Did you see Monday’s post about the new James Bond covers? (No worries if you didn’t; I know most of you had the day off.) As I was writing that item, I dashed off a few questions to the artist, Michael Gillette, who was kind enough to tell me how he came to create “Bond girl” portraits for deluxe hardcover editions of Ian Fleming‘s original novels.
“I was approached by Jon Grey, a designer whom i knew socially from my time in London,” Gillette recalls. “The concept was devised by Penguin and Jon; they initially asked me to paint a girl for Casino Royale and see if i was keen to try the type too. I realized that this was a great opportunity to produce ‘the total look’ as it were. I decided that within the limitations, that they should all be different colours to inject some instant variety.”
He pitched three different covers to the Fleming estate before gaining approval, and after that, he says, he painted the series over a three-month period (while working on other projects as well). “It was a very hectic period,” he says, “and it seemed that I was always in catch up mode, finishing one and starting the next immediately. Ideally i’d have taken 4-5 days on each: a day to plan, a day painting the girl, one for the type and then another to hone it all.” And as he neared the end, he felt that the look had developed so much from his initial concept that he wound up repainting Casino Royale to bring it closer visually to the others.
Gillette says he wasn’t actually a big fan of the books growing up, although his father did own a set of the paperbacks published in the UK by Pan. “I think I probably enjoyed them more as artifacts,” he admits, but now, if pressed for a favorite, he might go with From Russia With Love. As I noted Monday, these covers aren’t scheduled to be used on any American editions of the Bond novels, but New Yorkers and Angelenos will have a chance to see some of them when the “Bond Bound” art exhibition comes to the States later this year.