- Author Note: This essay is meant to discuss Howell's Redwall cover work as an aggregate. It is not going to ascertain each nuance of 20+ different covers.
For the past twenty years, Troy Howell has dutifully illustrated covers (and special edition drawings) for the many novels of the Redwall saga. However, over the course of this time span his style of illustration has evolved and changed dramatically.
The first three books feature covers depicting characters from the stories in a very artistic manner; it seems as if Howell spent a lot of time on these works, and they contribute to the sense that the novels are supposed to take place in a medieval-esque time period. This is indicated by the size of the characters as compared to their environments.
This style of drawing is continued effectively for the first 10 years of Redwall. For no real reason in particular, Howell changes his style with Outcast of Redwall:
This new methodology is largely characterized by three traits (Pearls of Lutra being a slight exception):
- Brian Jacques' name at the top of the cover
- The novel title at the bottom
- The central character(protagonist, antagonist, or some combination) predominantly featured in the center
While the positioning of the title and Jacques' name is a publisher decision, it is clear this does factor into the design of the artwork. Because the title and author name are significantly larger, Howell has less room to work with, and thus has less of a contribution to make.
It seems that Howell's most noticeable changes occurred around the time Marlfox was released:
This cover, along with the following next few covers, appear to be incredibly simple as compared to their predecessors:
Additionally, these later covers seem more cartoonish.
There is clearly a vast difference.
Personally, I prefer the older methodology Howell used. Is it because of personal decisions or the publisher that Howell's illustration changed? It will be interesting to see how Howell's style continues in later years.
Since the original writing of this essay, the 20th Anniversary Redwall cover by Howell has been released.
Above is a side-by-side comparison of all 3 of Howell's Redwall covers.
There are many interesting things to note here. In the Anniversary covers, Matthias is holding the sword in his right paw, and the shield in his left, while in the original cover it is the opposite.
Additionally, to me, Matthias seems less detailed in the latest cover than in any of the previous ones, yet in the 10th Anniversary cover, it would seem as he is the most detailed. This suggests a regression.