We’re heading into family birthday season for everyone except me. It’s touch and go whether people get handmade cards (I like to keep them guessing), but this time I managed cards for both my mother and my (second) nephew.
Here is a column from my notebook, where I was working out what to do:
I loosely sketched the designs onto thin white photocopy paper, so I could use them as a guideline for the inks using a brush pen.
No calligraphic intent, just loopy handwriting, with some classic ornamental creatures.
And, of course, some hasty (imitation) gold leaf to brighten things up.
This is the 21st-birthday card I made for my oldest nephew (and godson), who is… somehow 21, and delightful, and very very tall.
I always have a crisis about presentation for these little silhouettes: are they part of the card or a separate gift? do I glue them down, or attach them loosely to the card, or…
Lately I’ve taken to doing the following:
Cut a separate piece of heavy paper down to be smaller than the folded card but (barely) larger than the art.
Put the art onto the paper but do not attach it.
Put the art and backing paper into a cellophane art bag.
Tape the bag tightly back, trapping the art against its backing paper.
Use two strips of double-sided tape to attach that little parcel to the folded card.
This sort-of frames the picture, while protecting it, and also leaving it unglued, in case someone wants to mount it properly on a backing (or frame it, or put it in a folder, etc).
There are probably simpler ways to do this.
Below is a work-in-progress shot. I sketched the dragon directly onto the back of the paper, and refined it as I cut it out. I did check the keys spelled out his name correctly by holding it up to a mirror first, though!
Two family cards from September! Both ridiculously tiny, although in the first case it was because I started too close to the top of the paper.
Look at this tiny car!
The first is for my dad for Father’s Day. He was always a fan of Badger in The Wind in the Willows, and after illustrating Kij Johnson’s The River Bank, I still haven’t had enough of playing in that world.
It’s always exciting to send off something I’ve drawn (or, indeed, written) and have it come back as a made and shining object. Books are great, of course, but for quick gratification it is quite fun to be ordering stationery again. (Various other examples are under the stationery tag.)
The postcards I put together for Angela Slatter have been printed, and signed by her, and sent off to accompany limited editions of The Tallow-Wife when it is published (which I will be sure to tell you all about!).
I put together address labels for her at the same time (not shown), and also in another order of Flyaway-related things had some stickers printed, with the US cover art and the roughly circular test-image I cut out when I was designing it.
It is now out in the world! This is what it looks like — I really like the details of the hanging clusters of peas (funnily, I’ve since had a run of pea-plant illustrations, so all the sketches working this out have more than paid off!).
As previously mentioned, I’ve been working on (and have finished!) the illustrations for Angela Slatter‘s collection The Tallow-Wife and other tales, the third book in the Sourdough/Bitterwood Bible (World-Fantasy-Award-winning!) sequence. The book is scheduled to come out from Tartarus Press later this year, and in the meantime Angela and I have been putting together some promotional postcards for when the book comes out.
Very occasionally I remember in time to make actual art for family occasions — usually featuring interchangeable canids, frequently in haste (both the subjects and the artist).
They’re also studies in things that amuse me — what to do with a bird’s feet, how dogs run. How many anchor points are needed to stop a fine branch from being too fragile (you can see on the right where the branches cross, and glance against the tail). How many look too dense or awkward.
Whether to add feather details (sometimes), create movement, or change my mind part way and end up with a hop.
Whether to cut out a circle (no). How to keep momentum in a decorative medallion,
The canids vary in style. Some foxier than others, with (here) a rare sighting of a miniature schnauzer (her name’s Indie).
Bristol, 2019, persuaded 3/5 Very Serious Conference Attendees to ride the carousel with me
I have a few rules for travel in cities. These include:
Take the bus tour at the start.
Go on the Ferris wheel at the end.
Follow the sound of ice-cream trucks.
Always ride the carousel.
They are also very charming to draw.
Work in progress shot from a Patreon story last year
I am not great at getting cards organised for family members. Last year, however, I did manage, at the very last minute, to make them for everyone to whom I gave presents (nephews/niece/mother — we have recently restructured our approach to Christmas gifts).
As I told a vet friend, they are not meant to be scientifically correct, because (a) they are carousel animals, and (b) they are illustrations of carousel animals and therefore representations of someone else’s representation, and (c) look how shiny they are!