March 2010


10+ books this month, and since that obviously makes too short a post, I have added features – where the book was acquired and what I thought of the cover. If I think of any more categories (or there are any suggestions which amuse me sufficiently) I may eventually be able to reduce these monthly reviews to a formulaic checklist which would at least make it more likely for me to get them out early in the month.  Next months’ review post will be shorter, with the unfortunate consequence that you won’t get to hear about Regency gentleman fighting with anacondas in Ceylon (for real! published before Pride and Prejudice! How have I gone this long without Gothic horror!) until after April.

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So… earlier this year Tehani asked if I would be willing to do some illustrations for the Worlds Next Door anthology (science fiction and fantasy for 9-13 year olds), and I was – very much so!

The illustrations were to be header pictures to sit above the titles of the stories, which is my favourite sort of illustration. Also, there are a few Clarion South graduates among the authors, many of whom I’d heard read their work aloud. I’d go along and wish (a) I was at Clarion and (b) I could illustrate some of their stories, so this was pretty cool.

In the end I did 7 illustrations. I can’t post those now, but I can show you some discarded thumbnail sketches for fun and mockery.

Well, no, actually you can’t mock this one. We went with a more immediate picture (and fortunately I just happened to have a surfboard in the house), but this is still my favourite thumbnail:

Surfboard thumbnail sketch - discard

This was a little darker than necessary, I suspect (in conception, if not execution – it does look rather benevolent here). The final involved more armchair gymnastics (literally).

Vampiric thumbnail sketch - discard

A little too Farmer Giles of Ham. The final image is a close-up of 2 main characters. Note how I label obvious objects. The ticks are not of approval – they are birds.

Shovel thumbnail sketch - discard

This was… well it started with a gecko and ended as a sock puppet in drag:

Discarded rough

This is for the same story as above – I drew it after the final to see whether a different style would suit. The final is a bit chillier, but I like the cozy conversation here.

Discarded treatment

Illustration Friday: Expired

“My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends-
It gives a lovely light!”

– Edna St. Vincent Millay

Life continues lively! I hope to have more illustrations and project reports up soon – I’m making a flying visit to Canberra this weekend and will be drawing thumbnail sketches on the plane.

Last month’s book reviews should be up soon, and I’ve discovered 1930s detective novels aren’t conducive to dealing maturely with deadlines. I’d already ruled out any books on WWII or aviation for the rest of the month, so now I have to strike out Christie, Heyer and Sayers as well. Which pretty much leaves me with Gothic short stories… as in, starting with Horace Walpole and working forward from there.

I have no calendar at home (the Bureau of Meteorology calendar is at the office, being deservedly admired). Tonight I finally fell victim to the perfect storm of calendarlessness, frustration, having-better-things-to-do and it being past my bedtime. I seized upon an A3 sketchpad, a whiteboard marker and freehanded sketches of some of my favourite things:

Calendar: 2010 March-June

The beauty of drawing your own calendar a quarter of the way through the year is that it substantially reduces the scope of the exercise. The first two pages are now stuck to cupboard doors in the kitchen. They may attract colour if I ever wander through there with a coloured pencil, which is not entirely unlikely.

Illustration Friday: Subterranean

I’m about to fall back into the throes of a very large pen & ink project, so here I’m just messing around with flats & textures in Photoshop – and some classic poetry. The font is Hobo.

This picture has a very tenuous connection to 2DGoggles, which I am making only to have an excuse to link to it because it is a wonderful web comic/musing/project/collection of notes/hilarious extracts from actual historical documents. Also, it gives me a crushing inferiority complex, but I can’t stop reading.

The relevant post is The Person from Porlock, and the supporting material includes a reference to Charles Babbage’s “highly-targeted poetry-destroying method”, with evidence from primary sources (the target, in that case, being Tennyson).

Illustration Friday: Brave

“Fortune favours the brave”.

Technical pen with digital colour. Trying out colouring techniques while listening to the Oscars and suffering from spending almost two hours gardening yesterday.

