Observation Journal: Mix and Match

The length of the observation journal pages got thoroughly out of hand in mid-February.

Two densely handwritten pages from the observation journal. The first has notes on things seen, heard, and done on 10 February 2020. The second mixes and matches elements of Pride and Prejudice and Little Red Riding Hood.

Left page: Magpies and the doppler effect of lawn mowers, and how memory is stored in places.

A drawing of a man trying to mow very long grass.

Right page: Most ways I have of breaking things open and/or finding ideas involve knocking two stories (or other things) together until something interesting falls out. In this case, I was trying to formalise that approach. It spilled over into another double-page spread, and the conclusion that this is a process that works better in motion.

A close-up of the Pride & Prejudice and Little Red Riding Hood page.

The basic idea is to mix and match two stories. There are a few ways to do this, including:

  • Looking for resonances (intriguing and useful, but particularly for express reworkings of a story);
  • Randomising or forcibly mismatching all the elements (interesting but hard work if I don’t want to default to a mash-up/repurposing, which isn’t my favourite thing);
  • Picking one pair of elements that aren’t an obvious match, pairing them up, and then following the consequences.

The last one is my favourite, and it’s useful for drawing and choosing textures, doing close readings, and playing with stories. For instance, making Mary Bennett from Pride and Prejudice the Little Red Riding Hood of a story forces a careful consideration of her relationships to other characters — and she doesn’t have many. (I like to use a version of Little Red Riding Hood that involves her getting away from the wolf and running over a river on sheets stretched by washerwomen, but in the case of Pride & Prejudice the best thing for Mary is (explicitly) finally being away from her sisters.)

Making Rochester of Jane Eyre a Little Red Riding Hood and committing to that misreading once turned into a whole story (“The Wolves of Thornfield Hall, variations on a theme”,  Eleven Eleven Journal #19, 2015). There’s a lot of material to work with.

Here’s the first half of the second double-page spread (the last page turned into a story outline which is still in progress).

A handwritten page matching up elements of Twelve Dancing Princesses with aspects of Little Women.

In this case, I was listing the elements of the key story (“The Twelve Dancing Princesses”), looking for a corresponding element in the target story (“Little Women”), then finding echoes, and looking for imagery to enhance on that basis. This has a bit less character exploration in it, and isn’t as useful academically as an outright misreading, but it is really useful for playing up thematic and visual elements, choosing metaphors, and getting a source of coherent and consistent vocabulary and tone — more on this in future pages (or it’ll be familiar if you’ve done a narrative imagery workshop with me).

But codifying the ideas, while a useful distraction from… whatever I was meant to be doing, or possibly just from mid-February, isn’t as exciting as picking up the thread of an idea, the first interesting element, and running with it — pulling it until it unravels, or wandering off into other paths entirely, and following dancing princesses to see where they go in search of new adventures.

A drawing of a demure princess in a high-waisted dress.

Art/writing exercise

This exercise is fun for practising close-reading, spurious argument, and description. But allow yourself at the least provacation to bound away chasing some new and marvellous idea:

  1. Pick two rather different stories. For example:
    • pick two unrelated stories you’re familiar with (perhaps a favourite novel and the last fairy tale you saw referenced)
    • or try, for example, something like choosing the first and last movies you remember seeing in a cinema — for me this would be The Hunt for Red October and Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears and I have no regrets,
    • or take a story you love but that isn’t like the genre you work in, and a story you are currently trying to write or draw.
      In the example on the page above I had just watched the new Little Women and picked “Twelve Dancing Princesses” as the second story in an effort to tear myself away from using “Little Red Riding Hood”.
  2. Jot down the key characters (or places, or objects) from the first story.
  3. Match them up with elements in the second (randomly, or use less-obvious matches).
    E.g., here, I made Marmee stand in for Princesses 2-11.
  4. Work out what the resonances between those elements are or could be (even if it’s a bit of a stretch — this is the fun part).
    E.g., with Marmee (as with the intermediate princesses) she’s there and part of the story, but not obviously instigating or obviously primary to the narrative, but also manages to create a sense of abundance.
  5. Consider how you could describe or paint those characters (or places, or objects) in the second story to bring out those resonances — using, for example, observations or language or textures from the first story).
    E.g., I’ve just written “treasured, ornamented” here, because I was being seized with an Idea

