Curse Workers — art reveal

Some more exciting news!

A new bindup of Holly Black’s magical con-artist trilogy The Curse Workers is coming out in November — and I designed a new silhouette chapter header for each book. It’s available to pre-order now.

(The cover design is by Michael McCartney)

They are great books, gritty and with a cynical enchantment. Much as I love Holly Black’s Elfhame and fae enchantments, I’m always so surprised and drawn in by the patina of her (almost) real-world settings — it adds such a salt-and-acid note to the sweetness (however decadent and cruel) of the more fantastic settings. And The Curse Workers is all that side of the story. It’s also a story of embedded rather than discovered magic, where it’s a (disreputable) part of the structure of technology and fashion, politics and society and organised crime.

(Another illustrated project that is available to pre-order is the limited edition of Angela Slatter’s The Tallow-Wife — and there are a few more coming soon, like the special linen-cover edition of Juliet Marillier’s Mother Thorn in April!)

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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Art process: The Darkest Part of the Forest

I was delighted to have the chance to design a header and ornaments for a rerelease of Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest.

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2019 edition, cover art by Sean Freeman, design by Karina Granda

Lately, I’ve been appreciating decorative illustrations more than I used to, and it was lovely to just spend the time designing faery swords and choosing leaves.

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The header itself was an intriguing proposition. It was to be a specific object/scene from the book — the glass coffin in the forest. Glass coffins are their own challenge, of course, but for other single-header books (e.g. Holly’s Modern Faerie Tales trilogy) I’ve tried to pick images that are less specific and more broadly representative of elements of the book.

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Holly has a very particular gift for combining the wondrous with the mundane, in this scene no less than others. Capturing the weeds and rubbish as well as the coffin and its occupant was a delicate balance.

It was also a slightly different style of drawing to my usual more 2d representations. This needed a dark forest to nestle into, as well as an ornamental frame.

Here are the completed pencils, to use as a base for the final drawing — you can see where I was moving things around digitally (e.g. the fox) as well as swapping tree sketches outs for different effects..

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I decided to experiment with more hatching, just because — in this case, leaving out the outlines in the background (which I am usually all about).

Here is the final ink drawing, as it appears in the book.

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And a sword (and an epigraph, which Holly also always chooses beautifully).

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Exercises for illustrators and writers (from the perspective of the illustrator):

  • How much of an image can you show without outlines? How much of a scene can you write only by describing the background?
  • Think of a book (a favourite, or your own). Design a single iconic/thematic image that would work as an ornament to introduce all the chapters.
  • Find a single decorative image (the Public Domain Review is a good start — search ornament or browse around) that could work as a chapter header for a hypothetical book. Extrapolate from that to work out what sort of book it might be. In a book tuned to that image, what would the action/adventure chapters be like? What mood would the reflective sections have? What crises and reversals would happen in a book that could be summed up in that picture? Is this an image that necessitates the presence of a prologue?
  • You can do a similar exercise with an epigraph/leading quote. Let a book fall open, browse Bartleby or choose a random page from Wikiquotes (the ‘random page’ link should be on the right). That’s now the epigraph for an as-yet-unwritten book in your favourite genre. Proceed as above. (Or you could try a random quote as the lead-in for each chapter (or each scene in a short story) — choose a reasonable number, line them up, and work back from there to find out what the story (or an appropriate accompanying illustration) could be.

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!

Flyaway and arty publisher photos

A few screengrabs of my publisher collating thoughts on Flyaway. (I recommend following Tor.com  on assorted social media generally — they are so enthusiastic about books, and not just their own!).

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If this sounds like the gothic, literary fantasy with a bite that you are indeed looking for, pre-orders for Flyaway are open at the Tor.com website, and where good books are found.

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Modern Faerie Tales – Holly Black

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So this was fun! I was asked to design a single header for each of Holly Black’s three novels in the Modern Faerie Tales series: Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside, for this omnibus edition.

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They are delightful novels — as is the new The Folk of the Air series (The Cruel PrinceThe Wicked King, and The Queen of Nothing), which is lightly connected, and for which I did the maps. Holly has a gift for (and works hard at) balancing a rather gritty 21st century mundane with a stunningly wondrous (but cruel) magical world. If you grew up on the urban fantasy of the 80s and 90s, you’ll know the feeling of Holly’s worlds — grit and glitter and death and magic.

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Which is to say, I recommend them all, as well as having had a Grand Time drawing in them.

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Note re links: I’m experimenting with affiliate links, which means I might get paid a small commission if someone buys something after clicking a link on my site. This is early days, so I’m really just testing out the program links at this point!

The Queen of Nothing — the map!

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The Queen of Nothing, the third in Holly Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy, and sequel to The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King is now out! I’m visiting Massachusetts at the moment and got to ride along to Holly’s first event of her tour, at An Unlikely Story. But now I can also show you the map.

I have loved adjusting the map for this series (although altering wave patterns in ink with each new ocean detail, and splicing them in digitally, was certainly a challenge!).

Under the map (above) are sketches of possible treatments of the corners and new details. But other new pieces came from the little thematic sketches I made along the way (no spoilers).

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A few of the little original ink drawings of tiny new details are now available at Book Moon Books in Easthampton, Massachusetts (or will be by tomorrow, when I am sketching there!). Below is the tiniest.

(The cover art is not by me. Sean Freeman has been illustrating those, with design by Karina Granda. BUT I did draw the foil designs under the dust jackets on the hardcovers — and got to meet a girl with the Cruel Prince design tattooed on her arm, which was very exciting!).

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Art by Sean Freeman, design by Karina Granda, tiniest fox by me, SNAKE by Holly Black

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…

The Wicked King – map!

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Holly Black’s The Wicked King, the follow-up to The Cruel Prince, is now well and truly out. Finally. I’ve been sitting on the plot of this book for a year and am delighted at seeing everyone else’s reactions to it now.

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I did not do the cover — that is by artist Sean Freeman and senior designer Karina Granda, and they have a post about it here: Evolution of a Cover.

I, however, did draw the internal ornaments, and… updated the map.

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The map begins from the same place as my map for The Cruel Prince, with certain shifts and adjustments for the direction this book takes.

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Below is one of my favourite changed details. Before:

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And after:

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I’m gradually expanding the published maps category over on my portfolio. Stay tuned!

The Cruel Prince – ornaments!

Guess what! I’ve ornamented Holly Black’s newest book, The Cruel Prince which comes out next year (and is available for preorder now – if you are in the US and enter your preorder details at http://thenovl.com/cruelprince by 11:59 PM (ET) on 1 January, there are freebies).

I did not do the cover, but I did draw the map, chapter decorations and incidental ornaments.

The picture below links to a short Instagram video of a few pages, including the map.

I’ll post more as the book comes out, but I was so excited to work on this – the map especially.