UK sketches 2022: Dartmoor and Glasgow

(Previously: UK sketches 2022: London)

I spent most of my time in Dartmoor either working, getting rained on (well, that was at Tintagel) or talking. But I did get a few sketches in!

Here are several teams of morris dancers. They all — with bells on! — had to run from a sudden downpour, and that was a remarkable sound.

A wonderful, windy, sunny afternoon on Haytor.

I introduced a younger artist to one of my favourite places — a very old stile in the woods.

Sketches of tangled trees, and a girl sitting near a stream sketching a stone stile

There was music on the wall on long summer evenings, and concerts in the chapel — here is the beautiful Elizabeth-Jane Baldry performing at both.

Then a last round of singing, and off to Glasgow (via an unexpected night in Newcastle) for the Once and Future Fantasies conference at the University of Glasgow, where I ran into many old and new friends, including the team from the Australian Speculative Fiction Project at the Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf (previously).

Sketches of people playing guitar, and sketching a lamppost in Glasgow

And many others, including Rob Maslen, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Terri Windling, and Amal El-Mohar and numerous wonderful people not shown (due to talking to them instead of sketching them).

Then on the last day I took myself on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour and was enchanted by vehicles at the Riverside Museum on a very warm day.

Sketches of people talking at a conference and at a busstop, and a very old car

Then to Glasgow airport and from there, home.

Sketches of airport workers in hi-vis on the tarmac

(For the first half of the sketches from this trip, see: UK sketches 2022: London)

UK sketches 2022: London

In June/July I went on my first overseas trip since 2019, and here is the beginning of the sketchbook. (Update: the second half is at UK Sketches 2022: Dartmoor and Glasgow.)

I didn’t sketch a whole lot on the trip. I am editing a large project that is fighting back, and had some other deadlines, and still wasn’t really well yet. And the rest of the time I was catching up with people and/or looking at things with people, neither of which really suit sketching.

But I did draw a fair bit on my three days in London — there was a tube strike, so I only arranged two meetings, and I had my days largely to myself. So in spite of the heat, I got to the V&A and the Soane collection, among others, and walked along canals and met a fashion MA student (skyc.design) who suggested I go sketch at the Graduate Fashion Week, so I did that, too.

Sketches on cream paper: people dozing in airport
First international flight (second trip) since 2019
Colourful sketches: people sitting and playing on V&A lawns
Sunny day in the V&A courtyard
Sketches of Fashioning Masculinities exhibition at the V&A
The Fashioning Masculinity exhibition at the V&A
V&A sketches: menswear, people looking through microscopes at Beatrix Potter exhibition, pelicans in St James' Park
Men’s fashions, microscopes at the Beatrix Potter exhibition, and pelicans in St James’s Park
Sketches of people looking at racks of clothes at the Roman Road markets
Roman Road Markets
Sketches of photographers
Photographers at the Graduate Fashion Week at the Coal Drops Yard
Sketches of seated audience and very rapid fashion sketches at Graduate Fashion Week
Audience and photographers at the Graduate Fashion Week
Very rapid colourful fashion sketches at Graduate Fashion Week
Fashion sketches! Cambridge School of Visual & Performing Arts
Very rapid colourful fashion sketches at Graduate Fashion Week
Bath School of Design
Very rapid colourful fashion sketches at Graduate Fashion Week, including some shoes
Bath School of Design
Very rapid colourful fashion sketches at Graduate Fashion Week, people wheeling racks of clothes, people along canal
Fashion, racks, a narrowboat bookstore, rowing classes
Pencil notes and sketches made at the Soane museum
Notes at the Soane museum, purposeful abundance, the light of Rome, infinite arpetures, convexities

More sketches soon! (Update: more sketches up at UK Sketches 2022: Dartmoor and Glasgow.)

Quick update: travels!

Photo of me sitting on the grass at Hay Tor, sketching
Sketching on Hay Tor (photo by Kim Wilkins)

I’m in England(!) for a few weeks, so my presence online has been intermittent. I’m finally settled in Dartmoor for a little while, and hope to post a bit more regularly.

If you are also in England and I have not told you I’m here — surprise! The trip was organised a little hastily. I’m in Dartmoor without a car for the next two weeks, then heading to Glasgow for a week, for the University of Glasgow Once & Future Fantasies conference.

Travelogues! Now open for pre-orders

I’m very pleased to announce that Brain Jar Press is publishing my next little book Travelogues: vignettes from trains in motion this October 2020 — and it is now available for preorders!