July Calendar: Sew a fine seam

Note: This calendar is supported by patrons, who get it a little bit early, along with other sneak-peeks and behind-the-scenes art: patreon.com/tanaudel, and also by those very kind people who throw a few dollars towards it via the tip jar: paypal.me/tanaudel

For July, here are threads and bobbins and awls and wax, and the daily tools so often adjacent to fairy tales: bodkins for poisoned lacings, winders to hold the thread for clues, needles and pins to choose your path by…

There are no scissors, because I wanted this to tie in to the scissors calendar from November last year. I kept the colour scheme, but added pink (for the clover flowers and other details). And I’ve had a few requests for a repeating pattern for the scissors, so I’ll try to do both at once. I’ll let you know when they’re up. In the meantime, both this design and Scissors are up on Redbubble as prints, masks, cushions, etc.

And here (for personal use) are the printable versions. If you like them and like supporting the arts, you can contribute to the calendar (and get it and other behind-the-scenes things early) at patreon.com/tanaudel (starts at US$1/month!) or through the tip jar at paypal.me/tanaudel.

June Calendar: Ominous Groves

Note: This calendar is supported by patrons, who get it a little bit early, along with other sneak-peeks and behind-the-scenes art: patreon.com/tanaudel, and also by those very kind people who throw a few dollars towards it via the tip jar: paypal.me/tanaudel

For the June calendar — a series of ominous little groves, each with their own story — some allusive and some elusive.

(This one, above, is the sketch from the post More Legs Than Strictly Necessary).

And here (for personal use) are the printable versions. If you like them and like supporting the arts, you can contribute to the calendar (and get it and other behind-the-scenes things early at) patreon.com/tanaudel (starts at $1/month!) or through the tip jar at paypal.me/tanaudel.

May unicorns

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Note: This calendar is supported by patrons, who get it a little bit early, along with other sneak-peeks and behind-the-scenes art: patreon.com/tanaudel, and also by those very kind people who throw a few dollars towards it via the tip jar: paypal.me/tanaudel

A little joy, if twilit, for May: a frolic of evening unicorns.

These are just because it had been a few years since the last unicorn calendar. I’d revisited some old silhouette unicorns recently, and started drawing them in the margins of my notebook, and the design is always an interesting one to play with. These are a bit horsier than usual — I think my favourite approach starts moving past goat into greyhound.

And it’s also up as a print and a repeating pattern on Redbubble on cushions, throws, clothes, etc: Twilight Unicorns. (Spoonflower to follow, but I have to wait for the sample swatches to arrive). Edit: It is now up on Spoonflower as fabric and wallpaper.

And here (for personal use) are the printable versions. If you like them and like supporting the arts, you can contribute to the calendar (and get it and other behind-the-scenes things early at) patreon.com/tanaudel (starts at $1/month!) or through the tip jar at paypal.me/tanaudel.

May Calendar - colour-web

May Calendar - lines

April Calendar: The Go-Betweens

Note: This calendar is supported by patrons, who get it a little bit early, along with other sneak-peeks and behind-the-scenes art: patreon.com/tanaudel, and also by those very kind people who throw a few dollars towards it via the tip jar: paypal.me/tanaudel

For the printable April calendar, here are an assortment of crows — or ravens, or interchangeable corvids, as the case may be — carrying messages and tokens.

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This is partly because, for reasons associated with Flyaway, I’ve been talking to people about the fairy tale of “The Seven Ravens”, but mostly because when I was going through all my sketches for possible calendar ideas, a crow started calling outside my window.

(The Go-Betweens were, of course, also a Brisbane band, possibly most famous for Streets of Your Town, but also here is a lovely Winterpills cover of Bye Bye Pride).

And it’s also up as a print and a repeating pattern on Redbubble on cushions, throws, clothes, etc: The Go-Betweens. (Spoonflower to follow, but I have to wait for the sample swatches to arrive).

Redbubble-Crows

And here (for personal use) are the printable versions. If you like them and like supporting the arts, you can contribute to the calendar (and get it and other behind-the-scenes things early at) patreon.com/tanaudel (starts at $1/month!) or through the tip jar at paypal.me/tanaudel.