When I told my father what this week’s Illustration Friday topic was, he said, “I was brave importing your mother and sister”. He also says, more often, that it was the best thing he ever did. So I thought of doing a picture of that, but the actual import involves spanish cowboy boots, a cotton scarf and a ratty Shirley Temple wig and on short notice I could only lay my hands on the wig.

Earlier today I also reposted the Snapshot interview with a little preview of a recent project.

Kathryn Linge very kindly permitted me to repost her interview of me (with bonus peek at the recent large project).

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Often, when I have seen a movie, my younger sister asks me what it was like. “Well,” I say, “I wanted to like it, but-”

“No!” she says, “Don’t say that you wanted to like it, or that it had interesting themes, or pro-imperialist undertones! Just say was it a good movie or a bad movie? Good or bad? Yes or no?”

So in that spirit, I am going to start reviewing movies again and keep the reviews very short – when all else fails, I will try to remember to use The Bucket List as a bench mark.

NB. Bad does not necessarily mean it was badly made – it’s just nine words shorter than “didn’t do anything for me but you might like it” and therefore more likely to be accepted by my sister.

Bright Star: Good. Romantic with a capital R, but then no-one does Romantic like the Poets. Great scene of individual reactions to new books (right: smell the pages). Cheryl was staying with me and we came home and read poetry after (no Romantics).

Bran Nue Dae: Good. Flimsy, but with the flimsiness with which musicals generally translate, but with bonus Ernie Dingo being awesome (worth price of entry for him).

Up in the Air: Bad. What’s it all about, Alfie? bleak.

Edge of Darkness: Bad. Almost funny. Impenetrable accents. Mel Gibson loses everyone he loves, goes mad and kills lots of people but I’ve got a theory every movie he makes ticks at least two of those three.

Invictus: Good. Music distracting. Probably problematic but very watchable and this is meant to be brief.

The Road: Good. True to the book. You have been warned. (For my money: ending is hopeful, but I am basing this purely on a beetle and the breed of dog in the final scene).

Valentines Day: Good if you read this review first: Valentines Day. Worst. Movie. Ever. But I couldn’t remember exactly what there was to like after it finished.

The Wolfman: Bad. Not bad enough to be funny. Also, I kept wanting to mutter to Deb, “Zese are Transylvanian moons – zey are zee fastest moons in zee world.”

Shutter Island: Bad. Not a horror, not a delicate psychological study, I guessed the twist from the preview (there was at least a reason for the poor acting), and although on the strength of 2.5 films I maintain DiCaprio can act, he didn’t. Or he was playing a 12 year old.

There. Done. I feel all sullied and judgemental now, but at least I can look forward to reviewing 11 books for February.

Illustration Friday: Perspective 1

This week’s Illustration Friday contribution was inspired by memories of trick corridors in the science museum, and Alice (of course) and the infamous chocolate factory.

Technical pens and digital colour. The usual model (and I don’t know how headscarfs like that are meant to be practical for housework – it didn’t survive more than a few scrambles back and forth to reset the camera).

The first colour combination was a bit brighter – I ended up keeping the colours but mixing the layers differently. These colours look nice when printed but I think they’re a bit strong onscreen.

Illustration Friday: Perspective 1

The full-length picture is also my new March header:

March Blog Header

And in other wonderlandish news, I came home last night, in the rain (which is… constant) and when I opened the mail box an actual moth flew out. I thought that only happened in cartoons. In the carport, however, was a parcel from crisitunity with ceylon cinnamon anise jam! Now, for some reason the natural habitat of gourmet homemade jams seems to be the back of cupboards (the principle of jam every other day, but never today), so I opened it at once and ate some – it is very wonderful and I had it on hot cross buns for breakfast again this morning (on the principle of jam every day).

Also, on 612ABC Spencer Howson (a) managed to pronounce Tanaudel with a minimum of hesitation and (b) read out my comment on how I heard the tsunami warning (The Day After Tomorrow was on as a background to processing reference for a project, and the warning scrolled across the bottom of the screen – on about the fourth repeat I realised it wasn’t part of the movie). We are Spencer fans in my house, so it was generally quite an enjoyable day (tsunami warnings and flash flooding aside).

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