Continuum X art

I posted previously about the t-shirts which were available for Continuum X. Now I am back from Melbourne and the convention, which was wonderful, I can show you all the art for it.

First, the sketches. The theme for Continuum X (this year’s Natcon) was “dark carnival” (later “Carnival of Lost Souls”), which was a lot of fun to play with. I’d acquired some books of Australian circus history and started playing around, going sideways from the recognisable images in those, and getting in a Banjo Patterson reference as well.

Sketches for Continuum X program cover

The original brief expanded at this point to include designs for the postcards/flyers and so forth, so I worked up the acrobat-with-stars and the ringmaster. Here are some variants.

Continuum X postcard variants

The committee suggested a darker colour scheme, and this is the final design for the tumbler (with stars swapped out for cards):

Postcards for Continuum X

I’ve already shown a version of the program cover on the t-shirt post. The final was all pen-and-ink line drawings (including the lettering), compiled and given flat colour and texture on the computer (Photoshop Elements as usual, if you’re interested). My original sketches had little headings such as “The Amazing Bird-Boy”, “See the Future”, “Genuine Mermaids”, etc, but I dropped them out as they cluttered up the final design too much.

Continuum X program cover

I’m still really happy with this. I’ve also ordered a few test prints on various art papers and it came up gorgeously velvety.

And finally the brief was expanded again to use some of the artwork on the trophies for the Ditmar awards! This was also very exciting, and I think the way the committee printed them on the back of clear acrylic came up really well – here’s my contributor copy:

Ditmar award design - Continuum X

Congratulations to all the award winners, and to the convention committee and volunteers! It was a lovely convention – I found it very relaxed, with lots of hilarious and interesting panels, lunches and evenings in the bar. Too much talking to sketch a great deal, but here are my pages for the cover art pose-off panel, based on the notable efforts of Jim C Hines (guest of honour and judge of the panel).


Continuum X T-Shirts

Don’t forget – Continuum X is on in Melbourne this 6-9 June (it looks to be awesome), and t-shirts are available on the Continuum RedBubble page (they may not be available at the convention, so this is your chance to get one!). They are based on the convention book cover design (by me, but t-shirt money goes to the convention) and there are three options (multiple shirt colours and styles available).

The full poster:

Continuum X

The trapeze artist:

Trapeze artist


And the Amazing Bird Boy:


What I Did On My Holidays: Part the Third – World Fantasy and Brighton

Note: If you click on a picture, that should take you through to its Flickr page, where you will have an option to view a larger version.

Part One is here: Brisbane Airport and Oslo.

Part Two is here: Dartmoor.

After a last farewell to Dartmoor, a walk along the Cobb at Lyme Regis, an altercation with a lorry near the New Forest (huzzah for steady-nerved passengers and comprehensive insurance), and the GPS in a final effort to establish its supremacy taking us to Arundel Castle instead of the Metropole, Ellen, Delia and I arrived in Brighton for the World Fantasy Convention 2013.

That is Brian Aldiss with the tea.

Page 11

I don’t sketch at conventions as much as I used to, now that I know more people (one reason being Artist at Large at the Brisbane Writers Festival was so much fun was that I was officially meant to be drawing over talking). So I had a marvellous time at WFC, but did not draw many pictures. Most of my drawing was scribbling ideas during panels, e.g. this during the “Broads with Swords” discussion:


I did sit at the signing tables during the mass signing in order to draw everyone else – I learned last year that was a good vantage point. And one person did come up and ask me to sign a book I have a story in (ahem), so that was thrilling!

Here are two panels  of people you probably haven’t heard of: A YA discussion with Delia Sherman, Susan Cooper, Garth Nix, Neil Gaiman, Will Hill and Holly Black, and Nifty Shades of Fae with Tanith Lee, Joanne Harris, James Barclay, Angela Slatter, Lisa Hannett, Grahame Joyce and James Barclay. There are also a few Irene Gallo cameos in the pages, because I usually draw the people with cameras.

Page 12

Unfortunately, I was taken violently ill on Saturday evening and had to leave the art reception early to be miserable in my room. The hotel reception sent up Twinings Peppermint Tea as a sovereign remedy. Ellen also plied me with medicinal infusions the next day.

Taken Ill

As a consequence, I only have a tiny picture of my art at the show. I will post some better images of the pictures later!

Pictures at World Fantasy 2013

Absence of pictures aside, I had a wonderful convention – talked to a lot of people, mostly, which is the point. It is difficult to narrow down particular highlights, as I keep remembering things and people to mention – charming ladies’ literary dinners (after the ladies in question unpacked our car in a team while I sat trembling in the driver’s seat), operatic serenades over dinner with the Australian contingent, lunches where no-one simply shared common gripes or tried to curry favour but simply waved their hands and discussed shared enthusiasms (stories, Dianna Wynne Jones and Dorothy Sayers). And of course I wasn’t drawing during any of those conversations – I will try to draw you all next time!

Following the convention, Aimee (Aimee L, not Aimee-my-housemate) and I went touring Brighton. I drew Aimee photographing the giant seagulls. We also ate giant meringues. I bought this marvellous panorama history of Aviation (I want the Nobrow Press Leporello series to be longer and also all of them) and we visited the Royal Pavilion, where we both fervently wished for a coffee book on the subject of wallpaper restoration.

Page 13

The most touching moment was seeing the paintings of the music room when it was used as a hospital for Indian soldiers in WWI. It had the most beautiful ceiling, which Aimee is photographing here. We ate horrible hotdogs on the pier and collected Shelley to go to Thor II, and all the English people in the audience laughed at the scenes in Greenwich.

