Be Bold: Small Art for a Big Cause

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Light Grey Art Lab, as well as its many other marvellous exhibitions, is currently exhibiting and selling Small Art For A Big Cause, featuring many of their regular artists. You can find the images on their Instagram (always worth following in any event) under #smallartforabigcause or on their website, and framed prints can be ordered from the Light Grey shop.

My piece, Be Bold, was inspired by the heroine of “Mr Fox”, and other fairytale ladies.

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It began, of course, as a silhouette:

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With colour added subsequently.

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It is available for a limited time through the Light Grey shop.

The Lumberjack’s Dove – enamel pin

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GennaRose Nethercott – The Lumberjack’s Dove

I have just had the opportunity to design a second enamel pin, this time for GennaRose Nethercott’s beautiful poem The Lumberjack’s Dove, just out from HarperCollins. My copy just arrived in the post this week, together with a beautiful poem by GennaRose just for me (and, separately, Tom Hiron’s Falconer’s Joy – another poem of a very different modern mythology).

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I really enjoyed designing this pin. It was a completely different proposition from the Creature Court enamel pins, in both style of book and of art. The approach, however, was similar: to create an image that would undeniably connect to and represent the book but also function as a beautifully (if mysteriously) iconic design in its own right. Something people might want to wear or admire even if they hadn’t read the poem (or novel), but with a connection it would be difficult to forget.

Below are some of the process sketches (supporters on Patreon got to see this one in more detail as it developed).

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And here is the final pin. I have not yet worked out how to photograph gold properly, but it so very shiny!

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For information about opportunities to get a pin, follow GennaRose. The National Poetry Series Competition winning poem is now available from HarperCollins: The Lumberjack’s Dove. And for more behind-the-scenes art than I can share entirely publicly, check out my Patreon page.

Oh, and I design pins now.

Book cover: Mountains of the Mind

I’ve known Gillian Polack ever since, having read Diana Wynne Jones’s Deep Secret, I decided to go to a science fiction convention in Canberra. So I was honoured when Shooting Star, a brand new press, asked me to illustrate the cover for her collection of short stories, Mountains of the Mind, launched at Continuum earlier this month.

Here is the first round of thumbnails sketches (with colour inverted for ease of visualising possible treatments). I enjoy the challenge, with collections, of trying to get in thematic references to most if not all the stories.

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We went with the first design at top left. Some details, however, required refinement — attempting to combine readability with some degree of historical accuracy, a nuanced line when illustrating stories by a historian. Here are some of those further notes.

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After a full pencil sketch was approved, I transferred the design to a larger than usual sheet of black paper: A3 instead of A4 — there’s a lot going on here and I couldn’t quite fit it inside the usual dimensions. I also forgot to flip the design before tracing it, so the original now runs the opposite way to the final design.

Cut, cut, cut.

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Then I have to lift the design out without breaking any delicate bits.

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There’s a pure satisfaction in working the design out of the scrap paper and leaving the offcuts entire.

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Here is the image cut out and scanned in, waiting for a few minor tweaks where corners folded or joined, and general tidying. The grey overlay is to show the crop lines for the cover.

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And here is the final cover, designed by Wolfgang Bylsma of Gestalt Comics, art by me, book by Gillian Polack!

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(And if you like regular behind-the-scenes process glimpses, I show them (along with calendar designs, etc) to patrons on patreon.com/tanaudel).

June Calendar: Firebirds (feed the stars)

Firebirds for June! A few white ones in there, as a nod to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. 

‘m working on a series of bird illustrations for my MPhil novella “Flyaway”, so it was practice for that, as well. You’ll see one or two Australians in there.

The asymmetrical shape is to allow the design to fit into a repeating pattern. Here’s a glimpse (dodgy late-night photo!) of how it was constructed (Julia Rothman’s introduction to repeat patterns is a useful explanation).

As ever, the calendar is brought to you with the help of my excellent patrons, who get previews, process shots and stationery, among other things, from $1/month – if you’d like to join and support the calendar (and the soon-to-return Dalek Game!), it would be a lovely birthday present:)

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The Creature Court returns…

Here is the finished banner illustration I made for Tansy Rayner Robert’s Creature Court Kickstarter campaign, which is now live!