Travelogues is a chapbook which began as a series of threads of descriptions of scenes as they passed by train windows. Now they are collected together into a series of vignettes (many thanks are due to Peter M. Ball for his editing and impetus!).

How can people work on trains? Read on trains? There is so much happening outside!

With these words, World Fantasy and Hugo Award-nominated artist Kathleen Jennings opens the door to a graceful, nuanced world of travel vignettes. With an affinity for words that’s equal to her celebrated artwork, Jennings captures the passing landscape with an illustrator’s eye for detail and a poet’s command of rich language and startling metaphors.

Originally published over the span of three years while travelling across Massachusetts, New York State, and England, Travelogues collects Kathleen’s travel vignettes together for the first time. Each of these nine journeys is infused with wonder and rich, unfamiliar landscapes, and those who climb aboard will forever look at train travel with new eyes.

And the first quote is in — from the excellent CSE Cooney.

Travelogues: Vignettes From Trains in Motion is a poet’s plunge into an oil-slickered, shadow-hung, ivy-clung alternate reality. Jennings’ world is deeply familiar and ultimately alien: a world minutely observed, in fast forward, warped by fairy lenses. Her reflections are relentless, ecstatic, declamatory, are illuminated motion. This whole metaphorical journey-by-rails is a fantasia, a phantasm, at times wistful, at others muscular and machine-like, with the occasional wry aside about the terribleness of the coffee. “Hello, book!” I want to shout. “I know you! And yet, I have never met your like.” Let’s never get to Salisbury. Let this train ride never end.

C. S. E. Cooney, World Fantasy Award-winning author of Bone Swans: Stories

All pre-order details are on the Brain Jar Press website: Travelogues is now available for digital pre-orders at the usual online places. Print pre-orders are open through Brain Jar Press’s website (including reasonable US postage). Print pre-orders through other websites should be available within the week, subject to systems updating.

Festive Carousel

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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:

  1. Take the bus tour at the start.
  2. Go on the Ferris wheel at the end.
  3. Follow the sound of ice-cream trucks.
  4. Always ride the carousel.

They are also very charming to draw.

2020-02-15-CarouselStory

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!

2020-02-15-KJennings-Card12020-02-15-KJennings-Card22020-02-15-KJennings-Card32020-02-15-KJennings-Card42020-02-15-KJennings-Card5

They are pencil, watercolour (Daniel Smith), and imitation gold leaf (Everbright)  on Canson illustration paper, with National Art Materials Crystal Clear Spray to seal the leaf.

World Fantasy Convention 2018!

I’ve received support from Arts Queensland to help me attend the World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore (and some subsequent events and meetings in New York) in November this year. It will cover flights and in-country travel, and I hope to see some of you there!

Formally I’m meant to say “Kathleen Jennings has received financial assistance from the Queensland Government through the Visual Arts and Crafts strategy, an initiative of the Australian, state and territory governments“, but although they try to hide it behind Government-ese, these folks do a really good job helping artists through difficult financial climates. I had a support from them a few years ago which definitely helped me take things to a new level and have a good time doing it.

(Thanks to Angela, Caitlene, Gavin, Kelly and Kim for your help with this application!)

 

Illustration Master Class 2017 – the painting!

My goodness, I had a marvellous and educational time at The IMC 2017. I’m still processing everything I learned – it was a very intensive week. But here is an overview, with the pieces I worked on.

Pieces. The intention of The IMC is that you work on one large piece over the week. As you will see, mine was more of a personal evolution, but not for that reason a failure or loss at all. I had many epiphanies.

(Note: The prompt I worked to was for Seanan McGuire’s Beneath The Sugar Sky, in which there is a rhubarb soda sea, so I also used a lot more pink than I usually would!)

So: At the beginning of the week, when we were still all at the thumbnail stages, I was being heavily influenced by all the fabulous painters around me. Without consciously considering it, I felt I ought to be very painterly.

01painterly-ideals

I’m not a painter. I learned to thumbnail much more boldly, and came to terms with doing that tonally, but in terms of how I was going to execute the idea, I managed to get myself pretty worked up. Although I still rather like the skull above.

Then we had two lectures close together: Irene Gallo’s presentation on colour in art, which featured many illustrations that were much more graphic in style; and Daniel Dos Santos’s lecture, in which I realised that while I resent the fact that his work looks like magic to me, and want to paint well enough to see the point where it comes together, I do not in fact want to paint like him or even paint all that much at all. Just enough to incorporate the lessons into my own style.

