A Stranger in Olondria – cover art

I am back from Conflux, although still recovering from the flu which left me spending most of the convention propped up in corners trying to catch my breath. While I collate my convention thoughts, here is an overdue cover process post!

Last year, Small Beer Press asked whether I would be interested in trying a more ‘painterly’ style, for the decadent, festal beauty of the city of Sofia Samatar’s novel A Stranger in Olondria.

Here are the initial thumbnail sketches (you should be able to see a larger version by clicking through to the Flickr page). 
Olondria Roughs

Here is a little colour study from when I was still working out what I was doing – but in the end we went with the larger image from the right-hand page of the sketch above.


Here is the layout sketch, to make sure there was room for text.


The jacket is based slightly on a wonderfully ornate teal cutaway number my housemate bought at a second-hand shop in England, and I mocked-up the skyline on the dining table to make sure domes didn’t cut through walls, etc.


I had not, at this stage, begun the cover for Midnight and Moonshine – that cover happened because certain people got wind of the style we were trying for Olondria – so there was an amount of trial and error in this. I really prefer to have a single final piece of line art so that at the end I can hold something real that exists in the world. In this case, however, I was nervous and drew four separate pencil layers: figure, railing, city and sky.

Here is the linework put together with the colour flats under it. They make it easier to select, colour and change the areas of the picture.

Olondria WIP

Here is the full wrap-around art for the cover. The most pineapply of the rooftops is based on a roof of Queensland’s Parliament House, and I now do a double-take when I walk past and see it.

Olondria cover art

And here it is in the wild, seen in Pulp Fiction bookstore in Brisbane today!

One Small Step Anthology – Ella and the Flame

Ella Sketch

Sable jumped to her feet. “Let me be the dragon!” she cried. “Look!” And she cast great shadows with her arms so that they looked like jaws.

“It looks like a dog!” exclaimed Ella, scornful.

“It’s a wolf-dragon,” said Sable. “Go on!”

Outside, there was a roar of voices, and then a hissing, a whispering.

“Go on!” said Anne urgently. “A great dragon?”

“No, three dragons!” revised Ella, suddenly gleeful… So Anne cast a demure dragon upon the wall, and Mary a reluctant one, and Sable moved her sleeves against the light like beating wings…

I do sometimes write stories – the sort that have lots of words in them and no pictures at all! So (because I can’t help myself) here, above, is a page of my notebook with some scribblings for my little story “Ella and the Flame”, which is not quite so pleasant as these selections from it appear. It is in Fablecroft’s latest anthology, One Small Step, which is now available to order and will be launched at Conflux in Canberra on Friday 26 April.

It is also available in a giveaway on GoodReads (open until 20 April).

The anthology has a striking table of contents, including a foreword by Marianne de Pierres and stories by Joanne Anderton & Rabia GaleDeborah BiancottiJodi CleghornRowena Cory DaniellsThoraiya DyerKate GordonLisa L. Hannett & Angela Slatter, Penelope Love, Michelle Marquardt, DK Mok, Faith Mudge, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Barbara Robson, Cat Sparks, Suzanne J Willis (and me).

Screen printing (or: aboreal royalty)

Screen printing

In March I went to a 2 day screen-printing workshop run by Milli & Fink. Due to ‘recent weather events’ the workshop had relocated from a storm-damaged hall to a lovely little old Queenslander house in Ipswich, with a view of corrugated roofs and Moreton Bay Figs marching down the hill through veils of rain. Not including the rain, our class spent most of the two days wet and inky, with quiet passages where those of us not coating screens or hosing emulsion down the stairs sat around the dining table with piles of reference books, pens and paper drawing designs and eating cupcakes.

Screen printing

I recommend the workshop. We went from learning how to expose a screen to trying out gold-leaf and screen-printing on wood, and were able to print plenty of pieces to bring home, so even if you didn’t decide that screen-printing (or part of it) was For You, you had some lovely, useable work – paper, teatowels, calico bags…


In my case,  while the class showed me just what could be accomplished at home and without even a studio, and while I have so many ideas, the room and mess and time it needs are something for which I do not currently have space (physical, temporal or mental). One day maybe…

You may recognise the wolf above from a cut-paper picture I made a few weeks ago. The picture below, of tree-dwelling royalty, was drawn in marker on paper on the day of the workshop, due to a recent Twitter conversation with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, which transitioned into quoting A. A. Milne’s poem “The King’s Breakfast”, a conversation it is to be hoped we can continue in England in November (Sandy interfered with plans to meet in Toronto last year, although I was able to catch up with Delia for a too-short coffee in New York)!

A Little Bit of Butter

So of course I had to send them a tea-towel print of it, in thanks. Here is the card which I drew to accompany it – indulging in more high-set highnesses, and some watercolour shading for once.

Card: Aboreal royalty

Weddings and pictures

Hodgkinson/Richardson wedding

Just before Easter, my cousin Jess married Dave in the trees on their property by the river in Nagambie (photos top and left are by my cousin Joanna Hiron). I posted about the invitation illustrations here: Victorian wedding. It was a beautiful wedding, full of music and family, flowers and lights, with small children and dogs underfoot and (I hear) some hay-bale tossing by late in the evening… and they printed the wedding invitation linework on the stubby holders, which was a first for my illustrations. A lovely weekend, followed by a vacation in Melbourne and road trip to Canberra with my mother (including sketching musicians in a hotel in Beechworth).

And on the topic of weddings, here is a little design I did as a gift for two friends, Thom and Lily (both photographers: http://thomascodyphotographics.wordpress.com ) who were married earlier of this year:

Thom & Lily

Illustration Friday: Egg

Illustration Friday: Egg

The morning I went on holidays, I received a new illustration job. So that took care of what to read on the flight, and I spent much of the downtime between weddings, touring Melbourne with my mother, driving to the ACT and hanging out in Canberra working on sketches and making some test cut-paper swatches. So this week’s Illustration Friday picture was made at my older sister’s dining table with note paper and a box cutter. But it was (a) done and (b) posted! Several Illustration Friday pictures of late have only made it halfway.

Also: here is the latest cover o’ mine to be announced! Catherynne Valente’s The Bread We Eat in Dreams, from Subterranean Press. A process post will come in due course.

The Daleked Dog

The Daleked Dog

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for my one of my favourite Henry Lawson short stories, the 1901 story “The Loaded Dog”. It is about a dog which on its own caused more destruction than most Daleks, and was a favourite story for our family to read aloud when visitors were staying, or between larger books. You can read it in the collection Joe Wilson and his Mates, available from Project Gutenberg (“The Ghostly Door”, in that collection, is also a classic, but you’ll have to look elsewhere for the dog v ghost story “They Called Him Ally for Short”, about a dog called Alligator Desolation).

I do plan to draw more Daleks, but this is the last I had in the backlog and I have some upcoming deadlines (and I’d like to do some more duck drawings as well), so they may continue intermittent.

Also, I just returned from holidays and now have to go watch the first episode of this season!