The campaign is to fund the reprint of her previously published Creature Court trilogy (full of flappers, Rome-esque cities, animal magic and vicious skies), along with a new novella. I will be designing the new covers, as well as this banner and an enamel pin.

Cover art: Arcanos Unraveled

Arcanos covers

Meet Anya Winter, junior professor of magical textiles at Arcanos Hall. She spends her days designing invisibility cloaks and teaching reluctant sophomores to knit. If she can avoid her conniving ex-boyfriend and steer clear of campus politics, that’s a plus. But everything changes when her secret university is unshielded by a saboteur, placing the entire magical community at risk. Joining forces with a rebellious princess and a mysterious engineer, Anya must save her school—and her reputation—before it’s too late. But can she really change the world with just a ball of yarn?

This are the covers (e- and print) which I illustrated and Stewart Williams designed for Jonna Gjevre‘s novel of magic, knitting and computers, Arcanos Unraveled. (Print, Kindle).

Stewart did a splendid job, and if any of you are looking for a cover designer (and you should be, they are worth their weight in gold), his website is: Stewart A. Williams Design.

Every so often a project comes along which forces me to dust off my needles and knit a swatch for art-reference. I couldn’t find the needles this time, so ended up knitting with a pencil and the handle of a paintbrush.

Arcanos cover thumbnails 1

In the end it was decided to do a design that could function as two covers or a wraparound – there was some refinement, with boots.

Arcanos cover thumbnails 2

And sheep were cut out. They have these beautifully, misleadingly patrician faces. For scale, those are half-inch squares on the cutting board.

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I cut the illustrations out as two separate images which could be joined over the spine if so decided (although in the end they were framed by blue).

Arcanos cover art

Then I tidied these up, and sent the files away to be turned by Stewart Williams into something marvellous and blue.

And if you want to get early sneak-peeks and process details on projects like this, I post those for supporters on Patreon.

Arcanos cover art - sheep

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River Bank: Early design

This is the second process post for my illustrations for Kij Johnson’s The River Bank (from Small Beer Press). The previous post was on my first response.

The next stage of the illustration process was to work out the style I wanted to use, and the character design.

I’ve always adored E. H. Shepard’s illustrations for The Wind in the Willows. Many many other great artists (Shepard was the fourth, and Arthur Rackham followed him) have illustrated Kenneth Grahame, but for me, Shepard most perfectly captured the gravitas and pomp, the comfort and homeliness of Grahame’s little folk.

E. H. Shepard (you might also know his art from such books as Winnie-the-Pooh)

If I were to illustrate The Wind in the Willows I would, I suppose, have to take an entirely individual approach. But because this was a sequel, I wanted to do what Kij Johnson achieved (with such apparent ease and vivacity) in doing with the text. She honoured Grahame while being herself in the telling. In the same way, I didn’t want to try to be Shepard, but I wanted to pay respects to him.

So I began by studying Shepard’s illustrations – his lines and shapes – until I began to feel that I could in some small way see through them to the living characters he was imagining.

As well as the ‘master studies’ above, I began looking at other approaches to drawing the characters, and also at reference of real animals (if I were to design characters from scratch I would start there).

Then I began to work out the new characters, in keeping with the old. Rabbits are underrepresented in The Wind in the Willows, so I went further afield – that’s a mislabeled study of a Tenniel White Rabbit at top right, below.

Fortunately, Mole did wear a dress at one point in The Wind in the Willows, so I could start there for Beryl, and begin to work out the rough proportions of both Beryl and Rabbit at the same time as working out some era-appropriate clothes for them.

And also the sorts of movements that they would need to make in those clothes. Beryl lost her cardigan and lace collar (above, lower right) and got something soberer and more sensible.

Rabbit went in the other direction.

Having sounded out the characters, I then made a quick reference sketch of varying heights. This is not a particularly easy job. The original characters are wonderfully fluid, able to fit into holes in river banks and drive motorcars with equal ease. 

It amuses me how the various illustrations and adaptations treat this. I decided to keep close to Shepard and go for an implied but unacknowledged variability. If J. M. Barrie’s fairies were only big enough to hold one emotion at a time, I think Kenneth Grahame’s folk adapt, from moment to moment, as necessary to contain all the adventures of life on the river bank.

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