Stranger Things Happen – 10th anniversary cover art

Look at this beautiful book!

Stranger Things Happen - in the life!

It is Subterranean Press’ limited 10th anniversary edition of Kelly Link’s collection Stranger Things Happen, which I had the absolute delight of illustrating. And it really is a beautiful book, beautiful mustard-coloured cloth (mustard? goldenrod? schoolbus yellow? I don’t know, but I like mustard), and the lovely satiny wraparound colour, and ostrich-skin textured endpapers. If this is what ebooks force hard copy books to look like, then bring on the revolution.

The only cover specification I received was a request that it contain a nod to the original Shelley Jackson illustration:


Since I had recently been researching 60s fashion and pattern illustrations for Delia Sherman’s The Freedom Maze, I already had images on my mind for “The Girl Detective” – old Nancy Drew books, and specifically the endpapers:


Here are my initial thumbnail sketches for the cover, and for the last story in the collection.

Stranger Things Happen - cover sketches

After that I ran around the house taking reference photos (if you share a house with me, the chances are you’ll end up in an illustration). The torch is a pepper mill (with, oddly, a built-in light), which is more torch-shaped than our actual torches.


The internal illustrations were pen and ink only. The cover I drew in pen and ink, scanned, cleaned up, added a single flat layer of yellow, and a background texture scanned from an old book. Every story in the collection gets an element (or a share in an element) on the cover, but my favourite part is the peacock’s tail.
Stranger Things Happen - cover

Here are some more glimpses inside from Small Beer Press, and here are some lovely words on the book from the LA Times.

The limited edition is available from Subterranean.

Ilustration Friday: Myth

Illustration Friday: Myth

So I arrived home from work, in the rain, and promptly thought, “I know what I should do, after I eat these eggs and some roast beef with mustard! I should design and cut out an entire A3 silhouette picture!” As it is, this is as good as it gets tonight – tomorrow, after I resharpen the knife and regain sensation in the relevant fingers, I will tidy up the furry bits, and maybe add a touch more detail if the recipient (this is also in payment of an IOU) thinks suitable.

It says:

Once upon a time (but “once” is always & ever after)

And fortunately that last curl of vine adds a nice closing bracket because otherwise I would have completely forgotten to add one in. But otherwise the letters appear to be in the correct order, yes? and facing the right way? Because I lettered them straight onto the reverse and didn’t check in a mirror, and at this point my ability to read is questionable.

Dalek of the Pigeons

Dalek of the Pigeons

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Megan Lindholm’s Wizard of the Pigeons, one of the earlier urban fantasy (in the older sense of that term) books which I read, not including that odd twilight world of children’s and YA novels which hadn’t been separated out by genre yet. I am not sure if this was the book that won me over to it – I do remember being charmed by it, and sad, and the shifting nature of the world peculiar to the sort of urban fantasy I like. I was already won over to Lindholm’s writing by reason of her also being Robin Hobb, whose Farseer books I bought purely on the basis of a John Howe cover, and even convinced my little sister (inveterate non-fiction and Grisham reader) to read.

In other news: The year is off to a promising, undead start with January’s calendar illustration, impressive temperatures, lots of coffee, watching The Mousetrap with my mother, testing centrifugal forces in a playground with my cousins, and a house thinly coated in chalk-and-ink dust.

It’s alive! ALIVE! Or: January calendar

January 2013

Until my housemate revolts, or momentum flags (last year we made it through October) the theme of this year’s calendar will be horror, with a dash of Saul Bass. This is in cut paper and Sharpie.

Illustration Friday: Ocean

Illustration Friday: Ocean

I had the paints out while working on ideas for a project, so played around with them for this week’s Illustration Friday topic. I wanted to try this more posterlike style (and this is very much a sketch for a larger idea, which is why the shadows are erratic and I left the pencil lines in), and these colours were obvious because we were at the time in the middle of a heatwave (39.6 degrees at 5pm!). I was inside in the airconditioning, painting in the vicinity of my parents after having worn out my voice reading Agatha Christie to my father.

Aspects of the blue one I like, but it is too angular. More ’80s than the first. But the gouache is fun.

Illustration Friday: Ocean (dive)

I Planted Daleks

I planted Daleks

This instalment of the Dalek Game is really for the Lifeline Bookfest, where I bought Richard St. Barbe Baker‘s autobiography, I Planted Trees. Several years ago. And haven’t read it yet.

I am certain it will be compelling and life-altering because most books I buy at the Lifeline Bookfest are (my criteria: pretty spine, not my genre, never heard of it and/or don’t read that subject; don’t even bother trying to fight for the Pratchett books, there is blood in the aisles there).

I am not allowed to go to the Bookfest again until I buy more bookcases and have more time to read things not-for-illustration. So you should all go. It’s amazing. Enormous exhibition halls full of old, beautiful, mouldering, dog-eared, out-of-print, rare, too-common, dusty, inscribed books. Money raised goes to support services including a crisis line and post-disaster support.

The next Brisbane Bookfest is from 19 to 28 January at the Convention Centre. Take a cut lunch and a backpack.

LIfeline Bookfest

Illustration Friday: New

Happy New Year!

I spent much of the holidays eating, and occasionally stirring myself to work on illustrations. I didn’t wear shoes for days. This Illustration Friday picture is an altered paper cut, with a layer of stained paper behind it. The original was made as part of a journal of ideas for a larger project coming up in May (help!).

Illustration Friday: New (and January header)

You should be able to see a larger version by clicking on the picture, which will take you through to its Flickr page.

This year bodes for many more projects – wedding invitations, book covers, internal illustrations, all sorts of things in progress already (shoes aside, it was a very productive holiday). Also, editing the Large Amorphous Manuscript.