Illustrator Sara Singh’s strikingly fluid watercolor and ink drawings have made their mark on the fashion world, appearing everywhere from international editions of ELLE and The New York Times to publications for such adoring clientele as Jil Sander, Givenchy, and Neiman Marcus. Recently, however, Singh has lent her unique aesthetic to a decidedly different project: designing the covers for Splinter’s Classic Lines, a reprint series of classic novels written by such celebrated female authors as Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility), Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre), and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights). We caught up with the Stockholm-bred, New York-based artist to find out more about her work on the series, which hits stores this month.
ELLE: Most of your work has been primarily in the advertising or media spectrum. What drew you to designing these book covers?
Sara Singh: I liked the idea of doing book covers, because they’re three-dimensional objects as opposed to flat drawings. Also, I’m a fan of these books. I read several of them in high school, actually. And I love watching films with historical clothing, and costume dramas. So it was really interesting to be able to look at the various versions of the film adaptations of the books for inspiration, from Masterpiece Theater to PBS, and also the older black-and-white versions.
ELLE: So your background as a fashion illustrator seems to have been the ideal preparation.
SS: I think my style is transferable to any subject matter. I strive for a timeless style in my work. It was fun to use the same methods I use when I work on current fashion drawings—watercolors, pen and ink. When I started working with the books, the whole concept was to have the covers have a feeling of the clothing, and to capture the fabrics and details of the period. That was really important.
ELLE: Which cover is your favorite?
SS: Jane Eyre. It’s the simplest. It’s stark, and she looks so lonely, and the trees look a bit scary. It’s my favorite.
ELLE: How do you feel about the way in which e-readers are altering the importance of book covers?
SS: I think, visually, the book cover is still what attracts you. I think the graphics still come through, even if you’re reading on a tablet. It is nice to have a real book though. It’s what I miss—the paper, something you can feel. Texture and fabrics mean a lot to me, so books do, too.