Sketch before story

Just a few tiny sketches for various projects.

Sketches for illustrations for “Undine Love”

I enjoy the relative simplicity and speed of this style of sketch — whether as a way to plan a final illustration, or as a finished picture, or as an element to play around with when developing stories, or even just an idea to hold in the mind, which could turn into any number of things when it’s eventually pinned down in words.

I am gradually (eternally) relearning that sometimes it’s simplest to put down in sketches (visual or written) the known images I want to work with, shuffle them into order, and then work out the story.

Notes for a presentation for the Australian Fairy Tale Society

I also need to remember this approach when planning an image-heavy presentation. The temptation is to write a detailed talk and then track down all the images mentioned in it and put them in order. But dropping all the art into place first and then jotting down the talking points is faster, more fun, and allows for more chatty spontaneity.

Art/writing exercise

  • When working on a story (written or drawn) resist any drive to get the story nailed down immediately.
  • Instead, concentrate on the key images you feel should be in the story (visual or at least with a distinct aesthetic).
  • Sketch them very quickly on cards or sticky notes. Keep it loose — I like to concentrate on movement in drawn sketches, and colour/texture/aesthetic quality in written ones. (So, for example, for a Cinderella story I might use sketches like the ones from Viewpoints, while a written note would be something like “someone watching from amidst the deep marine-blue night/shrubbery in the palace garden, star-flecked, a sweep of descending balustrades backlit by distant candlelight, and the hint of a silhouette of a girl descending them — mystery.”)
  • Try to get down at least 5 moments that feel like they could be key to something. I like to push until I feel there are enough points to balance a story on, and for the little stories I do for Patreon 5 is often a nice number. (Alternatively, draw 5 images from something like Dixit.)
  • If the order isn’t clear (and even if it is), rearrange the cards until they make sense for the spine of a story — the set-pieces.
  • Then outline the rest of the (written or drawn) story in dot points, aiming to get very quickly from one key scene to the next.
  • This can be the framework for a larger project (see Illustrating Flyaway). But if you can distill the notes to just a few telling sentences, it can also be the basis for a very short story.

Tools of the Trade: Pointy Objects

Over on Instagram, Battenkill Books asked whether I worked with extremely tiny tools.

My regular set are not so much tiny as extremely pointy. Here they are:

Left to right:

  • standard no.11 craft knife (the handle is a Fiskars Softgrip Detail Knife) — cutting and very occasionally scraping
  • mechanical pencil with 0.5mm HB leads (handle is a Bic Quantech # 2) — sketching, final line work, as a stylus for tracing down sketches with graphite paper
  • dip pen (nib is a Hunt crowquill 102) — nearly all my ink linework (very occasionally touched up with a fine pigment liner if I realise I’ve missed a line and have already packed the inks away)
  • no. 8 round brush (this one’s just an Artist’s First Choice taklon) — I do almost all my brushwork with this or something similar

I do use a few other things — Pitt Artist Pens in the sketchbook kit (I’ve got a post coming up elsewhere about that technique, so photos of those soon), scratchboard tools and some pigment pens with that, Pilot BPS-GP <F> ballpoint pen in the Observation Journal. But these are the main ones.

In the background is a paint tin I filled myself with Daniel Smith paints. After I worked through my feelings on all the sample colours (see Loving the Tools), I finally ordered all the colours I used most. But then I just wasn’t using them as often — there’s a lot more set-up and forethought and commitment involved in using wet paints from the tube.

So I used the time during some Zoom sessions to fill these little empty half-pans (it’s a Meeden watercolour tin), so that I can simply wet a brush and go (in this case with an overused little old brush, outlining windows for the journal).

Observation Journal: Sparks and navigable worlds

Something I enjoy about the observation journal is revisiting different approaches and digging into what does and doesn’t work for me, and why, and what I can do with that knowledge.

Double page of observation journal, densely handwritten. On the left, 5 things seen, heard, and done that day. On the right, a collage of vintage fashion photos with the words: 

Here are the Notorious smiling Women 
What terrific clothes they wear
THEY combine into a sophisticated fashion Code.
the notorious smiling women

On the left-hand page: disconcerting bathrooms and a “definite autumnal feeling”.

