Illustration Friday: Jungle

Illustration Friday: Jungle (Shabby tigers)

Some Dorothy Sayers fan art for this week’s Illustration Friday topic.

I’ve been falling in love with Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane and their hard-won, thoroughly negotiated friendship all over again because my housemate and I watched the Edward Petherbridge/Harriet Walter miniseries and were distraught to realise that they had not made Busman’s Honeymoon, which has led to reading out key selections to everyone who stays still long enough. Mostly the snarky accounts of the wedding which starts it all, and the sublime domestic comedy of cleaning the chimney, and the awful devastation of deep happiness in the face of long-running trauma that is the last chapter (in case you aren’t familiar with the book, it is a murder mystery, but that’s never what I remember).

The tigers – tamed and shabby, sleek and shining – make a metaphorical appearance in Busman’s Honeymoon and that’s all I’m going to say! Except that Busman’s Honeymoon is necessarily preceded by (at least) the grave and charming Strong Poison (London celebrity trials! Bohemia! accused innocence! unexpected and unrequited romance!), the intrepid and jolly Have His Carcase (practical rambling lady novelists, English watering places, creepy barbers) and the relentlessly thought-provoking and heart-wringing Gaudy Night (Oxford women’s colleges of the 1930s, philosophy, life choices, proper work and the terms of human relationships).

Five Daleks and It

Five Daleks and It

Do we detect a theme?

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for E. Nesbit’s novel Five Children and It, (and a direct reference to H. R. Millar‘s illustrations for it) one of those “be careful what you wish for” stories which was far more entertaining than didactic.

I am probably being unfair to late 19th/early 20th century children’s novels, because in my mind they are mostly very grim, with saintly children dying and melting the hearts of neighbouring curmudgeons. I’ve realised lately that while there is some truth to this, that seed was planted by sarcastic comments in the books of some of my favourite more recent writers. The older books I’ve read usually make the transgressions – while attended by awful consequences – look not-so-secretly like jolly good fun as well. By which you can deduce I had a hearty dose of E. Nesbit, L.M. Montgomery, Susan Coolidge and Ethel Turner, growing up. Not that the last two, at least, didn’t feature their share of tragedy, but at least everyone seemed to be having a good time up until that point.

And the best lessons were never that you couldn’t fly, but that you should take reasonable safety measures beforehand.

Illustration Friday: Travel

Illustration Friday: Travel

An impromptu musing in pen and ink and a dash of watercolour (and a rather cavalier attitude to rhythm and punctuation) on the theme of Red Riding Hood and journeys which – combined with Sleeping Beauty and a lot of cut paper work – forms part of the theme of my contribution to next month’s Once Upon a Time art show (which this is not a part of, unless I can’t get everything else finished in time).

“Come!” says Miss Red, “we’ll go a-journeying – 
So what if the wolf is in the woods?
He knocks at every cottage door
And if the path should promise pain
Or flowers,
We may choose again.

But all paths give
Sharp stones and o
ffer pleasant hours. 
This is of needles, that of pins,
And she who travels lightest wins.
Wear a good hat – so that you won’t be seen,
Or else bright colours, so you can’t be missed
(Better to go uncheated? or unkissed?
Unsinging or unsung?
Or altogether elsewhere, all the time
Distracted by a fresh horizon, sprung
Anew with every step.)
Good boots at least (for mud and gravel)
And food (who knows how far you’ll travel?).
Danger’s at home as well as away, 
In bed as well as on the road, 
And worry is a thankless load – 
Come!” says Miss Red,
“I’ll share the forest and my bread
With who may join me, lingering
On pleasant paths.
We’ll go a-journeying…”

The show is:

Once Upon a Time – Reinterpreting the Fairy Tale

16th- 25th August 2013

The Art & Design Precinct, 10 Bailey St, West End, Brisbane


The Dalek and the Carpet

The Dalek and the Carpet

Another E. Nesbit Dalek for the Dalek Game! This one is for The Phoenix and the Carpet, which is… probably due for a reread, because I haven’t retained this one the way I have her short stories and other novels. It is one of the more fantastical, but I remember it as less enchanting than – say – The Enchanted Castle, which only has one magical conceit, or the Bastable books, which haven’t any magic at all, but might as well be Narnia, or Harry Potter (as a matter of fact, they get a direct reference in Narnia). Have I mentioned how I love it when non-fantasy novels are so fantastical that fantasy bookstores stock them? I will next time I talk about Eva Ibbotson.

