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NEW WORK by Rhys' Pieces

A look inside some of the new projects I've been working on in recent months.


Mapmaking is my 'bread and butter' but more recently I've been working a lot more on straight illustration projects. A wide variety of subjects using different techniques keeps you on your toes for sure. Here are some highlights from the last few months

Interior illustrations for 'Birdgirl' by Mya-Rose Craig  (Celadon Books)

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This was a book that was first published in the UK and tells of Mya-Rose's travels around the world with her ailing mother in search of rare birds. It also tells first hand of her experiences at seeing the reckless destruction of the natural world. She has become one of the leading young environmental activists regularly speaking to gatherings of young people around the world.

In this project we were going for a super tight, hand drawn look. I started these 15 drawings of various birds on paper before taking them into Photoshop where I polished them up mostly using the 'fake pencil' and burnishing tools.

Came out really well we thought.

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Interior illustrations for 'Girls Like Girls' by Hayley Kiyoko (Wednesday Books)

'Hayley Kiyoko...oh, she's super cool !!!'.

That was the response from my daughter, Rhea, when I asked her if she'd heard of the author. I had to admit that I wasn't cool enough to be totally aware of this trailblazing pop star, actor and director, probably best known for her staring role in the film 'Lemonade Mouth'.

This is her debut novel and tells of the need to 'embrace your truth and to realize we are all worthy of being loved back.'

I got a signed copy of the book and a lovely thank you note. 

Nice one !:)

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This project was very different from the bird book. A whole basket full of simple, crisp, flat 'clip art' style of drawings that are spread throughout the book...soon to be seen on t-shirts as well I gather ! :)


Interior Illustrations for 'Good Bad Girl' by Alice Feeney (Flatiron Books)

My third project with Alice who's becoming quite the rising star in the thriller world. This latest offering from the 'Queen of the Twist' tells of two crimes and the dark path that have them linked over a span of twenty years.

It seems everything Alice touches gets snatched up for film and TV adaptation..this one also headed for the screen after the success of 'Rock Paper Scissors'.

These eight drawings were super fun to do. Again, starting with pencil on paper, I finished them off with the 'fake pencil' in Photoshop but didn't tighten them up too much... just a happy balance I think.

I'm delighted to have just been asked to work on her next novel again...this time I get to make a fully illustrated map of a mysterious Scottish island.

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Original map for Norman Mailer's 'The Naked and the Dead'

      (Expanded collector's edition from Library of America)

How to turn an imaginary drawing from a classic novel into a 'real world' map was a fascinating challenge. The  Library of America were publishing a new edition of Norman Mailer's classic 1948 novel 'The Naked and the Dead' and asked me to take on the project. The book, often considered one of the standout novels of the last century, depicts the experiences of a platoon in the South Pacific during the Second World War.

The original has an illustration of the fictional island of Anopopei which LOA wanted to try and recreate as a real topographical style map. 

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Original Drawing

I was sent a number of military maps from the Second World War as references. Those maps had that wonderful faded, off-white tone and a lot of numbers, dashes and codes all over it. We started off adding quite a lot of those elements, but ended up simplifying everything to make it a little crisper and less cluttered. We were left with the feel of one of those old maps. Having this as a colored map was also useful as we could use that to show the different elevations on this fictional map, also adding a number of rivers and other natural features to add realism while still fitting in with the narrative.

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Finished Map


Illustrated maps and interior art work for Dylan Farrow's novels 'Hush' and 'Veil'(Wednesday Books)

Working on Dylan Farrow's novels 'Hush' and 'Veil' was the prefect combination of map making, illustration and interior designs...all in one project. Dylan's first novel had just a double page map with the right hand page covered with a black, twisting spread of lines and ink blots. For the second we exposed what was underneath this darkness... a whole other world of WW2-esque airships and hidden tunnels.

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I used a very simple, stylized technique for the trees and mountains, and the 'fake pencil' technique for the detail of the underground city.

The story tells of how reading and writing have been outlawed, the claim being that language can lead to disease and death. 

