“…Katyuli Lloyd’s work had hints of Matisse and was beautifully executed…” – Rafi Romaya, Art Director at Canongate Books

To order Flush for £14.99 (plus £2.99 p+p), contact Prosymne Press at prosymnepress@gmail.com or ring 07887484512. http://www.prosymnepress.com

Flush (Prosymne Press, London, 2018) is available to buy in all major independent bookshops in the U.K., including Daunts, Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, Foyles, Hatchards Piccadilly, Heffers Cambridge, Heywood Hill, Hungerford Bookshop, John Sandoe, London Review Bookshop, Lutyens & Rubenstein, Nomad Books Fulham, Much Ado Books, White Horse Bookshop Malborough and is available to order through all Waterstones.

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.

“He was of that particular shade of dark brown which in sunshine flashes ‘all over into gold’.”

© 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.

Flush & Elizabeth
“Between them, Flush felt more and more strongly, as the weeks wore on, was a bond, an uncomfortable yet thrilling tightness.”

I wanted my work to illustrate the freedom of the countryside versus the enclosure of the Victorian bedroom, dull England versus sunny Italy.

Wimpole st interior2
“We may suppose that the high dark rooms were full of ottomans an carved mahogany; tables were twisted… and thick rich carpets clothes the floors.”

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.

Sleep became impossible
“Sleep became impossible while that man was there. Flush lay with his eyes wide open, listening.”
Flush Vaucluse
“Opening his eyes at last, shaking his coat at last, he saw – the most astonishing sight conceivable.”

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.

Flush under chair
“Naturally, lying with his head pillowed on a Greek lexicon, he came to dislike barking and biting.”

Back bedroom low res
“Miss Barrett’s bedroom – for such it was – must by all accounts have been dark.”
“The exquisite, almost visionary scenery of the Apennines, the wonderful variety of shape and colour, the sudden transitions and vital individuality of these mountains…”

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.

Flush is one of Woolf’s lesser known works and traditionally Woolf’s readership is considered more suitable for adults. However, I hope an illustrated version of the novel could open up the author to a younger generation.

Autêntica Editore’s edition (2016) of Flush by Virginia Woolf, translated from the English into Portuguese by Tomaz Tadeu, with some fifteen full page colour illustrations and other illustrations, has been published and is available to buy Here.

Text and illustrations © Katyuli Lloyd, 2015