This is the first process post for my illustrations for Kij Johnson’s wonderful The River Bank, from Small Beer Press.

The first step for the illustration project (after an emailed ohmygoodnessyes when Small Beer asked me about it) was to read the manuscript. I like to print a manuscript, if possible, because then I can draw my responses directly onto it. It makes for a more immediate response, but also means I can match an idea with the relevant passage again easily when I need to go back and check details!

For some projects, like Angela Slatter‘s The Bitterwood Bible and other recountings, the initial response is very close to the final illustration. The River Bank required more work and refinement (you can see at top right that I was still working out Badger) but many of these early notes recognisably found their way into the final illustrations.

Frequently, I find it difficult to objectively assess a manuscript simply as a book – this is partly because it doesn’t yet have a cover by which to judge it, but mostly because I am reading it looking at one very specific aspect: the visuals. It takes a second reading, in a non-illustrator headspace, to appreciate the text on its own terms. The River Bank, however, lifted off the page even on that first, pragmatic reading. I think it’s because of Kij Johnson’s delightful visual language – I’ve just finished her World Fantasy Award winning novella The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, purely as a reader, and my goodness I want to draw every page.

For this month’s calendar, a Goblin Market, brought to you by my supporters on Patreon (it would be lovely if you could join us! There’s advance news and sneak-peeks of projects).

I don’t recall, now, why I was thinking of Christina Rossetti’s poem. One does, I suppose, from time to time.

The sisters ought to both have yellow hair, but there was too much yellow in one area and so they are now just… two more girls walking through the market.

Bonus fact: The 10th anniversary edition of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones (with my illustrations!) comes out in November. I had to illustrate a page of a menu, but there wasn’t enough information in the book to complete a whole page, so I filled it out with fruit from Christina Rossetti’s poem.

 

As an aside, my favourite of the many interpretations of “Goblin Market” (although not the most convincing) is that it can be read as a diatribe against the rise of advertising and consumer culture.

 

That is a wombat at the top right of the full illustration. Many of you probably know this, but I saw some friends find out recently so maybe it isn’t as widespread a piece of knowledge as I thought: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Christina Rosseti”s brother) had two pet wombats, which is why they occasionally get into Pre-Raphaelite art.

The calendar can be printed from the files below – pre-coloured, or to colour yourself! And if you like these calendars, please consider supporting them for $1 or so a month (or, if you prefer not to subscribe but would still like to toss something in the direction of your friendly neighbourhood artist – think of this as illustrative busking – my PayPal link is paypal.me/tanaudel).

Ink and imitation gold leaf again for Inktober prompt “trail”. This is Mabel from E. Nesbit’s The Enchanted Castle. I’m loving working with gold leaf, but I think I need to work at a larger size to get the degree of control and detail I want.

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A Rumpelstiltskin in pen, brush and ink, with a little imitation gold leaf, for Inktober prompt “Furious”.

Inktober: fat; mysterious

I have missed doing challenges, like Inktober and Illustration Friday. I’m flying to the World Fantasy Convention in 12 days, and am frantic with deadlines and art show preparation, so it seemed like the perfect time to dip my toe back into those waters.

… that’s a little bit flippant, but not entirely. In times like this, it’s easy to forget to just have a good time occasionally, and why I got into this in the first place.

 

 

A reminder for anyone who is at Conflux in Canberra this weekend: tomorrow (Sunday) at 2.30pm is Angela Slatter’s Guest of Honour speech, after which this very limited edition book from FableCroft publications, set in the World-Fantasy-Award-winning Bitterwood Bible world, will be available for sale, and for signing by Angela and me:

The Tallow-Wife, by Angela Slatter, illustrated by Kathleen Jennings

A limited edition, exclusive hardcover…

Return to the dreaming streets of the cathedral-city of Lodellan, where a new generation of characters face fairy tales and nightmares. Cordelia Parsifal has an enviable life, hard won, but the ghosts of the past are soon to remind her that no sin or omission goes unnoticed.

A darkly mannered narrative of a family facing its downfall, and the hidden secrets within. Deftly told in Slatter’s seemingly effortless prose, “The Tallow-Wife” is unexpected and shocking, with depths to be explored. Paired with vignettes from the same world, and featuring an essay by illustrator Kathleen Jennings.

 

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Kij Johnson’s The River Bank is now a real, published book that exists in the world. It is a beautiful story – charming and jaunty, and a delight to read as well as illustrate.

In addition to its many native felicities, the text is embellished by Kathleen Jennings’ beautiful incidental illustrations, grace notes sounded in E. H. Shepard’s mode with a line reminiscent of Beatrix Potter and a sensibility all Jennings’ own.”
— Amal El-Mohtar, NPR

One final, important point: Kathleen Jennings’s period-style illustrations add just the right extra magic to make “The River Bank” a complete triumph. If he were still around, Kenneth Grahame himself would be wildly applauding.
— Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

I’m away from my scanner at the moment, but will put up some process details. In the meantime, here is one of my favourite drawings:

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The Usual Suspects