The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Signature Shakespeare Illustrated by Kevin Stanton


Freelance illustrator and paper artist Kevin Stanton recently contacted me about his book illustrations for the new Signature Shakespeare editions of Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth.

Art directed by Ashley Prine at Sterling Publishing, and with additional typography by the immensely talented Chin-Yee Lai, both books have laser-cut covers, as well as five laser-cut interior illustrations per book, and more than 30 other illustrations.

The results are beautiful and the project sounded like fascinating undertaking, so I thought I would ask Kevin a little more about it.

We corresponded by email.

How did the project come about?

Two years ago, at the very beginning of my foray into freelancing and just a month after graduating from Pratt, I received an unsolicited email from Pamela Horn, a Editorial Director at Sterling Signature. It turns out that a higher-up in the company had seen my work at Pratt’s Annual Pratt Show and passed my portfolio on to her!

After we met a few times, she mentioned that she’d been looking to do a project with a paper artist, and that when the right one came along she would let me know. Initially this had meant a series of Classics book covers, but that fell through. Nine months after our first interview, I got the call — Pam wanted to do a series of Shakespeare plays, starting with Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, each with a cover and fifteen plates! And that was a dream job right there! And after some discussion with my Art Director, Ashley Prine, it got even better, even more unreal: today it is a hardcover book with a laser-cut cover, five interior two-layer laser-cut illustrations, and almost forty printed spots, spreads, act openers and motifs. And my name on the cover to boot!

How did you approach such a big project? 

The process was interesting to figure out. After hand-cutting a great deal of the book, we realized that scans of the pieces didn’t look good and there was no quick-fix for turning them into vectors. Enter my friend and assistant, Victoriya Baskin. Since my sketches before I cut are like maps of everything (I don’t freehand anything), she was able to vector it all together so that we had a product that could be printed on the pages and sent to the laser-cutter with clean, expert lines! And the work can be edited, which was our primary concern with paper.

How you feel about the final results?

It’s been an absolute dream. As a young illustrator, and one that works in paper, I couldn’t have hoped for a better display of my work than these books. I am so happy with them, although seeing them on the shelves in a book store is the most surreal experience for me. It’s a privilege to work with my entire team, and an honor to have been a part of such a phenomenal production! Much Ado about Nothing and Hamlet are next in line to be published in November!

Thanks Kevin!

You can see more of Kevin’s work on these books on his blog.

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  1. Damn, I’ll never read em. but I sure would love to own them!

  2. Pingback: Kevin Stanton « NWSAD COLLECTIVE

  3. All respect goes to Pamela Horn and Ashley Prine for making such an incredible project a reality. This is great book-making and is wonderful to see.

  4. Thank you both! It’s amazing to me to have seen these books to fruition!

  5. Pingback: Signature Shakespeare « Or What You Will

  6. Mr. Stanton: Is there a way that I can talk with you directly. I would like to make a special purchase of all of your shakespeare books for my boss, who is a huge shakespeare fan and would greatly appreciate your beautiful pieces.

  7. Danielle, the Signature Shakespeare books illustrated by Kevin are available from Sterling Publishers. You can find a list of them here. Kevin’s website is You can find his email address on the ‘Info’ page. Thanks.

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