The Rathbones – seaweed and whales

This is Janice Clark’s novel The Rathbones – a dim, salt-spangled, miniature epic of a tangled whaling family – Gormenghast and the Odyssey and Poe, dreamlike with sudden tiny landscapes of painterly clarity, shrouded mysteries, decadence and deprivation, real cruelty and torturous bloodlines.

Rathbones - art by Janice Clark

Cover art by Janice Clark

The cover and the chapter headers are by the author. However, I was originally asked to do the cover, and we went as far as thumbnails sketches and concept work before the publisher decided to change direction (all amicable and professional!).

My art was to be cut-paper, and as I hadn’t done much in a nautical theme before, I spent some of my holidays practicing whales and ropes at my sister’s dining table, and drawing seaweed in my notebook. Here is a selection from the test pieces:

Concept paper cuts

Test patches by me

The art director was Emily Mahon, and you can see some of her lovely cover work here: I am a particular fan of the modern library series, and can’t pick just one.


Illustration Friday: Power

Illustration Friday: Power

This week’s Illustration Friday picture is not a saboteur mermaid with a hand-drill. She is also drawn in pen and ink, with some honest watercolour.

Once Upon a Time opening!

Self, in front of art

Self, in front of art

The art show has opened! One of my work colleagues took this photo of me in front of my pieces – all cut black paper. I scratched a couple of frames due to bad packaging and had to go back in yesterday morning to replace them, but otherwise all went smoothly.

The show closes down on the morning of Sunday 25 August, but is open all this week from 10-6 every day at 10 Bailey Street, West End (Brisbane).

Here is a glimpse inside my sketchbook, when I was developing ideas.


More photos from the opening night are here on Facebook.

Once upon a time…

The Once Upon a Time fairytale group art show starts this week! Tomorrow evening (16 August 2013) in point of fact, with the opening beginning at 6pm. The show finishes on 25 August 2013 and is on from 10-4 every day after that (I think – I will check and confirm tomorrow!).

August 2013 Blog Header

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

16-25 August, 2013

Facebook: Once Upon a Time

The snippet above is a sneak-peak at one of my works, with more to come, but not until the show is on! I have eight little cut-paper pieces in the show, with a theme of time, unravelling, paths of briars and stars.

It began with a combination of Sleeping Beauty and Red Riding Hood, then moved into Diana Wynne Jones territory, and wandered out from there, through poems which went in part,

“When she was born
The great and grave,
Earnest and elegant
Givers of gifts gathered,
And said what was proper.

The godmother of all fairies
Arrived uninvited,
(As she always does)…”


“Who’s wise enough to know where each begins:
The path of needles, or the path of pins;
The way of briars, and the road of thorns;
The life you choose, or into which you’re born…”

and one of Trudi’s accordion sketchbooks filled with ideas, to be distilled at last into this set of stark, silhouette landscapes of stars and twisted trees, peopled with bold adventurers, cheerful foxes and (if you look closely) several intrepid mice.

There are 30 artists in the show, none of whom I have yet met, but the glimpses of art I saw peeking out of packing materials on delivery day look colourful and delightful.

Cry murder! cover art

The first book cover I ever did was for Greer Gilman’s Tiptree Award-winning Cloud and Ashes (my mother had the dustjacket for that book framed). So when Small Beer Press asked me if I could do a cover for a new chapbook by Greer Gilman, I agreed at once.

The novella is Cry Murder! in a Small Voice, and I am very much looking forward to reading the whole thing (the timing of manuscripts and cover art did not permit). It features Ben Jonson, murders, Jacobean theatre, child-players and puppets cut from the woodcuts in old ballad sheets – the description of that last formed the basis of the illustration for the cover:

Cry Murder! - final cover

I enjoyed researching the woodcuts used to illustrate ballad sheets of the era (used and frequently re-used!), and contemporary depictions of, for example, witches and Proserpina (Persephone). I wound up basing Proserpina on the Vincenzo de Rossi sculpture (in which Pluto appears to be engaged in some Olympian goddess-tossing competition) – I imagined that when she was cut out to make a puppet, Pluto was omitted but his arm remains around her hips. The King is drawn from the nobility of playing cards and this cheerful fellow in the sunniest of Shakespeare’s plays. The lady with a fan is a nod to a lively lady appearing on many ballad sheets, the put-upon-sun is a staple of astrological pamphlets, and so on – trying to capture the styles of another medium and era while using my own style and medium. I like the boldness of the ink lines which I could use to echo rough woodcuts.

The strings were left out deliberately.

Below is the original ink work (with a glimpse of some sketches), a colour version and then below that the colour and texture layer of the final design.

Cry Murder! - art process

(You can see this larger on Flickr here)

In other news: