Two art challenges coincide this week: The Month of Love‘s “hero” challenge, and Illustration Friday‘s “mystery”. I was reading “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” to my father this morning, and remembering (as I often do when I read instead of watching Sherlock Holmes), how human and eccentric and kind the great detective is. He is funny, polite, so rarely cruel (except to Lestrade), genuinely sympathetic to preserving honour and furthering young love, truthfully delighted to have Watson’s company, carrying sonnets in his pocket and, when weary, preferring to talk about novels than crime.
“The Boscombe Valley Mystery” (1891) has the additional charms of extensive Australian connections, the need for Holmes to say “coo-ee” more than once, and the slightly jarring experience of a proper (if impetuous) young Victorian woman referring to “my dad”.
I sketched the ornaments above after finishing the story and putting on an episode of Foyle’s War, then since I’d inadvertently brought a piece of scratchboard with me, I borrowed a utility knife from my mother and elaborated on one of the designs. If I go further with the idea, I’ll work with better tools and to a larger scale (this is about 11cm/4.5 inches high).
I’m getting back into scratchboard after a break (I do like it for birds). This is, as usual, smaller than it is shown here. The original is 7.5×4.5cm.
In other news
- I have introduced my mother to A. E. Housman.
- There may be a change in hair lengths in my illustrations – on the weekend my mother cut my hair off to collar length, which must be at least a foot shorter than it was.
- My sister’s dog is, ungraciously, accepting me as a poor substitute in her absence.
- Since no one else has to eat my cooking for the next few weeks, I am experimenting with cooking: macarons – perfect; roast miscellaneous vegetables – very good; Sayers-inspired omelettes (savoury and sweet) – I made an omelette that worked!!!; couscous in the office kitchenette – effective; boston baked kidney beans – intriguing; gluten free cornbread – dry, but has potential; rice-milk custard – unmitigated failure. I’m sure there’s a lesson to be learned in there somewhere. But the macarons really were very good.
For this week’s Illustration Friday topic, a scratchboard illustration messed with (as usual) in Photoshop. I used a sample from a scan of an old painting as the texture/colour in the image above and as the background in the version below. Both are test cases – I wanted to trial some techniques for another project that is happening (of which more in the fullness of time… but if I am more difficult to pin down than usual, this is probably the reason).
A scratchboard illustration (with touches of colour added in Photoshop), during which I discovered that reclining on the sofa half-watching a documentary was not the best position for working in scratchboard. We learn from our experiences. Also from fairytales: E Nesbit’s ‘Melisande, or Long and Short Division’, apart from having one of my favourite titles, taught me the value of keeping scissors in your pocket. Modern women’s clothing, alas, does not run to pockets.
I bought more scratchboard today. I don’t need it yet, but I consider it one of my civic duties to keep up the demand.
Never kiss by the garden gate…
Love may be blind, but the neighbours ain’t.
Quite a large scratchboard piece by my standards – 7.5×6.5cm this week! I started with ideas of spies, and Romeo and Juliet, and then was listening to Damien Rice’s version of ‘When Doves Cry’ (I received TripleJ’s Like a Version album for Christmas – yay!), and duly picturing the courtyard, which led to thoughts of Queensland gardens and fishbone ferns and a book of bookplates I borrowed from the library. And here we are.
I have great plans for the new year, because I received wonderful art presents for Christmas: a screenprinting kit, lightbox, Spectrum volumes 15* and 4, the collection of James Jean’s covers for Fables (which I have to read carefully because I don’t want to spoil the last few which I haven’t read yet), a book of Leyendecker’s art and a calendar of 1920s & ’30s travel posters. And the illustrated Stardust and The Graveyard Book, which count because the illustrations in those have me all inspired to start on pen and ink again. Oh, and I bought a book of pulp covers before Christmas, so there’s inspiration all around.
*Congratulations to Leah Palmer Preiss, who has a picture in this volume!
Scratchboard, of course, because I am intent on using up the world’s remaining supply, with the rough edges left in this time because I like the texture. As usual, I have saved the image larger than the original (5 x 7.5 cm or 2 x 3 inches).
This pair of carol singers is a study for a larger group of singers I still wouldn’t mind doing, but probably for next Christmas. I had ambitious plans tonight, but had to do (what I hope is) the final print run of Christmas cards (more about those here). This is not to rule out artistic hijinks tomorrow night, but even I know I should try to exercise some self-restraint and not overdo things (ha! says she who was out every night with Aimee & co from Thursday and at a Darren Hanlon concert with Deb until very late last night and is up to I-don’t-want-to-l00k-at-the-clock tonight).
Another scratchboard illustration for this week’s Illustration Friday topic: Opinion. It is 5×7 cm (2×2.8 inches), scanned on my mother’s scanner (with which I have a fraught relationship) and coloured in Photoshop. It is a combination of two ideas: someone staying aloof in spite of the opinions of critics, and Kipling’s Cat (which walked by itself, and all places were alike to it).
Here is the black and white version:
And while I was drawing dogs, which is rare for me, I did a quick scratchboard illustration for I. R. Mcleod’s poem Lone Dog: