art process


Scarlet - Color Anthropology

A wandering and selective history of the colour scarlet.

This is my contribution to Light Grey Art Lab’s current exhibition “Color Anthropology“. The original is a scratchboard piece, with the colour added digitally.

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Many thanks to my patrons, who helped me decide on colour placement when I lost the ability to decide!

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There is some stunning art in the exhibition (Lincoln Green, Orange and Saffron are my favourites), which you can check out online if Minneapolis isn’t on your itinerary. The art is also available as prints through the Light Grey shop.

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Here is the cover art for the final episode of Season 2 of Serial Box’s serialised prequel to Ellen Kushner’s Riverside novels, Tremontaine!

Earlier posts:

The final episode of a season is almost as difficult to illustrate as the overall season cover. How to represent what happens in this particular episode, while being true to the overall arc of the season and catching the right elegiac or hopeful note…

As a result, there were a lot of thumbnail sketches.

Tremontaine S2 E13 thumbnails

We went with the image of a Kinwiinik ship taking to the waves. Here are the final pencils.

Tremontaine S2 E13 pencils

And at last, alas, the finished cover (I’m particularly fond of the poppies). The final layout and design is, as ever, by Charles Orr.

Tremontaine S2 E13 final cover

I hadn’t yet read any of Frances Hardinge‘s novels when Gili Bar-Hillel of Utz Books asked me to illustrate the cover for the Hebrew translation of The Lie Tree. And oh, it is so very good!

Here are a few of my first thumbnail concepts for the cover.

The Lie Tree - thumbnails

The novel is a beautiful combination of gothic mystery, scientific discovery, faith, lies, ambition, hubris and secrets. Part way through I realised that it felt like Matthew Arnold’s poem “Dover Beach”, and then a particularly apt sentence sent me back to the beginning to check for a nonchalant line that convinced me this was entirely deliberate on Hardinge’s part.

Here are the pencils. We decided to go with more open vinework around the title.

The Lie Tree - pencils

I then cut the final image out of black paper, and sent it through for the designer, Dor Cohen, to do wonderful things with.

The Lie Tree - cover

The Hebrew translation of France’s Hardinge’s novel The Lie Tree, translated by Yael Achmon, is now available for pre-order from Utz Books: The Lie Tree.

Thanks to my supporters on Patreon who help give me time to put together these process posts (and who get to see projects like this early).

Very recently I had the great pleasure of doing my first illustration for Strange Horizons. It was for Philip A. Suggar’s surreal and charming story “London Calling“.

Some of my patrons had the chance to see early progress pictures and some more detailed process description (and so can you: Patreon). But the art is out now!

Here are some of the early thumbnail sketches.

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We chose the top right one, and I touched in some soft colours to test them. I still really like this thumbnail, and would like to do something in this style! But it wouldn’t have worked so well on a large scale.

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I also played around with some cyanotype versions.

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Then it was on to developing the pencils, and adding digital colour.

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You can read the story here: “London Calling”.

(And don’t forget: you can see sneak-peeks, hear early project news and help support my independent projects if you’re a supporter through Patreon.)

The Illustration Friday topic is “mischief”, which has a rather softened meaning in modern English.

The illustration, however, turned into the love child of The Cheshire Cat and Tailypo, and other things that hang head-down from the trees and whisper to you.

Illustration Friday: Mischief

I’ve also been playing around with cyanotypes (sun prints), so here is a print made with the original silhouette.

Illustration Friday: Mischief

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I had the blinding epiphany today, after trying out some white graphite transfer paper (Royal Langnickel which is the best name) that instead of squinting to see lead pencil lines on black paper, I could have been using a white pencil this whole time.

This isn’t a complete conversion: the lines aren’t as fine and don’t erase (whatever Royal Langnickel claims about kneadable erasers), so it’s only really good for designs that are fully developed before I transfer them to the paper – direct composition will still be pencil.

But good grief.

(And remember, patrons on Patreon get early previews of some projects).

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Here is the cover art for the next two episodes of Season 2 of Serial Box’s serialised prequel to Ellen Kushner’s Riverside novels, Tremontaine!

Earlier posts:

Episode 11 or The One In Which Nothing Good Happens. Since I read manuscripts to look for images to illustrate, my reader-reaction is usually somewhat muted. Not in Episode 11. I’ve obviously read Season 1, but also I’ve read the novels that are set later, and suddenly a whole lot of events started rushing together to squish my beloved characters.

Tremontaine S2 E11 - thumbnails

I had to keep putting the manuscript down to worry, and then read on with my hand covering the bottom of the page so I couldn’t spoil it for myself. If you click on this link it should take you to the Twitter thread of me mostly just gasping and hiding under the sofa cushions:

However! We decided to go with the silhouette of the city, looking back to the original cover for episode 1.

Tremontaine S2 E11 - pencil

And it was so much fun to cut out. Sort of a Schroedinger’s Advent Calendar.

Tremontaine S2 E11 - final

Here’s a detail:

Tremontaine S2 E11 - detail

To avoid spoilers for episode 11, I have cut off all the captions for the thumbnails for episode 12.

Tremontaine S2 E12 - thumbnails

But you can probably guess life isn’t great for all our characters.

Tremontaine S2 E12 - pencil

Not great at all.

Tremontaine S2 E12 - final

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