The Cruel Prince – ornaments!

Guess what! I’ve ornamented Holly Black’s newest book, The Cruel Prince which comes out next year (and is available for preorder now – if you are in the US and enter your preorder details at http://thenovl.com/cruelprince by 11:59 PM (ET) on 1 January, there are freebies).

I did not do the cover, but I did draw the map, chapter decorations and incidental ornaments.

The picture below links to a short Instagram video of a few pages, including the map.

I’ll post more as the book comes out, but I was so excited to work on this – the map especially.

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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River Bank process – first response

This is the first process post for my illustrations for Kij Johnson’s wonderful The River Bank, from Small Beer Press.

The first step for the illustration project (after an emailed ohmygoodnessyes when Small Beer asked me about it) was to read the manuscript. I like to print a manuscript, if possible, because then I can draw my responses directly onto it. It makes for a more immediate response, but also means I can match an idea with the relevant passage again easily when I need to go back and check details!

For some projects, like Angela Slatter‘s The Bitterwood Bible and other recountings, the initial response is very close to the final illustration. The River Bank required more work and refinement (you can see at top right that I was still working out Badger) but many of these early notes recognisably found their way into the final illustrations.

Frequently, I find it difficult to objectively assess a manuscript simply as a book – this is partly because it doesn’t yet have a cover by which to judge it, but mostly because I am reading it looking at one very specific aspect: the visuals. It takes a second reading, in a non-illustrator headspace, to appreciate the text on its own terms. The River Bank, however, lifted off the page even on that first, pragmatic reading. I think it’s because of Kij Johnson’s delightful visual language – I’ve just finished her World Fantasy Award winning novella The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, purely as a reader, and my goodness I want to draw every page.

Next post: Early Design

Inktober: Trail

Ink and imitation gold leaf again for Inktober prompt “trail”. This is Mabel from E. Nesbit’s The Enchanted Castle. I’m loving working with gold leaf, but I think I need to work at a larger size to get the degree of control and detail I want.

Inktober: Furious

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A Rumpelstiltskin in pen, brush and ink, with a little imitation gold leaf, for Inktober prompt “Furious”.

Inktober: fat; mysterious

Inktober: fat; mysterious

I have missed doing challenges, like Inktober and Illustration Friday. I’m flying to the World Fantasy Convention in 12 days, and am frantic with deadlines and art show preparation, so it seemed like the perfect time to dip my toe back into those waters.

… that’s a little bit flippant, but not entirely. In times like this, it’s easy to forget to just have a good time occasionally, and why I got into this in the first place.

 

The Tallow-Wife

 

A reminder for anyone who is at Conflux in Canberra this weekend: tomorrow (Sunday) at 2.30pm is Angela Slatter’s Guest of Honour speech, after which this very limited edition book from FableCroft publications, set in the World-Fantasy-Award-winning Bitterwood Bible world, will be available for sale, and for signing by Angela and me:

The Tallow-Wife, by Angela Slatter, illustrated by Kathleen Jennings

A limited edition, exclusive hardcover…

Return to the dreaming streets of the cathedral-city of Lodellan, where a new generation of characters face fairy tales and nightmares. Cordelia Parsifal has an enviable life, hard won, but the ghosts of the past are soon to remind her that no sin or omission goes unnoticed.

A darkly mannered narrative of a family facing its downfall, and the hidden secrets within. Deftly told in Slatter’s seemingly effortless prose, “The Tallow-Wife” is unexpected and shocking, with depths to be explored. Paired with vignettes from the same world, and featuring an essay by illustrator Kathleen Jennings.