Pen and ink with digital wash and texture. A quick Illustration Friday post before I dash off to brave the wilds myself.
March 30, 2012
March 30, 2012
Dalek Game update: The Dalek Game has almost reached its anniversary, and from now on I plan to post one Dalek a week – probably on Mondays. I have enough to keep going for a while (there are a lot of books in the world) but would like to post the odd other project, such as a series of occasional author portraits which I have been doing for Angela Slatter and Lisa Hannett, and perhaps the odd duck comic. And also sleep.
In other news: Sleep? What is this sleep of which you speak?
March 24, 2012
This instalment of the Dalek Game is for L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. I used to struggle with that book and the miniseries. My whole family loved it, but I do not like watching people inevitably humiliate themselves. I cringe for them, and it took a long time for me to get past Anne’s various outbursts (I had the same problem with the movie The Castle). In particular, I couldn’t stay to watch when she hits Gilbert with her slate. I also resented the “write what you know” message in both Anne and other books, such as What Katy Did (although, having since read actual Gothic fiction, the advice in both cases was extremely well placed).
A combination of aversion therapy and self-reflection eventually got me to the point where I now think the story beautiful – I read it out loud to my father a few years ago and by the end we were both in tears. My mother walked through the room from time to time and laughed at us.
March 23, 2012
Trying out different approaches to cover, preparation for some upcoming work. The illustration above is all digital (using a coffee-and-ink texture I made last year). The one below (which I prefer – I like the clear lines of ink better than softer digital in general) is pen and ink with digital colour – the only texture is from the drawing paper.
Possibly I prefer the one below because I would like that sweater.
Edit: Aim for next week is to get the picture up before the topic changes over.
March 21, 2012
This instalment of the Dalek Game is (by repeated request of a friend at work) for Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.
I spent this last weekend at Runaway Bay, where the MS Society owns a house with a jetty right on the broadwater, in sight of Crab Island and South Stradbroke Island. Pelicans sail in to land on the jetty, seagulls hover ominously in mid-air, sand crabs bead the beach with balls of sand, sailing schools flock by – capsizing each other and the jet-skiers – and on Sunday a dozen or more dolphins went by. I spent a great deal of the weekend (when not on airport runs!) talking with my father, reciting Banjo Patterson poems (with an emphasis on the Saltbush Bill poems) and reading Tom Sawyer out loud. This, of course, is where the enviably outcast Huck Finn puts in his first appearances, with his corncob pipe, dead cat and infallible cure for warts. We reached the part where the three boys (including Finn the Red-Handed) have stolen a raft and taken off to the island for a life of piracy, and probably would have read further, except that of course the piracy comes after the chapter in which Tom gives in to Peter the cat’s pleas to try Aunt Polly’s patent Pain-killer, and proceeds to prance around the room ‘proclaiming his unappeasable happiness’. We read that twice.
I know I have read Huckleberry Finn at some point, or more probably Mommy read it out loud to us. The only parts I remember are the warning at the beginning and the first line (which are famous) and the scene where Huck is dressed as a girl and is found out because of the way he either threads a needle or catches a dropped one – possibly both (that I remember for the detail). I remember the raft crossing the stage in Big River when my father took me to see the musical. But the younger Huck and the gloriously overwrought (but so finely observed) adventures of Tom Sawyer we read many times. The chapter about the Pain-killer (“I done it out of pity for him – because he hadn’t any aunt”) and the pinch-bug in church (“By this time the whole church was red-faced and suffocating with suppressed laughter”) were particular favourites, and along with Henry Lawson’s “The Loaded Dog” and the joust between King Pellinore and Sir Grummore in T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone were stand-by chapters for when we had visitors.
In other news: Mostly I am working on a pile of illustrations, which are very exciting but also very due and frequently require awkward reference photography. And my comic “Finishing School” in Steampunk! has been nominated for an Aurealis Award!!
March 17, 2012
This instalment of the Dalek Game is, again, for Edward Gorey – this time his horrible little Gothic alphabet The Gashlycrumb Tinies. I find Gorey beautifully unsettling: never twee and rarely grotesque, his beautifully drawn miniature worlds of world-weary horror and Gothic ennui are so terribly, terribly civilised.
In other news: First glimpse of the cover of To Spin a Darker Stair (but there’s more to come…)
March 16, 2012
This was a test of new ink (happy), paper (pretty happy) and nib (much larger and less yielding than I’m used to). The texture was added digitally but is part of one I made with ink and coffee last year. The illustration is for A. E. Housman’s poem, “God’s Acre“:
This hopeless garden that they sow
With the seeds that never grow…
Evidently I once knew Housman’s poems very well – I was certain this was from A Shropshire Lad, but it’s from a much later (manuscript?) collection, all of which are still very familiar too me. Often bleak, sometimes spoilers for Sayer’s novels, but also beautiful. Not my first Housman illustration, either.