In other news: My cover for Karen Joy Fowler’s What I Didn’t See is out! Also, I am busy making paper-cut images for my contribution to a fairytale art show (among other projects), of which more anon. The date-claimer details (for Brisbane folk) are:

Once Upon a Time – Reinterpreting the Fairy Tale

16th- 25th August 2013

The Art & Design Precinct, 10 Bailey St, West End, Brisbane

Cover Art: Karen Joy Fowler – “What I Didn’t See”

Two new covers to show you! One… not so new and one not quite out yet. But soon!

The first was the cover for Small Beer Press‘ paperback release of Karen Joy Fowler‘s collection What I Didn’t See. I remember being dragged along to see The Jane Austen Bookclub and realising abruptly that into what had boded to be a very pink movie was slipped a suspiciously accurate side-glimpse of a science fiction convention, a discussion of famous women science fiction authors, and a scene which prompted my Grisham-reading sister to ask if I had any Le Guin novels. Fowler, I realised, was one of us.

When I was asked to do this cover I was hopping around the house with delight. It is a superb collection. Fairytales of holiday communities, tragic conspiracies of scientific expeditions, tales which might be just a story and might be – might be – something beyond the delusion of the characters. My favourite story, The Dark, I love so much that I mentally insert it into all collections of stories that I like and have to trace it back to this collection by the flea I drew for the cover. It is slow, mysterious, hair-raising – the best and saddest of unsolved-mysteries.

Here are the first sketches – working out general direction and technique (the examples on the right include ink and cut-paper figures):

Fowler Cover - initial sketches

I had intended to do a cut-out design for the cover, but Small Beer Press were happy with the sketch as it was in this more detailed layout-test:

Fowler Cover - layouts

I tried a few different colourways:

Fowler Cover - colour variants

In the end we settled for the original, simple black-and-white design.

Final cover art - Fowler

And then the book arrived and – it was printed with gloss spots and embossing in all black. So, so hard to get a decent photo of, and absolutely gorgeous, like something out of a gothic candy store. My first embossed cover! And a very excellent book.

Final covers - Fowler and Olondria

There too is the hard copy of Sofia Samatar‘s novel A Stranger in Olondria, the cover process of which I posted about here.

Rebecca and Aaron’s wedding

Earlier this year, I had the delightful task of designing the invitation for the wedding of two friends and ex-colleagues of mine: Rebecca and Aaron.

Photograph by Byron Loves Fawn

Photograph by Byron Loves Fawn

Here are some of the initial sketches.

Rebecca & Aaron - sketches

The final pieces were inked, then coloured digitally. The church in the background is Saint Mary’s at Kangaroo Point in Brisbane. You can see some of the inks behind the final invitations in this photo:
Rebecca & Aaron - invitation

As well as the front of the invitation, I drew the reception venue (the Brisbane Customs House), the border for the RSVP card, and several detachable sprigs of flowers for general decoration.

Rebecca & Aaron - additional

Unfortunately, I was not able to go to the wedding, but judging from Byron Loves Faun‘s beautiful photographs, it was an enchanted evening:

Photograph by Byron Loves Fawn

Photograph by Byron Loves Fawn

Byron Loves Fawn‘s photographs are used with their very kind permission.


Melisande or Long and Short Daleks

Melisande, or Long and Short Daleks

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for E. Nesbit’s short fairytale of wishes and mathematics, “Melisande, or Long and Short Division”, which is available at several locations online (here’s one) but is best read with all her other wonderful tales of princesses and lift operators, kings and treacly sea-serpents, plagues of yellow houses and bell-people, and towns in libraries (in towns in libraries).

In other news: Oh look! A new Dalek drawing and more to come! Also, I’m taking part in a fairytale art exhibition in Brisbane in August, and the organisers are fundraising on Pozible, should you wish to obtain an art print or other rewards (and support the Make a Wish foundation).