August 2012


Illustration Friday: Tall

Escaping from giants! I love doing these little fairytales in cut-paper, for all the hunched posture and cramped fingers they require. The texture behind this one is an old book cover.

Here is another treatment of it, and also proof of what I mean when I say I work very small! This one is just over 6cm tall.

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Year of Daleks

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, which reached me through the general enthusiasm of ladies-who-bookclub. Actually, a vague memory surfaces that it might have been passed to me by a magistrate with whom I was doing work experience. The novel created, for me, a curious looking-glass sensation, like going to a country where they speak your language but the geography and idioms and supermarkets are different and they don’t have newsagencies. It was much like that moment when, with the trepidation of the SF reader given chick-lit, you are reading Karen Joy Fowler and realise hang on, wait a minute, she’s one of us! Only in reverse.

Because the middle ages and black death and all their accoutrements are native language to fantasy readers, but this was historical/literary, and it… wasn’t my world. It was an alienating feeling – going into what felt familiar with the best will in the world, and finding unfamiliar ground. Or, in the end, ground that followed the shape of another genre, the endings of which never clicked with me.

So I cannot offer a useful commentary of the book at all. I dare say it was very good – it was certainly popular with people whose taste I respect. Probably I should read it again, with a decade of broadened tastes. But it was historical, which is a genre that often makes me feel cheated of reading histories, and literary fiction, which often makes me feel cheated of a satisfying conclusion. And then I found Connie Willis‘ Doomsday Book, and it was Just Right, and I was home.

Illustration Friday: Teacher

Pencil sketches for “Teacher”, with a touch of digital colour (you should be able to see a larger version by clicking on the picture)). The badger is of course Badger of Wind in the Willows, “learning” the denizens of the Wild Wood. The question mark is for Rudyard Kipling’s six honest serving men.

And here as a bonus is another attempt at a repeating pattern (all digital, but working off this very useful set of analogue instructions). I like the idea of a fairytale print, but there needs to be more going on. This forms too obvious a grid.

Frog Prince

I may develop it further. Here is a pencil and digital sketch for another scene and style:

Frog Prince

The Dalek Of The Dawn Treader

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and most particularly for Reepicheep (the bold, the indomitable, the vain, the… always reminded me very slightly of Hercule Poirot?) Dawn Treader is not my favourite of the Chronicles of Narnia, and yet it has so many of my favourite scenes – falling into the painting, Lucy in Caspian’s tunic, Eustace crying to the moon, Goldwater, the lily sea. And it does have one of my favourite first lines, out of so many: “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

Each of the novels has so much its own feel – the odd, mannered Edwardian fantasy and fresh discovery of The Magician’s Nephew, the childlike, wish-fulfilment, occasionally dark, myth-steeped allegory of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the untouched-by our world, desert-city-mountain, 1001-nights pursuit of The Horse and his Boy, the midnight, lost-heir, cloak-and-dagger battles (and that taste of adult loss) of Prince Caspian, the salt-air and white-sails episodic quest (within quest) Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the death, betrayal and depression of The Silver Chair, the sweeping, contained, final beginning of The Last Battle. And Pauline Baynes’ illustrations catch each style with such perfect, consistent flexibility.

This is how I most like series, I think. Linked, locked into each other, yet each complete and Its Own Story. Diana Wynne Jones did this as well, although in a more extreme fashion across fewer books. It satisfies my desire for more story, while not ruining my memory of an already-perfect tale.

Storybook Dalek

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Fables Vol 3: Storybook Lovewhich, just – I love. I admire the concept and execution of Fables generally, and beyond that I frequently adore (or loathe, or both!) the characters, and those two things aren’t always sides of the same coin. But of course, this also means this drawing is for The Princess Bride, and therefore also for Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and for Mark Knopfler, and all good things. And for initial capitals in fairytale books, with which I filled far too many pages of old sketchbooks.

In other news: All I’ve been able to manage about the World Fantasy Award ballot (after many tweets of congratulations) is “meep!”

And just today, Ticonderoga Publications announced Midnight and Moonshine , a collection of intertwined stories – cold and cruelly beautiful – by awesome fellow-present-and-past nominees Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter. And I did the cover :)

Illustration Friday: Bounce

As a distraction from everything else, I’ve been working on some repeating patterns. This one is pure digital scribbling, and memories of trampoline days (house rules: one at a time, no shoes, in the middle). Our trampoline was given to us when we lived in Brisbane by our piano teacher. Her neighbour’s children had jumped on it in football boots, so for a time it only had half a mat. This made it much easier to get back to the ground without being zapped by static electricity. It made a wonderful cubby house, shade in Brisbane summers, a cool place to all lie in a row and talk on country evenings, a startling one-legged descent when the mat finally perished and gave way.

I may upload the other pattern soon. The new header is an extract from it.

The Dalek, The Witch and the Wardrobe

This instalment of the Dalek Game is obviously for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and of course for Pauline Baynes’ illustrations which are Narnia for me, and whose White Witch (so elegant) is the one true Jadis, no matter how magnificent Tilda Swinton was.

Narnia infused my childhood – they are among the earliest books I remember reading (and being read, and reading aloud every year). For me they are the standard of wonder, the true quality of fairytale and fantasy – almost tangible, utterly ethereal, the best of the mundane and the least trammelled by the dullness of the world. Through the door and into the woods, through the desert and over the sea, forests and hunts, high romance and low loving adventure, “once upon a time” and all stories (they begin, after all, when Sherlock Holmes was living in Baker Street and the Bastables were digging for treasure in Lewisham Road), and always. Unlike The Lord of the Rings, which gained the third foothold in my heart, they were almost within reach, and unlike The Chronicles of Prydain (which I learned to love between Tolkien and Lewis) they never ended. They barely even began.

And here is a bonus drawing – originally for a card, with a touch of greenery added for current purposes:

Queen Susan