“On Pepper Creek” — illustration process

South of the Sun: Australian Fairy Tales for the 21st Century is now published and released (and can be bought)!

A particular shout-out to Lorena Carrington who did so much wonderful art & design AND illustrator-wrangling for the book! You can also support her on Patreon.

The anthology includes my short story “On Pepper Creek”, a story of a preoccupied (and morally ambiguous) family and an anxious (and amoral) stowaway.

It was a slightly tricky story to illustrate because (a) it’s mine and (b) it’s about something that largely isn’t seen (also, to the extent it is seen, I was picturing it in Emily Hare‘s style).

Here are some of the early thoughts I was working through.

16 ballpoint thumbnail sketches

As usual, I was charmed by the idea of doing a silhouette, and started working through the design for that, but as much as silhouettes leave to the imagination, they make it difficult to outright disguise something, unless you want it to be thoroughly camouflaged or confusing. Also, I was getting stressed by some other deadlines.

Pencil drawings of trees and waves and creatures with long tails.

In the end, I decided that since this was my story, I could have as much fun with negative space as I wished, and just hint at what was within.

The final illustration was in pencil and watercolour, and I did a few versions, until it was as loose as pleased me.

So here is the final illustration for “On Pepper Creek”, in South of the Sun.

Pencil and watercolour drawing of a long hairy arm and clutching clawed hand reaching towards a red spinning-top.

Observation Journal: Lessons for presentations and conferences

One of the purposes and benefits of the observation journal, apart from tinkering with my ideas of story and image and coming up with schemes, is taking the opportunity to watch myself at work. This includes the process leading up to a project — working out which ideas strike a spark, and maybe why, so that I can aim for those in the future. And after I finish something, it’s been valuable to turn it inside out and see how it held together, and how I felt about it.

So here’s a little run of connected pages from June last year, when I was drafting and giving the keynote at the Australian Fairy Tale Society‘s convention. (Here’s my original post reporting on the conference.) I’ve indicated a couple of the main lessons about writing speeches and being on panels — with the note that they are lessons for me, but might be useful for others.

(Also, the AFTS fairytale anthology is launching a little over an hour after this post comes out.)

More below…

Engraved mirror in gold watch case, reading "Once upon a time" in reflection.
A magic mirror from Spike Deane — you can read more about it here
Continue reading

AFTS Conference – reflections

This weekend past was the Australian Fairy Tale Society conference, on the theme of “Magic Mirrors”.

It was a lovely online weekend, meeting new friends and old. The AFTS is a small group (with a small and heroic committee!), but the conference attendees were a mix of afficionados, academics, oral storytellers, writers, illustrators, romance reviewers, programmers, publishers, illustrators, a magician — even an archaeologist!

Keynote

Much of the conference was a little bit of a blur for me, as I was preparing for, giving, and then recovering from the keynote presentation. You can get to be as comfortable as you like with off-the-cuff speaking (I’m still all nerves), but art-centric presentations require so much front-end preparation getting the slides in order.

There were, of course, more slides than minutes — I was concentrating on my process around addressing the imagery of fairy tales, as that could be applied to drawing, writing, reading, and academia: finding an aesthetic, the process of “reading” imagery, identifying and recombining elements, and then dealing with that in an Australian context (with examples from Flyaway).

Usually I’d have more of a small-group workshop focus in something like this, but I spaced it out with short individual exercises (agnostic as to medium), and it seemed to work. At least, after the break some people came back having done drawings!

There will be a recording up later in the year for AFTS members.

(I’ve already posted on the speaker’s gift by Spike Deane).

A few other highlights (I wish this were more complete — I had a crushing screen headache most of the weekend, but you can see the program on the AFTS website here or a PDF here).