On the right-hand page: Every so often I wonder if collage is a thing I can do, and every time I realise that it definitely isn’t. I love the meditative aspect of it, and the recombining of elements, but I prefer that to happen at the front end of the creative process rather than being the final stage. For me it’s the spark that kicks off making a new thing — the making of it is something different. This continues not to diminish my enjoyment of other people’s collage — the reservations are about my enjoyment of various aspects of the process of making things. But while I find my collage hilariously bad, I definitely want to know more about the nefarious but fashionable adventures of the notorious smiling women.

And I wanted to note the summary page for this week, too, because it touches on a few points that have continued to echo through the observation journal.

  • The pleasure of watching other people learn to be competent in their chosen field. In this week, it was prompted by apprentices in the ceiling, but it also resonates with low-drama cooking shows, and stories where a character is not yet a master of their profession, but is taking practical steps towards becoming one. It’s a wonderful place for stories to draw forward motion from, without necessarily having antagonists or obvious conflict. And it ties into staginess and contained worlds, because the “romance of competence” (or fantasy of competence) relies the contained and navigable worlds of genres-of-manners, to which I keep returning (Heyer… in space!)
  • Another is that I’m much happier if there are systems or other people in place to say no to things without my direct intervention — or at least, without me feeling like I’m the one disappointing everyone including the ideal version on myself. I’m still working on what to do about this, or how to frame it so that it works for me. Although I might have just had a breakthrough on this thanks to an understanding reply to a difficult email! Stay tuned.
  • Time and persistence, vs a spark, vs a bright enough spark. Impetus vs the grind. This is an ongoing balance, and when I get it right, everything is wonderful. It relates to the first point on the right-hand page: to push ideas further immediately. I keep forgetting this lesson, because it always leads to SO MANY PROJECTS, and then deadlines and admin and despair, and rediscovery. So, not exactly balance. One of the benefits of this series of posts is that I have a reason to re-review these pages.

Observation Journal: Mix and Match

The length of the observation journal pages got thoroughly out of hand in mid-February.

Two densely handwritten pages from the observation journal. The first has notes on things seen, heard, and done on 10 February 2020. The second mixes and matches elements of Pride and Prejudice and Little Red Riding Hood.

Left page: Magpies and the doppler effect of lawn mowers, and how memory is stored in places.

A drawing of a man trying to mow very long grass.

Right page: Most ways I have of breaking things open and/or finding ideas involve knocking two stories (or other things) together until something interesting falls out. In this case, I was trying to formalise that approach. It spilled over into another double-page spread, and the conclusion that this is a process that works better in motion.

A close-up of the Pride & Prejudice and Little Red Riding Hood page.

The basic idea is to mix and match two stories. There are a few ways to do this, including:

  • Looking for resonances (intriguing and useful, but particularly for express reworkings of a story);
  • Randomising or forcibly mismatching all the elements (interesting but hard work if I don’t want to default to a mash-up/repurposing, which isn’t my favourite thing);
  • Picking one pair of elements that aren’t an obvious match, pairing them up, and then following the consequences.

The last one is my favourite, and it’s useful for drawing and choosing textures, doing close readings, and playing with stories. For instance, making Mary Bennett from Pride and Prejudice the Little Red Riding Hood of a story forces a careful consideration of her relationships to other characters — and she doesn’t have many. (I like to use a version of Little Red Riding Hood that involves her getting away from the wolf and running over a river on sheets stretched by washerwomen, but in the case of Pride & Prejudice the best thing for Mary is (explicitly) finally being away from her sisters.)

Making Rochester of Jane Eyre a Little Red Riding Hood and committing to that misreading once turned into a whole story (“The Wolves of Thornfield Hall, variations on a theme”,  Eleven Eleven Journal #19, 2015). There’s a lot of material to work with.

Here’s the first half of the second double-page spread (the last page turned into a story outline which is still in progress).

A handwritten page matching up elements of Twelve Dancing Princesses with aspects of Little Women.

In this case, I was listing the elements of the key story (“The Twelve Dancing Princesses”), looking for a corresponding element in the target story (“Little Women”), then finding echoes, and looking for imagery to enhance on that basis. This has a bit less character exploration in it, and isn’t as useful academically as an outright misreading, but it is really useful for playing up thematic and visual elements, choosing metaphors, and getting a source of coherent and consistent vocabulary and tone — more on this in future pages (or it’ll be familiar if you’ve done a narrative imagery workshop with me).

