Illustration Friday: Summer

Where sky and water meet,
Where the waves grow sweet,
Doubt not, Reepicheep,
To find all you seek,
There is the utter East.

– Reepicheep’s lullaby, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis

Illustration Friday: Summer

It is not summer here, although it has been the warmest June on record. Wednesday it finally turned cool. So here is a memory from summers having wonderful adventures in Western Queensland pretending we were having wonderful adventures in Narnia.

The elements are cut-paper silhouettes (of course!), with colour and texture added digitally after the event.

As usual, this is a warm-up/cleanser between other projects…

And here are the original paper pieces:

Before photo - Illustration Friday: Summer

Illustration Friday: Future

Illustration Friday: Future

A quick pen and ink drawing, with digital colour, to get back into Illustration Friday. We’ve had a few day-job conversations involving E. Nesbit’s The Story of the Treasure Seekers, (due to: Albert-next-door’s laconic uncle; the name-checking of the characters in the first line of C. S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew; and a delightfully unreliable narrator)  so there’s a mildly Edwardian twist to this image.

There have also, however, been several recent discussions touching on Lovecraft, which may explain the sequel image below.

Illustration Friday: Future, now with ghouls

Dragons reading books


This was a cut-paper design for the birth of two friends’ son – both a small piece of art (although larger than some I have made, as I was trying out some heavier paper) and printable as a book plate. Also practice in boys and dragons.

I am not fond of many particular dragons (they are often austere and irritating, or unduly domesticated), but I have a fondness for the species due primarily to poor Eustace crying to the moon, the glorious Dawn Treader itself, and Chrysophylax prancing along carrying baggage, which suggests that the dragons I love are dragons as imagined Pauline Baynes (who of course illustrated both Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and Tolkien’s Farmer Giles of Ham).

The next dragon is in pen and coloured inks. It was for my nephew’s 13th birthday – he requested “money and an awesome card”, so I broke out the gold paint and drew a dragon, as is traditional for us. When he was very small he used to sit through repeated readings of Margaret Hodge’s Saint George and the Dragon (with Trina Schart Hyman’s lovely illustrations).

Ben's Card

The Dalek of the Dawn Treader

The Dalek Of The Dawn Treader

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and most particularly for Reepicheep (the bold, the indomitable, the vain, the… always reminded me very slightly of Hercule Poirot?) Dawn Treader is not my favourite of the Chronicles of Narnia, and yet it has so many of my favourite scenes – falling into the painting, Lucy in Caspian’s tunic, Eustace crying to the moon, Goldwater, the lily sea. And it does have one of my favourite first lines, out of so many: “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

Each of the novels has so much its own feel – the odd, mannered Edwardian fantasy and fresh discovery of The Magician’s Nephew, the childlike, wish-fulfilment, occasionally dark, myth-steeped allegory of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the untouched-by our world, desert-city-mountain, 1001-nights pursuit of The Horse and his Boy, the midnight, lost-heir, cloak-and-dagger battles (and that taste of adult loss) of Prince Caspian, the salt-air and white-sails episodic quest (within quest) Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the death, betrayal and depression of The Silver Chair, the sweeping, contained, final beginning of The Last Battle. And Pauline Baynes’ illustrations catch each style with such perfect, consistent flexibility.

This is how I most like series, I think. Linked, locked into each other, yet each complete and Its Own Story. Diana Wynne Jones did this as well, although in a more extreme fashion across fewer books. It satisfies my desire for more story, while not ruining my memory of an already-perfect tale.

The Dalek Chair

The Dalek Chair

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for C. S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, the second-last book of the Chronicles of Narnia, the third to feature Prince Caspian, the second in which that world extends for a moment into our own, and the one with the most obvious Doctor Who connection: in the BBC movie, Puddleglum the (highly respectable) Marshwiggle was played by Tom Baker (the fourth Doctor).

I loved Puddleglum. This was not my favourite book, but I am hard pressed to commit to one. Many of my favourite scenes are in this: Puddleglum, of course – his misery and bravery and selfishness and speeches. The immense hospitality of the giants. The first comprehension of the enormous ruins. Jill trying to run for safety in her dress and cloak. The press and darkness of the world beneath the ground. The lamps going out one, by one, by one. And the wholesome, laughing, dangerous Lady of the Green Kirtle.