Bonus weeping angel, of course, but no Dalek this time.
March 14, 2012
“It was subject to fits of bewildering wrath
During which it would hide all the towels from the bath.”
This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Edward Gorey’s splendid and bewildering The Doubtful Guest, which very slender volume is precise, inexplicable, enduring and self-contained – just as it ought to be.
March 12, 2012
Leave a Comment
This A4 pen and ink drawing was a commission, one of two rewards which I drew for support of the Pozible crowd-funding stage of Kinds of Blue (the other was Peter Pan themed). You can view it at a larger size here.
This is based on one of my (many) favourite Robert Frost poems: “Into my own“.
March 10, 2012
It’s an intriguing collection, partly because of its brilliant collection of authors, but also because of Sedia’s definition of urban fantasy as fantasy that takes place within cities, and is about urban life. That sounds like a simple and obvious definition, but it creates a collection which at times seems to have very little in common with either the newer definitions or the older categories to which the title of “urban fantasy” has been applied.
The collection is all the more surprising and unsettling for it, and covers a category which perhaps is outside Gardner Dozois’s subcategorisation of “urban fantasy” into “Mythic Fiction”, “Paranormal Romance” and “Noir Fantasy”, or perhaps is another sort of genre altogether: properly described as fantasy about cities but not falling within the historical genre and its branches which are usually known as “urban fantasy”. I suppose it is like old romance (which may not have love in it at all), “romantic” fiction, fiction with romantic interludes and capital-R Romance.
I am (with a few exceptions) generally in favour of descriptive vs prescriptive approaches to e.g. linguistics and fashion, so I am not going to take arms against any particular definition. I do miss the days when this particular label was pretty much just used to describe Dozois’ “Mythic Fiction”, only because it made it easier to (a) find what I wanted to read and (b) describe what I like to write. Now I tend to just say “contemporary fantasy” because that takes in rural settings, but of course it leaves out fantasy set in this world (or something like it) in other eras.
An aside on Noir Fantasy – at Kelly Link’s “Magic for Beginners” writing workshop, she mentioned that she likes seeing stories which show people in their work, behind-the-scenes, and I have been wondering whether that is part of the appeal of Noir Fantasy (and detective novels in general): that it is one of the few genres (distinct or cross-over) which habitually shows people at work. Not just as a glimpse, but caught up with the whole plot and point of the book.
Of course, even where the job of characters involves another specialisation (i.e. not detection), job-plots frequently turn into some sort of mystery/detection or crime/pursuit story – take John Grisham and Dick Francis, for instance. Or, back to fantasy, Diana Wynne Jones’ Deep Secret, in which the main characters are a magid/computer programmer and a vet student who still end up trying to untangle a variety of mysteries and murders.
In fact, off the top of my head, the only professions which don’t habitually turn into noir/mystery plots are the creative ones, and in those – if the story is about career – the ability itself turns out to have a magical quality (whether this is in fact the nature of creative professions or a hang-up of writers I do not venture an opinion). Musicians, say, and painters (Charles de Lint, as a general example). Not to say there aren’t stories in which people have regular day jobs, relevant to the plot, which don’t stray into these areas, but it’s an observation.
So, some current favourite examples:
- Archer’s Goon, Diana Wynne Jones: this meets Sedia’s description, and two of Dozois’, and is about how cities work, how a family in a city copes when the magic behinds it all starts to make itself known, a really awful little sister and how to get a bus in an emergency.
- Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman: The descent into London Beneath – the London of the people and places who have fallen through the cracks, where all the odd names are real. This is a very wonderful book, but I confess I love it primarily for the Marquis de Carabas and the Gap (as in: mind the).
- An Older Kind of Magic, Patricia Wrightson: what happens to the magic as a city gets built up, and what happens to a city when comet light touches it. Also, Sydney in the ’70s.
- Charles de Lint generally, of course: a city, the magic in it, how the people grow and change over the years, how the city changes, how technological progress is first shunned then cautiously accepted then becomes a magic in its own right…
- The Etched City, K. J. Bishop: this is closer to Sedia’s selection, and has such a beautifully-built city – this and China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station remind me of each other, but Bishop is less harrowing – I’m still intellectually & emotionally bruised after Mieville. However I would describe both as stories in fantastic cities rather than fantastic stories in cities or stories about fantastic cities, although that may split hairs. I would give them as examples, first, of worlds: Mieville’s claustrophobic detail and Bishop’s rather more sparing (but effective) approach.
- Death Most Definite, Trent Jamieson: because it is my city (also, previously a Dalek).
- Dark City, The City of Lost Children and Matrix (do you know when it was released?), for movies.