At first glance, we wouldn't blame you for thinking Anna Hoyle’s painted books to be artistic renditions of beloved classics. But, upon closer inspection you’ll find sharp-witted and absurd titles with equally wacky imagery to match. Showing vomiting dogs, killer bunting and self-deprecating IKEA pencils, you may not find Anna’s book on your average bookshelf, but we really wish you did.
Explaining that she’s always loved “playing with words” and has spent years collecting books, graphic ephemera and packaging, Anna decided that fake book covers were the best way to combine her two passions. With humour being “a natural way of being” for Anna, it was also no question that the covers would have funniness at their core. But, importantly, Anna also sees the humour throughout as being more layered than simply a means to amuse. "Obviously humour is fun”, the artist says, “but it is also the pathway to subversion, and a way to handle the tragic or the banal.” In line with this thinking, Anna explains how many of the covers are semi auto-biographical and deal with her own life experiences. One of her favourite covers, Ugly Hair Since Grade Two, Anna sees as a sort of self-portrait, merging herself and her childhood schnauzer dog, Gus. “It focuses on my ugly hair that I had as a child and the hideous embarrassment of growing it out from 80s layers”. She quips: “I can elaborate, but it's too lengthy."
Growing up, Anna tells us that she was drawing and making things non-stop, which eventually translated into a love of painting. Other areas that have also inspired the artist since childhood are advertising, in all its various platforms and media, as well as 50s and 60s graphic lettering. Stylistically, Anna has always loved laying colour down with “gouache” – “velvety, fast and highly pigmented, it sings and vibrates!” Throughout the book series, she highlights her predilection for “minimal, abstracted image making and a more schlocky illustrative style”. These influences, aesthetic and stylistic approaches brilliantly culminate in Anna’s cover Tuna Pasta, which deals with “the tragedy of depression and apathetic cooking”. Featuring pasta shapes, lovely muted colours and pleasing patterns, the piece drips with vintage charm. But, once more, the slightly cheesy, cheery imagery is in direct contention to the melancholy tone of the title.
If you’re wondering what Anna’s next chapter looks like, she’s currently working on a Phd that explores a lot of the things she depicts throughout her book cover series. Looking to the future, the project is heading toward animations of images and text, as well as delving further into some of the questionable linguistic themes of self-help and wellness that also emerges in the book painting series. It's safe to say, it looks like Anna is pretty much fully booked.
Anna Hoyle: Contemporary this, Contemporary That (Copyright © Anna Hoyle, 2015-2021)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.