One of the many things I love about the Chronicles of Narnia is how various the books are. The series isn’t a neat sequence of events, like most, or one book split into one (Lord of the Rings), or even the measured progression of styles that echoes the path of growing older (Chronicles of Prydain). Each has such a different feel, from the heavily allegorical The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to the elegiac The Last Battle, the Edwardian adventure of The Magician’s Nephew (which name-checks E. Nesbit after all, in addition to letting she-who-would-become-the-White-Witch rampage around London), the splendid, heart wrenching nautical adventures of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (the truest goodbyes are in that book), the embroidered and stylised The Horse and his Boy, the cloak-and-dagger, die-in-a-ditch adventures of Prince Caspian. And I love the way they nest and overlap, telescope and view each other from great distances: The Horse and his Boy takes place within the last paragraphs of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which in turn takes place within a wardrobe built from the wood of a tree grown in the last paragraphs of The Magician’s Nephew, and yet the Pevensie children have grown so little older when they discover the ruins of what they had known as a beautiful palace. In The Silver Chair Jill meets Caspian as an old, old man while Eustace still remembers him as a young King, and yet when they return to the dying world in The Last Battle, they have come from a meeting with the Pevensies and Polly and Diggory who were still alive in ours.

As a result, I find it difficult to disentangle the books – oh, I could give a good accounting of the plots, but my love of each is coloured by the others. They are some of the earliest books I was given and learned to read. Whenever my little sister had the choosing of books to be read in the evenings she would choose the Silver Brumby books, and I would choose Narnia. I read them aloud to her, and at Easter when the regular crowd of friends (still good friends! camp with one this weekend, coffee with three yesterday and the marriage of another in a week!) came to visit us at the property, we would sprawl in afternoons across my bed and read. I read them to friends at college. I went to Camp Narnia – a week long camp on a macadamia nut farm in the Gold Coast hinterland, where we lived and breathed a book for a week. I was possibly somewhat obsessed. But the scenes and the feel and Pauline Bayne’s illustrations still colour so much of my imagination.

The Dalek Downstairs

The Dalek Downstairs

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Diana Wynne Jones’ The Ogre Downstairs. This was the last of her books which I read, and one of her earliest novels – it has the feel of slightly older British fantasy, with a strong dash of E. Nesbit in the awkwardness of real magic and the particular disasters which unfold, but a great deal of Diana Wynne Jones’ peculiar brand of oddity as well (the tragedy of the sentient toffee bars…) and some typically present and inconvenient parents.

I am ambivalent about strict rules of magic. I don’t like it being too explicable, and I enjoy the freewheeling invention of the magic in (for example) Harry Potter. I think it is better when it is slightly inconsistent. Otherwise it isn’t magic. But I do enjoy the rules of magic working against people – not so much the price of it as the price of not thinking it through. This is one of the few of DWJ’s novels which I remember for concentrating on it. I think Edward Eager may have used it in his novels, Enid Blyton certainly did, C. S. Lewis nodded to it (the trouble with rings and bells in The Magician’s Nephew), J. K. Rowling generally restrains her use of it to the experiments of enthusiastic adult wizards (with the odd flying car or humorous interlude), T. H. White hinted at the difficulties of power in Mistress Masham’s Repose, but E. Nesbit is one of the masters. Her novels are comedies of cumulative magical disasters, whether from actual magic (a magical ring of variable properties in The Enchanted Castle, the wishes granted by the sand-fairy in Five Children and It, an ill-considered application of a fairy godmother’s gift in “Melisande, or Long and Short Division”) or magic found in the everyday (the railway of The Railway Children, the get-rich-quick schemes of The Story of the Treasure Seekers).  They aren’t warnings about magic (it often, indirectly, leads to good things) but they are very vivid illustrations of the necessity of thinking through the consequences of one’s actions!

And I adore how these stories feed into and off each other, often deliberately: the consequences of power of flight or of careless handling of dragon teeth (Five Children and It and The Wouldbegoods) are both echoed in The Ogre Downstairs, the Bastables of The Story of the Treasure Seekers are name-checked in The Magician’s Nephew, which echoes the old story of the sorcerer’s apprentice, and all of them borrow from other, older stories.

In other news: I have posted a Peter Pan illustration. It is very late, but I have finished a set of illustrations and it isn’t yet midnight and the Dalek is up while it is still Wednesday, and I found a cafe for breakfast which didn’t make me bargain for scrambled eggs, and had a delightful lunch in a French bistro with a friend and a lively law-and-literary discussion with another after work over ale and liqueur coffee,  and had an idea which bodes well for the second story in a triptych. So I can’t complain too much, although I have discovered a taste for plain silken tofu, to no-one’s surprise as much as my own.

Dalek and Cwidder

Dalek and Cwidder

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Diana Wynne Jones’ Cart and Cwidder, the first book of the Dalemark Quartet (you almost got The Spellcoats the other week).

