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.”)

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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.

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(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.

Reference objects: Clockwork Angel

Here are a few photos of reference objects for the 10th Anniversary of Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel (previous post about those illustrations is here: Clockwork Angel). They cover a few of my usual sources of reference.

The first is this little angel I found at ReLove Oxley, a wonderful local second-hand shop and cafe. The final angel design didn’t look much like this one, but it was useful for a sense of scale, how to handle fine features, and for the slight metallic finish.

I frequently go to ReLove for coffee, and often find useful reference — I buy enough that for this book they just let me borrow a violin. I walked home carrying it in its case, feeling like a gangster.

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A great deal of reference material, however, comes from around my house. Here’s a parasol that’s been in the bottom of the linen cupboard, a box of beads and bangles, The Myths of Greece and Rome (old books standing in for old books), Mortimer, my Year 12 formal dress, my grandmother’s gloves, and some crumpled paper. Not featured but also starring: spare buttons, fancy embroidery scissors (also a contributor to the Scissors calendar), and my letter-opener.

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Another old book: an 1887 volume of Cassell’s Magazine, printed on horrible Victorian wood-pulp paper which smells like burned sugar and is crumbling away at the edges. It’s a wonderful reference for illustration styles of the era, particularly homewares and mechanical elements, and its inventions page is delightful.

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Look at this: “a small pocket apparatus for the electric illumination of flowers, such as roses, to be worn in the hair or on the dress.”

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Architecture is always a challenge, mostly because I usually prefer to suggest it. Here I was mocking up light and perspective possibilities for a two-story library (the Hydralyte tin is a spiral staircase which did not end up in the picture due to dear lord spiral staircases).

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Fantasy frequently requires images of hands holding glowing things, and I’m gradually accumulating night-lights in order to work that out.

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Sometimes I just have to set up the image. Inkbottle, wine glass and magnifying glass on a sketch for a different illustration.

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Reference as it finds you

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I’ll post some more of my favourite reference objects soon. But while it is great to have them, and they can save a lot of time, a great deal still relies upon being able to make do.

Above is a perspex trophy and the creek at the end of my street standing in for reflections on the glass coffin in my illustration for The Darkest Part of the Forest.

Below are dominos and a tube of Hydralite standing in for a gallery above an alcove, and a spiral staircase.

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And here is a small part of the haul of objects unearthed from around my house to use for the illustrations for Clockwork Angel: a paper parasol (fortunately discovered in the bottom of the linen cupboard, because I’d mislaid the cocktail ones), a lovely book, my Year 12 formal gown, my grandmother’s black gloves, my embroidery scissors, assorted buttons (in lieu of cogs), and of course, Mortimer.

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Clockwork Angel

Last year was a little chaotic, between travel (ah, remember the days), conferences, deadlines, and several bouts with my back, so I didn’t keep the blog entirely up to date with new projects (although they showed up in plenty of other places!).

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But very excitingly, I got to work with Walker Books UK for the first time, on a set of pen-and-ink illustrations for the 10th anniversary edition of Clockwork Angel (to complement the 10th anniversary of City of Bones — both also have beautiful portraits by Cassandra Jean, and cover and title page illustrations by Will Staehle — the lovely cover is by Dan Funderburgh).

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I will do a process post (possibly for both books! nothing like having a backlog of material) in due course. In the meantime, here are a couple teasers. (Also, when the physical store is back open, I think Book Moon Books in MA, USA might still have some of the original illustrations for sale).

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And you can find the book from all good booksellers (and a lot of local independent stores are working very hard to keep getting books to you!)

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Image pinched from Walker Books UK, cover by Dan Funderburgh

 

Wild Things map workshop

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Photo courtesy of Where the Wild Things Are

Some overdue photos from my map workshop — these are from the first instance of it, held at the wonderful Brisbane YA and children’s book store Where The Wild Things Are who ordinarily give marvellous workshops, and still give excellent advice. Like all bookstores, they could use some return support at this time (see also parent store: Avid Reader).

Here we all are on the back deck of Avid Reader. It was billed as an older kids workshop, and we ended up with a mixture of ages which I’ve always found delightful. Everyone gets both so light and so serious.

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Courtesy of Where The Wild Things Are.

