On this observation journal spread, I consider Five Things to Steal from the National Theatre’s online broadcast of Jane Eyre, and decide I dislike watercolour pencils for all-over coverage.
This page is another in the 5 Things to Steal series. In April 2020 I watched (with friends, some online) the National Theatre At Home’s Jane Eyre. It was fascinating and impressive, with many resonances with things I was interested in at the time, and am currently revisiting.
One of the main things that strikes me now is:
For all that comics creators like to talk about being able to use bigger budget effects than cinema, theatre feels a lot closer to comics than either books or movies do. Some possible reasons it gives me this impression (particular to me and full of generalisations):
The very present and obvious framing of it (panels vs sets).
The obviously external, sequential nature (page-bound in a way novels don’t always seem to be vs stage-bound in a way movies rarely are — although I love both when they play with those possibilities).
A simplification and stylisation of iconography (for clarity/communication/style in comics; for the same reasons in theatre but also sty
The clear visual riffing on a written-down script.
A conscious, sometimes self-conscious, use of (and even weaponisation of) the apparent limitations of the medium.
Some other points (phrases in bold are mostly so I can find them again):
Externalisation of thoughts in a way that was sometimes literal.
This can be fascinating or charming or shift point of view in strange ways — I was thinking of Calvin & Hobbes and comedy videos and (although I read it after this, I think) Paul Cornell’s Chalk. I’m getting interested in different ways of depicting points of view (in prose and images), so I’ll revisit this.
But I also like what it can do to the reality of a story — in the play, Bertha was often on-stage as a sort of Greek chorus, and then you realise she is real. I don’t see enough theatre, but Bill Cain’s Equivocation rotated beautifully in and out of roles and reality/theatre.
I also have formless but strong feelings about point of view in several novels including Maria Dahvana Headley’s The Mere Wife, Kim Scott’s Taboo, and several Michael Innes mysteries.
The casting of Laura Elphinstone as both Helen Burns and St John (among others), and how it echoed Amber McMahon’s Michael when I saw Tom Wright’s play of Picnic at Hanging Rock (Malthouse Theatre). This is either an amorphous thought about rhymes in visual character design, or it’s just that Twelfth Night casts long shadows.
The casting of a human (Craig Edwards) as Pilot (the dog), and how sometimes the easiest way to write animals is to write them as a particularly aggravating (or aggravated) person.
I’m trying to remember to include a brief plan of how to ‘steal’/repurpose elements. This page doesn’t go as far in that direction as I’d like. But it did tease out a few more topics I wanted to think on, and (as usual) at least meant I could hold a useful conversation about the play!
Monsters! This new, Karen Beilharz-helmed anthology of comics (with sea monsters by me) is now funding on Pozible. It’s all written and illustrated but we need the pre-orders to get it printed. Rewards include a map by me. (Because it’s been asked, and Pozible isn’t entirely clear on this: if you want to help, but don’t necessarily want a book, you can enter an amount here: Pledge amount). The first comic, “Monster Hunter”, has been posted already.
Deep Dark Fears: Late to this party, but Deep Dark Fears is deliciously evocative and unsettling, and I have ordered the book.
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: Went twice, went with incredibly low expectations, had a ball, see it while it’s in cinemas. It’s also got a number of Easter eggs for long-term Austen fans. But I mistook Sam Riley for Kris Marshall and was confused (although not unpleasantly so).
Science! If you like science communication and illustration, the #sciart tweetstorm is currently on.
Two new books:
The first translation in over 100 years of Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff, from Eagle Books (a new imprint of Christmas Press), with illustrations and gold-edged pages and just the right size to fit comfortably in the hand and handbag.
The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the way Home, the last book of Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland books, which I will buy but which I am afraid it will hurt to read because they are so perfect in themselves that I am sure the ending will be like a knife.
Coffee in Oxley: If you are ever in the western suburbs of Brisbane, check out Re/Love Oxley on Blunder Road – a good little cafe with an industrial shed of old and kitschy things, including pyromaniacal sewing machines.
On looking too long at art reference: Seals are really weird and if you look at them too long it is like staring too hard at the word “walk” or “amongst”. They cease to be unique functioning objects and become gaps in the world, free-floating black holes, units of the matter before eternity. They refuse to be what you desire or believe them to be. If you gaze too long into the seal, the seal gazes back into you.
‘A Plot for the Annoying of the King of Spain’ – this whole stream of tweets is delightful:
In love with the fact that in 1585 Francis Walsingham drew up a document titled 'A Plot for the Annoying of the King of Spain'
Style: Peter de Sève on artist’s style, although I believe it applies equally to any creative endeavour: “An artist’s drawing is a catalogue 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.”
Lessons learned: One thing I am repeatedly learning this year is how little you can get done in a day, and how much in half an hour.
