Water For Elephants | Skillshare Projects



Water For Elephants


Here's a screenshot of the cover with the type, I think the colors are working well together except the green on the top picture might be too strong. I tried this with a traditional serif typeface, but combined with the 1920s image and black and white at the bottom it made it look too tired so I used this minimally decorated header type, I'm still trying to figure out the right proportions for the title too, I know it's not there yet.


I think I've found the right combination of images, the top one a younger man working behind the scenes in the circus. It's hard work and dangerous dealing with wild animals, but it's also excited and vivid and represents the escape the circus provided for him. This image is juxtaposed with the lower half(?) of an elderly man, sitting, maybe thinking or dwelling on something like the past. He's safe in this image, he has a cane, and looks comfortable and relaxed, but also slightly bored, just like the sections taking place in the nursing home. I think having the two images juxtaposed also reflects the back and forth nature of the story changing settings every chapter. I think my next changes are going to be decreasing the contrast in the lower photo and I'm still figuring out color in the top photograph-I want the image to have color, but it needs to look a little natural. Finally, I still need to add the type, maybe a band going across the middle? or something more decorative/ relating to circus imagery..I'm not sure.



Here are some experiments in completely different directions from the hand colored photography:


1) treating the cover as a ticket to the circus, working with texture, color, and type to make it look authentic. The lower part of the ticket stub might say something like admit one with the publishers name on it. 

2.) creating an optical illusion using the elephant in some way? While doing research for optical illusions I found Lauren Panepinto who did a series of book covers using optical illusions. The one above is a tutorial she created on youtube explaining how it works. It's readable farther away but close up you can't make out the letters at all.

3.) another attempt at the illusion concept using bitmapped collage elements overlayed. I'm not really sure if it's working or not, but I think it's interesting to look at.

I also found some other example of designing with optical illusions, a lot of them involve line repetition/stripes whice is also associated with the circus:


                   (something like this could work using the circus photographs that I've already found)




So I started experiementing with hand coloring black and white images and these are some of the things that came out. I also did some research on this technique and realized that hand coloring black and white photography was really popular in the 1930s which is perfect for the book's setting


On this one I was trying to make a composition with two images that could represent two sides of circus life, but it's not really working here.



I like how the coloring came out on this one on the left the most, but the picture is a little strange-I'm not sure that it's saying what I want it to and the green on the one on the right is crazy, I know.


So I really liked this direction but after looking back through the existing book covers I'm concerned that this is the same idea that someone else has already created(the third one I posted on my first entry) so now I'm a little stuck, I don't know if I should push forward with this and just try to keep developing the idea or try something completely different because I don't want to just copy something that has already been done.


Imagery & moodboards: I went searching for circus imagery from the 1930s(some of these aren't strictly from that time period) and then organized them into groups, here are the best from each category:

people-I was really looking for "behind the scenes" in-the-moment photographs of people who were part of the circus, but it's really difficult to find any that aren't posed.

performers-I wanted images that capture the excitment and vibrancy of the performance that the circus is(relate this back to the main theme of illusion in the book).

trains-circus trains, unloading/loading animals onto trains

typography-anything related to 1930s circus that was typographic. I found tickets to be the most inspiring

circus scenes-this is really any image that's more of a landscape take on a circus scene. Lots of things are going on, it's overwhelming, it might convey that feeling that you get when you first arrive to the circus and there's too much to take in or it might be scenes of workers assembling the tents

elephants-(do I need to explain this one?)


After reviewing the book and starting my research here is what I have:

The setting is 1930s circus, the beginning of the great depression and during prohibiton(Camel is paralized by jake)

The book has two plot lines that both follow Jacob-one where he is an old man in a nursing home, the second is Jacob as a young man. The story is very much a coming of age story for the young Jacob. Some themes present throught the story are:

love-Jacob loves the animals in the circus and cares deeply for them, he's a vet so that makes sense. He also falls in love with Marlena and she him. Both loves show and untraditional kind of love-Marlena is much older than Jacob and is married.

sex-It's Jacob's coming of age tale so sex kind of has to come in somewhere. He's an inexperienced young man in one plot and the older Jacob misses his younger years with his wife, Marlena. Sex is viewed at all angles-young boy, a man in his prime, and an old man looking back, as well as the nontraditional circus show behind the scenes.

illusion(this is a big one)- The circus is about amazement and literally putting on a show. It's described as an escape(for paying audiences and especially for young Jacob), it's vivid, colorful, and exciting. The story also shows behind the scenes though where the circus is dark, dangerous, difficult, and impermanent. But there is still great admiration for being a part of it, but ultimately it's fairly superficial. This is also referenced in the title-McGinty says that he used to work in the circus bringing water for elephants-a job that Jacob states is ridiculous "do you know how much an elephant can drink?"

