Wildendrem — Kickstarting (funded in two days!)

"The Valley of Flowers" cover — a silhouette (yellow to pink gradient on dark blue background) of flowers with beasts and knights and monks among them, and towers below descending like roots

I had the chance to illustrate the cover for Wildendrem, from Phantom Mill Games, a fantasy campaign setting that is kickstarting now. At the date of this post, there are 20 days left to run in the campaign, which funded fully by its second day

Wildendrem is a land lousy with knights, where the quest is the chief currency, and where the dark dreamings of the ancient world still seep from the shadows. It is a land gone strange: picture a black light Avalon, or the Knights of the Round Table in the grips of a sorcerous hallucination. The Wildendrem style of fantasy adventure is a vibrant combination of high medieval and deep weird.

The subject of this first volume is Gnolune, the Valley of Flowers, one of Wildendrem’s nine provinces. It is a place of decadence and dangerous beauty, in which flower knights roam the meadows in search of challengers, monks make wine to inspire visions of a lost empire, and a sorceress tends to the eons-long birth of a vegetal godling.

You can support the game, pre-order, and perhaps push it into stretch goal territory here: Wildendrem Volume One.

Kickstarter cover image for Wildendrem, bodies fallen among barrels and flowers
The Knights of the Upended Goblet. (Illustration by Evangeline Gallagher)

Observation journal: make then think

These observation journal pages feature a simple activity: make a small thing, then make notes about making the thing.

The thing I made was a silhouette with imitation gold foil on it — a function of Inktober and Mother Thorn and other silhouette projects and interests at the time.

Page of observation journal with pasted-down silhouette of flowers and leaves, with gold detailing and handwritten notes

A few days later, I played with the same ideas again, this time with a gold leafing pen (Krylon).

Journal page with pasted down silhouette of holly (and left-over paper) with gold detailing and notes

This time, I was more focussed on a particular question (18k gold leafing pen vs imitation gold leaf) — how they handled and what effects they suggested. (See also: loving the tools.)

Observations (true for me):

  • Making something, however tiny, is immediately good — it’s forward motion.
  • A first attempt, even (perhaps especially) if it doesn’t work quite as imagined, unlocks new ideas.
  • Some practicalities can only be practically considered.
  • Getting words on screen or ink on paper is so much more powerful than thinking.
    Or perhaps: it is a much more powerful way of thinking.

See also: Making Little Things; The Tiniest Things; Small Projects and Tiny Unicorns.

These epiphanies are small and frequent. But it’s less important to know them intellectually than to learn them viscerally, and remind myself through my hands.

Tiny ballpoint sketch of parcels
parcels

Writing/Illustration/Creating Activity
(if you keep an observation journal, activities like these are a good way to find some personal fascinations and questions to pursue — they’re also a nice way to just calm down and make things)

  1. Make something small. Write a 50 word story or description of something you can see or draw a tiny portrait or try out a new pen or cover the page with fingerprints and draw legs on them or embroider a flower.
    (Bonus: if you’re stuck, try a separate exercise and make a list of at least 20 tiny things you could make. Be silly. Note where your thinking shifts gears. See if there are any patterns you could use to invent more activities, e.g. approaches you obviously like or are clearly avoiding.)
    • Stick it to the page (or if that isn’t feasible, note what it was you did).
    • Consider the thing you made, and how, and why, and what it was like to make and what you ended up with. You’ll have your own interests, but some places you could start are:
      • why this
      • senses (touch, smell, how the light affects it — these can be important for achieving an effect or working comfortably, but also for pursuing things you like)
      • ways you could use or develop it into something further or new
      • ideas it gave you
      • what you liked or resisted
      • is it (or could it be) connected to anything you’re currently interested in
      • is it pleasing (why)
      • is it X enough for you [dreamy, horrific, utilitarian, etc] and how could you make it more so
      • here are some others: Project Review Questions
    • Make a couple extra notes on how the activity as a whole worked for you, or what it revealed about how you work.
  2. Think of a specific creative question you’ve been wanting to answer (or one of the ideas from the step above).
    • Jot down a few subquestions — whether a technique will work at all or suit a particular purpose, how it would compare to a different approach, whether it will create an effect you saw someone else achieve, or be more fun, or change your speed, or any number of specific questions.
    • Make a tiny test-patch experiment, as small as you possibly can make to answer the question (a blurb for an experimental trilogy format; two colours blended; pickling one slice of an unusual vegetable).
    • Paste it in or make a note of what you did.
    • Around it, again, make observations. This time, answer some of those subquestions. But also look at the list of questions for the previous activity, including ideas to try next
Tiny ballpoint sketch of pylons in park
Power pylon with one toe just over the line of the park fence

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Framing

Silhouette of Queenslander house and birds on top of a frame

Getting the birds framed for the launch of Darryl Jones’s Curlews on Vulture Street, next Wednesday (14 September 2022) Avid Reader in Brisbane.

Cover of Curlews on Vulture Street by Darryl Jones — a photo of a bush stone-curlew on a blue background

I don’t cope well with measuring and cutting rectangles, so a massive shoutout goes to the very efficient Frameshop for saving me (again, as usual).

Curlews on Vulture Street launch and exhibition of original illustrations

Cover of Curlews on Vulture Street by Darryl Jones — a photo of a bush stone-curlew on a blue background

Darryl Jones’ Curlews on Vulture Street is out this month! He will be in conversation with Christine Jackman at Avid Reader in Brisbane this month, on 14 September 2022 — and for those attending in person the original artwork for my illustrations will be on display (and available!)

Hand holding cut paper silhouette of leaves, branch and flowers, with hint of a cockatoo pulling at a strand of something

Darryl Jones – Curlews On Vulture Street

Wednesday 14 September 2022
6:30 PM – 7:30 PM
In store at Avid Reader Bookshop / ZOOM Online

Instore Ticket $15.00, Zoom Ticket $5.00
Tickets available until 14 September 2022 4:00 PM

Despite the noise, heat, dust and fumes, the ceaseless movement, light and toxins, many birds successfully live their lives among us. And not just furtively in the shadows. Ibis steal our lunch, brush-turkeys rearrange gardens and magpies chase us from near their nest.

From blackbirds and sparrows in his childhood country town to brush-turkeys in the suburbs, Darryl Jones shares a fascinating story of curiosity, discovery, adventure and conflict, played out in the streets and backyards of Australia. He also provides rare insights into the intimate lives of some of our most beloved and feared, despised and admired neighbours. Magpies, curlews, ibis, lorikeets and cockatoos will never seem the same again.

Darryl Jones is a Professor of Ecology at Griffith University in Brisbane, where he has been investigating the many ways that people and wildlife interact for over 30 years. He is particularly interested in why some species are extremely successful in urban landscapes, while many others are not, and how best to deal with the ensuing conflicts. More recently, he has been trying to understand more about the humans that also live in cities in large numbers, and how they engage with nature. This has led him into the strange and fascinating world of wild bird feeding and has resulted in collaborations with other researchers all over the world. He has published six books, including The Birds at My Table and Feeding the Birds at My Table.

Hind Girls signing bookplates (for Angela Slatter)

Box with "Fast Printing" on the top

Something wonderful and shining just arrived from Fast Printing!

Hand holding fanned bookplate stickers: gold pattern of hind girls dancing on black paper

It’s a set of foil-printed bookplates for book signing, for Angela Slatter.

Hand holding bookplate sticker: gold pattern of hind girls dancing on black paper

So shiny!

These hind girls (and Angela’s books) were also the inspiration behind the July calendar:

Girls with antlers, flowers and knives frolic on a green ground

Here’s a quick glimpse of the process:

Bookplate of dancing hindgirls traced in white on black paper

The lesson I did learn was probably not to work quite so large for a bookplate again — it took up most of a sheet of A4 paper, and I had to adjust some of the tinier details for printing.

Dancing hind girls — partially cut out of black paper

Dancing in the dark…

Hand holding scrap from which owl and moon have been cut

For comparison, here is the full art, side-by-side with the bookplate. And I am delighted with how it turned out.

Curlews on Vulture Street — preorder (and discount)

Cover of Curlews on Vulture Street by Darryl Jones — a photo of a bush stone-curlew on a blue background

Darryl Jones’ memoir of life as an urban ecologist, Curlews on Vulture Street, is now available for pre-order — and there’s currently 20% off for orders placed through the UNSW Bookshop.

The book will be released in September, and there will be an event at Avid Reader on 14 September 2022 — you can book here. There’s a fairly high chance that some of the original art will be there too… more on that soon, but for now, here’s a teaser — one of the illustrations in progress.

Hand holding partially cut silhouette — boy in bucket hat, magpie, egret

Little silhouette process pictures: Tiny places for stories to happen

Photo of hand holding tiny cut-paper forest

I’m still charmed by this little forest I cut out. There are areas I’d tidy and balance and things I’d add, if I do something similar again, but it’s such a satisfyingly complete little grove (for the advantages of that, see Little Groves).

It was for a tiny illustrated story for the small (wonderful) tier of patrons who receive them in allegedly monthly emails (on average it works out that way). I’m collecting a pile of little tales in the hopes of doing something with them, although I’m not sure exactly what yet — their dimensions and styles are very various. Some are one line, some are several hundred words, some are poems, some are instructions.

Photo of titles "Reputation", "The Tiger... Once, when there was still virtue in seeming...", "The Girls in the House", "Effigies & Sea Breezes"

But they are a wonderful place to just play.

Layers upon layers

Impenetrable scribbles

Often when I’m editing several images at once, I’ll line them all up in the same file to straighten and size and tidy them.

impenetrable scribbles

It creates a rather horrific kind of scribble, but sometimes I find them charming.

stacked and therefore illegible silhouettes
Not a spoiler because you can’t tell what’s going on

I like the hints of stories, the occasional figure emerging from the shadows, arms extended from a storm cloud. The gorgeous textures that emerge.

Illegible stack of scribbly lines

Perfectly normal words combined into a sense of threatening incantations.

Illegible scribbles with bits of words emerging at edges

A few of these effects are working their way into other projects — and into some stationery for patrons.

Wordplay Annual Qld Schools Microfiction Writing Competition

Cut paper silhouette swirl with fish, birds, person with paper planes

The Brisbane Writers Festival and the University of Queensland present the annual schools’ microfiction competition, open to Queensland-based schools students. The 2022 prompt is this illustration by me!

Students are invited to respond to the image in no more than 120 words, using any written format (verse/ prose). Shortlisted entrants will be invited to present a reading of their microfiction at the awards ceremony during the Festival.

The winner will receive a cash prize of $1000 thanks to UQ, and a book pack featuring every Word Play 2022 title for their school. 

The award information is on the BWF website here: https://bwf.org.au/whats-on/word-play-2022/microfiction-competition

And the entry form is here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BWF2022MicrofictionCompetition

(I’ll post some more about the process, in the future.)

Process Post: Mother Thorn internal illustrations

The new computer is up and running, I am back from hiding out writing, and FINALLY I can put up this post about the (Ditmar nominated!) internal illustrations for Juliet Marillier‘s enchanting collection Mother Thorn. I’ve already written about the process post for the cover here: Mother Thorn Process Post. Edit: and now I’ve put up an interview with Juliet, with even more sketches: An Interview with Juliet Marillier.

(Do let me know if you have questions or would like more detail on part of the process.)

The book is available from Serenity Press:

First: the fate of the second cover illustration. This became the title page:

(It’s not the first time cover elements have switched — the final cover art for The River Bank started life as the endpapers.)

The illustrations began in the usual way: I read the manuscript and sketch through the stories, looking for key scenes and for moments and motifs I particularly want to draw.

Edit: There are close-ups of these sketches on the interview post: An Interview with Juliet Marillier.

Then I put together a few ideas for different ways we could approach the art: silhouettes vs line and watercolour, and different ways of filling the page, e.g. vignettes sitting in the middle of a page, or designs with a strong border.

We decided on vignettes that pretty much fill the whole page, and wreaths for the titles, with incidental images, all in silhouette.

With that direction, I could put together the thumbnails for each story. You should be able to click on these images to see slightly larger versions.

For each I designed three wreaths: one simple and interwoven, two more grown or thematic. We went with the simple wreath.

The I suggested a couple of moments from each story that would work for the main illustration, and Juliet chose one of each. For all of them we went with the larger, more flowing ornamental illustration (#3 for “Copper, Silver, Gold”; #1 for “The Witching Well”, #1 for “Pea Soup” and #3 for “Mother Thorn). For Mother Thorn, however, I also ended up doing #2 as a more incidental image.

There are a few things to consider at this stage: approaches that will work across all stories (for continuity), design, ornament, spoilers, themes, and Juliet’s and my wishlists of things we want to see illustrated!

Once the types of images were agreed, I needed to do more detailed pencil sketches. These would guide the silhouette, but they also let the publisher make sure there’s enough room for text.

At this point, I drew up some guidelines on the computer. I layered the sketches over them and printed these off. I used those as the basis for the next, detailed, drawing.

Here are the pencils for all four of the main illustrations, for comparison. I mirrored them for transfer to the silhouette, but also because mirroring helps a lot with checking balance. For more on designing silhouettes like this to hold together as one piece, see Art and Editing: Three Points and On Silhouettes and Further Points of Connection.

I transferred the final pencils onto the back of black paper (80gsm, I think) with white graphite paper and started cutting with a fine craft knife.

“Pea Soup”

I keep the printout hinged over the art until I’m finished, and just fold it back to expose the area I’m working on. This helps stop the paper catching on my hand and keeps it clean.

“Mother Thorn”

I followed the same process for the incidental elements.

The big, interlinked illustrations are fascinating and gratifying (see also: Silhouettes and Further Points of Connection). But it is SO much fun to just go wild with tiny elements like this, which the publisher can drop in as appropriate.

Once the art was done, I scanned it in and cleaned it up (I run it through Inkscape, a vector program, to give a nice solid black). Here’s The Witching Well title wreath in place in the book:

For the special edition, however, we were going to be able to use metallic ink — a heavy dull bronze, which I think looks magical. This meant I could go through the art and pick out elements to be printed in that second colour.

Some of these I had to select by hand (e.g. the stars). In other places, I filled in gaps that already existed (e.g. the plaster in the walls). I got myself into difficulties reducing all of this to appropriate files for the publisher, so the wonderful Shayna Kite rescued me.

Here is the “Pea Soup” illustration as printed in the special edition.

Here are the plain black and white silhouettes as they appear in the matte editions — alongside wreaths, incidental creatures, branch-dividers, and so on.

And here’s a little of what’s left over.

Edit: For more about this book and the cover art process, see Mother Thorn — cover art and An Interview with Juliet Marillier.

Very soon, I will put up an interview with Juliet Marillier! In the meantime, the book is available from Serenity Press:

Note: If you’d like to support art and writing and posts like this about it, I have a Patreon account (patreon.com/tanaudel) and patrons there get behind-the-scenes process and sneak-peeks, starting from US$1, or you could buy me a (virtual) coffee at ko-fi.com/tanaudel (and I get through quite a bit of coffee).And/or check out prints and products available at Redbubble and Spoonflower.