Five Things To Steal — Through the Woods

2020-01-23 KJennings-Bookcase

I’ve previously mentioned incorporating Austin Kleon‘s “things to steal” into my general Todd-Henry-based note-taking structure (Patterns/Surprises/Likes/Dislikes/Steal — see Bookmarks & remarks). It’s also become an occasional feature in the Observation Journal.

2020-01-23-webres

I used to make a note of things that were merely “interesting” or “to try”. What I like about phrasing it as “steal” (yes, obviously not plagiarise) is that, as well as adding a touch of glee, it forces me to immediately think of ways to transform whatever it was I was admiring.

The “five things” also fills the page usefully. It’s a nice length, easy to remember, and usually makes me either think just one or two steps beyond the obvious, or distill my very favourites.

Here’s a close-up of the right-hand page: FIVE THINGS I WANT TO STEAL FROM EMILY CARROLL’S THROUGH THE WOODS (a wonderful collection of… comics? illustrated stories?)

2020-01-23 KJennings-5Things-EmilyCarroll

  • Her use of endpapers. This tied into broader thoughts on surface decoration, and a general reminder (and licence) to draw on everything. I’m working on this for some projects now, in a completely different style and for a different purpose.
  • Using white outlines for only certain characters, with notes on the ethereal effect, and a desire to try to achieve this in prose (I think I wrote a paragraph or two to experiment with this; I also have a continuing interest in how authors get specific art styles into purely prose pieces — among others Dorothy Dunnett’s buttery Rembrandt light; Mirah Bolender’s Ghibli-esque curse motion in City of Broken Magic; and a very Hellboy-esque lighting setup in a novella I read recently and can’t find again).
  • Her use of different colour schemes in the same scenes to show brief flashes of memory. Again, I wanted to try this in prose, but also to see how to get away with the effect in (for example) black and white.
  • The variable structures of the stories, panels, style, and whether this could be replicated with e.g. subtitles in a purely prose piece. I have some story ideas I want to recast and plan to revisit this (in combination with some mythic/folk horror scene transition/viewpoint gymnastics managed by Paul Cornell in Chalk and Maria Dahvana Headley in The Mere Wife).
  • The last one is the only observation without a specific adaptation, and it’s mostly a reminder that the ordinary and extraordinary both gain power when they’re mixed.
  • Also some tree-appreciation — “Einar?” was a late-night misremembering of Eyvind Earle.

The last point, a “question for later”, led to playing with some small creepy stories in other formats, inspired by other books.

I enjoy this format, and what it’s led to. I’ll probably post some more examples later.

Activity/Heist:

  • Find something you admire in another field than the one you work in (a movie, a book, a comic, a painting). List five things you like about it. Try to work out how you could steal each of those elements and convert them into something in your own field.

 

And in case it needs to be said: Don’t plagiarise!

Also: Read Through the Woods.

Crows on fabric

2020-05-24-TanaudelCrowsSpoonflower1

My Go-Betweens design is now up on Spoonflower as fabric and wallpaper —  my 8×8″ swatches of Celosia Velvet, Silky Faille, and cotton just arrived this week.

It’s a repeating design based on the April 2020 calendar illustration, and was already up on Redbubble on various things (prints, cushions, shirts, etc).

You can find it (and other designs) by swatch, fat quarter, or yard(s) in my Spoonflower shop.

2020-05-24-TanaudelCrowsSpoonflower2

Observation exercises

2020-01-17-webres

This is another layout from the observation journal. As previously described (werewolf conferences and colour treatments), the left-hand page is a serious of observations from the day.

The right-hand page, in this case, is a series of more structured observation/noticing games. I did them in Black Milk cafe (in January, when we could still go inside), but you can try them in any situation — the more boring the location, the better it works for changing how you look at things (useful for drawing and describing, too).

2020-01-17-KJennings Cafe observations

  • 12 things I could hear: This is a category on the left-hand page, too, but it’s the one I struggle with. Here: the whisper of cars, the freight train brakes that sound like welding, “Einstein was a Surfer”…
  • ROYGBIV: Find every colour in the spectrum. With e.g. a slate roof or a single tree-trunk, it’s enough to find one of each. With a whole scene or room to work with, trying for three or five is useful. Here, there’s yellow: on a peachy-white silk rosebud, caught in the base of turned-up tumblers, pale chocolate-chip biscuits, a t-shirt on a sign, a $50 note as someone handed it over…
  • Tones: Find the brightest lights and darkest shadows. (The brim of a hat, the reflection on the edge of a sieve). If you draw this, rather than just recording it, it can adjust how you see the world for an hour or two.
  • Narrative: Pick a story and list the key elements. Then look for the equivalents of those in your setting. I almost always do Little Red Riding Hood, so I made an effort and played it with the Minotaur, this time. It’s sometimes surprising how well things match — this cafe has a central island, and also a hidden downstairs room, and there were red threads woven through the coffee bags. Others require a bit more effort — the signalling effect of black sails here replaced by the hanging bathroom key.

Flyaway: A silhouette in gold!