This could be contrasted with the nursing home-a safe environment, easy(everything is taken care of for you), boring, permanent, but still in a way very superficial-most of the doctors and nurses don't care about the patients.

Confinement- It's everywhere: Marlena's marriage and abusive relationship with August, Uncle Al force's Jacob's hand in the climax, all of the animals in the menagerie are in cages which kind of backfires in the end when they're set free and destroy everything. Rosie's confinement is what ultimately allows her to kill August, the stakes holding her kill him and she runs past. The circus is both a haven and a jail.

Suffering- Suffering to create a good show, training the animals, August's abuse

Important Symbols:

Rosie/Elephants/Animals-Rosie is very human, as August abuses her and tries to train her she continually turns on him wheras she returns kindness to Jacob who takes care of her. August and Uncle Al take advantage of others and there is a lot of violence caushed by humans in the book- humans acting as animals. Rosie is very powerful, but for most of the book needs to be protected for August. Like Marlena, she performs for others and is abused by August, like Jacob she is an outsider who sort of falls into the hands of the circus and is almost thrown out. Rosie also does what neither Jacob nor Marlena could do and kills August in the end with no remorse-proving that in the end she is just an animal.

From this I have some initial concepts for the cover:

1. A cover to show the duality of the circus. An image of the moving train with Jacob hanging on- the scene should be seen as both Jacob's first entrance into the circus(exciting, new) and of Jacob being kicked out of the train showing the circus as a more dark, dangerous, and impermanent place.

2. A cover showing the illusion of the circus through circus imagery. A black and white photograph of a circus scene from the 1930s colored to be a color photograph(sort of like how the Wizard of Oz was colored after being filmed in black and white). The image is in reality a black and white photograph, but is being colored in to become and exciting bright and vivid scene-the illusion of the circus.

3. Some sort of juxtaposition of two images, one of Rosie, and the other of Jacob or Marlena to show their similarities or the humans-animals idea. Perhaps a close up of a significant body part like an elephant's foot and Marlena's foot for example?


So I really loved reading this book(it's so much better than the movie, trust me), but there have also been a lot of individual projects to redesign the cover and a lot of editions of the book. Rather than have this deter me, I thought that it would be a good way to challenge myself to create a unique cover for the book without too much influence from what is already out there. Also- because there have already been so many cover designs out there, I'll be forced to do something new and original rather than relying on the existing imagery.

These are the covers that have been published:

Lots of circus imagery, and either photographic or near photographic representations of the two main characters

 This cover has a memoir look to it, which is relevent to the book, but I still don't really like it. I think it might be because of the type in the middle.

 This is the edition that I have. I like the type, and I like that the image references the circus without being too obvious about it.


I like this one for really superficial reasons>I'm really attracted to the colors and textures in the photograph. The photograph also references 1930s circus life and could be Marlena and Rosie.

This edition looks like an attempt to attract a more "teen romance adventure" type audience. It's nothing special, it looks like a million other book covers and doesn't really say too much about the story itself.

and these are re-cover projects I've found:

 I just really like the circus photograph.

 This one utilized negative space in a clever way to show the elephant as the central part of the book that brings Jacob and Marlena together, but doesn't really say anything else about the story.

I really like the idea of this one. I can definately see the symbolism here- Jacob running away with the traveling circus, two train lines intersecting is a symbol for the circus bringing Marlena and Jacob to each other and the photograph also represents the time period. I also appreciate that the designer didn't use a "circus" display typeface anywhere-which is refreshing.

This is a straightforward portrait of the protagonist doing just what the title suggests which looks nice but doesn't make sense with the story. The title is related to the illusion of the circus-it's exciting and vivid and lively, but behind the scenes it's a dark and dangerous place. Mcginty states that he used to work in the circus at the nursing home and says he brought water to the elephants, which is what proves that he's just playing into the illusion of being part of the circus life as there's no such job because elephants consume so much water. 

So this project is going to be a challenge, but I'm excited about it. My next step is to reread the book and do some research.


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