September 2012


Illustration Friday: Crooked

Crooked branches for Illustration Friday (and some birthday cards). The dog is in ink and gouache – my father likes to say of dogs that “every inclination of their heart is only evil all the time”, so presumably this one has some ulterior motive. The branch of flowers is in gouache and (imitation) gold leaf. That was my second attempt. The first attempt to use gold leaf (and do an illustration for this topic), below, went horribly wrong due to some misapplied… well, it wasn’t varnish. Anyway! Turns out the size and leaf apply rather well to fingernails, and the Dustbuster my sister gave me for my birthday comes in handy when the table is covered with tiny flecks of metal foil.

Gold!

On the theme of cards, here is a belated thank you card for a gift of handmade concertina books from Trudi. The card is about an inch-and-a-half square when it is folded, and has foxes, birds, mice, a cat, a Dalek and me:

Thank You Card

And on the theme of dogs, the Little Red Riding Hood fabric swatch arrived! The fabric is now available for purchase at Spoonflower: All the Wild Wolves

Wolf fabric

Here is the cover for Angela Slatter and Lisa Hannett’s ornate, interlocked Midnight and Moonshine, which is being published very soon by Ticonderoga Publications, with a foreword by Kim Wilkins.

It started with sketches and discussions over coffee with Angela, and then by email with Lisa, searching for an image that would catch the linked stories. In the end we focussed on the mythological elements, with flowing lines, a white raven and Mymnir being beautiful and mysterious.

First sketches

I took the opportunity to play around with coloured inks, as Angela and Lisa wanted a more painterly style – in the end, we went with the softer style I used on Small Beer Press’ cover for Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria, but that had not been finished at this stage.

At Continuum in Melbourne, we sat down in the hotel restaurant and worked out the general layout. It was fun working this way – I rarely get to work up a sketch over coffee with the interested parties, but it is much more fluid and less fraught process than the usual back-and-forth by email. At the top left is Lisa demonstrating arm poses.

Preparations

Russell, the publisher, had sent me templates for the paperback and hardcovers. These have different dimensions. I layered the templates to get a single template which would let me allow for all croppings in the one drawing. I then did a layout sketch (above, lower left) to make sure there was room for the title, blurb, bar code and so forth, and sourced more cape and arm reference (courtesy of Aimee, and my hand).

From there: pencils, inks, colour flats and a long colouring/texturing/shading session in front of BBC crime shows, nominally keeping my father company.

Round 1

And… in the end the line work was too bold and “YA”. But the cover for A Stranger in Olondria was in the wild by now, so I had some more experience (and everyone had more reference) for what we were trying to do. In the end, after tears and weeping, the only way to soften the lines was to redraw the whole thing in pencil. Which was much more soothing than aiming for precise inkwork. I griped a lot. They turned out to be wise and correct, but I reserve the right to guilt-trip Certain Authors into buying me coffee.

Round 2

At this point, the lines were approved but the colours were still too bold. This is one reason why, with short turnarounds, I colour digitally! I knocked back the colour and transparency and brought up the paper textures in the sky. This is the point at which I began to grudgingly forgive Angela and Lisa, because this second version did look much, much better. They said kind and soothing words and presented the cover to Russell, who had been suffering in (not quite) silence. He had one request – to adjust the lady’s shoulder – which turned out to be more possible than I expected (to summarise: everyone involved was wonderful and reasonable and I apologise for my histrionics, subject to the coffee comment above).

And voila, the full wrap-around cover (which appears larger here).

Midnight and Moonshine cover

Some time after this, Russell sent over the title pages for the limited edition hardcover and I spent a pleasant morning signing them with Angela over cupcakes. By the end – by even 20 pages – my signature looked like “K twitch-muscle-spasm”.

The launches are at Avid Reader in Brisbane on 30 November 2012, and at the SA Writers Centre in Adelaide on 14 December 2012, and you can pre-order the trade paperback or the limited edition hardcover at the links on the Ticonderoga page.

Our Mutual Dalek

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for my very favourite Dickens novel, Our Mutual Friend, my appreciation for which I have previously expressed. I still love it. It is excessively elaborate, indulgent, melodramatic, neat, funny, and odd. After an intensive course of Heyer rereads, which has left me criticising things by saying they are “nothing out of the common way”, I am about to read Our Mutual Friend again, for its skilled taxidermists and harmless pieces of dinner furniture, Red Riding Hood references, reversals of fortune and very satisfying ending. And then I will probably watch the miniseries again, for all that and Paul McGann.