But codifying the ideas, while a useful distraction from… whatever I was meant to be doing, or possibly just from mid-February, isn’t as exciting as picking up the thread of an idea, the first interesting element, and running with it — pulling it until it unravels, or wandering off into other paths entirely, and following dancing princesses to see where they go in search of new adventures.

A drawing of a demure princess in a high-waisted dress.

Art/writing exercise

This exercise is fun for practising close-reading, spurious argument, and description. But allow yourself at the least provacation to bound away chasing some new and marvellous idea:

  1. Pick two rather different stories. For example:
    • pick two unrelated stories you’re familiar with (perhaps a favourite novel and the last fairy tale you saw referenced)
    • or try, for example, something like choosing the first and last movies you remember seeing in a cinema — for me this would be The Hunt for Red October and Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears and I have no regrets,
    • or take a story you love but that isn’t like the genre you work in, and a story you are currently trying to write or draw.
      In the example on the page above I had just watched the new Little Women and picked “Twelve Dancing Princesses” as the second story in an effort to tear myself away from using “Little Red Riding Hood”.
  2. Jot down the key characters (or places, or objects) from the first story.
  3. Match them up with elements in the second (randomly, or use less-obvious matches).
    E.g., here, I made Marmee stand in for Princesses 2-11.
  4. Work out what the resonances between those elements are or could be (even if it’s a bit of a stretch — this is the fun part).
    E.g., with Marmee (as with the intermediate princesses) she’s there and part of the story, but not obviously instigating or obviously primary to the narrative, but also manages to create a sense of abundance.
  5. Consider how you could describe or paint those characters (or places, or objects) in the second story to bring out those resonances — using, for example, observations or language or textures from the first story).
    E.g., I’ve just written “treasured, ornamented” here, because I was being seized with an Idea

Observation Journal — giving ideas a push

Left page: Rainy day walking.

Right page: I mentioned previously that at this point in the observation journal I was thinking about to how to get more quickly from an idea to a thing (Observation Journal: Reflections and making things happen — and also Making Things Manifest, a much shorter post that was based on this journal page). I suffer from a combination of inertia and many fascinations, and it’s very easy to either lose or never get momentum on a project.

On this page I began to look at this in more detail — breaking down:

  • what had worked for me in various fields (art, writing, etc);
  • what those approaches might look like in other fields (the written equivalent of a sketch, for example); and
  • patterns that were emerging.

At its most basic, the simple answer is to rely on the immediate power of pushing an idea just a bit further. This boils down to:

  • once I have an idea, however nebulous, take five minutes to do an incredibly high-level, noncommittal outline of what a final version of it might look like; and
  • if possible, do this in a format that can be repurposed as a final object (i.e. leave enough spaces between sketches to scan and use them as-is, rough out an outline that could be a pitch, or a script for an illustrated story).

Some examples

  • Art:
    • immediately do a sketch/rough
    • do a sketchfold ASAP (shorthand for the little accordion-fold sketchbook segments I use when developing projects. I haven’t made a tag for them, alas, but they show up in a lot of process posts, including this set for The Tallow-Wife.)
    • leave space between sketches to scan them and use as-is
    • wash in some colour/tone ASAP (to flesh out the sketches, but also to be eye-catching when I look for it again — you can see an example of this at the end of the Reflections and making things happen post)
    • write a treatment/storyboard/etc of the overall shape
    • remember to pick a style I actually want to use (this is more of a pitfall-avoidance technique)
  • Writing
    • Super-fast and utterly made up proposal (this was from a series of non-fiction expressions of interest)
    • Write notes on other books in own words (this is more of a non-fiction technique, but it’s useful when adapting ideas as well)
    • Immediately jot down a three-point outline (primarily non-fiction again) — this page became the basis for the much shorter Making Things Manifest post.
    • Write a quick one-paragraph treatment or, even better, three quick treatments (this takes the pressure off any one of them — I did this for an illustrated project around this time and it worked very well: initial tinted sketches, then a handful of plot treatments, fidgeting with style, then a high-level, rapid script and colour-script.
    • Immediately push the idea out into some plot template. Any plot template, really, as long as it makes me be deliberate about story shape. I use fairy tales a lot for this, but I’ve found Susan Dennard’s one page synopsis useful for pinning down short story ideas, and storing them until I can get back to them. The final might change wildly, but at least enough bits are written down that I can remember what the idea felt like.
    • Run at it and keep running. (This is one reason why I personally enjoy challenges, from writing sprints with friends to NaNoWriMo — “The Heart of Owl Abbas” started from a writing group game where we wrote one sentence of the story on the first day of the month, two sentences on the second, etc).


