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Story of a Cover: Diego Patiño

JA February 09

March’s electric cover and section art is brought to you by the brilliant mind of Diego Patiño, a Melbourne-based illustrator represented by the Jacky WInter Group. In the third of our ‘story of a cover’ series, Spike sat down with him over the digital divide to find out about post-apocalyptic love-horror stories, photograms and how it all came about.

Can you tell us about the design-process for the March cover? How did you move from early ideas to finished product?

When I first talked with Sophie Cunningham and Stuart Geddes about this project, I told them I wanted to create a unity between the cover and the six illustrations that would serve as dividers for each section. So instead of simply thinking of each illustration individually, I thought of a story arc that would hold them all together with certain narrative coherence.

The cover was of course the starting point, so I imagined this world, these characters and the different conflicts, intrigues and dynamics between them. I thought of a family drama set in some sort of post-apocalyptic alternative reality I once dreamt about, and then I took some notes, wrote a brief story and drew some vague sketches. Once I knew where was I heading, the rest was slightly easier. It was a matter of choosing a soundtrack, doing some mental editing and grabbing from the depths of my head the images that I thought were worth illustrating in terms of what this particular job demanded.

For me, at the end, illustration is about storytelling. I like the idea of suggesting movement, of insinuating a past and a future and continuity in a time and space that are perfectly relative and doesn’t really belong to us. Almost like a movie photogram.

IMG_9290 Sketch001

Describe your tools. What did you use for these illustrations?

Litres of black coffee, all four Portishead albums (each illustration was named after a band’s song), a few sleepless nights, a couple of bottles of Jack Daniel’s and whatever I had left of sanity. My inner masochist also played a huge role with these ones; it’s a very important tool in my cabinet. But that’s the way it goes and it’s fine: you have hurt yourself a little and leave some skin in the pavement when something’s worthy.

I also had ‘Ulysse 31’ playing mute on a TV screen in the back.


What’s your own design background – how did you get started?

Oh, it’s really poor. It’s embarrassing to admit ‘cos I don’t have a formal education in design or illustration so I’ve seen myself trapped in a couple of technical difficult situations a couple of times. Fortunately, I’m aware of my own limits so I don’t mind asking if I have to. Curiosity is a high octane vehicle and art directors and editors appreciate sincerity; they are usually glad to clear any doubt you may have.

The funny part is both my amazing parents were involved with architecture and graphic design, so as a kid growing up around pens, paper, pencils and all sorts of graphically interesting shit, I should have picked something related with visual arts. But I didn’t – don’t ask me why – and instead I got a degree in Journalism and Mass Media. Two years after graduating, I got fired from my job in publishing (I hate bullies and my boss was one), when someone offered me the opportunity to illustrate a series of articles about movies for a magazine. This was five or six years ago and I’ve been illustrating and doing occasional editorial design as a freelancer since then. It’s been a wonderful learning experience.


Finally, what’s the last cover or artwork you loved and why?

I’m obsessed with book cover design so it’s hard for me not to judge a book by its cover, especially if you take into account the huge amount of work behind great editorial design. I’ve interviewed big shots like John Gall, Rex Bonomelli, Chip Kidd and Rodrigo Corral and what you come to realise after talking to them is how amazing the stories behind each cover they’ve done are. They put a lot of effort and love in it and that is, of course, what makes these guys who they are. Pick any of their designs and you’ll be blown away by the attention to detail, subtleties and their determination to create visual narratives that connects the reader not only with the book itself but also with an entire universe beyond the concrete object. I just wish people (and marketing bozos) didn’t take these things for granted so easily, especially now, with the digital revolution happening and the need to let creative people do what they do best.

So, anyway, in order to stop avoiding the question, I’ll have to say that anything done by those guys is always very impressive and a great lesson.


Cover of Meanjin Vol 70.1



by Chris Flynn
09 Feb 11 at 10:15

Ulysse-ee-eess, no-one else can do the things you do… I LOVE this show (and have it on DVD), though the Spanish version of the intro song is actually better:

Is Patino the new Charles Burns? This raises the bar. Genius.

by Eirian
09 Feb 11 at 11:13

Pure awesomeness x 1000 <3

by phill
09 Feb 11 at 12:42

Was blown away by the pure awesome that was this issue’s design. Really great interview; I love how you can see the influences shining through.

by Julia Nagy
10 Feb 11 at 5:11

I met him a couple of times …. I can certainly vouch to his awesomeness! Keep up the great work Diego. Felicitaciones

by Ben O'Mara
03 Mar 11 at 10:21

Brilliant cover. Of course, I’m a contributor to this issue, but post-apocalyptic love horror has always been my kind of thing. Love the colours, sense of movement, the thick lines. Gold. Gunna check out more of Diego’s work!

by Noah Kay
28 May 14 at 9:07

Another Charles Burns uh borrower. I admit Patino is really good, it just bugs me that Burns' signature ORIGINAL style has been chomped so hard by so many artists. I guess i’m a square and i need to get with the times. Thank you, Charles Burns, for the food you put on so many tables!



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