August 29, 2014
On Peter M Ball’s repeated recommendations, I’ve just finished reading Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer, by Jeff Vandermeer, attempting to read it both as a writer and for its potential for application to illustrating (Artlife?).
Of the whole dense and informative book, the part which stayed with me was the section on goals.
Curious personal hang-ups
Now, goals and five-year-plans are not news, but I never saw the point. “A plan is a basis for change,” after all, and “No plan survives contact with the enemy”. Also, “man plans, God laughs,” and serendipity has always been quite good to our family, while “saying ‘I wish’ means you aren’t happy with the way things are,” and if you admit you aren’t happy with the way things are, then you fix them. If that sounds like an odd combination of military principles, hippy survivalist mentality and Puritan work ethic, welcome to my upbringing.
So I have never set official goals, and nothing went horribly wrong (except for accidentally becoming a lawyer).
The blindingly obvious
Reading Booklife, it finally clicked: The idea of goals, not primarily as a destination but as a template for making decisions.
The casting vote. The deciding principle. Something to be regularly referred to, not for motivation but for course-correction.
The paper in my pocket
So I have made a list, dividing it into three columns: one for writing, one for art, and one for more general business/financial/support goals. Then I have a row for the 5 year goals, the 1 year goals, and then twelve months, with the current one broken into weeks.
As per the book, the intention is to refer to this when making decisions about what to do, or concentrate on, or stop doing. Does this get me nearer to a goal? Does it also support one of the others? Is the effort:result ratio reasonable or is it pulling me away from other things? Does this thing which is taking up all my evenings this week and has nothing to do with a goal really matter? And if so, should I revise the goals?
The odd thing (or alternatively proof that it is largely semantics, and that semantics matter) was that, for all my goal-aversion, I was already doing this in two respects:
- I had stopped making New Year’s Resolutions several years ago, and started making lists of New Year’s Aspirations, being things it would be fun to achieve/do/eat. (I recommend this approach).
- I had been keeping an illustration wish list of jobs or techniques I wanted to try, which both gave me a guide of jobs to chase/accept and a sense of satisfaction when I was able to tick something off. Although I still haven’t done endpapers.
Digression on ducks
Making the list, I found it interesting to note the apparently necessary differences between the art and writing goals (Write a Big Thing vs Draw a Duck), and the shape of reaching them (Plan/Draft/Revise/Edit/Repeat vs Draw a Duck). Writing (even short stories) is often long-term, large-scale, with a high threshold to audience appreciation, and creator-driven. Illustration consists of many small projects, at a smaller scale, easily seen and reacted to, and often pushed/pulled forward by art directors and deadlines.
I’m curious to see how the two diverge or converge over time, and whether I can more deliberately adapt approaches and mentalities from one into the other.
A Duck with a Plan
August 29, 2014
Still with the playing card theme for this week’s Illustration Friday topic, “skull.” I am drawing birds for other reasons, and thinking of the fool Eulenspiegel (and fools in general) because of Rima Staines’ Unknown Fool puppet. And fools and skulls of course suggest poor Yorick, and thus, the latest card: the Prince of Birds:
In other news, everyone else seems to have received their copies of Angela Slatter’s Bitterwood Bible – everyone save the artist! Sigh. It is reported to be very shining:
August 26, 2014
This is a sneak-peek of some details of my illustration for Tiny Owl Workshop‘s Christmas Krampus Crackers project, now open to flash fiction (max 500 word) submissions from Australian and UK authors. Submissions close on 5 September 2014.
August 14, 2014
Playing around with techniques for a new illustration project, and playing-card motifs for an old story idea.
I also mocked up a Queen, based on old oval playing cards, and kept track of the process this time.
Both were straight digital sketches (pencil tool in Photoshop Elements), deconstructed in a vector program (I use Inkscape) and put back together in Photoshop Elements with some interesting textures.
August 13, 2014
I just realised I never posted the final instalment of this!
The post on the cover art process for Catherynne M Valente’s The Bread We Eat in Dreams is here: Cover art and illustrations….
When I started the sketchbook, I listed the table of contents in the front, highlighting the stories which were to have their own images (one is missing, as “The Shootout at Burnt Corn Ranch.” and its illustration were added to the collection later in the publication process).
As I read, I sketched the ideas which most took my fancy, aiming for a handful of images for each story. Here’s an example:
I narrowed down my favourite images for the internal illustrations, then drew up a template within which they all had to fit, and – where necessary – took reference photos. This is my housemate:
Then I went straight to finals: light pencils, then ink, usually two or three for each story. Then I scanned in all the pages, added a layer of shading, and separated them out into individual image files. Here is an example of the layers:
And here are the final illustrations:
I worked this way because – given the requested sketchy style – it would have been harder to do sketches for approval, and then attempt to replicate the looseness of the sketch.
They are all pen and ink drawings, with shading added later on the computer (Photoshop Elements, if you were wondering).
Then I sent them off, with the end result that it was quite exciting for me to go through the book and find out which images were used in the end.
And if you want to know which were the finals, and particularly what the stories are about, you will have to get hold of the book for yourself!
August 5, 2014
Look look look!
Tartarus Press has announced Angela Slatter‘s new collection, with a cover and internal illustrations by me, is available for pre-order.
And it has decorated boards! I’m so excited!
“The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings returns to the world of Sourdough and Other Stories (Tartarus, 2010), introducing readers to the tales that came before. Stories where coffin-makers work hard to keep the dead beneath; where a plague maiden steals away the children of an ungrateful village; where poison girls are schooled in the art of assassination; where pirates disappear from the seas; where families and the ties that bind them can both ruin and resurrect and where books carry forth fairy tales, forbidden knowledge and dangerous secrets.
The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings is enhanced by eighty-six pen-and-ink illustrations by artist Kathleen Jennings.
Contains: ‘Author’s Note’, ‘Introduction’ by Stephen Jones, ‘The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter’, ‘The Maiden in the Ice’, ‘The Badger Bride’, ‘The Burnt Moon’, ‘By My Voice I Shall Be Known’, ‘The Undone and the Divine’, ‘The Night Stair’, ‘Now, All Pirates are Gone’, ‘St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls’, ‘The Bitterwood Bible’, ‘Terrible as an Army with Banners’, ‘By the Weeping Gate’, ‘Spells for Coming Forth by Daylight’, ‘Afterword’ by Lisa L. Hannett, ‘Acknowledgements’.
The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings is a sewn hardback of 220 pages, printed lithographically, with decorated boards, silk ribbon marker, head and tailbands, and d/w.”