Very few of these actually finish the project. But they do considerably increase its chances. They create a skeleton with nothing weighing it down — a framework for memory and future work. Something with a full set of parts — to be swapped out, perhaps, and maybe I’ll think of a better composition or more thrilling ending, but if I don’t, at least it already has one. And they catch the first gleam or excitement of an idea — the spark that made me want to write it.

All of these points make it easier to store a project, to share it with other people who might make it happen, to find it again in a file, to remember what I meant by it, and to choose to work on it when time is short. And if I can recapture the initial thrill (a resonance, an aesthetic), I’m much more likely to find the momentum to finish the project.

Trying it out

The illegible scrawl at the very bottom of the page was me trialling a demonstration of getting a sketched outline down fast. The original idea was something about gumboot shortages and storm-initiating butterflies (there was a butterfly bloom this summer, and it was raining that day). I got much of the idea down, but then it took off on its own and ended up turning into a full tiny rhyming accordion picture book (a glimpse of which I posted in Making Things Manifest — Mock-Ups and Outlines).

And writing this up has just reminded me that I need to add some of these steps to a few stalled projects currently causing me distress.

Magpie under a beehive

Writing/art exercise

  1. Think of a project you’ve kind-of, sort-of been wanting to do for some time — or a recent idea that just occurred to you. (If you’re stuck, X-meets-Y is quite useful: “weather-butterfly meets gumboot shortage”; “Cinderella meets Wicker Man“; “Jaws but make it Pre-Raphaelite”).
  2. Really quickly (set a timer for 10min if necessary) rough out:
    1. three written treatments (make sure they have a beginning, middle, and end — if it’s a project you’ve been thinking about for a while, try and make them wildly different), or
    2. 5 thumbnail sketches (imagine it’s for a standard 6×9 book page (or the usual dimensions you work in), draw a rectangle, and make sure you fill in the background, too).
  3. Pick one of those options and very quickly (10 min timer again!) develop it further, making sure to spend equal time on all the elements — this is about wiring together a skeleton, not building up the detail. And you’re not committing to it! This is about beating the clock. Make either:
    1. a written outline (use dot points under headings (going all the way to The End!), or your favourite story structure or that one-page synopsis), or
    2. or a larger, detailed sketch.
  4. Congratulations, you have an outline for something you either want to do or really don’t want to do (the process of elimination is valuable too). Now stop and make a few notes on the process — why did you choose or discard certain aspects, what bits made you want to pursue them, where did you just not want to deal with something (endings, for me) and how did you deal with it (writing down multiple options often helps me — or picking an emotional note to end on).

Observation Journal: Reflections and making things happen

A page from the observation journal, headed "Reflections & Lessons & Patterns", with mind-map style notes on the week's observations.

I’ve continued to find weekly reflection pages the observation journal very useful when I do them, and interesting to look back on. This is from the end of January: the week including Points of habit and resistance, Patterns in days, Reflections and alphabetical order, and The appeal of staginess — there was also a more introspective, prosy page of reflection which I haven’t posted about because, well, turns out that’s not the sort of journal I like to keep.

It’s a different format, and it has fewer birds and dinosaurs than the previous week’s summary, but there are a few continuing and new themes that began to push the journal (and what I was making) in certain directions after this. A few are:

  • The trap of thinking only about creativity/productivity, and not about actually creating and making things (the art of making things manifest, as it were). In retrospect, this was mostly a problem because I was reading so much about creativity at the time, in preparation for teaching, and trying to cast a fairly wide net in the journal, so that it would work as an example. But it led to the next point.
  • The links between IDEA and DOING, between filling a page with ideas and going back and making something with them, the difference between “incubation” and “overthinking”, and the extent to which an idea can be the thing itself (and ongoing personal resistance to collage). This was initially of concern because I wanted to make sure students actually made something in the creativity class, but it immediately fed into my own issues with inertia vs momentum. I began taking time to look at how I got certain ideas to the finish line (and also, eventually, why I chose those particular ideas). This led to the next point.
  • The immediate power of pushing an idea just a bit further — this was scarily effective, and derailed my time planning (such as it was) and I want to post at a bit more length about it. At its most basic, however, it boiled down to this:
    • Once I have an Idea™, take five minutes to do an incredibly high-level, noncommittal outline of what a final version of it might look like.
  • The belief that style might not be everything, but it can get you a long way. This is personal to my taste and the way I work, of course, but is connected to recurring future references to “aesthetic”, as it emerged from the post on staginess.
  • The usefulness of considering patterns across a set of [stories, pictures, etc], rather than just a close critique of one — triangulating elements of interest and craft, and prioritising appreciation over criticism.
  • An emerging concern with surface design, written and visual, which I will post more about eventually when I get to the core pages — it relates to the post Framing devices and stories in the ornaments).