Page 14

The next morning, I caught the train to York, en route to Perth and London

I have returned!


I am back, I am dealing with jet lag which I never adequately believed in before, the sketchbook is scanned and I will begin posting it shortly.

However, to begin with, many congratulations to all the nominees and winners of the World Fantasy Award, and of course particular to Vincent Chong, winner of the Artist category with his sepia-soaked, textured worlds, and to my fellow nominees Didier Graffet and Dave Senior, with their clean effective design, J.K. Potter‘s dark collections and Chris Roberts‘ bright nightmares.

Off to travel in…

Time & Space

Early sketch developing ideas for the Once Upon A Time exhibition.

I’m off to the World Fantasy Convention and will be travelling for a month – Oslo, Dartmoor, Brighton and destinations as yet undecided.

Updates may happen here, but there is a higher chance of seeing sketches, cartoons and updates if you follow on Twitter, Facebook or (which I am still learning to use) Tumblr.

Conflux9 – Speculative Art and Bookcovers, also a unicorn and a dragon

So, a few days before the Natcon in Canberra, the doctor tried to diagnose me with pneumonia. The x-rays came up clear, but I had several days of  alternately lying around only being stopped from climbing the walls because of not being able to breathe (I’m a terribly twitchy patient), and trying to frame art which usually makes me feverish if I didn’t start that way. I was recovering by the time I reached Canberra, but was still quite unwell and spent most of the convention propped up in corners conversing with people who stayed still long enough, and losing my breath whenever I got excited about something. Yet I still managed to Meet People, and Meet People Again, and Pass People in the Distance, and Plan Plans, and Have Plans Planned At Me (thanks all, quite sincerely), and create an impromptu conversation pit and find out that Lewis Morley has a laser, which is awesome and giving me Ideas. Also, to win two Ditmars (Artwork, for the Midnight & Moonshine cover, Fan Artist, and the EG Harvey Award for my piece “Once” in the art show), but fortunately all that required me to do on the day was negotiate the seating plan at the ceremony.

Here is the art hanging at the show – “Ex Libris” at the top and “Once” below. Both went to very good homes:


I took part in two panels – the first on speculative art and the second on whether cover art sells books. Both were very well attended (thanks everyone!).

Speculative Art: Shauna O’Meara, Les Petersen, Lewis Morley, Marilyn Pride and Mik Bennett

A lot of the conversation in this turned on the dynamics of paid work, and how that has or hasn’t changed – demands and expectations, the move to lower pay, faster turnaround and so forth. Whether it’s possible to make a living, and how, and whether you can choose and follow and succeed in and live off a single career path. But there is still a lot to be excited about (case in point: LEWIS HAS A LASER and the world cannot fail to be awesome and full of potential while that is the case), and I got to (rather more breathlessly than the topic merited) talk about the chances for people to create new things and put them out in the world (hello Kinds of Blue!) and the generosity of artists (the brilliant resource that is Gurney Journey). I know you can’t always eat ideas, and artists should be paid, but sometimes, brilliantly, serendipitously or due to industry or innovation or kindness the two coincide. And it’s art, and speculative art after all, we get paid to draw dragons, and while the first part is good and right and necessary, the second half is incredible and sometimes it’s healthy just to get excited about the possibilities. I may have begun hallucinating slightly at this point but everyone was very patient.

Does Cover Art Sell Books? Mark Gascoigne, Rowena Cory Daniells, Cat Sparks, Shauna O’Meara

Rowena led this off with a slide show on how she puts together a “resonance file” for her novels, even including photo shoots (much more professional than my lounge-room reference photos of people in cloaks and pyjamas), and Mark supported this approach with reference to authors who put together Pinterest pages of reference which helps a lot in bringing together ideas for covers. I do this a bit myself – it’s a handy way to corral links and ideas which people sent me and also to build up the feel of a world or idea (for some reason, with my own stories, it works better for me in reinforcing ideas after a story is already written). Mark also discussed cover trends and how it is necessary to be ahead but not too far ahead of the trend – that something too far ahead can confuse readers (and bookstore buyers). Also, thumbnailing (how a cover will appear online/in ebooks) and the “blokes in cloaks” trend.

Cat sprung the “what lets self-published/small press covers down” on me, so I talked about how useful an art director is as a mediator of ideas and personalities, and let loose on the trio of typography, dimensions and paper quality which are usually the biggest giveaway, and talked about a short story I once adored and how I looked out for ages for a novel by the same author, and when it came out it had the poorest imaginable cover and in spite of several attempts I couldn’t read the book. I also believe good typography can save bad art, but nothing can save bad typography.

We talked about the template approach which uses for its short stories (uniform, professional layout and typography) which unifies and complements the gorgeous art they commission, and the potential for this to be used by small press and self-publishers to create a brand and allow them freedom in tailoring the art while still looking professional.

American Sketchbook – Part 1: World Fantasy and Toronto

General notes: These are sketches with (mostly) Pitt Artist Pens in a little Moleskine sketchbook. You can see larger versions by clicking on the pictures, which will take you through to their Flickr page. Update: Part 2 and Part 3 are now up.

Summary: I had an amazing time! It was a very busy holiday, bouncing from Brisbane to New York state, Toronto, Pennsylvania, New Jersey/New York, Colorado and California. Either I was sitting and eating a lot or walking and eating a lot. World Fantasy was my first overseas convention, Illuxcon my first art convention, everyone was wonderful, I met people I hadn’t really thought of as people, just names on consistently amazing books and art. My plans to eat my way across a continent, conduct hands-on research of how an art show operates, and visit the locations of What’s Up Doc were also successful.

Page 01

Continue reading