Illustrator Spotlight: Jim Kay

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A recently published YA book that deserves an award for both the story and the illustrations is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. This is all-round storytelling at it’s very best. Once read, it’s almost impossible to imagine experiencing this book without the illustrations.

I’ve always been drawn to darker, edgier illustration and I’ve always particularly loved the texture and markings that come from traditional printmaking. The composition, energy and use of space in these drawings is stunning, but I personally find it is the use of shadows and lighting that really makes these.

We are never shown the monster’s face. Consistently hidden in shadow, it only makes this creature more threatening and all the more terrifying. Kay gives us an evocative image to kick-start our own imaginations, leaving the details to us the reader.

I could probably go on about these all day long, but I think it’s best to just experience them for yourself and draw your own conclusions on whether you like them or not. With or without the illustrations, this is a breathtaking book, but Kay’s drawings add another level of meaning. They tell a story of their own; transforming this beautifully put together book into something very special.

And my personal favourite:

More information on the creative process of Jim Kay’s work can be found here, including discarded ideas, early drawings and links to his other work, so make sure you check it out!

To see Jim Kay’s work come alive in a different format, check out this wonderful German trailer of A Monster Calls, by animator Eric Guémise:


3 thoughts on “Illustrator Spotlight: Jim Kay

  1. This post is fantastic, Amy!
    I bought this recently (after standing, salivating in Waterstones) and I couldn’t resist flicking through looking at the pictures.

    There are some people who are really put off by illustrations in books because they say it makes the story juvenile. When I look at these kind of pictures, I wonder what leg they are actually standing on.

    I’m so excited to read this… I’ve heard it’s breathtaking 🙂

    • It is breathtaking. I can’t describe it. Its the only reason why I haven’t reviewed it yet! People who think art is juvenile aren’t worth listening to. Im glad you liked the post 🙂 Its going to become a regular feature on the blog 🙂

  2. You know I’ve actually never seen this cover before. I love the texture of these illustrations, you can almost reach out and fell the grittiness. I went over to Jim Kay’s website and looked through the rest of his work. Amazing, amazing stuff!

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