2020-05-22-FlyawayCase3

Looook at it! I did not know there were going to be foils on the case (under the dust jacket) of the Tor.com edition of Flyaway!

(These are the production manager’s photos for approval)

2020-05-22-FlyawayCase1

They are so shiny!

2020-05-22-FlyawayCase2

I remain fascinated by what different colour treatments do to a silhouette — what grows and narrows, what turns into a void or lifts off the paper.

It’s just over two months before publication (although both the US and Australian editions are available for pre-order now).

I’ve written more on the illustrations here:

 

Time spent in procrastination is seldom wasted

I have to actively remind myself to leave time to stop and play with materials. Like lying around reading, it is actively part of the job, but rarely feels like it.

It’s closely related to remembering to do studies for a finished artwork, instead of jumping in boots first and flailing away under deadline. When I was starting out, the idea of doing studies seemed exhausting. Now, they’re a joy: just tinkering, really; no pressure; nothing to see here.

[Relatedly, before I actually wrote a novel the idea of doing 17 drafts sounded horrifyingly inefficient. Now it’s nice to be able to work on a piece and tell myself, “no need to stress, I’ve still got thirteen more drafts to play with.”)

2020-05-19-KJenningsClockworkAngel

One of the illustration briefs for the 10th anniversary edition of Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel was for an illustration of a blueprint.  Although I do play with cyanotypes, these illustrations were to be in pen and ink — and pretty much the exact opposite. I was determined to do it without trickery, however (aided by the fact that this was an illustration-of-a-documents, not a replica of a document itself).

Above, I was testing an array of chinagraph and Prismacolour pencils, masking fluid, and just painting around the lines.

In the end, as the most complicated (but clearest) option, I went for masking fluid. It’s a liquid rubber that you paint down then watercolour (or ink) over (the picture below is before I added washes of grey ink). When the paint is dry you gently rub or lift away the masking — you can see here that I was using it to keep highlights bright on the glass surfaces.

2020-05-19-MaskingFluid

(You can see here the ink bottle, wine glass, and magnifying glass from the reference post).

My copies have, I suspect, run afoul of Current Events Impacting International Shipping, but I’ll post more on the process and final illustrations as I can.

Reference objects: Clockwork Angel

Here are a few photos of reference objects for the 10th Anniversary of Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel (previous post about those illustrations is here: Clockwork Angel). They cover a few of my usual sources of reference.

The first is this little angel I found at ReLove Oxley, a wonderful local second-hand shop and cafe. The final angel design didn’t look much like this one, but it was useful for a sense of scale, how to handle fine features, and for the slight metallic finish.

I frequently go to ReLove for coffee, and often find useful reference — I buy enough that for this book they just let me borrow a violin. I walked home carrying it in its case, feeling like a gangster.

2020-05-18-Angel

A great deal of reference material, however, comes from around my house. Here’s a parasol that’s been in the bottom of the linen cupboard, a box of beads and bangles, The Myths of Greece and Rome (old books standing in for old books), Mortimer, my Year 12 formal dress, my grandmother’s gloves, and some crumpled paper. Not featured but also starring: spare buttons, fancy embroidery scissors (also a contributor to the Scissors calendar), and my letter-opener.

2020-05-18-Trove

Another old book: an 1887 volume of Cassell’s Magazine, printed on horrible Victorian wood-pulp paper which smells like burned sugar and is crumbling away at the edges. It’s a wonderful reference for illustration styles of the era, particularly homewares and mechanical elements, and its inventions page is delightful.

2020-05-18-Book1

Look at this: “a small pocket apparatus for the electric illumination of flowers, such as roses, to be worn in the hair or on the dress.”

2020-05-18-Book2

Architecture is always a challenge, mostly because I usually prefer to suggest it. Here I was mocking up light and perspective possibilities for a two-story library (the Hydralyte tin is a spiral staircase which did not end up in the picture due to dear lord spiral staircases).

2020-05-18-Dominoes

Fantasy frequently requires images of hands holding glowing things, and I’m gradually accumulating night-lights in order to work that out.

2020-05-18-Glow

Sometimes I just have to set up the image. Inkbottle, wine glass and magnifying glass on a sketch for a different illustration.

2020-05-18-Light

 

More Tallow-Wife glimpses

I’ve been having a wonderful time working through Angela Slatter’s The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales (previously mentioned here: Beginning Sketches) to be published by Tartarus (we hope later this year).

2020-05-17-KJennings-TallowWife1

It’s the third volume of stories in the world of Sourdough and The Bitterwood Bible, and my job is to sketch through it, drawing and reacting — as a reader and fan, as much as an artist.

2020-05-17-KJennings-TallowWife3

I love our approach for these books. It’s a style I have to constantly work towards recreating when I work in a production process that involves thumbnail sketches and pencils and approvals.

2020-05-17-KJennings-TallowWife2

These are pure glimpses of gesture and scene, a little lighthearted, frequently grim. Many pages of them.

2020-05-17-KJennings-TallowWife4

You can seek more sketches (and an extract from the afterword) over on Angela’s blog: The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales.