Here’s a drawing I finished toward the end of 2021. The title was taken from a song by Hozier. You might have heard it. The phrase struck me as quite apt in this age of misinformation, menace and, frankly, misery. Anyhow, it ain’t all bad and this drawing was intended to be fun, or at least a little bit tongue cheek, so I hope it makes you smile.
My next couple of posts will centre on some drawings I created at the end of 2021. I am a little in love with this Bristol Vellum from Fabriano. It’s a nice paper for stippled pen work—just the right amount of tooth to add some sparkle to the finished drawing, but not so much that it interferes with technique. Even in the dense areas there is no bleeding of ink. I’m going to see what larger tablet sizes they have. The inking was done with Staedtler Pigment Liners, which I’ve been using for convenience for the last few weeks. They are lightfast and feel good in the hand. I think I prefer them to the Micron fine liners.
When I was a kid, being sent to “the corner” as a punishment was seldom the dire consequence intended by those in authority. It was usually an opportunity to read, which was like being tossed in jail and discovering the someone had left open a back door to a more interesting place. So The Corner Book imagines a creature that delivers special books into the hands of “naughty” kids everywhere. May we ever be forever united in the richness of our imaginations.
This is a new drawing called “Vanishing Act.” I created it with Staedtler Pigment Liners (0.1 & .005) on 140lb Arches hot press paper over much of December, finishing it New Years Day (today). The turbulent composition reflects the times and the message, I assume, is clear enough.
Most of the past week was spent reading (Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen and Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr—both excellent) and recharging for the year ahead. In the coming weeks I’ll be working on a few illustration projects, initiating some personal art projects I have in mind, and doing some new writing. Sometime in January, my novel, TAILOR OF ECHOES, will arrive at the publisher from the printer. It was briefly delayed by supply chain issues. It is currently available for pre-order.
Over the past few years I’ve been pecking away at a series of works I’m collectively calling The Devil Tree. Some of these might be familiar—at least two have been offered as prints, and another was reproduced in my Darkling Lands 1 booklet. The picture below is a collection of these works. All of them are done in ink, with dip pen, brush or both. There are a couple of larger works associated with this project, which aren’t shown here. Once I hit a critical mass of images, maybe 20 or so, I plan to produce a kind of free form graphic novel. Free form in the sense that there is no over-arching narrative. Instead, the works are intended to evoke rather than instruct. I believe that physically collecting them together will create a unified experience. Anyhow, that is a while off, so I thought it would be fun to lay them out to show what I have so far. Hope you enjoy them.
For those who might be interested, this was a good week for the novel in progress. I wrote through a major part of the story and this coming week I hope to write the climax. Someday I’ll write a listicle of the myriad tricks I employ to keep multiple projects going at the same time.
One of the things that has kept me motivated in the studio is music. Always music. Right now I am loving The Insects, Loscil, Ben Lukas Boysen and Lingua Ignota.
After studio hours this week I’ve been rewarding myself with a drip feed of Devs by director Alex Garland. Not for everyone, but I love the stark tech and the surrealism of this series. Even makes me love teal again.
This past week was filled with drawing, writing, reading, torrential rain, flooded libraries—not mine—and patches of sun. Some of these things are related. I’m calling this post Little Summer, because so many small wonders seem to come our way during Ontario’s short pause in what can seem like an endless winter. Here’s one.
While I was admiring the pattern on the shell, a cicada landed beside my foot at interstellar velocity—though she seemed no worse for it. Here she is.
Earlier in the week, I was standing under one of my crab apple trees when I happened to notice one of the branches was acting strangely. It turned out to be a stick caterpillar. I’ve been in this house for 30 years and have never seen one before. It’s nice the place still has a few surprises. Can you see it?
But, other than bothering the denizens of the micro-kingdom, I have been pouring it on to get my illustrations done for my novel TAILOR OF ECHOES. Here is one that is currently on the table. As you can see, it’s pretty on brand. I can’t wait to share the finished book, to be published by PS Publications.
Finally, this weekend I had cause to dig through some old photographs and came across this promotional image for the Russian translation of my novel Necessary Monsters.
Okay, enough show and tell for this week. Check back next Sunday for another post. In the meantime, don’t forget to look down. You just might find some treasure.
Another busy week in another weird summer. My new novel finally reached the point where the main character is calling the shots. If you write fiction, you know that this is the magical moment. It’s certainly the point I wait for with great anticipation, when I start keeping a Moleskine near the shower and fill my phone’s note app with cryptic comments like Does M have any residual fear of trains!!? It’s also the point where my family does a check in to see if I’m still breathing or just THINKING ABOUT THE NOVEL.
I reached 57K words this week, a little better than half way by my estimation. It’s less like a first draft than one of those progressive digital images that gradually comes into focus. I’ve been back over those 57K words quite a few times as I refined the story. For this new project I am writing a female protagonist. I really enjoyed the challenge of writing female characters in my other novels, and this particular piece called for a certain voice. I’m working hard to avoid the tropes to create a truly unique and believable character. So, the book is progressing well and plot things are layering in quite nicely. Oh, and I finally got a haircut.
This week I also finished a new illustration for my “Big Illustration Project”—sorry, can’t share yet. I’m creating these illustrations with a combination graphite, carbon and charcoal. Tools of choice are Blackwing 602s, and Pearls, Wolff’s carbon and Generals charcoal. All of them are a complete headache to keep a point on! I think I spend as much time sharpening as I do shading. No matter, every technique has its challenges and the results in this case are interesting indeed. Using the Blackwings for the light and medium values and the Wolff’s and Generals for those areas where I really need to lay in the darks.
August is going to be busy AF. I need to turn in my illustrations for my last novel THE TAILOR OF ECHOES to PS Publications by the end of August. Those illustrations will be inked.
In lieu of an image from the Big Illustration Project, here is an older drawing I did with the Wolffs, called Nightdress.
I just finished these two decorative ink drawings. They were done with carbon black acrylic ink on heavy artboard. They are available for sale (and on sale!) on my webstore.
Just a reminder that I have a selection of larger works done over the past year available for viewing, and sale on my website. Check them out here.
On another note, Suntup Editions announced a new edition of Clive Barker’s novel Imajica today. It looks beautiful. Constant readers will remember that I did some illustrations for the Harper Perennial edition of the book to accompany the appendix by my friend Hans Rueffert. I’m pleased that the material we created gets a walk-on in this edition as well.
Among other things, I’ve been working away at a new fantasy novel. Looking back, it appears I started it in 2018. Lately I’ve taken it up in a more focused way. The first draft is now sitting at about 30 thousand words, which means I have quite a bit more bridge to build. With this one I decided to do something I’ve never done before, work on text and image simultaneously, letting one inform the other to create something that wouldn’t have appeared otherwise. This is a bit dangerous, as anyone who has written a novel knows they tend to change from one draft to the next, sometimes quite dramatically. But, I am prepared to create some drawings that may, or may not, make final cut, in exchange for the energy they inject into the process. I’ll share a few here as I go along, using the tag “newthing”. Here is the first image, and having said what I said above, I think he’s a keeper.
The inspiration for Lander 1—and yes, expect a Lander 2 and 3—came from watching the Perseverance rover descend on Mars in February. I started thinking about humans being sole explorers/ representatives from earth. This piece imagines a true lander, with organic rather than mechanical senses, a spirit of earth lander, if you will.
I wish there was some way to better embed the music I was listening to when I was working on this piece, Coil’s Time Machines and Soliloquy for Lilith by Nurse with a Wound. These seem like the perfect soundtracks to meditate on the idea of vast unknown spaces.