So I went back to my desk, scrapped my plans and went back to the extreme basics: Silhouettes. Having cut those out, I played around with the scrap paper, using it as a stencil and adding in details. I found I didn’t mind doing that. That’s just cheating on silhouettes.

And it turned out the reference photos I’d taken when I thought I’d be painting did feed into the shapes and angles of the silhouettes. One of my IMC realisations was that preparations are seldom wasted (lots of my epiphanies on the trip were obvious, and some I could have parroted before).

02recallibration

I’d decided by this time that what I wanted to get out of The IMC was learning how to be at it: learning how to learn. How to get everything I want from a lesson, drag it back to my lair and process it into my own work.

So, next I just added a bit more detail to that silhouette and began building it up in gouache, remembering the little textures I love in medieval paintings and Pauline Baynes’s illustrations.

Now, I was surrounded by painters, but one of the wonders of that is getting to see how people actually think a painting onto the canvas. Getting to watch John Jude Palencar paint and think, “Oh wait, it looks like a painting when he’s finished, but the process looks to me like cross-hatching and wash. I know that. I can think that way.”

It was also good being able to go up to illustrators with a sheaf of pen-and-ink drawings and have them draw over them on tracing paper, and getting to see and hear how they would have solved the same problems.

03Painting

Another realisation was how much tidier having to comply with work health & safety regulations keeps a workspace. I didn’t spill anything.

I was feeling more confident with the gouache now, but I was worried about losing the liveliness in sketches. So for the next piece I did the thumbnail sketch, took reference photos (which I won’t show, as I haven’t the permission of the models, but they look like the world’s most awkward ballroom dancing lesson).

Then I sat down and drew the picture without looking at the reference. Then I used the photos to go back in and adjust details and accuracy. It certainly helped.

04Dance

And I used up the leftover paint drawing in other people’s sketchbooks.

05Scraps

Here’s a drawing of reference photoshoots happening.06Poses

So! On ot the finished pieces:

Here is a digital composition of the silhouettesSilhouettes cover

(The painted silhouettes on their own for comparison)Silhouettes---pink

A little Cake Queen, painted largely without reference, but with obvious Andrew Hem influences on approaching planes of colour.

Cake Queen

An even tinier pen-and-ink version of the lady.

Cake-Queen---ink

Seanan’s Cora swimming. I like the tiny skull so much (you may notice a pattern here).

Cora Swimming

And the final gouache painting of the walking figures.

WalkingFigures

In the end, they were all vignette drawings, but someone who knows me said “Next you’ll learn to draw backgrounds, and then you’ll be a real illustrator.” He got a multipurpose background in his sketchbook.

Another point Irene made was about the elements fantasy illustrators should be able to handle, like horses, and others which it is good to show you can do, like group scenes. That’s why I ended up painting the three walking figures, to check that I could! And since I rather enjoyed it, I started looking for more crowds to draw: Here are the survivors of the IMC at about 2am on the last evening.

07last-night

A few lessons that resonated for me (there were many more – these are the ones which were still echoing around my head this week):

  • Preparation pays off.
  • Thumbnail using tones.
  • Take good, well-lit, detailed reference photos.
  • Keep caps on bottles.
  • Gradients! Use them compositionally.
  • Go to galleries and look at just one thing: a colour, fabric, use of highlights, etc.
  • Watch how ink lines end, and use lines to echo shapes in other parts of the drawing.
  • Whatever you’re doing (in composition, colour, etc), commit and then push it further. This came up a few times over the trip: exaggerating scale, doubling down on ‘errors’ instead of taming them.
  • Skulls and wigs and gauntlets are things people just own and bring to workshops with them.
  • Always do more than you need to, professionally. Get up earlier, or paint images twice, or…
  • The cheerfulness and generosity of real (apparent) confidence.
  • When watching a demonstration, copy it rigorously, then go back and try doing it your own way. I’ve always skipped the middle step, but it turns out I learn more by watching and emulating before getting creative.

… I just pulled out my notes and got distracted by all the wonderful information, but I will leave this list as it is.

But more: It was amazing to be surrounded by professional, excellent artists, all learning and critiquing, helping, posing, advising, sharing advice on brushes and paints, but never doubting the worth and ability of what was on display.

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I’m home!

