Black-Winged Angels – cover and illustrations

Black-Winged Angels cover

I’m a huge fan of Angela Slatter‘s work (which just keeps getting better and seriously, you should read The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings and put it on all the award lists, and of Angela, so I was thrilled to illustrate Black-Winged Angels,  Ticonderoga Publications’ limited edition of some of her earlier dark fairy tales.

Angela had seen some illustrations I was working on for an art show, and asked if several of these could be illustrations for the stories in this collection. We discussed the others and I put together very rough digital sketches.

Black-Winged Angels sketches

I then sketched the final pieces loosely on the back of some black paper and cut them out. Silhouettes don’t have quite as many stages as other art styles.

This is for “Light as Mist, Heavy as Hope,” a story of lost parents and Rumpelstiltskin-bargains:

Light as Mist, Heavy as Hope

“Bone Mother”, a Baba Yaga tale:

Bone Mother

And “The Girl with No Hands”, whom I gave hands in the original paper piece, because I could only bear to cut them off digitally (painlessly, reversibly):

The Girl With No Hands

Altogether, I made 16 illustrations for this book, but I’m not posting the rest until it’s sold out!

Illustration Friday: Sleep

Illustration Friday: Sleep

A self-portrait.

Also: A reminder that Angela Slatter’s collections Sourdough and The Bitterwood Bible (and a bag with my art) are being offered as part of a giveaway on Goodreads (Australia only).

Cranky Ladies of History – cover art

The final cover for Cranky Ladies of History (from Fablecroft) has been revealed, and I have permission to share the cover process which, as is usually the case with cut-paper pieces, was quite short!

Here are the initial thumbnail sketches which I sent through to Fablecroft.

Cranky Ladies - cover thumbnails

Fablecroft decided to go with the silhouette style. I sketched it in pencil directly onto the back of a sheet of black paper (80gsm). Here are some shots,

Cranky Ladies cover in progress

Here is the final paper piece.

Cranky Ladies cover WIP

After scanning the silhouette in (and fixing a few small hiccups) I then tried several different layer effects in Photoshop Elements, added a shadow, and so forth.

Cranky Ladies - alternative colourways

I had fun mocking up cover quotes.

Cranky Ladies cover WIP


Fablecroft decided for the red version, which Amanda Rainey then laid out into the final cover design (this is the full hardback jacket).

Cranky Ladies - final hardcover jacket

Goodreads Giveaway


Angela Slatter is offering a Goodreads giveaway (for Australia only). It finishes on 5 March 2015 and includes:

1 x hardcopy of Sourdough and Other Tales (now out of print and rather rare)

1 x hardcopy of The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings (illustrated by me)

1 x limited edition book-bag (also illustrated by me)

Cranky Ladies of History!

The latest anthology from Fablecroft PressCranky Ladies of History, is being released in March, and there is a giveaway on Goodreads (open worldwide).

Cranky Ladies cover

And yes, that is one of my silhouettes on the cover! I’ll post some of the sketches and process (and, if permitted, a peek at the illustrations I did for six of the stories) a little closer to release.


Books and movies – Jan 2015

My annual attempt to keep some sort of record of Things I Read and Saw and Will Probably Bully Guan Un Into Reading If He Didn’t Recommend Them To Me First.


  • Working Stiff – Judy Melinek and T J Mitchell. Gruesome, funny and fascinating memoir of Judy Melinek’s training as a medical examiner in New York c 2001. I bought it for my mother and she read it out loud to my father in hospital because that is how we roll.
  • The Man in the Queue – Josephine Tey. My first Tey murder mystery, but not my last. It belongs to those gently paced mystery novels which are more novel than mystery. And I am adoring reading old detective novels, for the alluring, elusive (allusive, illusive) glimpses of lost ways of everyday life.
  • The River of No Return – Bee Ridgeway. Time travel Regency romance, plotted for a sequel. The cover is popular/literary, the plot is more time-travel/conspiracy, but the style and tropes are definitely Regency Romance. Just so you know what to expect – I didn’t and probably didn’t do the book justice as a result. Ridgeway did do something I wish there was more of generally: people from other times jumping forward in time to ours. Also, the official language of the time travellers’ guild was medieval Finnish. There were many charming touches and side characters I wanted more of.
  • The Serial Garden – Joan Aiken. So much love. If you haven’t read the Armitage family stories, then it’s like… imagine what life would be like in Midsomer if Rowling’s wizarding world didn’t really bother being secret. I’m now watching Tom Barnaby in Midsomer Murders as a deliberate homage to Mr Armitage, and it makes everything delightful. I think “The Land of Saints and Heroes” is my favourite story, but I could be wrong. It vied for charming ending with “The Quince Tree”. There is also an interesting series-effect in that the characters age, but not as fast as time passes, so that children who are in kindergarten when rubber-soled shoes are still worthy of mention have not finished school by the time they are playing around with computers.
  • Black Orchids (“Black Orchids” and “Cordially Invited to Meet Death”) – Rex Stout. I am really, really enjoying the Nero Wolfe novels. Archie Goodwin is such a perfect narrator and foil for Wolfe, the stories are vigorous and fascinating. They are full of lost popular references, wry humour, dashing character sketches…
  • Not Quite Dead Enough (“Not Quite Dead Enough” and “Booby Trap”) – Rex Stout. Speaking (above) of series effects, this is another interesting one. Stout didn’t age his characters noticeably over the 40+ years he wrote them, but the stories were set when written. In this pair, it was the first time I really noticed the changing times. The Second World War has started, Archie Goodwin is a major, and Wolfe’s comfortable household is in disarray. Some intriguing little tweaks of prejudices, too, something Stout could do to excellent effect.
  • A Sword to the Heart – Barbara Cartland. It’s a Cartland. Everyone is extremely silly, the author perpetrates Random acts of Capitalisation, the heroine hyperventilates and is completely incapable of rational thought or extrapolation from circumstances, the lovers may be surrounded by Divine Light at some point, but the covers are darling.
  • Too Many Women – Rex Stout. Archie Goodwin is turned loose among 500 unsuspecting female employees of a large engineering firm, and the ending, while not what he deserves, is exactly what it should be. This felt a little like it began as a pastiche of Sayers’ Death Must Advertise before the characters ran away with it (nothing in this sentence is a bad thing).
  • The Silent Speaker – Rex Stout. Wolfe attempts a revival of “The Dying Detective”, but with far more scenery-chewing even that Holmes.

And the Christmas art books:


  • Big Hero 6 – A great deal of fun, and I did like the design of San Fransokyo.
  • The Imitation Game – I very much enjoyed this, although I’m still hanging out for a movie of Between Silk and Cyanide, and I confess to being rather distracted by Matthew Goode.
  • The Hobbit: Battle of the 5 Armies – Battle elk! But no battle pugs this time. I did fall in love with the ruined merry-go-round in Dale.
  • Into the Woods – I appreciated but didn’t like the musical on stage, so I was prepared for the movie, and loved it this time round. The eclectic aesthetic of it managed to be unified and storybook-like.
  • Birdman – I really like both Tootsie and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Birdman reminded me of all the bits that annoyed me in both films.