Illustration Friday: Weapon

Illustration Friday: Weapon

In which I endeavour to learn my way around Inkscape by way of Harry Potter fanart. Specifically young, mod McGonagall.


This began as a pen and ink drawing, which I may yet colour with watercolour. I don’t plan to use vector programs much more than I do at present (mostly for cleaning up lines), but there are always techniques it will be useful to know in case of future emergencies (this PSA brought to you by past emergencies).

Introducing Team Mist: Alexandria Neonakis

Alexandria Neonakis is the first member of Light Grey Art Lab‘s 2016 Iceland Residency: Team Mist to volunteer to be introduced!

Alexandria Neonakis

Alexandria Neonakis

K: What lights you up about what you do?

Alexandria: I love it when something accidental happens in a piece that really helps with whatever narrative i’m trying to get across. When it happens, it feels like everything’s clicking nicely into place.

K: Do you have an example? 

Alexandria: This isn’t necessarily my favorite image but the light cutting across the top left and not appearing anywhere else was an accident. I had initially had a bit of light towards the bottom of the image as well, but some layers got turned off and I felt it just sold the story so much better. It also felt like a much bolder choice than my original intention.

Alexandria Neonakis: Weasley Wizard Wheezes

Alexandria Neonakis: Weasley Wizard Wheezes

I also was painting the “extendable ears” sign onto the wall when i came up with the idea that his missing ear wouldn’t have been magically replaced, he probably wears an extendable ear so as not to scare kids who come into the store. then when they ask him a question, he can pull the ear towards them and ask them to speak up.

I really love fleshing out these off-screen moments in a well know story, particularly with Harry Potter which has been a huge influence on me for most of my life. I know fan art gets a lot of flack, but I feel there’s a real place for it, and it’s often a nice gateway for people to start exploring their own narratives. It certainly has been for me.

K: Where can we find you?

Alexandria: My tumblr is  and my website is :)

Harry Dalek

Harry Dalek

This is one of the earlier Daleks I drew for the Dalek Game, and I’m not sure why I used the series title rather than an individual book (I’m not ruling that out as an option just yet!). However, here it is in all its inevitable owlery.

One of the major benefits of the Twilight series is that many people stopped being quite so snarky about Harry Potter. I started reading J K Rowling’s books in… 1999, I think (I remember being delighted to find a copy of the second book in England in February 2000 with a matching cover to my first volume). The books caught hold of many of my favourite things about English children’s novels – the place names, the food, the boarding schools, the irreverent scholarly fun to be had with history and mythology, and the trains.

I did manage to write a research paper on HP (all 3 books at the time, I think) as part of my degree (my lecturers kept trying to get me to write on adult books, but they had all been done). It was titled: “Is Harry Potter evil? The perils of magic in children’s fantasy fiction” and concluded that fantasy was not evil – dangerous, yes, but less so than ‘realistic’ fiction. My mother used that essay to argue with people until I told her she couldn’t criticize people for attacking books they hadn’t read when she was defending HP without reading it, so she read them through the fifth book (she said she had 8 younger siblings and 3 daughters and couldn’t put herself through the angst again).

I had struck a deal with my younger sister that if she went to the medieval fair and read Harry Potter, I would go to a ute show and a B&S ball, but we each stalled on the second half of the bargain.

When the first movie came out, I was still at college. I think we might have worn our academic gowns to the screening but I’m not sure – I do remember that afterwards we went to the UQ boatsheds with chocolate and Baileys and a bucket of candles and sat on the pontoon on the river, watching the CityCats go by.

But my favourite HP memory is that I was able to convince the university to let me spend a whole year reading it and its ilk – Narnia and The Railway Children, Tom Brown’s Schooldays, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Carrie’s War, The Famous Five, The Wind in the Willows, The Secret of Platform 13 (the platform I looked for at King’s Cross before 9 3/4 printed itself into the public consciousness) and at least 50 others. My honours thesis was on “The Role of the Railway in British Children’s Novels”, and I had a wonderful time.

In other news: Here are two trailers for books I have drawings in: A Tale of Two Trailers – the first is for the anthology Winds of Change and the second is for Five Historical Banquets, the instigators of whom let me play around drawing little ornaments for my own amusement.

Illustration Friday: Obsession

I love you all…

Illustration Friday: Obsession

These are not intended to represent any person in particular! After all, some of my best friends are fans…

I’m much more familiar with the second sort of convention than the first, but I still had that moment when watching Paul of thinking, “My people!”. Actually, I thought that twice in Paul. And the best thing about the Jane Austen Book Club movie was the representation of the convention and fans (and after we watched that movie my sister even asked if I had any Le Guin).

And yes, I own costumes.

Pen and ink with digital colour.

