Scottish artist Thomas MacGregor scoops Book Cover Design of the Year 2023

Scottish painter Thomas MacGregor has scooped this year’s Book Cover Design of the Year award with his work for author and comedian Robert Wringham’s comic novel Rub-A-Dub-Dub.

Awarded at Scotland’s National Book Awards, the Book Cover Design of the Year accolade was selected by five judges assembled by the Saltire Society. They included Brian Cairns of Glasgow School of Art, Zoe Patterson of Edinburgh College of Art, and poet Ryan Van Winkle, who singled out Rub-A-Dub-Dub as the worthy winner.

Published by P&H Books, Rub-A-Dub-Dub tells the story of an overworked and anxiety-struck middle-aged man who discovers the pleasures and self-care principles of bathing. And fittingly, Thomas MacGregor’s winning cover depicts the character indulging in a scrub, complete with modesty-maintaining bubbles.

Speaking of the win, publisher Rob Westwood said: “We’re a fledgling publisher, and this is our very first novel. To get a nibble of recognition so early in the game is encouraging. I want to thank Samara Leibner and Thomas MacGregor for their work and the Saltire Society for recognising it.”

If you’ve ever been to The Stand Comedy Clubs in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle, you might be familiar with the art style on the Rub-A-Dub-Dub cover. That’s because Thomas MacGregor is the artist behind the logo. He said: “I’m astounded by this nomination; I had meant to make this painting for a while, and, thanks to Robert, the perfect opportunity arose!”

The win is particularly fitting for author and comedian Robert Wringham, who has long admired the artist’s work. “I used to marvel at his portraits on display in the Edinburgh club when I was 15 years old; at 40, I’m chuffed to have his work on my first novel,” he reveals. “It gives me one of those ‘full circle’ feelings. And this prize is the cherry on the cake.”

No book cover would be complete without an accompanying design, though, so the work of designer Samara Leibner should not be overlooked. “The publisher wanted a painting for our cover instead of digital artwork, and Mac’s art was so much fun to work with,” she explains.

“It was important to me to show off the texture and richness of the paint, unique to physical media. We went with no text on the back cover to show off the whole painting. The blurb is on the first inside page instead.”

Sarah Mason, executive director of The Saltire Society, said: “The 2023 shortlists for Scotland’s National Book Awards show the outstanding talent, scale, diversity and excellence that we are so lucky to have in Scotland today. These awards have a proud history of celebrating the extraordinary richness in the work of our authors, publishers and designers.”

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