My goodness, I had a marvellous and educational time at The IMC 2017. I’m still processing everything I learned – it was a very intensive week. But here is an overview, with the pieces I worked on.

Pieces. The intention of The IMC is that you work on one large piece over the week. As you will see, mine was more of a personal evolution, but not for that reason a failure or loss at all. I had many epiphanies.

(Note: The prompt I worked to was for Seanan McGuire’s Beneath The Sugar Sky, in which there is a rhubarb soda sea, so I also used a lot more pink than I usually would!)

So: At the beginning of the week, when we were still all at the thumbnail stages, I was being heavily influenced by all the fabulous painters around me. Without consciously considering it, I felt I ought to be very painterly.

01painterly-ideals

I’m not a painter. I learned to thumbnail much more boldly, and came to terms with doing that tonally, but in terms of how I was going to execute the idea, I managed to get myself pretty worked up. Although I still rather like the skull above.

Then we had two lectures close together: Irene Gallo’s presentation on colour in art, which featured many illustrations that were much more graphic in style; and Daniel Dos Santos’s lecture, in which I realised that while I resent the fact that his work looks like magic to me, and want to paint well enough to see the point where it comes together, I do not in fact want to paint like him or even paint all that much at all. Just enough to incorporate the lessons into my own style.

So I went back to my desk, scrapped my plans and went back to the extreme basics: Silhouettes. Having cut those out, I played around with the scrap paper, using it as a stencil and adding in details. I found I didn’t mind doing that. That’s just cheating on silhouettes.

And it turned out the reference photos I’d taken when I thought I’d be painting did feed into the shapes and angles of the silhouettes. One of my IMC realisations was that preparations are seldom wasted (lots of my epiphanies on the trip were obvious, and some I could have parroted before).

02recallibration

I’d decided by this time that what I wanted to get out of The IMC was learning how to be at it: learning how to learn. How to get everything I want from a lesson, drag it back to my lair and process it into my own work.

So, next I just added a bit more detail to that silhouette and began building it up in gouache, remembering the little textures I love in medieval paintings and Pauline Baynes’s illustrations.

Now, I was surrounded by painters, but one of the wonders of that is getting to see how people actually think a painting onto the canvas. Getting to watch John Jude Palencar paint and think, “Oh wait, it looks like a painting when he’s finished, but the process looks to me like cross-hatching and wash. I know that. I can think that way.”

It was also good being able to go up to illustrators with a sheaf of pen-and-ink drawings and have them draw over them on tracing paper, and getting to see and hear how they would have solved the same problems.

03Painting

Another realisation was how much tidier having to comply with work health & safety regulations keeps a workspace. I didn’t spill anything.

I was feeling more confident with the gouache now, but I was worried about losing the liveliness in sketches. So for the next piece I did the thumbnail sketch, took reference photos (which I won’t show, as I haven’t the permission of the models, but they look like the world’s most awkward ballroom dancing lesson).

Then I sat down and drew the picture without looking at the reference. Then I used the photos to go back in and adjust details and accuracy. It certainly helped.

04Dance

And I used up the leftover paint drawing in other people’s sketchbooks.

05Scraps

Here’s a drawing of reference photoshoots happening.06Poses

So! On ot the finished pieces:

Here is a digital composition of the silhouettesSilhouettes cover

(The painted silhouettes on their own for comparison)Silhouettes---pink

A little Cake Queen, painted largely without reference, but with obvious Andrew Hem influences on approaching planes of colour.

Cake Queen

An even tinier pen-and-ink version of the lady.

Cake-Queen---ink

Seanan’s Cora swimming. I like the tiny skull so much (you may notice a pattern here).

Cora Swimming

And the final gouache painting of the walking figures.

WalkingFigures

In the end, they were all vignette drawings, but someone who knows me said “Next you’ll learn to draw backgrounds, and then you’ll be a real illustrator.” He got a multipurpose background in his sketchbook.

Another point Irene made was about the elements fantasy illustrators should be able to handle, like horses, and others which it is good to show you can do, like group scenes. That’s why I ended up painting the three walking figures, to check that I could! And since I rather enjoyed it, I started looking for more crowds to draw: Here are the survivors of the IMC at about 2am on the last evening.

07last-night

A few lessons that resonated for me (there were many more – these are the ones which were still echoing around my head this week):

  • Preparation pays off.
  • Thumbnail using tones.
  • Take good, well-lit, detailed reference photos.
  • Keep caps on bottles.
  • Gradients! Use them compositionally.
  • Go to galleries and look at just one thing: a colour, fabric, use of highlights, etc.
  • Watch how ink lines end, and use lines to echo shapes in other parts of the drawing.
  • Whatever you’re doing (in composition, colour, etc), commit and then push it further. This came up a few times over the trip: exaggerating scale, doubling down on ‘errors’ instead of taming them.
  • Skulls and wigs and gauntlets are things people just own and bring to workshops with them.
  • Always do more than you need to, professionally. Get up earlier, or paint images twice, or…
  • The cheerfulness and generosity of real (apparent) confidence.
  • When watching a demonstration, copy it rigorously, then go back and try doing it your own way. I’ve always skipped the middle step, but it turns out I learn more by watching and emulating before getting creative.

