This Folio Life: The pastels and poisons within Agatha Christie
Sally Dunne discusses how her illustrations are the result of an intense, messy process – but with a real attention to the details still evident in Agatha Christie’s Crooked House.
Illustrator Sally Dunne loves colour, but she chooses to work in pastel precisely because it offers a limited palette. ‘It stops me going over the top! Soft pastels have a romantic, painterly quality, which I love. I use heavyweight paper with paper stumps to direct and smudge the pastel, rubbing out, slowly building up the layers. The process is very tactile. Messy as well – I am constantly cleaning my hands!’
Sally’s studio is in her family house in County Laois, Leinster, where for the last few months she has been working on the artwork for Folio’s new edition of Agatha Christie’s Crooked House. ‘Christie is wonderful to work with because she gives you just enough details about the characters without making you feel constrained in your imagining. When I first read the books, I instantly had a clear colour palette in my mind – quite dark. The story has a slow build up but then a lot happens in a short space of time; as I went along some scenes stood out to me, which, luckily, are nicely spaced out.’
Each illustration takes her three to four days of intense work; there are seven in the Folio edition, plus the cover. ‘I don’t think it is giving to much away to say the method or murder is poison. I was out for a walk thinking about the cover when I saw some vibrant foxgloves – digitalis. And straight away I could see the cover illustration.’
The small details in Sally’s illustrations have been front of mind as well. All illustrations are checked exhaustively for period detail. Following her research on other Folio crime fiction titles, Sheri Gee, Folio’s Art Director, took a close look at the numberplate for the detective’s car.
Using some extremely helpful information found online, Sheri checked exactly what type of car numberplate format would have been in use during the period time setting of Crooked House – and even what letters and numbers should likely be included for the model of car. Sally then incorporated this information into her final artwork.