Life has been somewhat fragmentary lately (more or less under control, but more commuting than usual). So here are some sketches working towards the Illustration Friday topic. I keep a separate little sketchbook for working through ideas, just playing around and chasing associations, crown angles, etc.
- How to Edit a Novel – Charlotte Nash: (full disclosure, I was given a review copy and am friends with Charlotte) A very plain, step-by-step, mechanical approach to editing which is VERY USEFUL as it is easy to get caught up in high-concept flights of editorial lyricism. I’ve been editing a manuscript and used a lot of her pointers, which successfully calmed me down and got the new draft quickly finished.
- Hellboy: The Chained Coffin, and others – Mike Mignola: I loved this so much. How have I managed not to actually read Hellboy before? It is laconic and wry and yet with a kindness, for all the bloody myths and tales. And the art which is so simple and weighty and full-mouthed.
- The Rabbits – John Marsden and Shaun Tan (illustrator): This book! The art is so rich. It glows, it looks flat as a mosaic and then the shapes resolve into sails and landscapes, the regimented patterns move with meaning, there are more stories in the tiny details. It has less than 250 words, and they are the high, clear bells chiming out a fine melody over Tan’s orchestral compositions.
- Edward Grey, Witchfinder, Vol. 1: In the Service of Angels – Mike Mignola and Ben Stenbeck (illustrator): I enjoyed it, and would read more, but it suffered by following immediately on the heels of Hellboy and being so earnest.
- Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay: This is such a good book, still, and I don’t know how? I thought it got away with not solving the mystery by not being about the mystery but about the people left behind, and yet on a reread she keeps pulling it back to the investigation as well? It’s a book about the ripples caused by an unsolved mystery, and about the little things that change lives as well as the big things, the weight of something vast and inexplicable on the world. It’s also a reimagining of The Little Princess and The Secret Garden, and beautiful and dreadful. It’s also made me think that the very end of The Lovely Bones weakened that book’s impact.
- The Elusive Pimpernel – Baroness Orczy: C.S. Pacat and I stumbled upon a bookstore which was full of sequels we’d never heard of to very famous books. Now, the Pimpernel sequels are certainly generally known to exist, but this was the first I’ve read. It was a much smaller story than the first, really a battle between two wills, which is something I appreciate in sequels (instead of just making the antagonising forces bigger and badder). Also my personal theory is that Marguerite is the opposite of the cleverest woman in Europe, and in her Paris days people only called her that as a joke BUT Chauvelin, who was in love with her then, thought they were serious, and because he keeps so drastically overestimating her, the Blakeneys continue to triumph.
- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (movie): Twice. We had so much fun. It was silly, but smartly so (new lines frequently taken from other Austen writing), and the production values were solid. I want to watch the outtakes just for more Bennett sisters as a team. I love Pride and Prejudice and many of its revisions, and a couple of these castings and scenes were extremely gratifying additions to the mythology.
- From Dusk till Dawn (movie): Rooftop cinema. I still don’t know how this movie manages to form a coherent whole.
- Picnic at Hanging Rock (play: Malthouse Theature): For such a visual book, it was fascinating to watch it staged with familiar descriptions but a minimalist, slate-grey set and almost none of the familiar imagery. The night-on-the-rock sequence was fabulously suspenseful, and Amber McMahon’s turn as Michael Fitzhubert was mesmerising.
- The Rabbits (opera: QPAC): Affecting and gloriously textured interpretation of the book (see above).
- London has Fallen (movie): Exactly what I expected, having seen Olympus has Fallen.
- Zootopia (movie): Another fun movie, surprising, endearing, quotable and honestly the most convincing integration of mobile phones I’ve seen.
- Hail Caesar (movie): Odd, though frequently gratifyingly so, and less a story than a ‘day in the life of’. I wanted more but also more of this. Peter M. Ball wrote up his thoughts: Would that it were so simple?
Murder! Heists! Creativity! Secrets!
This is where ideas come from:
You mention on Twitter that you don’t know how you started following the local Hereford Breeders society but that you find it soothing. A friend asks for recommendations for chicken fancier accounts.
The search is unsuccessful, but when you sit down to warm up for some other projects with some watercolour painting, you have chickens on the brain.
You are taken by the idea of Fury-Road-but-with-chickens. But also you were thinking about eighteenth century dresses, because of Tremontaine, so you give a fancy lady a chicken.
But you aren’t sure you got the jacket quite right, although you want those sleeves, so you get into bodice construction and bowls of eggs because those are also hard to paint pleasingly. Since this is clearly a Cinderella-type, she gets a fancy dress too. You are quite pleased with these Daniel Smith colours and also with that shoe.
It seems likely Reynolds would have painted her godmother at some point, so another dress happens. Your dad was watching Pride and Prejudice in the next room so a bit of Catherine de Bourgh gets in there.
She’s a little too straightforward, and also accidentally stepping on her hem, although that is an effect you might go for deliberately another time. You like her skirts, however.
You are now enamoured of two half-seen fabric designs, and decide to sketch them out in more detail. A costumer friend would like to make one of the dresses, so these plans may coincide. You have the beginnings of a chickenful fairytale idea, and also that first dress just about captures the feeling of a story idea you had last night when you started transplanting the bits you like of Supergirl into assorted historical contexts. This is now half-outlined and has about 1000 words of test-scenes.
An author friend points out that the first lady should be wearing clogs, which leads to a discussion about pretend chicken farmers, and although you meant to refer to Le Petit Trianon, somehow you are led astray into talking about “fake cheep girls” and everyone agrees you should stop talking for the day.
The calendar for May is here! It is inhabited by various favourite starry folk.
You can download it to print pre-coloured or for colouring-in by clicking on the images below.
The main image is also up on Redbubble as a print, scarf, and so on.
Some star-folk for this week’s topic.
I’ve earmarked them for May’s calendar, so check back to see that soon!
And another, which isn’t sparkly at all, but for which I have schemes.
And in other news, Monsters is 46% funded, and many of the comics have been uploaded. If you’d like to preorder and/or support, that would be wondeful – and you can get a poster of a map drawn by me as one of the rewards!