One of the most memorable aspects of Dalemark is the range of technologies in a fantasy setting. Cart and Cwidder seemed (at first reading) the most traditional of Diana Wynne Jones’ fantasies – the family of travelling musicians in a semi-medieval setting – until the moment when someone is almost shot by a bullet, and then I realised that it was simply a situation of countries with different levels of industrialisation. The series moves between epic past and highly developed futures, between green ways and pipers and magic on the one hand and trains and planes and schools at the other, without ever leaving its own world (unlike Dark Lord of Derkholm, which is a direct intrusion by our world, and The Power of Three which, well, just read that one). Now that I think about this, C. S. Lewis touched on this in Narnia, with the institution of schools and factories and so forth in Prince Caspian and (it is intimated) The Last Battle, but industrialisation in Narnia is just as much a sign of decay as in The Lord of the Rings whereas in Jones it is a natural progression, as real and morally neutral as spells woven into the fabric of coats.

In other news, I am writing this in the middle of a group of friends designing tea labels, writing haiku and looking up Romeo and Juliet (and the Disney Robin Hood) on YouTube which is a very agreeable way to spend the evening, although it has been raining and the waters are rising again.



The Horse and his Dalek

The Horse and his Dalek

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for C. S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy, the 2.95th (in internal chronology) of the Chronicles of Narnia.

Oh, I did not like that book when I was small and first in love with Narnia, and not for any of the reasons which may restrain some effusions about it. It was because it was out of the chronology, it felt wrong, it was hot and dry and urgent and belonged to the wrong sort of fairy tale world, and never touched on ours, and Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy were grown up and talking about political alliances, there were tombs…

It was, for me, an earlier experience like that of I Capture the Castle: by the time I was a few years older, The Horse and his Boy was my favourite of the Chronicles, and for the same reasons I had disliked it (and at the age I discovered Le Guin’s Tombs of Atuan) – because it was high adventure, chases across deserts and through bustling cities, stories of families and dynasties and separated twins, a glimpse of the wider world outside of Narnia, of keener hungers and cruelties, of convoluted stories, and people who told stories beautifully, of deceit and escape and reunitings, of dear characters briefly glimpsed as older and wiser (of the Pevensies on their first adulthood, and Mr Tumnus dancing).

Also, dramatic renactments of it involved carrying precariously-perched Lasaraleen Tarkheenas around on makeshift litters, which (if you were not playing Lasaraleen) was tremendous fun.

In other news: I love my new computer, although I now no longer have time to make a cup of tea while images are being cropped. I spent a beautiful morning talking tales (and receiving a private telling) from the enchanting Alexandra McCallum. She told me some Irish tales I did not know, but which may bring some elements of the prolonged work-in-progress together perfectly. I spent twilight sitting on the steps with Aimee reading Georgette Heyer aloud and drinking rosella tea. As far as I can tell Aimee is currently making a dream-team of actors she would like to see play Doctor Who.

Small Kingdoms

I have written two fan letters, but there is a third I would have liked to have written. Perhaps I discovered Pauline Baynes at an age when I did not know to think of storytellers as real and separate people – or perhaps she was of an age I assumed had long ago become history. I only really realised today that Pauline Baynes was still alive until a few days ago.

Pauline Baynes’ illustrations are my favourite and the most influential. She taught me to see words and pictures and stories (all stories, I think, as well as those I loved because of her) as deep and beautiful things: windows, not mirrors. Those detailed maps and tiny vignettes frustrated me with their promise – the certainty! – of real and green lands just through the page. I could smell the heather and snow of Narnia, feel the hot winds of Calormene, taste the salt of the seas, know the perils of the far islands and the edge and the end of the world.

Her pictures were not inferior to the stories. They were part of them and half the enchantment. When another hand takes over, Narnia is less and different. When the exuberant marginalia are removed, Farmer Giles loses his charm and good humour and becomes a bawdy ogre.

Pauline Baynes taught me what stories and illustration – simple clear inked lines without colour or dazzle – could be. Allan Lee and John Howe may divide the rest of Middle Earth between them and welcome to it. Hobbiton and Bombadil belong to Pauline Baynes. The hills and farms of the little kingdom (before England had one king), when knights tangled themselves in chain mail and dogs spoke (dog) latin and farmers loaded blunderbusses with old nails and went out in search of hapless but well-spoken dragons – they are all Baynes’ as much as Tolkien’s.

The dying Aslan, the brave mice, Aravis seated cross-legged telling her story, the marshwiggle’s long streak of misery, Susan dancing with Tumnus, Lucy (oh, Lucy!) barefoot on the Dawntreader wearing Caspian’s tunic, Jadis magnificent and mad driving a hansome cab through London – those memories are gifts Lewis could only have given me through Pauline Baynes.

Her pictures did not explain or apologise or merely accompany. They were not aids to the words. They spoke and created and illuminated all those small bright kingdoms and I hope I never come to an age when I cannot take out those books and pore over them, and pour those bright worlds like jewels through my fingers.