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Cover Artist Interview: Kelly Louise Judd

Kelly Louise Judd's subjects in gouache could be found in a night garden, pulled from a dream by the moon. Twilight colors blend and mirror. Butterflies, wolves, moths, and night-blooming Moonflower ghosts tangle with vines. They point to secrets: a murder of crows, the interior world of wolves. Scenes appear arranged in meandering twists and whorls, guided by an unseen hand.

Judd's twilight echoes the alchemy in two recent Diode books: Sally Rosen Kindred's Where the Wolf (2021), where "elegy and origin story...chronicle the darkness that makes and breaks and saves us" (Catherine Pierce), and Jane Satterfield's The Badass Brontës (2023), in which poems "investigate the Brontës’ vivid world of imagination and envision the sisters’ lives in our present moment, during the pandemic lockdown and the climate crisis" (Nicole Cooley).

Where the Wolf by Sally Rosen Kindred (2021) features Judd's The Good Wolf (Gouache on paper, 2020) & The Badass Brontës by Jane Satterfield (2023) features Judd's Sinking In (Gouache on paper, 2019)

Diode: You also recently completed A Year of Nature Poems with poet author Joseph Coelho. Your work features in other book covers as well. We'd love to hear more about your experience. Do you create images that you can see beforehand? Do you perhaps instead arrive surprised at the finished piece?

Kelly Louise Judd: I love that I fell into the art of book covers because I've so often found inspiration from reading. The calmness of slowing down with a book creates a space where images always flow more freely for me. When I create an idea for a book cover I will start by focusing on a few words or sentences from the text to guide the imagery. I usually make a fairly detailed sketch but when I move onto the painting process the lines and colors will subtlety shift in ways that do sometimes surprise me!

Morning Glory with Thistle, 2023

Gouache on paper

Nasturtium Moths, 2023

Gouache on paper

Your work has been described as "an echo of the Victorian era" (Hi-Fructose). Which writers or artists from that era do you keep close? To which details about this era do you often return?

KLJ: I'm very drawn to Romanticism and Transcendentalism. The two writers I always come back to are Emily Dickinson and Henry David Thoreau. The interconnectedness of nature and all things and particularly our response to nature while in solitude is the deepest inspiration for me.

Three Crows, 2021

Gouache on paper

Angels Trumpets (Gouache on paper, 2021)

Gouache on paper

Moon with Vines (Gouache on paper, 2023)

Gouache on paper

D: There is a color relationship between your pieces and many share a brief selection of colors that harmonize. For example, in your most recent pieces you've shared, the trumpet flowers and that sumptuous moon share their pink blush. How do you select your palette?

KLJ: My color palettes are always a reflection of what is happening in my garden throughout every season. I spend so much time puttering in the garden that any art I'm working on tends to become an emotional response to what is growing, blooming or fading outside. If it's the deepest of winter sometimes I will bring up that garden in my mind's eye.


Kelly Louise Judd is an illustrator who lives in the Midwest with a flock of chickens, clowder of cats, and two very smart dogs. She is inspired by flora, fauna and folklore, and has a deep appreciation of the Arts and Crafts movement. Her illustrations have been featured on novels, botanical and children's books, natural product labels and magazines. When she is not working on her art she can often be found outdoors tending her garden or simply staring at plants.


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