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April 30, 2012
This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Alan Garner‘s novel The Owl Service. My feeling about this book are unformed, which suggests I read it first for a class… genre fiction at uni, I suspect. I probably wrote very profound things about Alan Garner’s worldview as it found expression in the text. From this remove, I remember the owl-eyed figure on the cover, the thrill of forgotten things found in attics (always a Famous Five feeling to that) and of course the story of Blodeuwedd, transformed from flowers to woman to owl and never entirely one or the other.
I like that legend, primarily for the flowers and owls. Off the top of my head, however, I can think of few stories based on it. The bird/woman element is there in Ladyhawk, but that is a romance. The main person-to-owl image I have is that of the Goblin King in Labyrinth. On slight provocation, I’d be prepared to argue that there are thematic resonances with The Yellow Wallpaper. But the legend is a beautiful story as well as a terrible one.
It’s been on my mind lately because I am working on a – well, either a long short story or a novelette, depending on what the flensers do to it – which had as its basis another human/bird story, to which I added elements of Blodeuwedd. I have, however, a sneaking suspicion that while I like “Tam Lin” for the characters, I am trying to work Blodeuwedd into something just so I can draw feathers and flowers.
February 29, 2012
Posted by tanaudel under Daleks
| Tags: a midsummer night's dream
, catherynne m valente
, doctor who
, faith mudge
, neil gaiman
, peter weir
, terry pratchett
|  Comments
This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is also an excuse to practise drawing donkeys – one day the necessity will arise! I think it is a little better than the last one (for the same play – I am only practising donkey heads). Certainly cuter, and when drawing Daleks that is evidently the prime consideration.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not my favourite Shakespeare – I have not decided what is. Neither its title nor its stage directions are as wonderful as A Midwinter’s Tale (although I had to wait for J. K. Rowling before I learned how to pronounce Hermione). I am not certain why I resist it – perhaps because it conjures up such a floating, sweet image, although that isn’t what I get when I sit down and read it. Perhaps it is the general connotation it takes in the collective consciousness? A shame, if it is, because parts of it are – or should be – hysterically funny.
My current favourite references/adaptations/reworkings of it are:
- Dead Poet’s Society (directed by Peter Weir and written by Tom Schulman) - for the ethereal tragedy (I get flashbacks to this whenever I watch House).
- Terry Pratchett’s Lords and Ladies – for a very funny, very nasty, very (what? respectful? faithful? something different but equal to that) Discworld take on the story, with all of the beauty that ought to be there and all of the horror and earthy bloodiness which makes the beauty terrifying. Also the stick-and-bucket dance. I commend to you Tansy Rayner Robert’s post on this book: Slash! Stab! A Lesson in Practical Queening.
- Neil Gaiman’s short graphic story “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (drawn by Charles Vess and coloured by Steve Oliff) – for an interleaving of the play with its historical setting and performance, within the story of Sandman: complex, beautiful, complete.
It would be easy, I suspect, to take a wholly unpleasant reading of the play – no doubt it has been done. I appreciate the role of that sort of reading and storytelling, but it usually feels to me more as comment/exercise than a distinct and independent Thing In The World. What I love about the pieces above is that none of them disregard the beauty which is associated with the story in order to rewrite it into nastiness. They are all truly beautiful. But the loveliness which could be merely pretty or at worst cloying is not only offset by the darkness: together they make something very solid and elegant and – without detracting at all from that – funny. All three have scenes which still, in recollection, make me laugh aloud (“this desk set was made to fly”).
I’m reminded of Catherynne M Valente’s story “A Delicate Architecture”, in which sweetness must be offset by the hint of salt and marrow. Which conveniently leads me to…
In other news: To Spin a Darker Stair, a boutique collection of two short stories by Catherynne M Valente and Faith Mudge, and illustrated by me, is on pre-order from Fablecroft Press (more news on the cover when it appears). Also, speaking of English takes on fairy queens (and taking on English fairy queens), I drew some pictures of Janet and Tam Lin for Illustration Friday.
February 28, 2012
For the ballad of Tam Lin (as happens not infrequently - Tam Lin and Janet are matters of interest in this house). These are tiny little pen and ink drawings with colour and texture added on the computer, appearing here considerably larger than life size. I took some liberties with the clothing colours – her kirtle is green in the ballad, but I’m going through a stage of green coats.
In other news: I had last lovely morning tea today with Gavin, Kelly and Ursula (of Small Beer Press and general Ursula-ness). Books, drawings, copper teacup rings and octopus puppets were exchanged. I won’t see them again before they leave the country – but with luck I might manage it again before the end of the year!
And look! To Spin a Darker Stair is on preorder (the cover design is yet to be revealed). It has two stories by Catherynne M. Valente and Faith Mudge, and illustrations by me!
February 23, 2012
Pen and ink with digital colour. I love the constant transition in fairytales – human to tree to bird to animal…
In Kelly Link’s “Magic for Beginners” class on the weekend, one of the exercises was to make (and maintain) a list of elements we really liked in stories, and another of ones which disturbed us. I may post the full list in time, but this is one of the elements I like – characters who easily and naturally shift between states. Not “shape shifters” as such (were-creatures, for example, although I don’t mind the odd one), but beings which appear part physical, part metaphorical – the thorn-lady of Diana Wynne Jones’ Deep Secret, the Faery Queen starting up out of a bush o’ broom in the ballad of Tam Lin, Tam Lin’s own transformations (man and creature and glowing iron), the shifting dream-states of Wonderland. The ageing, elongating, bulging, shifting, feather-grown variations of Studio Ghibli characters. Cat Valente’s princess in a tower, trapped between states, her mysterious pirate captain. Selkies, moving to and fro between seal and human (unless someone intervenes). Bear-princes, crane-wives, swan-women, raven-brothers. Sometimes the changeableness is a great and beautiful power, yet often flexibility is a trap – E. Nesbit’s “Belinda and Bellamant”, the lovers of Ladyhawk, each cursed with unsychronised transformations – and a settled state (Valente’s princess again, Tam Lin helpless and human) is a basis for freedom.
