June 2013


Illustration Friday: Worn

I’m playing around a little with watercolour (and the reproduction thereof, of which this is the how-not-to example) for some larger projects, so here are some op-shopping ladies for this week’s Illustration Friday topic “Worn”.

I think it was… Shayna? who related one op-shopper’s justification for purchasing fur stoles as, “It’s 70 years old. It would have been dead by now anyway”.

Here’s a larger, cleaner version of the image:

Worn

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These were, alas, the last published illustrations for Eclipse Online:

First was E Lily Yu‘s haunting, keyed-back story of the loss of loss: “Loss, with Chalk Diagrams” – a story with all its colours fading in memory like cold cigarette smoke.

At top is one of the inked drawings I discarded. The final image is at centre. The one at the bottom I adore, but it was a bit too quirky/upbeat for this beautiful understated story.

Loss, with Chalk Diagrams

And very last was An Owomoyela‘s “In Metal, In Bone“. It has been a privilege to read and illustrate all the excellent stories which appeared in Eclipse Online (thank you Jonathan). This one, the final tale, however, had one of the most powerful effects on me. It is a slow build, almost subtle, with a gradual gut-punch that I did not miss, but had to read over to make sure I had not imagined it.

In Metal, In Bone

This week’s Illustration Friday picture began, as usual, with ballpoint notebook sketches. The White Witch and Edmund, with the enchanted Turkish Delight, were strong contenders, and then I remembered… (fair warning, this isn’t a pleasant story if you are fond of rabbits)

Illustration Friday: Sweet

Once, we lived out west and had two cats. One was fat and slept all day, the other was slender and twitchy, and assumed to be the huntress (as it turned out, there was a reason the first was well-fed and exhausted by daylight). As cats are wont to do, they occasionally left gifts – bouquets of feathers, mice with curled paws – on the verandah, usually for my mother. One day, the sacrifice was a young rabbit. Apparently unable to catch two (one for dinner and one for the boss), the cat compromised, ate the top half of the rabbit and left the bottom half propped up against the wall, spotlit in a beam of morning sun. My mother, awaking and emerging to greet the day, discovered this tribute and exclaimed, “Oh, how sweet! A little pair of furry britches!”

Susan Palwick illustration

The first story for February was Susan Palwick‘s troubling, traumatic “Sanctuary” – a story I expected to have a major personal reaction against and ended up being deeply struck and impressed by. One of those stories for which praise and recommendation are not always in direct relationship to each other. Certainly a story for reactions. The picture above was one of the first ideas I had for it, followed by the little sketches below, riffing on one of the lighter moments in the story.

Susan Palwick illustration

I still like those little drunk angels, but Jonathan Strahan suggested we take a darker tack, in keeping with the overall tone of the story. He was perfectly correct – this is what art direction is for! – and illustrators as well as writers sometimes have to kill their darlings.

So we went darker – and to a different style, pencil-based rather than the pen-and-ink I had done for the Eclipse illustrations to date. The final illustration is at the top right, one of the darker pieces I’ve done and much more appropriate for the story.

Susan Palwick illustrations

Some of the perks of illustrating include getting to read awesome stories in advance of publication (then being superior and secretive in company), getting to draw from the works of authors who always seemed unapproachable luminaries, and discovering new heroes. Then there is the additional excitement on days when you open the email attachment, and find the by-line is by a friend. I was very excited to see the next story was Peter M Ball‘s “On the Arrival of the Paddle-Steamer on the Docks of V-“  – a story of the cruel beauty of farewell, the tawdry mundanity of loss, the heartlessness of love. Peter writes the most disturbing fairytales (and is an excellent writer, hosts Trashy Tuesday Movies, is running for AWM’s GenreCon Australia – those are just the highlights, and also, although he’s usually quite conscientious about warning me off books and movies which might scar me, he was responsible for Space Train).

I was working on some roughs for an ongoing scratchboard project, and did this little goat-headed guy from Peter’s story for practice (the picture is very tiny in real life):

Goat-head

 

The actual illustration, however, was completed at the same time as the first round of Palwick pictures, in pen and ink with digital colour. The final is on the right, and I like the hot colour of the anonymous, eponymous city (although I still have a fondness for the two travellers on the left).

Peter M Ball illustration