Also, with splendid dramatic irony, the note I don’t want to go out! I want to stay in and make things!

Also: My Australian Gothic book Flyaway is out very soon!


(This follows on from yesterday’s post Thinking about points of view).

My only clear memory of reading Tirra Lirra By The River as an undergrad is of a scene where a character following the narrator up a staircase observes her new haircut:

'If you look at the underside of the cut,' said a man named Wallace Faulks, 'you can see the grain. Look, just like in a section of wood.'

It lingered. One reason is because it is so true and keenly observed, and every time I see a friend with freshly bobbed hair I think of this line. But I think it also stayed with me because it was such a wonderful example of viewpoint.

In writing, “point of view” usually refers to whether a story is told in first/second/third/omniscient point of view (“I”/”you”/”third”/godlike). But here I was thinking more about viewpoint in the artistic/perspective sense — literally where the viewer (whoever they might be) is physically standing, and what they can see from there.

For writers, in a broad sense, it can apply to temporal points of view, too (past? present? future? “The Present Only Toucheth Thee” was kind of all about that).

But to keep it simple: If I’m describing (or drawing) a person climbing a staircase, I can describe the scene several ways, including:

  • From their eyes, travelling with them: how the wallpaper gleams olive in lamplight, and where the carpet on the stairs is faded, which stairs creak, what is lurking on the landing.
  • From the top of the staircase: seeing their shadow climbing ahead of them, their eyes flicking from stair to stair, their expression as they get breathless, the way the buttons on their cardigan pull, the point at which their feet come into view.
  • From the foot of the stairs: the scuffs at the back of their shoes, the way their calves disappear in curved shadows under the hem of a skirt, the marks on the back of the cardigan, over the shoulderblades, where they leaned against a dusty wall, the way the lamplight pulls away from them as they ascend into darkness.

It’s easy to get into habits of describing things all one way, or from the most obvious viewpoint. I try to consciously play with this when I’m sketching, even sometimes building a reference piece that I can move around (e.g. the model library in this post). I do it when writing, too. Occasionally I will write out a scene from the other side of a room, or the level of the ceiling fan. Quite often the original viewpoint was sound (and style and purpose create their own restrictions), but seeing it briefly from another viewpoint will tell me more about the setting, and sometimes the character: Is there dust on the ceiling fan? What’s stored behind the door that was just flung open?

Writing/art exercise

  • Pick a scene (written or drawn). If you don’t have one in mind, choose a classic (for example, here, Cinderella running down the stairs) and do a super-quick stick figure or dot point sketch of it, as it first leaps to mind.
Sometimes it’s a classic for a reason. Cinderella front and centre, the prince in the distance, a shoe between them.
  • Identify where your viewer (the “person” describing the scene or holding the metaphorical camera) is located. In the sketch, they’re at the bottom of the stairs, or perhaps even driving her carriage.
  • Then consider some other potential vantage points — obvious or surprising.
  • Sketch those out quickly (words or drawings), and see what you find out about the scene.

The lower picture is from inside the palace, over the prince’s shoulder. Now the scene (and Cinderella) is running away from the viewer. There outside is dark, inside here is bright. Shadows stream away, opulence is everywhere, perhaps there is startled laughter nearby, or the clinking of glasses in the sudden silence of the orchestra.

The upper image is from the shrubbery below a curve of the staircase (might someone be lurking there?). Cinderella is obscured by balustrades — their design would now become important (a specific architectural era? carved with past legends of the realm?), as would the design of the gardens (ominous groves? brightly lit topiaries?). It also provides a particular staging: at least three distinct and separated levels of picture plane, story, and society.

Time spent in procrastination is seldom wasted

I have to actively remind myself to leave time to stop and play with materials. Like lying around reading, it is actively part of the job, but rarely feels like it.