If you were watching on Twitter or Facebook and saw me drawing ships and sea-monsters, this is why!
The mastermind behind Kinds of Blue has created a new anthology, this time for children. It’s all drawn, and we are currently running a campaign on Pozible to take pre-orders, print it and get it out into the world:
There are stacks of rewards, including the chance to get a poster of my map of monsters. And broccoli. Also some Scots. And a really big mosquito.
The table of contents is as follows (I think the Joshua Lewis title is now one of my favourite titles-which-could-exist-alone-as-stories, on a par with Charles de Lint’s “The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep”).
I’ve gone for a looser style with this one, a style I’m more comfortable and happier with (quite apart from everything I’ve learned since the first time around!). For a sneak peak here is the original title (subsequently rearranged) from the first page:
And by way of comparison, here is Gwen from “Finishing School” (planning how to get her own way) on the left, and Marilyn from “A Small Wild Magic” (objecting to not getting her own way) on the right.
I am probably being unfair to late 19th/early 20th century children’s novels, because in my mind they are mostly very grim, with saintly children dying and melting the hearts of neighbouring curmudgeons. I’ve realised lately that while there is some truth to this, that seed was planted by sarcastic comments in the books of some of my favourite more recent writers. The older books I’ve read usually make the transgressions – while attended by awful consequences – look not-so-secretly like jolly good fun as well. By which you can deduce I had a hearty dose of E. Nesbit, L.M. Montgomery, Susan Coolidge and Ethel Turner, growing up. Not that the last two, at least, didn’t feature their share of tragedy, but at least everyone seemed to be having a good time up until that point.
And the best lessons were never that you couldn’t fly, but that you should take reasonable safety measures beforehand.
Another E. Nesbit Dalek for the Dalek Game! This one is for The Phoenix and the Carpet, which is… probably due for a reread, because I haven’t retained this one the way I have her short stories and other novels. It is one of the more fantastical, but I remember it as less enchanting than – say – The Enchanted Castle, which only has one magical conceit, or the Bastable books, which haven’t any magic at all, but might as well be Narnia, or Harry Potter (as a matter of fact, they get a direct reference in Narnia). Have I mentioned how I love it when non-fantasy novels are so fantastical that fantasy bookstores stock them? I will next time I talk about Eva Ibbotson.
In other news: My cover for Karen Joy Fowler’s What I Didn’t See is out! Also, I am busy making paper-cut images for my contribution to a fairytale art show (among other projects), of which more anon. The date-claimer details (for Brisbane folk) are:
Once Upon a Time – Reinterpreting the Fairy Tale
16th- 25th August 2013
The Art & Design Precinct, 10 Bailey St, West End, Brisbane
This instalment of the game is for a book by Stephen Fry (yes, that Stephen Fry): the readable, entertaining and beautifully validating explanatory/musing/instructional guide to poetic forms, The Ode Less Travelled. I love this book. It is very practical, far from dry, genuinely useful as a reference guide, a practical course, a lever for disengaging the angst from the rigour, and a handy-sized object for beating friends over the head with until they produce werewolf sestinas (Caitlene, I know where you live).
The drawing is also in honour of travelling at home, on two fronts: the one where you do all the things at home you like to do travelling (for me, that is sketching in cafes and writing in restaurant windows, so that works out well); and the one where you plan trips to very-likely-Dartmoor-after-World-Fantasy-this-November. So please feel free to let me know if you know the identity of the mysterious “iconic figure in Australian land law” who is connected with Dartmoor. That person is not the reason for going to Dartmoor, but I received a flyer for the 2nd Annual UK Property Case Law Tour today, and now I need to know!
Also, I just finished a new book cover and set of internal illustrations for an amazing collection of stories for an author whose last publication from the same press was illustrated by one of my heroes of illustration and I’m just going to faint quietly off the back of the chair now.
The novel as a whole (the words, the green and gold cover in which I bought it, Gianni’s wholehearted images) is a fascinating performance, utterly styled without being stylised. Chabon performs genres beautifully, like the best of Shyamalan. Not like a quick, accurate costume, but something like an old tableaux vivant, with all the details right and breathing poses held still for admiration and inspection or… something. They aren’t dead at all, or false – he does literary fiction, or science fiction, or noir or (as here) Rider Haggard adventure sincerely, lovingly and very delightedly aware of the story as story.
Now that I think about it, this is what bothered me about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Not that someone had the idea, at all – I love that Seth Grahame-Smith not only had the idea but did something about it. But P&P&Z felt to me, at the end, like an exercise in a title. It had the brain, but never quite got to the heart. Whereas, while Chabon’s big ideas might easily be presented as equally odd as any of Grahame-Smith’s essays in juxtaposition, I lose myself in the world of the story, in the whole book, the thing itself, and forget the author’s cleverness because of it.