Illustration Friday: Burst

Because it takes so much longer than just drawing a picture, this week I am still playing with repeating patterns. This time, it is a pattern of bursting seedpods. I like what I tried with it, but it isn’t quite as seamless a repeat as I want. Here is a close-up of the base pattern:

Illustration Friday: Burst (base pattern)

And here is a snippet of another pattern, just trees, which worked much as I wanted it to. If the Little Red Riding Hood fabric swatch I ordered arrives and works, I might try this one, too.

Into the woods

American Daleks

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Neil Gaiman’s remarkable novel American Gods, a road-trip, murder-mystery, missing-identity, conspiracy, hustling, stranger-comes-to-a-small-town, Götterdämmerung of a fantasy. For me, it’s a pair with Diana Wynne Jones’ Eight Days of Luke – the grown-up, explicit, visceral, wry, partially-unrecommendable-in-certain-circles elder sibling of a novel with many of the same themes (as Stardust pairs with Howl’s Moving Castle). And in my head it is more than one book and world, as fits a cross-country novel in such a broad country – cold isolation of an ex-con walking by train tracks, hot southern funeral parlours, sweat and loss of hotel rooms, the baroque horror of a carousel…

In other news: A month and a half until I go to America! A little freaked out. Reminding myself that all I need is a passport, credit card and the will to eat my way across a continent.

Illustration Friday: Imagination

A head full of wolves for this week’s Illustration Friday. Pen and ink with digital colour (the texture is that of the paper I drew on).

Naturally, I tried out a full Little Red Riding Hood repeating pattern for the background. I’m not unhappy with it – I’ve gone so far as ordering some of it as a Spoonflower swatch, so I will report back on that adventure. In the meantime, here is a section of it without reader:

Wolf pattern

And this is what the two blocks of drawing look like (because I was determined to work from first principles and not move bits around once they were drawn):

It is entirely possible I was avoiding thinking about recent developments in Queensland politics. Everyone copes with stress differently.

In other news: You can win a Dalek drawing of your very own by answering the question at the bottom of this interview: Rowena Cory Daniells: Meet Kathleen Jennings.

Oh, and the September blog header is from the pattern, too:

Little Daleks

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, a book containing one of those scenes which sear themselves into my memory – the death of the bird when the girls are allowed to do as they please on their holidays and forget to take care of it. It was scarring and awful scene, because it was such an obvious, inevitable, unexpected, Lord of the Flies thing to happen. To many readers the book seems to be a hoops-and-bonnets fantasy. But while it taught me to do my chores (as What Katy Did taught me to give explanations for rules), and while I like Little Women much more than Lord of the Flies, and can forgive it a great deal for the collapsing bed and “Rodrigo! Save me!”, I cannot quite consider the novel without that memory, or consider the March girls aside from that momentous, careless cruelty.

An element of gritty reality underlies the charm (the teasing, the burned hair, the lost love). It is absent from (best-beloved) near-contemporary What Katy Did (1872 to Little Women’s 1868-9), for all its squabbles and games, and from the Little House Books (published in the 1930s recollecting the 1870s) where consequences come from outside forces and the best intentions of human effort seem to dissipate in locusts, blizzards, sickness and fire. Absent too from Anne of Green Gables’ cringing embarrassments (1908), and from Seven Little Australians (1894) which contains larger tragedies but which (in spite of laundering) most helpless animals survive. 

This, too, is the reason that I did not care for the latest Pride and Prejudice movie as Pride and Prejudice. P&P is about veneers, manners, appearances and trying to live and love through and in spite of them (oh, that one beautiful sentence about Lizzie and her aunt not talking as they leave Pemberley). The movie showed mud and pigs and sweat and pores, and the fantasy of muslin and carriages and plumes suspended above all that. And I still think, as I said when the first promotional pictures came out, that for Pride and Prejudice it is a very good Little Women! (And for the record: best Lizzie = Jennifer Ehle (that smile!), best Darcy = Laurence Olivier (spoiled boy), best Mrs Bennett = Alex Kingston (darling), best Mr Collins = Nitin Ganatra (no life without wife)).

In other news: Giveaway! Rowena Cory Daniells interviewed me on art and writing, and there is a chance to get a Dalek drawing of your very own.