At one stage in the workshop, we build a world, to make sure everything is connected and water (absent serious provocation) flows downhill (the two most important cartographic principles), and that hills and forests are where they ought to be for the tale. (My dad, an infantry officer and grazier, used to do this with us to explain tactics or cattle movements).

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Below, a cartographer contemplates the sea, which can be identified in the photo above by a very small lighthouse.

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It’s the most delightful workshop. We start with the same base story-shape to illustrate, and build it out with adaptations, themes, techniques, variations…

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I walk them through the process of illustrating a map, including a lot of my actual work for Holly Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy (I think only the Cruel Prince was out at this point).

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(Above is a glimpse of notes I took on trees from many maps in books and old atlases when I was working out the style of The Cruel Prince).

And then everyone gets so busy (I love this picture of hands).

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Some versions end up in space. Others appear to have swords stuck through them (this class wanted to know how to pin art to the wall with virtual daggers — I think this was because of the City of Bones 10th anniversary illustrations).

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(Spot the little house lurking under a wrist, there).

Art/writing activities:

(This is a variation on the activities in the Old Maps post).

  • Build a landscape to fit a story (a fairy tale, your own story, a movie...). On a grand scale, cushions, chairs, odd-shaped objects, and a blanket to throw over them will give you the basic layout. Then you can drape them with shawls and belts and toy houses, potplants, dinosaurs, etc to give watercourses, trees, and habitations. On a smaller scale, an assortment of cups and books with a light scarf draped over will give you a bijou universe. I’ve more than once built a small city out of thermoses, for reference.
  • For illustrators: convert this into a map (or a perspective landscape painting, if that’s your style).
  • For writers: consider how the terrain affects the story — often it can be the story. What can you see from a particular point (consider To Kill A Mockingbird)? What can’t you see from a particular point (consider “The Charge of the Light Brigade”)? What reasons might make one take the low road in preference to the high road? What (literally, but why not throw figuratively in there and make a family epic of it) stops a person getting from one side of the blanket to the other? If you move the lamp, how much of the land does the light touch? How much of the story could you tell in a glimpse from one hilltop (and who would be there to look?) — Michael Innes does this brilliantly in the opening of his (beautifully written although not unproblematic, in the ways one might expect from a country house murder mystery from the 1930s) Hamlet, Revenge!

Cats

Cats are great fun as decorative elements, but often difficult to catch on paper.

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Saffy, a descended ceiling-cat

When I visit friends with cats, I spend a lot of time chasing their cats around trying to draw them.

This is further complicated by cats who gradually vanish between the sofa cushions while they are being sketched.

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From Cassandra Clare’s December 2019 newsletter

It’s fun to glance back occasionally and see them over time — both changes in the cats and in my pursuit of an explanation of how Scottish Folds work.

Here’s Reginald (and Maggie) in 2017.

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And some bonus lions from the Melbourne Zoo the same year (“lion-coloured” is one of my favourite colour descriptions):

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Sketching! (Surprise…)

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(Edit: This was Friday 22 November)

As part of Cottage Street, Easthampton’s Grrl’s Night Out event, I will be doing some sketching at Book Moon Books. There will also be some original art for sale, for a variety of projects including (but not limited to) ornaments and illustrations for books by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare…

Queen of Air and Darkness — Banner

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This is a banner illustration I drew for Cassandra Clare’s Queen of Air and Darkness, the final novel in her Shadowhunters trilogy, The Dark Artifices.

It was of course a lot of fun (mitred corners!), but also an interesting challenge to do an illustration of an object that contains an illustration by a character, which is itself in a different medium (and not the first such Shadowhunters illustration I’ve done, either!). But there is a reason, after all, that I love sketching in art galleries.

I was also able to drop into the Simon & Schuster offices and admire paperstock. Shout-out here to Art Directors Russell Gordon (now of 1000 Jars) and Nicholas Sciacca, who have been a delight to work with.

Finally, here is a glimpse at the process behind it: rough positioning and ideas in my notebook; pencil layouts and different treatments; test for a woodcut effect in scratchboard; pen and ink tests.

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And now it’s out as a patch from Topatoco, too!

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Photo pinched from Cassie Clare’s instagram