Elemental Logics

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All of Laurie J. MarksElemental Logic covers (from Small Beer Press) in one place, together at last!

These are beautiful and unexpected books, laconic and startling.

I put the covers together over several years, starting in 2012 (!), but the line work was all on one sheet of scratchboard, with branches gradually winding across it. Having a tactile interaction with the original style helped a great deal in keeping it fairly consistent. The hardest bit was revisiting the Photoshop file every 2/3 years and trying to work out past-Kathleen’s rationale in setting up the layers.

Here are some of the very first roughs:

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From there, we worked up a connected design. This is the sketch which became the final image. I must have read the first two books at this stage, but the last two weren’t yet available, so they’re more just guidelines.

CoverSketches

This was (I think) my first time using uninked scratchboard, and inking it myself in the areas I wanted line and texture. So much less chalk dust this way! All scratched with knife blades.

Process

The last book was Air Logic. Once I read the book, I had to work out how to fit the images into not only the style but the pre-existing connecting branches, and keep movement. I still quite like the running figures in the second sketch from the left on the bottom row, but it is a bit Scooby-esque.

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The books are now all available from Small Beer Press:

Fire Logic

Earth Logic

Water Logic

Air Logic

 

Stray Bats — a chapbook

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Dachshund droids, sinister crones, shapeshifting children, a plethora of witches, dragonstalkers, familiars, slithering eels and, of course, bats, flit and fly through these pages, aided and abetted by Kathleen Jennings’s inspired pencil drawings. Stray Bats is a madcap miscellany consisting of fifty vignettes based on poems by Australian women. Lanagan delights in playing with language, rhyme, and rhythm.

This could be the perfect gift for that slightly otherworldly person in your life—or for yourself, when you need a moment of magic, a dip into darkness, a spark of light.

For the reader who would like to explore further, there are a list of poems that inspired the author and notes on where those poems might be found.

Small Beer Press have just announced this new chapbook, which Margo and I have been secretly working on — it’s so exciting that it will be a real book in the world in November! Pre-orders are open now on Small Beer’s website, and Margo and I will both be at World Fantasy in LA.

River Bank process – first response

This is the first process post for my illustrations for Kij Johnson’s wonderful The River Bank, from Small Beer Press.

The first step for the illustration project (after an emailed ohmygoodnessyes when Small Beer asked me about it) was to read the manuscript. I like to print a manuscript, if possible, because then I can draw my responses directly onto it. It makes for a more immediate response, but also means I can match an idea with the relevant passage again easily when I need to go back and check details!

For some projects, like Angela Slatter‘s The Bitterwood Bible and other recountings, the initial response is very close to the final illustration. The River Bank required more work and refinement (you can see at top right that I was still working out Badger) but many of these early notes recognisably found their way into the final illustrations.

Frequently, I find it difficult to objectively assess a manuscript simply as a book – this is partly because it doesn’t yet have a cover by which to judge it, but mostly because I am reading it looking at one very specific aspect: the visuals. It takes a second reading, in a non-illustrator headspace, to appreciate the text on its own terms. The River Bank, however, lifted off the page even on that first, pragmatic reading. I think it’s because of Kij Johnson’s delightful visual language – I’ve just finished her World Fantasy Award winning novella The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, purely as a reader, and my goodness I want to draw every page.

Next post: Early Design

The River Bank

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Look what’s coming out soon! Kij Johnson’s The River Bank, from Small Beer Press, with my drawings!

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This is such a delightful story, and I cannot wait to read it as a REAL BOOK – they now exist in the world:

Publisher’s Weekly had very nice things to say about it.

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Book cover: Telling the Map


Telling the Map - cover

I’m delighted to show you my cover for Christopher Rowe‘s collection Telling the Map, now available for pre-order from Small Beer Press. Wonderful strange stories of post-singularity hope and cycling, with one of my favourite gentle story endings. I can’t wait for you all to read it so that I can finally talk about it!

Here are some of the early thumbnail sketches. The art direction was for a map with vignette illustrations inset. Fitting the relevant geography around the necessary images and text was a spatial challenge, as I couldn’t purely invent it but did need to make it serve the design.

Telling the Map - thumbnails

I’d previously illustrated the first story in the collection, “The Contrary Gardener”, for Jonathan Strahan back in 2013(!), and it was such a pleasure to come back to this world.
"The Contrary Gardener"

I’m very much enjoying working on illustrated maps. Stay tuned for another coming up soon! (Or join us on Patreon to see these projects in progress and get early reveals).

The Winged Histories – cover art process

Winged Histories

This is the cover art for Sofia Samatar‘s novel The Winged Historiessequel to her World Fantasy Award winning A Stranger in Olondria (both published by Small Beer Press).

Olondria

The process of revisiting A Stranger in Olondria to reconstruct my illustration approach there was illuminating – particularly in relation to remembering to usefully label layers in Photoshop. We learn.

I had the chance to catch up (with Small Beer’s permission!) with Sofia at World Fantasy to discuss the broad approach to the cover, and exchange some reference for her vision of architecture and birds, and mine of uniforms.

Winged Histories - uniform sketches

That settled, I prepared the thumbnail sketches and general colour approach for approval – G was chosen (although the profile was later changed, and colours deepened).

Winged Histories - sketches

Time for everyone’s favourite: Awkward reference photos! I used other reference for the figure (but won’t embarrass them), I’m just here modelling in yoga pants and a leather jacket with blue masking tape so that I can see what key parts of the costume do in the pose. Again, a skyline of crockery set up with a plasticine-and-plastic-bag vulture gives some reference for light/perspective.

Winged Histories - reference photos

Then a foster-cat attack.

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Then drawing.

Winged Histories - work in progress

And redrawing (there were several replacements of hands, heads etc).

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I scanned and pieced the elements together in Photoshop, then coloured them. Here is a gif of the process, but it makes it look far faster and more logical than it was: there was a lot of reworking, experimentation, remixing and so forth, as well as adjustments, added decoration, skin tone changes and other adjustments on consultation. But gifs are fun.

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And I can’t remember why it came to this:

Penguin-in-Olondria

A Magic Synergy – article by Delia Sherman

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Tor.com (a website well worth following) has published an article by Delia Sherman, about my cover art for her books: A Magic Synergy: The Cover Art of Kathleen Jennings.

Delia is the author of The Freedom Maze (for which I illustrated the Small Beer Press hardback, though the book has now also come out in paperback from Candlewick) and Young Woman in a Garden (just out, and very well reviewed!), as well of as The Porcelain Dove which I didn’t illustrate but just finished reading and want everyone to read, and also to let me illustrate.

The article is very lyrical, and I wish to use it in future as my letter of introduction.

Some other posts:

The Dalek Maze