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.

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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!

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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.

The Marvellous Mr(s) Fox

Early last year, I was asked to illustrate a Theodora Goss poem for Enchanted Living magazine (a very beautiful magazine that’s a commitment to an aesthetic if ever I saw one).

As usual, the first step was to sketch my way through the manuscript, working out ideas and elements to play with as I went.

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From there, I worked up a few more detailed thumbnail sketches for the editors to choose from.

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We chose D, with its stand-alone illustration (I’m still quite fond of some elements of A, with its little hanging masks and insets).

The next step was a more detailed sketch, fairly small, but blown up to fit the page layout for approval. At this stage it’s all hand-drawn (with plenty of erasures!) except for the oval because we only have so much time in this life.

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When I’m doing work for myself, I don’t usually work the pencils up to this level of detail — in fact, usually I sketch directly onto the back of the paper. But when approvals are needed, and it has to fit someone else’s precise dimensions/layout, I push the sketch a lot further.

Then I scan, darken and (hopefully remember to) flip the image, and trace it down on black paper using some white carbon paper (I’m using Royal Langnickel which seems to last for ever, and smells like warm velvet if it were made out of damp chalk). If I forget to flip the image, I can always fix that in post, but it’s nice to have an original that matches the final publication!

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Then I cut it out, scan it in and tidy the contrast and edges digitally (I usually render it as a vector image: it gives a very solid black, with clean edges for reproduction, but preserves almost all my hand wobbles and unexpected angles), and add a slight paper texture and tint to it. Usually I will adjust to a suggested tone, but if it has to integrate with a larger design I let the art director play with tone and texture. Silhouettes are extremely forgiving in this regard!

And here is the finished piece (and a header) in Enchanted Living #46, Spring 2019.

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Bat Time, Bat Channel

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Claire just reminded me of this today: Back in 2018, I sent some fashionable bat sketches to C.S.E. Cooney and Carlos Hernandez, and people wrote poems about them, which was delightful and hilarious.

Bat-Folk: A Virtual Anthology Based on the Art of Kathleen Jennings

Bats are delightful to draw, and the more bats one draws, the simpler it is to classify people one meets by the variety of bats they would be.

You know you’ve met them.

Here’s a little piece I did a year or two ago for those patrons who get monthly stories. (They are also up on various things in black-and-white on tanaudel.redbubble.com: Bats and stars).

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And of course not forgetting all the bats drawn for Stray Bats by Margo Lanagan:

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This was another project which at least began fairly spontaneously, although it ended with me spending three days running around London in a heatwave looking for a suitable scanner.

(Also, if you’re in Western Massachusetts, a lot of the original art and sketches for Stray Bats is at Book Moon Books).

The Bayeux Tapestry Is Not A Collage

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Photo pinched from Peter’s blog

Peter M. Ball has been streamlining book production processes and is bringing some chapbooks into the world as part of the process (if you like following processes, see the Brain Jar newsletter).

I’m in the middle of a lot of big projects lately, and occasionally stalling, so I am currently fascinated by how people can get quickly from an Idea to a Thing, especially when they can reduce it to the minimum number of steps.

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I was making some notes on this (I’ll post more about these journals in due course!), thinking about the difference between collage as a metaphor for the process of ideas, and the actual practice of collage, which is a lot more immediate but less universal as an analogy.

Conclusion (apparently): The Bayeux tapestry is not a collage.

I meant to do a collage, because I found some clippings in an old notebook, but I was disgruntled and headachey and didn’t have a glue stick and the a/c was too breezy but I didn’t want to move. So I just took all the bits I was going to use and drew them into a collage.

The Ministry of Silly Walks

 

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Still a bit wobbly at this point, but look ma, no walking stick!

