Creative Director at Vintage Books, Suzanne Dean has designed, created artwork for, and art directed some of the most iconic book jackets in recent years, including Bluets (Maggie Nelson) and The Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes), as well as books by Donna Tartt, Don DeLillo, and Ian McEwan.
Henry Martin: What is inspiration? How do you find it?
Suzanne Dean: My inspiration comes from the texts I work on, and so I always have a reason for what I create; a response to the text.
As I read a manuscript I make notes on passages that capture my imagination. My work is an emotive response to the text. I look to capture the essence of a novel. Having read the text, I make a mood board of images and words. This is pinned up on a wall, nearby where I work.
Next I experiment. Play is so important for image making. This is where the unusual can occur and boundaries can be broken.
Inspiration can be evasive and sometimes I need to push and pull visual elements around before a solution reveals itself. I can get absorbed in my subject matter; relentlessly pursuing the moment when I feel the image is just right.
Other times inspiration can seem to appear in a flash. On these occasions the idea seems to be an absolute solution.
Henry Martin: If you could meet one other artist who would it be (living or dead)?
Suzanne Dean: I would like to meet Frida Kahlo. To sit in her garden with her and ask about her passions, work, life and beliefs. I visited the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City, where Kahlo was born and grew up. It’s a stunning building whose cobalt walls gave it the nickname of the Blue House. I am drawn to Kahlo’s use of colour and her series of self-portraits. I would like to ask how she managed her pain while working. Frida Kahlo had a fascinating life. An unconventional and free-spirited artist, I would like to discuss her views on modern art today. How Mexico views her and her work. And I would of course like to ask her about her relationships with Trotsky and Rivera.
Title: Bluets. Date: January, 2017. Format/Materials: ink on paper. Dimensions: 480 mm x 204mm. Picture Credit: Suzanne Dean.