August Short Book Reviews

Dealing with Dragons – Patricia C Wrede. When I visit Karen, she puts me in the Spare Oom, which is cruel, because it is a tall, thin room with a tall, thin bookcase full of all the books I’ve ever wanted to read but haven’t been able to yet. Last year I started pulling out books that I was interested in, only to find more books behind, and I had the distinct feeling that if I kept going I would find more books behind those and behind those just maybe someplace else altogether. So I stopped, because I didn’t want that not to be the case. Anyway, this year I went down for the Faithful Writer Conference (reviewed last week) and over two evenings read Dealing with Dragons which I have only known because of the more recent cover art featured in Spectrum. It was a fun book, light-hearted and enjoyable, with a touch of “The Ordinary Princess” and “The Paperbag Princess” and “Farmer Giles of Ham”. I liked that the tongue-in-cheek lightness of it never dropped away, and I do like practical heroines.

Fables volume 8: Wolves – Willingham et. al. (graphic novel). I perhaps got my hopes up a little high because of the title. Although I enjoyed this, I did not enjoy it as much as the earlier volumes. The art wasn’t as consistent and it felt very light, with characters I hope become relevant later because they added little here. It was a bridging volume, a breather, and hasn’t diminished my hopes for the next volume.

Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen – Joanne K. Rowling. (That’s the Philosopher’s Stone). I had so much fun reading this. I’m pretty familiar with the original (having read it, read it out loud, written a research essay on it, written part of my thesis on it, etc), so it was an ideal book to read in German because I knew the story well enough that it helped me guess vocab I didn’t know. Although one evening I was running around my house asking, “Does anyone remember the name of the street the Dursleys live on?” because the name had been translated. (It was Privet Drive, translated Ligusterweg which means Privet Way). Rereading a book in another language is enjoyable because you get to enjoy it again almost for the first time, and have the added pleasure of getting some jokes for the first time, discovering new ones, and just laughing at language in general – words in German which are literally the same as English and force you to realise what the English word is, words in German which sound funny or charming: undursleyhaft for instance, or the word to describe cats weaving between people’s ankles: hindurchschlaengelten. It was also very interesting to see some of the characters again for the first time, knowing what they will become and do – hints and clues and foreshadowings fulfilled six books later.

Hellblazer: Joyride (graphic novel). I won’t recommend these for all sorts of reasons, but I really enjoy watching how the character of John Constantine is written. They are horror comics, and I was surprised often in this one by how scenes bothered me which wouldn’t have if they were on screen or in a book. I’ve discussed this with a few friends and we think it is because films usually don’t leave much to the imagination: it all takes place on the screen. Books leave everything to the imagination: it all takes place in your head but is constrained by everything else that goes on in your head. The comic gives enough visual guidance to make sure you interpret things the way the artist/writer intended, and then lets your mind take over from there.

The Ladies of Grace Adieu – Susannah Clarke. I really, really liked this book. In spite of its deliberate archaism and modelling after Regency texts, the stories reminded me most of T. H. White and Mistress Masham’s Repose. Elegant, beautifully-crafted, enjoyable, unashamedly fictional tellings of new and old faery-tales in the England of Jane Austen, the Duke of Wellington, the Raven King and Stardust (there is one story set in the world of Stardust beyond the Wall). And it has a pretty cover and Charles Vess’ otherworldly ink illustration.

The House of Many Ways – Dianne Wynne Jones. Dianne Wynne Jones frustrates me, but in a good way. This story of tangled mythological strands, chaotic and legendary families, quests and paperwork was thrilling and yet worse than most of her books in the sense that there was a very tangible impression of vast reaches of even more wonderful stories just off the edge of the page. It’s closest to Homeward Bounders and Eight Days of Luke. My favourite part was the way the mythological strands are mundane closer to earth, and wilder and more dangerous as they snake out among the stars. [ETA: That was actually a review of The Game. Here is the correct review].

The House of Many Ways – Dianne Wynne Jones. A sequel, insofar as she writes such things, to Howl’s Moving Castle  and Castles in the Air. It takes place in the same world, at least, and Howl and Sophie and Calcifer put in appearances, not always as themselves. I enjoyed this, but (obviously) didn’t find it as memorable as the first two. The main characters were a delightful combination of practical and spoiled, yet both aware of their own flaws (and a little more keenly aware of each others’), and the book felt self-contained as if it had told all the story necessary, rather than spilling out all over the place like some of her books.

The Puffin Book of Nursery Rhymes – Iona and Peter Opie. I don’t usually review reference texts because I don’t usually read them from cover to cover in a sitting (although given a free afternoon and a volume of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica I’m happy to give it a try). I read this in one evening, cover to cover, including the introduction which is written with such a gentle, humorous intelligence that I wish I knew the Opies. It is a slim, fabulous, generous collection of nursery rhymes for personal use – an appetiser for their Oxford Encyclopaedia of Nursery Rhymes which is on my list after Child’s ballads.

The Explosionist – Jenny Davidson. I bought this, unseen, on Kate‘s recommendation from The Book Depository (free! international! shipping!), and it had me at “New Hanseatic League.” I’m not quite sure how to classify it – it is alternate history, set in a 40s Scotland which has split from England, where Spiritualism (a la Arthur Conan Doyle) is influential, war threatens, Scotland’s power is based on its production of dynamite and surgical rationalisation of the emotions is being trialled. The characters are appealling and more than one dimensional, the alternate history is alert but also fun (Oscar Wilde is famous for developing incubators for premature babies and Doctor Freud is a rogue radio operator). I’m quite interested to see where the story goes from here.