I’m home! I’m back in Australia, with regular wifi access and all those good things. Once I’ve slept and unpacked it will be back to slightly more regularly scheduled programming.

It was a good trip.

Next stop: Minneapolis!

LGAL Fairl Dark

Next week, I’m leaving Northampton for Minneapolis. I’ll be attending a workshop given by Nico Delort at Light Grey Art Lab – and some of my work will also be on display at the gallery!

The opening night details are on Light Grey’s Facebook page: Fairly Dark Opening Reception.

The Grand Tour Part Three: ICELAND!

Part One: USA

Part Two: Dartmoor

As usual, this is a best-bits version of the trip, where “best-bits” = anything that stayed still long enough to be sketched. You should be able to see a larger version of the pictures by clicking on them, which in most cases will take you through to their Flickr page.

And so: Iceland.

The Light Grey Art Labs residency was wonderful: small, active (very physically active!), interested, entertaining. And Iceland was… I couldn’t process it at first.

Page 20

I spent my day before the residency looking around the Culture House and worrying about whether I would be able to work out how to process the lava fields I’d seen that morning on the way from the airport.

Page 21

Because Iceland is, above all, an exceptionally new country. It is horrifyingly young, geologically and in terms of its civilisation. Journey to the Centre of the Earth makes sense here. We all got the theme for Jurassic Park stuck in our heads. Parts seemed like a recently terraformed planet, the rocks are raw and rough and new, steam pours out of the ground.

Iceland 2016 - bubbling mud

They didn’t get people until 800AD (give or take a few hermits), and didn’t use wheeled vehicles before the late 19th century.

Page 22

We looked at sulfurous pits of boiling mud and climbed down lava tubes studded with ice and alive with spectral mists.

Iceland 2016 - Lava tube

Iceland 2016 - Lava tube

Page 22 Detail - mist

There were geysers, and everywhere people made little piles of stones.

Page 23

Iceland 2016 - cairns

Brown stones on clifftops, white stones in niches and arranged in little standing spirals below basalt cliffs.

Iceland 2016 - rocks

(This evidence of people marking, decorating, understanding, playing was one of my favourite things).

Page 23 Detail - Rocks

Iceland 2016 - Thingvellir

The lakes steamed. We scrambled over crevasses and into ravines.

Page 24

IMG_0529

Iceland 2016 - Thingvellir

We marvelled at the pleated fans of basalt columns, drew volcanic plains and details of moss. Climbed. Watched. Took photos. Thought.

Page 25

Page 25 Detail - Jarred

It was wonderful travelling with other artists. Learning from each other over wine in our cabin on Blueberry Hill.

Iceland 2016 - workshop

Iceland 2016 - workshop sketches

We all approached work and landscape differently, but it was grand to be with people who understood spending half an hour recording the texture of a rock.

Iceland 2016 - rock

Or marvelling at light, or pointing out the rare welcome smoothness of a glacial stone after the raw sharpness of all the others.

Iceland 2016 - looking at rocks

Page 26

We fell in love with moss.

Iceland 2016 - moss

Page 26 Detail - Notes

Iceland 2016 - River

 

It wasn’t like a fairytale.

Iceland 2016 - white water

Fairytales feel older than Iceland does.

Page 27

It has fairytales, of course, but we had to learn to look at the land differently. And you start to understand where fairytales come from.

Page 27 Detail - horse

Growing up in Euro-centric Australia, you know there’s ancient and continuous human history but don’t really see it. We’re not taught to see it. We see European history, barely over 2 centuries of it, and then we go to Europe and envy them their castles and forts and standing stones.

Page 28

Then to go to Iceland, and see their European history is longer than ours, but not by that much, relatively.

Iceland 2016 - farm

Iceland 2016 - Reykjavik

And before that? There’s no weight of human story.

Page 28 Detail - Birds

I hadn’t realised that I was aware of that, until I came home.

Page 29 Detail - Puffins

But Iceland was exceptionally beautiful, full of curious microcosms and great raw new-birthed slabs and extrusions of uneroded mountain.

Iceland 2016 - rocks

Ash-soft plains.

Iceland 2016 - plain with artist

New-cut gorges.

Iceland 2016 - waterfall

Horizon-capping glaciers.

Iceland 2016 - Glacier

Sheep and puffins.

Page 29

Then I was back in Reykjavik for one more day: museums and movies.

Iceland 2016 - costumes

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Then on to Oslo.