April calendar - colour-webApril calendar - lines

Process post: Castle Charming pin

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I was going to save this post until later in Tansy Rayner Roberts‘ Castle Charming Kickstarter campaign, but it’s already been more than 3/4 funded in its first 24 hours!

Castle Charming is a collection of linked short stories and novellas about a year in the life of a fairy tale kingdom, by Tansy Rayner Roberts.

(Incidentally, while I’ve never run a crowdfunding campaign directly, I’ve been involved with quite a few, and the biggest lesson, from Kinds of Blue (9 years!) on, has been: the more complete a project already exists, the faster it funds.)

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One of the reward levels is an enamel pin based on a design by me (the first pin I designed was also for Tansy’s Creature Court crowdfunding campaign (final pins here), and in the interim there was a hedgehog in a teacup, too).

Here are the early sketches (already seen by patrons, including a few I’ve trimmed off here because I definitely want to do something further with them at some point).

2020-02-20-CastleCharmingSketches for web-abbr

Tansy chose M, but with bean plants around the base instead of the generic flourish. I worked up a few approaches (bean plants are notoriously vertical, so working up a horizontal version was an enjoyable puzzle — we had to opt for a short-podded variety), but our favourite was the clustered beans and leaves.

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From there, I straightened it up and inked it with a brush, then tidied it (lightly — we wanted to keep the hand-drawn effect) digitally and added colour.

I’ll post a picture of the final pins when they become reality, but in the meantime, you can get one by supporting the campaign here: Castle Charming.

March Calendar: Giants

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The March calendar (supported by patrons, who get it early, and you can too) is gargantuan.

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They are perhaps a little more trollish than gianty, but they’re my giants.

think my favourite is the mountain giant just waking up. But I also like the one that just found a dragon.

(If you’re a fan of giants, sea-serpents, or remarkably strong and beautiful ladies, here’s an Irish fairy tale in a series Katherine Langrish is sharing on her site, Seven Miles of Steel Thistles: “Simon and Margaret”).

I was playing around with textures digitally in this one — some spare ink washes from when I did the City of Bones 10th anniversary edition illustrations. It’s a little more directional than I’d like but it was, by then, about 1 in the morning. Here is what the colours look like, without lines.

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And here (for personal use) are the printable versions. If you like them and like supporting the arts, you can contribute to the calendar (and get it and other behind-the-scenes things early at) patreon.com/tanaudel (starts at $1/month!) or through the tip jar at paypal.me/tanaudel.

March calendar colour-blogresMarch calendar lines

Had I the wings of a turtle-dove

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A trial silhouette sun-print (cyanotype) from an ongoing fascination with metamorphosis in fairytales.

I was trying to get different degrees of exposure on a cyanotype, in this case by using two silhouettes, one cut out of black paper (the bird) and the other out of glassine (the person). At the sides you can see the bulldog clips and the way light refracted through the edge of the clear acrylic sheet keeping it all from blowing away in the sun.

Some of this fascination got out into various things I have written, of course, and in the meantime there’s always the ongoing extremely long Twitter thread (tbc) on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which starts here and continues with gifs.

 

 

December Calendar: Phantom Dancers

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The December calendar is here! (With the invaluable support of patrons on patreon.com/tanaudel and paypal.me/tanaudel — if you enjoy the calendar and other art and have even a dollar or two to spare, it all helps).

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If it’s all a bit green for you, I can only blame a combination of the colour scheme of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (quite a heavy influence this month) and I Capture The Castle, but I’ve also made an oat-and-mint version. Or, of course, you can colour it yourself.

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The printable (for personal use) files are below. And so on to December!

December calendar - GreenDecember calendar - BeigeDecember calendar - Lines

South of the Sun

A new anthology of new Australian fairy tales is being crowdfunded by the Australian Fairy Tale Society, and my story “On Pepper Creek”, about a stowaway (of sorts) will be in it.

SouthOfTheSunCover

It will also have a cover by Lorena Carrington, and stories by such as Sophie Masson, Carmel Bird, Eugen Bacon, and Cate Kennedy — and more!

The Pozible campaign runs until 12 December (I think — I’m in a different timezone at the moment).

It is still open for submissions until 13 December 2019 (but although it is a paying market, there is a submission fee, so just be aware of that).