  • I was also on an artist panel with Spike Deane and Monika Diak, which could have been infinitely longer as far as we were concerned (clearly attributable to excellent moderation) and probably would have progressed to a cafe indefinitely had we been at a physical conference. We have such different processes — Spike with her glass, and Monika with her work in Hungary, and both of them with a fine art background, but all loving the shared language of fairy tales. They each gave separate presentations on their work — light and luminous.
  • Renée Dahlia and Philippa Borland gave an entertaining and appealing (and informative!) presentation on a diverse range of romance takes on fairy-tale patterns — lots of new books to read.
  • Kate Forsyth, in the wake of Snow White and Rose Red, and other tales of kind young women (illustrated by Lorena Carrington), gave a lovely talk on the traditions and dichotomy of kind and unkind girls in fairy tales.
  • Leonora Carrington received the 2020 AFTS Award.
  • Kathryn Gossow and Patsy Poppenbeek, the editors of the forthcoming AFTS Anthology South of the Sun, gave a breakdown of the process of putting together the anthology and underlying considerations — I always enjoy this sort of consideration of a book, going through briefly touching on each story and the patterns between them.

It was my first fully online conference this year (so far!), and the AFTS conference committee (and overall wrangler of the society, Jo Henwood) did a wonderful job bringing the weekend — and some wonderful — people together, and it was an honour to be invited.

(Apologies to all the people and for all the details left out!).

A Magic Mirror — by Spike Deane

This weekend, I gave the keynote presentation for the Australian Fairy Tale Society‘s 2020 conference: Magic Mirrors.

And by post I received a beautiful presenter gift, made by Canberra fairy-tale glass artist Spike Deane (I’m a fan of her work, and already have a lovely glass key). But this was something new — it’s a little gold compact…

Photos from Spike Deane, with permission

But when opened, and mirrored in itself, in blue glass are the words Once Upon a Time

Photos from Spike Deane, with permission

Spike writes of her process:

I had thoughts of using a mirror compact and doing something to it. Ideas came and went. I bought a lovely vintage powder compact, which sunk 60% of the budget. I settled on the idea of replacing the powder section with an engraved piece of coloured glass, with the text engraved in a way that to read it you are required to look in the mirror.

Happy with that concept I then mulled over how to create some ‘flash glass’. Flash glass is sheet glass with a very thin layer of colour on one side. When you sandblast or engrave away the coloured side you can create imagery or pattern. I could buy some, but $$$… make some, but $$$ and then guess what fell into my lap?

A large piece of blue blown glass was being offered FREE at the Canberra Glassworks, so long, as that person smashed the object. I jumped at the chance and claimed my prize. I clobbered it with a hammer (safely and satisfyingly).

I then cut a small circle out of one of the shards (harder than you would think). I ground the edges and engraved some lettering on one side and flourishes on the other.

From Spike Deane’s blog: https://www.spikedeane.com/post/magicmirrors

It’s a beautiful object, light and solid and perfectly weighted in the hollow of a palm.

You can find more of Spike’s work online here:

Australian Fairy Tale Society Conference

Bookings are now open for the 2020 virtual conference of the Australian Fairy Tale Society — Magic Mirrors: The Seen and Unseen (at which I am the keynote!).

The new format means they can have 6 sessions over the 3 days of the June Long Weekend: 9.30-11.30am AEST and 2-4pm AEST on Saturday 6, Sunday 7, and Monday 8 June. The rate is $30.

Signup information is here: AustralianFairyTaleSocietyConference2020

AFTS2020MagicMirrors

AFTS Conference — keynote speaker

 

In exciting news, I’ve been invited to be the keynote speaker at the Australian Fairy Tale Society conference in Sydney on 8 June 2020.

The topic is “Magic Mirrors”, and I’ll be speaking mostly from the perspective of a fairy tale artist, although the writing side will definitely get in there. But then, it’s all stories, isn’t it?

If the conference sounds like your sort of thing (it skews a bit towards storytelling/storytellers, especially as it follows on from the weekend’s biennial International Storytelling Conference), the call for entries is here:

Call for Presentations – 2020 Australian Fairy Tale Society Conference