Bitterwood Bible - spine image

My copy of Angela Slatter‘s collection The Bitterwood Bible finally arrived, and it is so (literally) shiny.

Dust jacket

The dust jacket is consistent with Tartarus Press style, but underneath there is foil on the boards, and it gleams! Here is a flash photo for maximum effect (I am so happy the little fox on the stand turned out as it should).

FoilforWeb

There are many, many pictures inside, too – here are a few as they appear in the original sketchbook:

WebIllo4

 

And here are the beloved badgers:

Badgers

 

 

Some exciting news!

I’ve been fortunate enough to receive funding from the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland, part of the Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts, towards attending the World Fantasy Convention in Arlington, VA this November, as part of my development as an illustrator. Angela Slatter and I are working on a graphic reworking of the title story of her collection Sourdough (to which her newest collection, The Bitterwood Bible, is the prequel), and I’m also putting together some work for the art show, so… it will be a busy few weeks (eek) leading up to the trip. I’m hoping to spend some time in New York and Massachusetts either side of the convention.

I also found out that I’m going to the Creative3 forum this month, sponsored by Redchip Lawyers, in my capacity as a creative business-person, and also hoping to bring some ideas back to my involvement with the Queensland Writers Centre. It’s two days of entrepreneurs and business people talking about creativity, enterprise and investment, all things I am endeavouring to think about more.

And also I finally booked for a steam-train ride up to Toowoomba for the Carnival of Flowers, something I’ve been wishing to do for several years. The little cardboard tickets arrived today.

On Peter M Ball’s repeated recommendations, I’ve just finished reading Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer, by Jeff Vandermeer, attempting to read it both as a writer and for its potential for application to illustrating (Artlife?).

Print

Of the whole dense and informative book, the part which stayed with me was the section on goals.

Curious personal hang-ups

Now, goals and five-year-plans are not news, but I never saw the point. “A plan is a basis for change,” after all, and “No plan survives contact with the enemy”. Also, “man plans, God laughs,” and serendipity has always been quite good to our family, while “saying ‘I wish’ means you aren’t happy with the way things are,” and if you admit you aren’t happy with the way things are, then you fix them. If that sounds like an odd combination of military principles, hippy survivalist mentality and Puritan work ethic, welcome to my upbringing.
So I have never set official goals, and nothing went horribly wrong (except for accidentally becoming a lawyer).

The blindingly obvious

Reading Booklife, it finally clicked: The idea of goals, not primarily as a destination but as a template for making decisions.

The casting vote. The deciding principle. Something to be regularly referred to, not for motivation but for course-correction.

The paper in my pocket

So I have made a list, dividing it into three columns: one for writing, one for art, and one for more general business/financial/support goals. Then I have a row for the 5 year goals, the 1 year goals, and then twelve months, with the current one broken into weeks.

As per the book, the intention is to refer to this when making decisions about what to do, or concentrate on, or stop doing. Does this get me nearer to a goal? Does it also support one of the others? Is the effort:result ratio reasonable or is it pulling me away from other things? Does this thing which is taking up all my evenings this week and has nothing to do with a goal really matter? And if so, should I revise the goals?

Past form

The odd thing (or alternatively proof that it is largely semantics, and that semantics matter) was that, for all my goal-aversion, I was already doing this in two respects:

  • I had stopped making New Year’s Resolutions several years ago, and started making lists of New Year’s Aspirations, being things it would be fun to achieve/do/eat. (I recommend this approach).
  • I had been keeping an illustration wish list of jobs or techniques I wanted to try, which both gave me a guide of jobs to chase/accept and a sense of satisfaction when I was able to tick something off. Although I still haven’t done endpapers.

Digression on ducks

Making the list, I found it interesting to note the apparently necessary differences between the art and writing goals (Write a Big Thing vs Draw a Duck), and the shape of reaching them (Plan/Draft/Revise/Edit/Repeat vs Draw a Duck). Writing (even short stories) is often long-term, large-scale, with a high threshold to audience appreciation, and creator-driven. Illustration consists of many small projects, at a smaller scale, easily seen and reacted to, and often pushed/pulled forward by art directors and deadlines.

I’m curious to see how the two diverge or converge over time, and whether I can more deliberately adapt approaches and mentalities from one into the other.

A Duck with a Plan

DuckWithPlan

Still with the playing card theme for this week’s Illustration Friday topic, “skull.” I am drawing birds for other reasons, and thinking of the fool Eulenspiegel (and fools in general) because of Rima Staines’ Unknown Fool puppet. And fools and skulls of course suggest poor Yorick, and thus, the latest card: the Prince of Birds:

Illustration Friday: Skull

 

In other news, everyone else seems to have received their copies of Angela Slatter’s Bitterwood Bible – everyone save the artist! Sigh. It is reported to be very shining:

Foil2

 

SneakPeek

This is a sneak-peek of some details of my illustration for Tiny Owl Workshop‘s Christmas Krampus Crackers project, now open to flash fiction (max 500 word) submissions from Australian and UK authors. Submissions close on 5 September 2014.

Illustration Friday: King

Playing around with techniques for a new illustration project, and playing-card motifs for an old story idea.

I also mocked up a Queen, based on old oval playing cards, and kept track of the process this time.

Queen Card

Both were straight digital sketches (pencil tool in Photoshop Elements), deconstructed in a vector program (I use Inkscape) and put back together in Photoshop Elements with some interesting textures.

Queen Card in progress

I just realised I never posted the final instalment of this!

The post on the cover art process for Catherynne M Valente’s The Bread We Eat in Dreams is here: Cover art and illustrations….

When I started the sketchbook, I listed the table of contents in the front, highlighting the stories which were to have their own images (one is missing, as “The Shootout at Burnt Corn Ranch.” and its illustration were added to the collection later in the publication process).

As I read, I sketched the ideas which most took my fancy, aiming for a handful of images for each story. Here’s an example:

Sketches

I narrowed down my favourite images for the internal illustrations, then drew up a template within which they all had to fit, and – where necessary – took reference photos. This is my housemate:

Reference

Then I went straight to finals: light pencils, then ink, usually two or three for each story. Then I scanned in all the pages, added a layer of shading, and separated them out into individual image files. Here is an example of the layers:

BreadProcess

And here are the final illustrations:

I worked this way because – given the requested sketchy style – it would have been harder to do sketches for approval, and then attempt to replicate the looseness of the sketch.

BreadInternals2of4

They are all pen and ink drawings, with shading added later on the computer (Photoshop Elements, if you were wondering).

BreadInternals3of4

Then I sent them off, with the end result that it was quite exciting for me to go through the book and find out which images were used in the end.

BreadInternals4of4

And if you want to know which were the finals, and particularly what the stories are about, you will have to get hold of the book for yourself!

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