It’s closely related to remembering to do studies for a finished artwork, instead of jumping in boots first and flailing away under deadline. When I was starting out, the idea of doing studies seemed exhausting. Now, they’re a joy: just tinkering, really; no pressure; nothing to see here.

[Relatedly, before I actually wrote a novel the idea of doing 17 drafts sounded horrifyingly inefficient. Now it’s nice to be able to work on a piece and tell myself, “no need to stress, I’ve still got thirteen more drafts to play with.”)


One of the illustration briefs for the 10th anniversary edition of Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel was for an illustration of a blueprint.  Although I do play with cyanotypes, these illustrations were to be in pen and ink — and pretty much the exact opposite. I was determined to do it without trickery, however (aided by the fact that this was an illustration-of-a-documents, not a replica of a document itself).

Above, I was testing an array of chinagraph and Prismacolour pencils, masking fluid, and just painting around the lines.

In the end, as the most complicated (but clearest) option, I went for masking fluid. It’s a liquid rubber that you paint down then watercolour (or ink) over (the picture below is before I added washes of grey ink). When the paint is dry you gently rub or lift away the masking — you can see here that I was using it to keep highlights bright on the glass surfaces.


(You can see here the ink bottle, wine glass, and magnifying glass from the reference post).

My copies have, I suspect, run afoul of Current Events Impacting International Shipping, but I’ll post more on the process and final illustrations as I can.

On silhouettes and further points of connection

This follows on from yesterday’s post about the structural role of triangles in editing and silhouettes. It’s about the points that connect and strengthen fragile pieces of a design (or, if you wish to extend the metaphor in yesterday’s post, of a piece of writing).

This image is my cover design for Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins‘ Aurealis-Award-winning collection of linked stories, The Silver Well (Ticonderoga Publications, 2017).

The Silver Well

It’s originally a cut paper silhouette that I then used to make a cyanotype print.


The physical silhouette is delicate (see yesterday’s post for some examples of scale). While structural requirements of cut-paper silhouettes don’t technically matter for a printed cover, they do for the original art (and I enjoy the constraints it gives me to push against, and the physical possibilities and effects they open up for the illustration).

In this case, there were competing requirements. The silhouette needed to look open, airy, and leafy — not like a complete net. But it also needed to be robust enough to (a) withstand the cutting-out of neighbouring tiny pieces, (b) tolerate being picked up, turned over, scanned, printed with, etc, and (c) hold up when framed, and not tear or sag under its own slight but not insignificant weight.

I dealt with this by tiny overlaps and glancing tangents. These can be a problem in some styles of art, but they’re largely invisible in silhouettes — and need to be, to help with the illusion of twigs and leaves waving free in the wind.


Red circles showing points of connection

These points mean that the tiny twigs support each other in space. They lock together to create a larger rigid areas. I’ve highlighted those areas below.


Green areas are the strongest, red areas are more isolated

The strongest areas are the ones in green  — roughly triangular, they’re joined to the larger design along one whole edge, which makes them very stable. The red areas are stable in themselves, but they only connect to the larger design at one point, which means they can still shift about, and that all their weight pulls on that one narrow connection.

In that case, I’d usually at least pay some extra attention to that one point — flaring or thickening it slightly. But I could also have locked the design down further by joining it at least at the yellow circles shown below.


Yellow circles show likely connection points that would add physical strength

Joining it there would have created a much larger rigid area, as shaded in yellow below. But it might also have made the design that bit too dense and self-enclosed for an illustrated branch, more suited to, e.g., a lace edging.  But it is an illustration, and some parts have to be given their freedom.


The extra connection points would have created this larger area

When I begin a silhouette design, I don’t sit down and count up the connections. The process itself, born of experience and accident and a bit of lacemaking at one point — feels more organic.


Thumbnail sketches for the cover of The Silver Well

The designs starts with looping scribbles and works its way towards a final arrangement that pleases me. And yet the points where those sketched loops cross over each other have power, and by the final stage those points of connection come into play, tying it all together.

To link it back to writing and editing: those points of connection are often the ones that need to be tightened during editing — little clarifying comments, ambiguous foreshadowing, word choices that resonate across apparently unrelated sections.

Here, by the way, is the final cover — the Aurealis-Award-winning book (which is lovely, and has internal illustrations too) is available from Ticonderoga Publications.

The Silver Well

Some stationery silhouettes

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).