Some thoughts about walking:

 

  • I’ve just subscribed to Rob Walker’s Art of Noticing newsletter, which today recommended Elastic City‘s book Prompts for Participatory Walks. Since it sounded relevant for several projects, I ordered a copy and unduly complicated the procedure, leading to an exchange of emails in which I was at least able to clarify for the pleased but startled Elastic City the probable reason for a sudden surge in orders.
  • Years ago I was sketching in San Francisco and a man stopped to chat and ended up taking me on a short walking tour of various Painted Ladies and other significant buildings. He usually specialised in tours of the San Francisco watershed (ThinkWalks). And Katharine and Matt and I loudly discussed spurious histories in the hopes of misleading other tourists.
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2012?!

  • The Elastic City project reminds me in turn of Joël Henry‘s collaboration with Lonely Planet, the charming The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel. I enjoyed this for the stories it suggested as much as the ideas: I wanted to read about people finding each other in unlikely ways, or someone earnestly sightseeing through Melbourne on a penny-farthing. The book seems to be out of print, although there are some ideas on the Latourex site and the Lonely Planet travel blog: 7 ways to experiment with travel.
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Teenage magpie hiding under a beehive, in the rain

  • I’m also reading a book Terri Windling recommended to me, Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse: Women Walk the City She lent it to me in Dartmoor, when I was going out (being taken out) walking on the moors or through fields nearly every day, and it was both affirming (I adore Dartmoor and love walking there, but so many books about Walking™ are about the wild, and I also quite like cities) and set up a bit of cognitive dissonance (being very much not in a city at the time).
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It’s always “caterpillar grass” to me

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He gave up. There’s still just an alley of mown grass through the middle of this backyard forest.

  • I’ve been thinking about this because I’m just getting back to walking regularly after being laid-up. My doctor wants me to go swimming but I’m staunchly resisting, even if it means walking in rainstorms and crouching down to watch earthworms, and trailing home wringing wet.
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No-one else was using the swing.

  • I’ve been keeping an observation journal for a project, and while I’ve been walking the same suburban circuit, it really is marvellous how many new things there are to notice each day. How quickly the teenage magpies grow up (they’re twitchy New Adults now, unsupervised, and look like they put their whites through the laundry with their dark clothes). What the spiders are doing. How the tiny soccer players follow their teenage coach like ducklings and gather around to take off his hat and play with his hair when he kneels down to talk to them. How some thoughts and memories get stored on a walk, and I only rediscover them when I revisit that ibis-tree, those bent reeds with their cross-hatched ripples. I don’t take a phone or notebook with me, but I list the things I remember when I get home.
  • And the students are returning to campus, which means all sorts of interactions to see and overhear while strolling through the Great Court, people stalking corellas with their phones, societies recruiting on Market Day…
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Obviously I had my sketchbook with me at this point.

  • I like ambling, not bounding up mountains. I like games without scoring. I like walking without having to take a survival kit. I like pocket-sized adventures.

 

Tiny Birds

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Some tiny birds from the margins and interstices of my notebook/journal. I quite like the faint shadow on the owl (top right).

They aren’t illustrative of anything in particular except, perhaps, horror vacui (what else are dragons for?).

The brown birds were, however, suggested by some sketches I did in the Qld Museum on Saturday, while I watched children being towed away from fascinated contemplation of fossils to look at snakes, and being blindsided by the actual height of a bush stone curlew.

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Materials:

(NB: some of those are affiliate links which means I might get a very small commission if you buy something after clicking through, but I do encourage you to buy/order from local art stores if you have them!)

Reach for the Dalek

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Ah, remember the Dalek game? I have been drawing them again, from time to time. At the moment, I’m just showing them to patrons over on the Calendar Patreon, but when I’ve got enough of a backlog I’ll eventually make more of them public. For now here’s a teaser.

This is for Paul Brickhill’s biography of Douglas Bader, Reach for the Sky, one of the many military books and movies my father raised us on, and probably the one which got me interested in early-ish aviation. I haven’t seen the movie for ages, but I remember it as being both thrilling and charming. Bader was a… colourful character.

Previously released Daleks can be seen here: the Dalek Game.