… I just pulled out my notes and got distracted by all the wonderful information, but I will leave this list as it is.

But more: It was amazing to be surrounded by professional, excellent artists, all learning and critiquing, helping, posing, advising, sharing advice on brushes and paints, but never doubting the worth and ability of what was on display.

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Illustration Friday: Tape

A little pen and ink piece for the Illustration Friday topic, “Tape”. It’s been a while since I’ve done any dressmaking, but I grew up with my mother always sewing and drafting patterns.

 

 

Illustration Friday: Ice

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.

Illustration Friday: Ice sketches

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.

Illustration Friday: Ice sketches

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.

Illustration Friday: Ice

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.

kjenningshedgehogice

Part Two: Dartmoor

Part Three: Iceland

As usual, this is a best-bits version of the trip, where “best-bits” = anything that stayed still long enough to be sketched. You should be able to see a larger version of the pictures by clicking on them, which in most cases will take you through to their Flickr page.

So: Once upon a time it was almost winter in Brisbane, as you can tell by… the shawl on the left hand page, I guess. Then I flew north. I am reliably informed that was the only cold week Brisbane had this winter.

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At the airport I drew various hi-vis dramas out on the tarmac. This is one of my favourite things to draw.

Page 08 Detail - Airport

On the aeroplane, I drew Cinderella-Die Hard mashups but that is for another post.

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In LA, I stayed with Katharine (aka The Fictator: a lot of you don’t know her but you should) and in a surprise to absolutely no-one we talked about books and stories and old movies. She was the best person to stay with in LA because she actively loves its geology, geography, history and likes driving. She took me to very odd museums, such as the cumulatively bewildering Museum of Jurassic Technology which feels like it was created by the protagonists of Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum and had Borges in the bookstore.

We also went to the Last Bookstore.

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California is full of palm trees. Someone should have warned me. I got Josh Ritter’s California stuck in my head.

 

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NEW YORK! I like New York. I like the New York in which my friends live. Ellen and Delia sent me to the theatre (Something Rotten and Fun Home, the latter with Eliza and Karen), took me to the theatre (Shuffle Along) and to Klezmer concerts. I accidentally wandered into a theatre reading.

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I ate pastry with editors and lunches with art directors and found my pictures at the Society of Illustrators! (Thanks Irene, Miriam and Christine!IMG_0104
Genevieve took me to the Museum of the Moving Image and (almost as importantly) a grilled cheese cafe. We both promptly downloaded Ginger Rogers and the Mystery of the Scarlet Cloak.IMG_0079

 

Then a final evening of wine and chocolate among the New York rooftops before I caught the train to Massachusetts to stay with Kelly and Gavin.


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We had a lot of pool parties in Massachusetts. And writing, of course! It was a pretty productive week: workshopping novels and reading manuscripts and finishing illustrations off for Small Beer Press. I also met Cassie’s Scottish Fold, Maggie, a beautiful creature who regarded me with deep suspicion. And of course the writing barn which is even prettier than this article makes out.

 

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This were some of my notes from a workshop with Holly.

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Then: Readercon! It was my first Readercon, and I had a grand time, catching up with and meeting many very excellent people and lying around talking about theatre and Sayers, Broadway and Dunnett. If I try to list everyone I will (a) sound like I’m namedropping and (b) forget people.

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I moderated two panels, was on a third and gave a reading from my Masters novella-in-progress.

And the next day, I left for England.

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Next: Dartmoor


I am in fact drawing Many Other Things, but most I can’t show yet. So here are some marginal mermaids who appeared on a list of reference needed for another project.

The colours (Koi travel watercolours) are limited to what was already on my palette after another picture.

Since this is a behind-the-scenes post, here is also an example of another merlady, and how illustrations start. This is the very early thinking stage, even before thumbnail sketches.


On this manuscript I’m reading through making these shorthand notations, then passing and repassing – looking for less obvious ideas, or poses more suitable to my developing ideas of the characters’ personalities, or even background stories that aren’t necessarily in the text.

At the same time I’m working up some ideas of my own, and in such cases I often start with art before words.


There I’m getting a feel for possibilities of style and colour. Then I’ll probably switch to a faster style to work out the narrative. 

Here for example are some shorthand notes for another idea.

And last is something I can’t really show much of: the extras on a Usual Suspects-style lineup of characters for another set of illustrations, partly as a model sheet, partly for practice and also for my own amusement and to break in a new pen nib.

Illustration Friday: Ruckus Dancing in the lounge room with Caitlene, to “Shut Up and Dance”, after watching this video:

Edited to add: By request, the image is also up on Redbubble as a print and shirt design.

Rococo

Poorly lit photos (because I’m just back from the QWC end of year party/program launch and it is late) of some Rococo fashion sketches, warming up to pen and ink again after my break, and learning the shape of Louis XV fashion for another project.

Rococo tests