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How Shan Jiang Illustrated Folio Society's The Man In The High Castle

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A couple of weeks ago, The Folio Society really blew our minds with the artwork for their edition of Philip K. Dick’s The Man In The High Castle. Recently, we had a chance to chat with the edition’s artist, Shan Jiang, and we got to check out some exclusive art that wasn’t used for the book.

io9: Your artwork for The Man In The High Castle was fantastic. What was your approach to putting together the artwork for this book?


Shan Jiang: Thanks. My approach was starting with the cover first, then the frontispiece. After setting down the ideas for these two illustrations, the following ones came out quite smoothly.

The cover was quite a task, at first I didn’t really have a clear direction in mind. After having a discussion with the Folio Society Art Director Sheri Gee, I started to build a picture bit-by-bit of the atmosphere I wanted to create and the best style for the book. I feel the cover is an ‘outline’ or ’syllabus’ rather than a specific scene. Although the art style was a slightly different — a bit more graphic than inside pages — the right atmosphere was there for me to carry through to the rest of the illustrations.


io9: What was your relationship with the book? Had you read it before?

Shan: I hadn’t read this book before. The only Philip K. Dick work I had read was ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ when I was in the high school. I remember that experience wasn’t as enjoyable as I had hoped. Perhaps because I was expecting something different before reading it. So I didn’t read any of his other work until I got this commission. I found the book really, really interesting and I really dug into it. But, I think if I read it when I was 15, I am not sure if I would have liked it.

io9: Tell me a little about your process.

Shan: I read the whole book twice during the project. The first time I read at a normal pace, following the storyline. Once I got the idea I started to work on the cover.


While I consider the cover as a syllabus, The Man in the High Castle has many storylines and characters and I needed to pick up the elements which reflect the overall atmosphere instead of single plot or character. I instantly felt that I should create a ‘high castle’ not only representing the title, but also visualising something that almost every reader would have in mind when reading the novel. Instead of finding a literal object from the story, I created something that I think has a symbolic meaning. Also I wanted it to be mysterious - that area in between real and surreal. Later I developed the ‘high castle’ image as a pattern for the slipcase inspired by traditional Japanese emblems.

The second thing I started to work on was the frontispiece. It was not used as the frontispiece in the book but later, at the editor’s suggestion, we moved it to appear as the first illustration. The style I used for the cover is more graphic and inspired by vintage comic books and illustrations from old-style detective stories. I wanted to develop the atmosphere by using a different style and I created a scene based on the description of the city where the all the stories happened in the first chapter.


Once I finished the frontispiece, I read the book again. This time is not really for the storyline but looking closely at the story of each of the characters. Initially I planed to do one illustration for each character (or their storyline). So I did 10 rough sketches for covering the characters although there were only to be 8 in the book. The two extra ones are for My Baynes (illustrating the scene when he got off the rocket) and Mr and Mrs Kasoura when they were welcoming Mr Childan into their flat. Later for reasons to do with the positioning of the illustrations in the book we couldn’t use these two.

For the process of drawing the illustrations I did really rough sketches first and once the idea was approved, I started to do the line art. I used pen, pencil, and also used wacom tablet for some of the parts of the illustrations. Then I scanned in the line art into computer and coloured it in digitally.


Image credit: The Folio Society