Cover art: Arcanos Unraveled

Arcanos covers

Meet Anya Winter, junior professor of magical textiles at Arcanos Hall. She spends her days designing invisibility cloaks and teaching reluctant sophomores to knit. If she can avoid her conniving ex-boyfriend and steer clear of campus politics, that’s a plus. But everything changes when her secret university is unshielded by a saboteur, placing the entire magical community at risk. Joining forces with a rebellious princess and a mysterious engineer, Anya must save her school—and her reputation—before it’s too late. But can she really change the world with just a ball of yarn?

This are the covers (e- and print) which I illustrated and Stewart Williams designed for Jonna Gjevre‘s novel of magic, knitting and computers, Arcanos Unraveled. (Print, Kindle).

Stewart did a splendid job, and if any of you are looking for a cover designer (and you should be, they are worth their weight in gold), his website is: Stewart A. Williams Design.

Every so often a project comes along which forces me to dust off my needles and knit a swatch for art-reference. I couldn’t find the needles this time, so ended up knitting with a pencil and the handle of a paintbrush.

Arcanos cover thumbnails 1

In the end it was decided to do a design that could function as two covers or a wraparound – there was some refinement, with boots.

Arcanos cover thumbnails 2

And sheep were cut out. They have these beautifully, misleadingly patrician faces. For scale, those are half-inch squares on the cutting board.

Arcanos cover art - sheep

I cut the illustrations out as two separate images which could be joined over the spine if so decided (although in the end they were framed by blue).

Arcanos cover art

Then I tidied these up, and sent the files away to be turned by Stewart Williams into something marvellous and blue.

And if you want to get early sneak-peeks and process details on projects like this, I post those for supporters on Patreon.

Arcanos cover art - sheep

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River Bank process – first response

This is the first process post for my illustrations for Kij Johnson’s wonderful The River Bank, from Small Beer Press.

The first step for the illustration project (after an emailed ohmygoodnessyes when Small Beer asked me about it) was to read the manuscript. I like to print a manuscript, if possible, because then I can draw my responses directly onto it. It makes for a more immediate response, but also means I can match an idea with the relevant passage again easily when I need to go back and check details!

For some projects, like Angela Slatter‘s The Bitterwood Bible and other recountings, the initial response is very close to the final illustration. The River Bank required more work and refinement (you can see at top right that I was still working out Badger) but many of these early notes recognisably found their way into the final illustrations.

Frequently, I find it difficult to objectively assess a manuscript simply as a book – this is partly because it doesn’t yet have a cover by which to judge it, but mostly because I am reading it looking at one very specific aspect: the visuals. It takes a second reading, in a non-illustrator headspace, to appreciate the text on its own terms. The River Bank, however, lifted off the page even on that first, pragmatic reading. I think it’s because of Kij Johnson’s delightful visual language – I’ve just finished her World Fantasy Award winning novella The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, purely as a reader, and my goodness I want to draw every page.

Next post: Early Design

The Lie Tree cover art

I hadn’t yet read any of Frances Hardinge‘s novels when Gili Bar-Hillel of Utz Books asked me to illustrate the cover for the Hebrew translation of The Lie Tree. And oh, it is so very good!

Here are a few of my first thumbnail concepts for the cover.

The Lie Tree - thumbnails

The novel is a beautiful combination of gothic mystery, scientific discovery, faith, lies, ambition, hubris and secrets. Part way through I realised that it felt like Matthew Arnold’s poem “Dover Beach”, and then a particularly apt sentence sent me back to the beginning to check for a nonchalant line that convinced me this was entirely deliberate on Hardinge’s part.

Here are the pencils. We decided to go with more open vinework around the title.

The Lie Tree - pencils

I then cut the final image out of black paper, and sent it through for the designer, Dor Cohen, to do wonderful things with.

The Lie Tree - cover

The Hebrew translation of France’s Hardinge’s novel The Lie Tree, translated by Yael Achmon, is now available for pre-order from Utz Books: The Lie Tree.

Thanks to my supporters on Patreon who help give me time to put together these process posts (and who get to see projects like this early).

Strange Horizons: London Calling

Very recently I had the great pleasure of doing my first illustration for Strange Horizons. It was for Philip A. Suggar’s surreal and charming story “London Calling“.

Some of my patrons had the chance to see early progress pictures and some more detailed process description (and so can you: Patreon). But the art is out now!

Here are some of the early thumbnail sketches.

kjennings-londongcalling-thumbnails

We chose the top right one, and I touched in some soft colours to test them. I still really like this thumbnail, and would like to do something in this style! But it wouldn’t have worked so well on a large scale.

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I also played around with some cyanotype versions.

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Then it was on to developing the pencils, and adding digital colour.

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You can read the story here: “London Calling”.

(And don’t forget: you can see sneak-peeks, hear early project news and help support my independent projects if you’re a supporter through Patreon.)

Illustration Friday: Ice

Illustration Friday: Ice

This Illustration Friday picture began as mammoths.

First I tried to draw them without reference, but it turned out I was a bit hazy on which parts were raised and which lowered, and started evolving a sort of hairy bison-pig.

Illustration Friday: Ice sketches

Reference didn’t necessarily help that much. They have those weird elephant knees and feet (why do elephants paint their toenails red?) which make them look a bit like two men in a hide.

Illustration Friday: Ice sketches

Then it trended a bit violent with the hedgehog mafia (not show) but I pulled a Spielberg and turned their guns into icecream cones, and after that it was all inevitable, really.

Illustration Friday: Ice

I drew the final image digitally, and while I like it I prefer the weight of hand-drawn lines. I may rework the image at some point, but in the meantime it is up on Redbubble on some t-shirts and as stickers for summer.

kjenningshedgehogice

Tremontaine Season 2

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Season two of Tremontaine, the prequel series to Ellen Kushner’s Riverside novels, is on its way from Serial Box, beginning October 19.

You may recognise the style from the covers I did for Season One (see also Tor.com’s post on that art).

tremontaineseason01cover

This year, however, we’re cooking in colour!

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I had a lot of fun with this image. A second season can expand out into the world or drill down into characters. This season pulls in more countries and cultures of the world beyond Riverside, but these add to the force and layers of what is happening to our spies and chocolate merchants, duchesses and politicians, swordsmen, forgers, mathematicians, scholars…

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Once a final thumbnail was chosen and the sketch approved, the process proceeded much as for the previous covers. I still cut it as one piece, but this season we are reserving key areas for the highlight colour.

 

The Bush Bride illustrations – for Angie Rega


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Before I went overseas, I mentioned I was working on some illustrations to accompany a live reading Angie Rega was to give at the Australian Fairy Tale Convention.

That went very well, and I can now show the finished illustrations. I cut them as one continuous image: the back, with pencil lines, is shown here. It was very tiny. I did not cut myself. I cut myself pretty badly trimming green beans in New York, but this is safer than cooking.

Bush Bride - work in progress

This I scanned in and tidied up.

Bush Bride - monochrome

Because it was to be projected behind Angie while she read, we decided on a fairly clear, strong colour palette. Here is the first of the three slides the image was divided into. The background goes from dawn to day to night.

Bush Bride - Frame 1

And here is the whole series as one image. If you click on it, you should go through to its Flickr page where you will have the option to view it at a larger size.

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Bush Bride - coloured