It is a theme I enjoy playing with in my stories as well as illustrations – the water-to-child-to-human progression of “Mouseskin”, the promise-bound river-creature of “Undine Love”, the twined shifting background characters of “The Splendour Falls”. The purpose of transformation is different in each, of course, but often it seems to be about becoming human (mature, an adult, responsible) or relinquishing that. In others it is about forcing people to be what someone else thinks they should be.
January 28, 2012
This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Diana Wynne Jones’ Fire and Hemlock, which is… not as gothic as the cover on Amazon would make it appear.
I cannot choose a favourite Diana Wynne Jones novel. They are all luminous and familiar and unexpected, braiding science fiction, parallel worlds, fantasy, history, the awful ordinary trials of every day life (indeed, Awful from Archer’s Goon is one of my favourite secondary characters) and frequently (though not in Fire and Hemlock) the complications families bring to adventures. Fire and Hemlock, however, is one of the novels I most frequently reread.
Fire and Hemlock is part reworking, part continuation of the story in the ballad of Tam Lin and is a story of friends and language, cellists and hardware stores, idle stories coming true, forgotten friends, the varied uglinesses of the human back and the dangers of wandering into other people’s funerals. It is a light and luminous story with an almost completely impenetrable ending.
It is a good ending. I am always certain of that. I am sure it is a happy ending – I feel happy and satisfied whenever I read it. But working out how it is good, convincing my head as well as my heart, is an exercise I repeat on every reread. It is part of the power and charm of the book.
(If you’ve read the novel already, this is one of several articles which I’ve found helpful in deciphering the exact mechanics of the end: Fire and Hemlock reconsidered, but there are others out there. ETA: Here’s another: We only live, only suspire / consumed by either fire or fire - the novel isn’t “literary” but it is tremendous fun to examine from that angle).
In other news: I am planning to go to North America in November for World Fantasy and maybe also Illuxcon!
December 14, 2011
This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale.
I love retellings and reimaginings, and would have gone a very long way out of my way to read Shannon Hale after she wrote a novel of The Goose Girl, which is one of my favourite fairytales (I am currently trying to straighten out a mangled short-story attempt at combining it with a Natalie Merchant song). Rapunzel’s Revenge was marvellous – a wonderful wild-west fairytale – lively and dangerous and fun, beautifully drawn and useful for getting the most unlikely people interested in comics
I have, best intentions notwithstanding, tried not to like Rapunzel in the past. First, it does not have the brightest hero – when my father first told the story to me, and the prince reached the tower and saw Rapunzel, my father said, “And what do you think he did?”, so I answered, “Went to the hardware store and bought a ladder.”
Second, it is so often held up as an example of the passive heroine (Catherynne M Valente has a strange-lovely version of the princess-waiting-to-be-rescued type in the Orphan Tales), and modern retellings tend to play up the action in consequence (whether with lassos or frying pans). But taking it apart recently (as I do with fairytales from time to time – it’s a fun game, I’ll introduce you sometime) I finally realised that it is much more of a Tam Lin story than anything else, and that Rapunzel has always been one of those characters who Goes Out and Does Something. On foot. In the wilderness. With twins.
Also, it makes an excellent play for staging in a tree house.
In other news: Yesterday I posted a subtly Doctor Who and Firefly flavoured wedding invitation I designed for friends.
June 9, 2011
“The long red-carpeted hall was full of shadows from the one lonely light burning in the middle of the ceiling. Their long coiling shapes looked like dragons. Janet did not mention this to Molly.” – Tam Lin, Pamela Dean
A very little (much smaller than shown here) pen and ink sketch I did last night, while working out the style for another piece. Digital colour.
In other news: it is abruptly cold and I may wear gloves to bed; I have an exam in the morning which just shows bad management and MUST NOT HAPPEN AGAIN; I got an email earlier this week which was a wish I made (aloud on this blog a few years ago) come true; my voice is back; I have a few excellent illustration projects in various stages of completion and shall unveil them in due course; ASIM #51 is out and I have my copies – I have put up a post on doing the cover art and will do another on the interior illustration process soon; and the Dalek game continues.
April 12, 2008
Posted by tanaudel under art
, On other people's art
| Tags: art
, tam lin
|  Comments
I draw everyday. Sometimes it is a stick figure. After America and the sketch journal I have tried to continue drawing from life and reference* as well as from my imagination (the two are after all able to be combined infinitely). The picture below is based on a photo by one of the many skilled and inventive photographers and artists on flickr, Karla Jean Davis. Her photo, A Stiff Breeze, from a luminous photoshoot inspired by Mucha’s illustrations, was the basis for this sketch, executed in marker one evening when I was staying late back trying to do more work. The text is from the “Ballad of Tam Lin”, version Child 39A.
Since the only person who actually does anything in the ballad (and does she ever!) is Janet, it really should be called the Ballad of Janet of Carterhaugh.
*I do attribute my references, in this case on the next page of the sketchbook.