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.
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.
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):
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).