So, for the dark tangled web which was on the endpapers and chapter heads, we needed to suggest that the deadly ink was coursing through veins and arteries spreading killer viruses!!



Four original maps for 'Making the Carry' by Timothy Cochrane (Univ. of Minnesota Press)

Inlets, rivers, lakes and more lakes!

I was unaware of the extent of the lake district on the border between Minnesota and Ontario, but I'm  well versed on it now for sure after working on Tim Cochrane's book 'Making the Carry'.

The book tells of the lives of John Linklater and his wife Tchi-Ki-Wis and how they explored and studied the area from the 1870's through to the 1930's. .

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I've worked on a number of books with the folks at University of Minnesota Press, but this was by far the most intense. I gather there are over 2000 lakes in this area and it felt like I drew at least half of them for these four maps. A very zen process... but in many ways a map makers dream. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Interior illustrations for 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' by Alice Feeney (Flatiron Books)

A really fun illustration project to create a dozen or so tight, interior drawings of objects meaningful to the storyline in Alice's book. We were looking for a clean style, while still having a little life in the drawing. I use this technique on many projects. I call it my 'fake pencil' and it involves the fantastic Photoshop burn tool. Time consuming, but super effective I think/hope.

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Alice is the author of a number of NYT best selling novels. Rock Paper Scissors is her latest twisting mystery set in wintry Scotland. Netflix have bought this one up to be made into a mystery series, so keep an eye out for that.

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Seven maps for 'The Good or Evil Side' by Dan Gooder Richard (Inkspiration Media)

Set during the American-Mexican War of 1846, Dan's novel follows the travels and adventures of journalist Samantha Swift and secret agent Jack Dancer. They find themselves in Matamoros on the American-Mexican border, caught between two battling armies. Twist and turns, hidden treasure and bloody battles fill the pages of this exciting novel. 

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I'm usually kept at arms length from authors (ha!), but Dan and I worked closely on the project over numerous zoom calls. We kept a good eye on historical and geographical accuracy as well as hiding a puzzle or two in the maps. I'm delighted to be working again with Dan on the second Swift and Dancer Adventure based in exotic Hawaii this time... due for release later in 2022.

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Two maps for 'Afghan Napoleon' by Sandy Gall (Haus Publishing of London)


A fascinating project about the life of Ahmed Shah Massoud. His face was instantly recognizable from watching numerous news reports about Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation in the 80's. The book was written by the legendary journalist and news reader Sandy Gall; another famous face from the TV news of my childhood. I always knew bits and pieces about Afghanistan, but working on these maps, using a simple and clean style, was a fantastic opportunity to really study the land... what a wild and dramatic place!

MARCH 2021

Endpaper art work for 'No Time Like The Future' by Michael J.Fox (Flatiron Books)


A cool project to create twelve stand alone illustrations based on special experiences in Michael's life.
This is Michael's fourth book about his incredible life and career.
The central image for this book was a battered old sea turtle he'd come across while snorkeling in the Virgin Islands. He felt the strength and resilience of the turtle reflected in the struggles he'd had with Parkinson's Disease and wanted that image captured throughout in his new book as a chapter head. I usually get scribbles on paper as references for the images I make, but this was a first...a tattoo of a sea turtle on Marty McFly's arm no less!

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Working closely with the wonderful Michelle McMillian at Macmillan Publishing, we tried to get a clean, uncomplicated feel to the drawings so they would reproduce sharply on the endpapers... something like a classic book from the 50's and 60's that had those 'repeat' endpapers.
The book was pretty high profile. My highlight was seeing Michael talking about the book with Graham Norton
on his show. We were shouting at the screen..." Open the bloody book, Graham, and show the illustrations!" ...alas he didn't!



Map for 'Where Dreams Descend' by Janella Angeles (Wednesday Books)

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A two page map spread for 'Where Dreams Descend' by Janella Angeles that was a combination of a classic fantasy map and featured illustrations. Working with art director Anne Gorovoy, we also created icons featured as chapter heads through the book.


" In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes."


Part two of the series, 'When Night Breaks' comes out in the summer.

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