“An artist’s drawing is a catalog of the shapes that he loves. When I’m drawing something, I’m trying to find the shapes that please me. I believe that’s what makes up what people refer to as a style”.Peter de Sève, A Sketchy Past: The Art of Peter de Sève
There has been, for the last little while, a lot of talk about aphantasia and degrees to which people “see” things, mentally, and whether it hinders or helps the creative process.
Quite a few writers seem startled by the idea that people don’t have very clear mental images. But a surprising number of illustrators seem to be in just that situation. Since they’re both in the business of inserting stories into other people’s heads, the difference is intriguing.
Moving away from strict aphantasia, I’m interested in how much visualisation is functional/trained (setting aside whether a given reader has accumulated enough of a visual library — my littlest nephew doesn’t have enough of a framework for what a “dragon” is to be interested in stories about them yet, and growing up without TV or computers, I didn’t get cyberpunk as a thing until I saw The Matrix).
If I do the exercise above, cold, or if I’m reading as a reader, I’m a 1. If I’m in the process of writing, it drops down a few notches — sometimes it will be a 3, sometimes the word “apple” will appear in my mind or on the page and then I have to consciously stop and push it back along the scale until I can ‘see’ and describe it more specifically.
But if I’m illustrating, I’m closer to a 5, and often don’t see the picture until it’s on the page. Lynda Barry talks about that process of drawing as discovery rather than expression. Even (or especially) drawing from life is a process of getting the image from the world onto the page through hand and pencil. And most ‘visualisation’ of solutions is more schematic/word-based.
I mentioned above reading as a reader. A book can be as vivid as a movie, then. But when I’m reading as an illustrator, looking for images to draw, ideally I’m sketching them as I go, converting directly from words into shape and movement without necessarily picturing that inside my own head.
When I do picture things too clearly, it’s a trap. The disparity between the imagination and the reality can be distressing!This is one of the reasons I don’t often illustrate my own work (I had to get at the illustrations in Flyaway by starting more decoratively and then pushing back into the text).
Although art and writing both come from the same storytelling aquifer, they reach the world through different wells. If I’m going to develop an illustrated piece of my own, I usually have to start with art and support it with words, and/or carve away the words until they don’t distract me from what the art is getting up to.
The printable May calendar page is here, brought to you with the support of my patrons (and if you’d like to toss a few coins in the hat, they are always welcome and keep the calendar happening: Patreon (ongoing); paypal.me (one-off)). And also by a few episodes of This Podcast Will Kill You.
I’m not sure yet if the bilby was a marsupial too far, but I’m quite pleased by its rocking approach to playing the lute. And I do like the idea of bats swaying in the branches, playing their ukuleles at sunset.
Anyway, this is a trifle sillier than usual, but it’s my birthday month, so why not have a snake playing a lagerphone?
The images below link to full-size .jpg files that you can print at home: pre-coloured, or to colour yourself.
Selkies for May!
These calendars are brought to you with the help of my patrons on patreon.com/tanaudel, and if you’d like to contribute, or are trying to think of a birthday present for me (it’s in May!) joining Patreon would be a great way to do it. Levels start at $1 a month, and there are many extra behind-the-scenes things, as well.
The colours were tricky for this one. Selkie pictures tend to be very muddy brown or too green. I worked towards these colours after consulting a number of William Morris designs and several photos of seals on beaches at sunset.
The page can be printed coloured or to colour yourself, from the files below. And please do consider supporting the calendar on Patreon!
Here’s a little gouache painting I did to practice deer (and use up paint!) – it’s ever-so-slightly fanart for the game “Kiss Me Deer” as played by the Bennet sisters in the book of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies).
The art of scanning gouache is one which I have yet to study in more detail. Perhaps photography is the way to go.
Speaking of the Patreon, if you’d like to throw a dollar in the hat towards the monthly calendar, or subscribe at a higher level to get extra printable stationery and behind-the-scene peeks at upcoming projects, this is a great way to do it. You could even put it on your wishlist!
Welcome to Midnight, Light Grey Art Lab’s exhibition of dreams, which has opened today in Minneapolis and online.
I’d been keeping track of dreams out of curiosity, and began to focus on a series of dreams I had which I clearly recognised as anxiety dreams from the last time I was at university: snakes, searches, war, volcanoes. This time, however, everything was always dealt with calmly and ended happily. Also there was a dream about pineapple butterscotch upside-down-cake.
I narrowed the choices down to a dream about taking shelter in a zoo in an office building in a wartorn city. I don’t dream in my own style, and the strongly backlit scene from the dream was a new approach to try.
After a series of tests, I decided to do a pen and ink drawing with digital colour (I kept panicking about getting the yellow wrong, and was submitting the art digitally for this exhibition).
And here is the final piece, The Peaceable Kingdom. You can even try your hand at dream interpretation, if you so desire.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In which I endeavour to learn my way around Inkscape by way of Harry Potter fanart. Specifically young, mod McGonagall.
This began as a pen and ink drawing, which I may yet colour with watercolour. I don’t plan to use vector programs much more than I do at present (mostly for cleaning up lines), but there are always techniques it will be useful to know in case of future emergencies (this PSA brought to you by past emergencies).