Thursday, April 11, 2013


As a child, I was completely captivated by the John Sayles film The Secret of Roan Inish. It was somber, moody, atmospheric, mysterious, moving, charming, and oh-so-very IRISH. It was beautiful in both its mythic fable-like story, as well as its muted, lustrous cinematography. Essentially everything I loved in a story then and even more so now. As an adult I discovered the book upon which it is based, the Scotland-set The Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry. The story concerns a young girl, Fiona McConville, who returns from the city to live with her grandparents on the coast of Scotland. All of her family had been living on the nearby small rocky island of Ron Mor for generations until they all evacuated four years prior. On that day, Fiona's baby brother Jamie was tragically swept out to sea in his little cradle boat, never to be seen again. But Fiona believes her brother may still be on Ron Mor, and begins to suspect he's been protected by the seals that inhabit the island.

Originally published in 1950s, it has been out of print for a long time, apart from the straggling copies of the 1994 movie-tie in book, which is what I have. But this version of the book has always bothered me. It's the exact same text as the original Ron Mor, but just its title on the cover has been changed to Roan Inish. The original book also featured lovely black and white line illustrations by the author herself. For such a magical story, my lackluster printed copy simply won't do.

For several years (ever since I tracked down my own copy of the book via Ebay), I've wanted to revisit the story with my own images. Almost 20 years after seeing the film, I'm finally doing it! I've begun here with the cover and would like to continue on with creating black and white chapter illustrations as well. I plan to play direct homage to Rosalie Fry's original vignettes in addition to adding some of my own imaginings.

But for now, here is the cover in process form.

1. Quick color/compositional sketch.

2. Pencil drawing.

3. Refining color sketch to align with pencil drawing.

4. Black and white rendering.

5. Color version. 

6. Final version, adjusting placement of elements and position of figures.

7. Overlay of book jacket elements. 


  1. I've bookmarked this page, and will be coming back to it as you complete other images. I loved the original Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry as a kid in the 1960s. It was one of those books which was never quite forgotten, no matter how many years passed. I had forgotten the author, and even the title, but when the movie Roan Inish came out, I knew it was the same story, and promptly bought a copy of the movie tie-in book, which I still have. I enjoyed the movie, but to be honest, found the change in setting from Scotland to Ireland a little bit jarring. I'd love a hard cover copy of the book, or even a good quality paperback that included the original illustrations. I've suggested to Fidra (a UK publisher that specializes in reprinting hard to find children's books) that this is one they may want to consider, but it is much shorter than their usual books, so they may not be interested. There is another company that does this as well (Girls Gone Bye) that I may try to interest in it too.

  2. Your illustrations for this story are wonderful! Any updates on the project?

  3. Thank you! No updates to be had on the project, because this all I've done with it. I never got around to those chapter illustrations... :)

  4. I was curious if you knew where I could get an online version of the original? I would like to read it but I can't find a copy within my budget. Thank you.

    1. You can borrow it digitally through Open Library.

  5. It would be a beautiful book. Do you know who currently holds publishing rights?