Planted by Providence cover artwork (2023)

Planted by the Providence of God, to give it its full title, was my second cover-art commission from Broken Wharfe Publishing, and the brief could hardly have been more different from our first project Under God, Over the People.  This time, the book was a memoir by one Keith Underhill, who had spent the bulk of his career planting churches and training pastors in Kenya, and the publishers wanted its cover design to be 'vibrant but mature' (or words to that effect).

Kenya has a cool flag, so I did some reading on the specific symbolism and was pleased to find several aspects that played into the book's themes - the black stripe at the top represents the people (and the church isn't supposed to be about buildings, it's about people), while the green stripe at the bottom represents Kenya's landscape and natural resources (perfect for a book about planting things).  I had a fit of inspiration and fired up Inkscape.

Helpfully, the Kenyan government have published the exact technical specifications of their flag, including RGB codes for the colours plus a vector-graphic file which I was able to dismantle to extract the Maasai shield element (technically known as a 'charge').  I drew the tree's roots and branches freehand, but added the leaves (which you might notice are based on the shape of the shield) in a stylised pattern using maths.  One of the more obscure details which found its way into the drawing was the intermittently-notched edge around the circular 'coin' element; this pattern was chosen to echo the Kenyan 20-shilling coin.

The publisher, the author and I were all happy with the design, so we went to press.  We thought it was all done and dusted.  But a few weeks later, the story spawned a strange and unexpected coda: the book was shown to another contact in Kenya, who was well up on the country's obscure legal technicalities, who came back to us and said 'It looks great and all, but... we're not allowed to have books with the flag on the cover.'  It had never occurred to me to check if there was such a law, because why would there be?  Why would you have a law like that?  Beats me.  Anyway, it is what it is... which means we've got to print a separate, less-Kenyan-looking edition specifically to be distributed in Kenya itself.  It really is a weird old world sometimes.

Collaborators & Contributors