Ever year, the autumn publishing calendar is awash with Christmas-themed books for children and amongst the many titles available, there are always a few very special gems. One of them this year is Richard Jones’ ‘Tis the Season, published by Nosy Crow as part of their National Trust collection. Beautifully produced with luxurious foil cover elements and ribbon tie, this beautiful gift book consists of a sequence of wintery and Christmassy scenes which fold out concertina style to reveal, once unfolded, a stunning long wintery scene on one side while the other reveals a set of individuals Christmas-themed vignettes. It also doubles up as a lift-the-flap advent calendar, with an eclectic selection of small poems (Coral Rumble, Thomas Hardy and Christina Rossetti to name of few) for each of the 24 days. While the book is a board book as sturdiness it needed for it to stand, this truly is a book for all ages and certainly robust enough to withstand several years of reading. I have always admired Richard Jones’ artwork, ever since The Snow Lion, and to me his style particularly suits the dreamlike majesty and innocence of an ideal Christmas scene. But I was also very interested in the unusual format of this book, and how this may affect the creative process, so I was delighted that he agreed to answer a few questions about ‘Tis The Season.

Hi Richard, thank you so much for agreeing to answer a few questions about ‘Tis The Season. Could you tell us a little bit about your process in creating the artwork for this book?

I began as I always do, sketching out thoughts and concepts for the book in my sketchbook. I’ve trained myself over the years not to be too precious about what goes on in sketchbooks and to treat them as place to explore the hazy edges of a subject as well as an opportunity to finalize details and solve practical problems. The next step was to  paint out the scenes loosely and scan them into Photoshop. Once everyone was happy with how it was shaping up, I got going on the final artwork using a mixture of watercolour, acrylics and Photoshop twiddling! 

I’m really interested in how the concertina format impacts the creative process. While each double page is a separate scene, the artwork remains continuous throughout to allow for it to work as a frieze. How do you plan and create this?

’Tis The Season is by far the most technically complicated project I’ve been involved with, but all the credit for the clever concept and design must go to Zoë and the wonderful design team at the book’s publisher, Nosy Crow. By the time I came onboard, the format had been agreed and to a large extent worked out. My particular challenge was to find a practical way of creating what was in effect two extremely long paintings! In the end, I painted each of the seven scenes separately and stitched them together digitally in Photoshop. 

There are also flaps in this book as it doubles up as an advent calendar. How does this work? Do you create the artwork first and decide where the flaps will go, or are the flaps pre-determined and you plan your artwork around them?

We had a rough idea from the beginning where we wanted the advent flaps to go, but they moved around a little as the artwork developed and the poems were chosen and added to the layout. Unlike a traditional advent calendar, we felt it important that the artwork beneath the flaps relate to the picture above so we effectively had two books running concurrently, one above the other. For example, when you open the front door of the house towards the end of the book, you inside the hallway. It was a challenge, for sure, but a very satisfying one, nevertheless!

It has all come together beautifully! I always look forward to a new picturebook from you; what can we expect next?

I’m just in the finishing stages of a project of my own and beginning another in January. I’m very excited that a picture book I’ve made with the incredible Tom Percival will be published in the Spring with Simon and Schuster. It’s the first of two we’re making together and I’m looking forward to sharing more about them soon.

What a great collaboration this is going to be, I can’t wait to hear and see more!

Tis The Season is published by Nosy Crow and is available now to buy from all good bookshops or can be purchased via our partner bookshop, Storytellers, Inc.:

If you like Richard Jones’ art and are looking for more Christmas- themed picturebooks, do check out his collaboration with Polly Faber, Through the North Pole Snow which was released last year and is published by Walker Books.

All artwork © Richard Jones

Review copy kindly provided by the publisher.