Here’s something exciting — a project by Angela Slatter, which has been several years in development since I first illustrated it, is now inching towards publication, and this morning we were looking over printed layouts!
More in due course, BUT I do remember particularly enjoying drawing that ornamental mirrored screen.
On this page, I picked a couple of fairy tales, and just leaned into what might be story-appropriate ornaments.
First, for Cinderella: pumpkin-coloured brocade, silks hand-painted with vines and doves with beaks the colour of blood, jacquard in gilt & grey like the scales of a lizard, wigs fantastically styled into bowers and coaches, or featuring a real clock that struck the hour.
The second half shifts through several stories:
A deep blue overdress stitched with a full of snowflakes, thickening towards the hem so that no blue remains visible. A bed carved by a master-carver with castles and briars and a girl going off sturdily on some adventure. The back of a rocking-chair carved with a comfortable-looking wolf.
It is all self-referential, but to an extent that adds to the depth and concentration of a small world — and the details could be swapped out where breathing room is needed.
I discovered my default mode was direct references to the story, or foreshadowing. But as I pushed it further, it became wider references to the shape of the world (the importance of glass to fashion at that moment, the tales told within the world). And that of course lets you push further to ask: Who makes these things? What fashions prevail? Who is responsible for the glass, with or without enchantments? Who put these stories in the carvings?
Pick a fairy tale (or another story you know well), and a key (or favourite) scene from it.
Make a list of important objects and colours and themes from the story as a whole. (Pumpkins and glass and lizards? Newspapers and bicycles and dogs?)
Consider that key scene. Where could you add surface ornament? Wallpaper and clothing? Graffiti and paint jobs? Jewellery? T-shirt logos?
Make a quick sketch (drawn or written) filling those surfaces with story-appropriate designs, as thematic or literal as you like.
Where do they add to the story? Where do they raise questions about the world? Where do they overcomplicate things, or make the world too small or self-aware? Do you like that artificiality, or want to open the world up? (There’s not a wrong answer here, but it’s interesting to feel out the edges of your preferences.)
Here is some more TV sketching — the first episode of Mystery 101 this time. The usual TV sketching rule applied: no pausing the show while drawing.
American hair, great coats.
I am hoping to get back to some Midsomer Murders, but my housemate and I have to work out which seasons we’ve seen least recently. I would sketch other shows, but we’ve but watching creepier ones and I need to keep my eyes on the screen.
The story is about promises and gambles and memorable dresses. It began as a landscape illustration experiment for Light Grey Art Lab, and then turned back into a fairy tale (for clarity: this story is not illustrated in the magazine!).
As Gisla’s mother lay dying, she called her daughter to her.
“When you were only a hope and a happiness, Gisla, I begged three favours of three ladies. I have not lived to repay them. This you must do for me, else when I die, Gisla, my soul will fly up out of my body, as all souls do, and it will beat against the windows of heaven, but it will not get in…”
Every year I try to get into at least one Light Grey Art Lab exhibition, and this year it’s also an art swap!
In fact, there are two: Pandora’s Box, which I am in, and The Tomb. Everyone did an edition of 100 little artworks (stickers, postcards, pins, sculptures). These are being distributed between the participating artists, and will also be exhibited in the gallery in Minneapolis.
Open Pandora’s Box at your own risk, for inside you may find secrets, creepy crawlies, magical talismans, baubles, spells, spirits, poisons, potions, amulets, demons, dark and deadly items.
The caverns are dark and dusty– it’s difficult to find your footing and to see the path forward. But then, you find it; the ancient tomb. The Tomb is filled with treasures, artifacts, maps, codes, ancient relics, weapons, items for the afterlife, lore, and relics from days gone by.
I contributed a sticker, with a tiny piece of fiction printed on the back (all, I hope, having gone well with the production!). I’ll post about that once the parcels start arriving with the artists. Here is a section of it, however, as a sneak-peek — it is called “A Spell for Returning.”
A new bindup of Holly Black’s magical con-artist trilogy The Curse Workers is coming out in November — and I designed a new silhouette chapter header for each book. It’s available to pre-order now.
They are great books, gritty and with a cynical enchantment. Much as I love Holly Black’s Elfhame and fae enchantments, I’m always so surprised and drawn in by the patina of her (almost) real-world settings — it adds such a salt-and-acid note to the sweetness (however decadent and cruel) of the more fantastic settings. And The Curse Workers is all that side of the story. It’s also a story of embedded rather than discovered magic, where it’s a (disreputable) part of the structure of technology and fashion, politics and society and organised crime.